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Lehigh alumnus Robert J. Connor gives first Dexter memorial lecture

Robert J. Connor, a Lehigh alumnus and former research engineer at the university’s ATLSS Research Center, was chosen recently by the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) to be the first recipient of the Robert J. Dexter Memorial Lecture.

At the semiannual meeting of AISI’s Bridge Task Force in Baltimore on Aug. 4, Connor, who left Lehigh last summer to become an assistant professor of civil engineering at Purdue University, gave an address titled “Heat-Straightening Repair of Damaged Steel Bridge Girders: Fatigue and Fracture Performance.”

The program was sponsored by AISI’s Steel Bridge Committee and by the Technical Committee for Structural Steel Design of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

Dexter, also a former research engineer at the ATLSS Center and an associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Minnesota, died last November at the age of 48 from acute leukemia. He was internationally renowned for his research into steel fracture and fatigue problems.

“Robert Dexter had a tremendous ability to find real-life solutions for the most complicated steel fracture and fatigue problems, from bridges to ships to traffic signs,” said Alex Wilson, manager of customer technical services for Mittal Steel USA and chairman of AISI’s Bridge Task Force. “He was regularly consulted by state bridge and highway engineers and by the steel industry for his expertise.

“One of Dexter’s enduring legacies will be his commitment to mentoring his students, whom he treated as colleagues and encouraged to participate in research,” Wilson said.

“He served as an adviser to the student chapter of the American Society for Civil Engineers and to as many as 10 graduate students at a time. Because of his expertise in applied steel research and his passion for passing this knowledge on to the next generation of civil engineers, we decided that a Memorial Lecture Program would be the most fitting memorial to such an extraordinary man.”

The Dexter Memorial Lecture Program allows young structural engineers to present lectures on their work in steel bridges to AISI’s Bridge Task Force, which is made up of the leading U.S. steel bridge experts.

Connor, who worked with Dexter at the ATLSS (Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems) Center, holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in civil engineering from Lehigh and a B.S. in the same field from Drexel University. He has considerable experience in the areas of full-scale fatigue testing, fatigue and fracture evaluation and retrofit of steel bridges, field instrumentation and testing, and forensic investigations.

At Lehigh, Connor managed ATLSS’s Infrastructure Monitoring Program. His research interests include the fatigue and fracture of steel structures, field testing and remote monitoring of structures, fatigue performance and behavior of sign and lighting support structures, large scale structural testing in real time, and bridge expansion joint systems.

AISI’s Bridge Task Force, formed more than 40 years ago, coordinates research that supports safe, cost-effective steel bridges and implements these developments into AASHTO’s steel bridge design codes.

The task force’s members include steel producers, steel fabricators, the AASHTO Technical Committee for Structural Steel Design, university faculty, and consultants and representatives from the Federal Highway Administration and National Steel Bridge Alliance.

Posted on Saturday, October 01, 2005

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