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Professor elected to National Academy of Engineering

Kavazanjian NAE member
February 14, 2013

ASU professor Edward Kavazanjian has attained one of the highest professional honors in his field, election to the National Academy of Engineering.

Kavazanjian is a professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and a senior scientist in the university’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

The academy made Kavazanjian a member for his outstanding achievements in geotechnical engineering for municipal solid-waste landfill design, reducing hazards presented by earthquakes and providing for safety in design and construction of transportation-related structures and facilities such as bridge foundations, roadways, tunnels, embankments and retaining walls.

Geotechnical engineering focuses on the behavior of earth materials in construction on or in the ground. Geotechnical engineers study subsurface conditions and materials to determine the stability of soils and other ground materials and assess risks posed by excavation and construction. They also design and monitor structure foundations and earthworks.

Kavazanjian is widely recognized as a leading authority on the seismic analysis, design and performance evaluation of solid-waste landfills, as well as an expert in landfill containment systems, environmental safety of waste sites and development of waste sites after closure.

He is also the lead author of the Federal Highway Administration guidance document for the seismic analysis and design of geotechnical transportation facilities and structural foundations.

“He is absolutely the world expert in his area," says G. Edward Gibson, director of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. "His leadership has placed ASU at the forefront of geotechnical engineering, seismic design and biogeotechnical engineering.”

Profound contributions

“This is a well-deserved honor for one of the best and brightest in our profession," says ASU professor Sandra Houston, whose expertise is in geotechnical and unsaturated soils engineering. "ASU is extremely fortunate to have him on its faculty.”

Kavazanjian “has added a new dimension to ASU’s geotechnical program and strengthened the national and international recognition of our geotechnical faculty," she adds.

Houston also notes his “generous contribution of his time to students and outreach to the practicing engineering community.”

Kavazanjian “has literally ‘written the book’ in several important geotechnical engineering disciplines," says Rudolph Bonaparte, president and CEO of the national engineering firm Geosyntec Consultants, also a National Academy of Engineering member. "He has made profound contributions to defining both the state of the art and the state of the practice in the field for the global engineering community.” Kavazanjian worked for Geosyntec from 1994 to 2002.

J.P. Giroud, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and chairman emeritus of Geosyntec Consultants, calls Kavazanjian “one of the most talented engineers I met in my 50-year career, with a perfect balance between fundamental understanding of geotechnical engineering and broad practical experience. He is the first colleague I call when I have a difficult technical problem.”

New directions

Kavazanjian also has become one of the leading experts in the emerging field of biogeotechnical engineering. He is helping to lead research in the use of biomaterials for fugitive dust control and ground improvements.

“He is leading his field in important new directions,” says James Mitchell, a professor emeritus at both Virginia Tech and the University of California, Berkeley. Mitchell, a National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences member, was Kavazanjian’s doctoral studies advisor at Berkeley.

Mitchell lauds his “exceptional achievement” not only in the practice of engineering and as a scholar, but for “contributions to teaching, research, publications and service to his profession.” He notes Kavazanjian’s current role as chairman of the National Academies Committee on Geological and Geotechnical Engineering, and his past role as president of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Geo-Institute – which represents more than 11,000 geoengineers nationally and internationally.

Wide-ranging impact

In recent years he has won the Ralph B. Peck Award, the Thomas A. Middlebrooks Award and the Karl Terzaghi Award, three of the most prestigious honors for geotechnical engineering research given by the ASCE.

Most recently, he was elected to the Board of Directors of the U.S. University Council for Geotechnical Engineering and Research, representing 128 U.S. universities with geotechnical engineering programs.

He has been the lead engineer for the analysis and design of some of the most significant municipal solid-waste sites in the world, as well as for the seismic analysis and design for more than 40 landfills and hazardous-waste facilities throughout the United States.

Kavazanjian served on the National Research Council study committee on Assessment of the Performance of Engineered Waste Containment Barrier. He currently chairs the Geoseismic Subcommittee of the Transportation Research Board Committee on Seismic Design and Performance of Bridges and is a member of the executive council of Technical Committee 215 of the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering on Environmental Geotechnics.  

At ASU, he is faculty advisor for the graduate student chapter of the ASCE Geo-Institute, and for the student chapter of Engineers Without Borders, which provides engineering solutions to communities in developing countries.

Joining honored colleagues

After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctoral degree from the University of California, Berkeley, Kavazanjian joined the faculty of Stanford University. He later worked for several engineering consulting firms over a span of two decades before joining the ASU faculty in 2004.

The National Academy of Engineering is one of the National Academies, along with the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council. Its members, from business, academia and government, are among the world’s most accomplished engineers.

Kavazanjian joins six current ASU engineering faculty members elected in past years to the National Academy of Engineering. Two current ASU engineering faculty members were elected in past years to the National Academy of Sciences. Three are members of National Academy of Construction.