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Pessiki to succeed SenGupta as CEE chair

Stephen Pessiki, the P.C. Rossin Associate Professor of civil and environmental engineering and a specialist in innovative structural systems, has been appointed chair of the department of civil and environmental engineering.

The appointment, which takes effect July 1, was announced by S. David Wu, the Iacocca Professor and dean of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.

“Steve is an active researcher in structural engineering, he is passionate about undergraduate education, and he has a profound vision for the future of the CEE department,” said Wu. “He is a strong proponent for bringing together the structural and environmental engineering components of the CEE department, and for further integrating civil engineering and architecture.”

Pessiki succeeds Arup K. SenGupta, the P.C. Rossin Professor of civil and environmental engineering, who has served six years as CEE chair.

“The CEE department has grown in reputation and in national prominence under Arup’s excellent leadership,” said Wu. “Arup has successfully built the environmental engineering program at Lehigh, and he has recruited top-notch junior faculty in environmental engineering as well as in structural engineering.”

In his teaching and research, Pessiki specializes in the design of reinforced and prestressed concrete structures, the nondestructive evaluation of structures, and the effects of fire on structures. He conducts research at Lehigh’s ATLSS (Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems) Research Center.

As CEE chair, Pessiki says he will encourage faculty members to pursue the balance between teaching and research that he believes gives Lehigh a distinct competitive advantage over other universities.

“One of the great thrills of being a faculty member at Lehigh is being able to do both teaching and research,” Pessiki says. “I enjoy doing both, and I think that’s true of many of my colleagues. Both teaching and research are valued at Lehigh. That’s not the case everywhere.”

The CEE department’s traditional strength has been in structural engineering, Pessiki says, but its environmental engineering program enjoyed remarkable growth under SenGupta’s leadership.

“I think Arup has done a tremendous job of improving the environmental engineering program by recruiting a solid core of environmental engineering professors, building new lab facilities and starting new degree programs.

“The new environmental engineering program will strengthen the whole department. I think we can excel in both areas – environmental and structural.”

Pessiki said he hopes to promote more interaction between the CEE department and the department of art and architecture, which collaborate to offer a five-year arts-engineering program in which students earn a B.A. in architecture and a B.S. in civil engineering.

He also plans to work closely with the university’s new Environmental Initiative, which coordinates research and education related to the environment across a multidisciplinary group of departments.

Pessiki, who joined the faculty in 1990, holds a B.S. in civil engineering from Drexel University and an M.S. and Ph.D., both in civil and environmental engineering, from Cornell University.

He received the Lehigh Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1996 and the College of Engineering and Applied Science Teaching Excellence Award in 1997. He was named Class of 1961 Associate Professor in 1999.

In 1997, Pessiki received the Best Paper Award from the ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) Journal of Architectural Engineering, and in 2002, he was named Distinguished Educator by the Precast / Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI).

Last year was particularly noteworthy for Pessiki. He was elected a Fellow of both PCI and the American Concrete Institute, he received a fellowship from the Japan Society for Promotion of Science, and he served five months as a visiting professor at Purdue University.

Posted on Sunday, June 05, 2005

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