Civil engineering graduate student wins fellowship from ASCE structural design and construction research

By Peter Murphy

Published June 16, 2020

“Basically, the idea is to use simulation as experiment in long term,” says Abhishek Pathak, a PhD candidate in civil engineering, “this project opens many avenues of collaboration across multiple disciplines such as chemistry, material science and high-performance computing.”

Effective simulations to enhance structures

“Abhishek is doing very high-level analytical work related to materials and structures at multiple scales ”
Amjad Aref, Professor
Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering

Pathak earned O.H. Amman Research Fellowship from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) earlier this year. According to the organization’s website, this fellowship helps “to encourage creation of new knowledge in structural design and construction.”

“The primary focus of the research is to develop numerical models to simulate the effect of near field and contact explosions on reinforced concrete (RC) columns.” Pathak says. “These columns are typically found in commercial infrastructure, such as office buildings.”

The $8,000 in funding will support Pathak’s stipend, part of it will be used for conference travels and presentations, and part of the funding will support his research. He will be able to conduct experiments on material properties under extreme conditions like elevated temperatures, and high-strain rate loading, which are both essential to Pathak’s core research. 

According to Pathak’s advisor, civil engineering professor Amjad Aref, Pathak’s research and this recognition is significant. “The Ammann fellowship is very competitive, and a dozen faculty members from many universities participate in ranking the potential awardees. Being recognized by such a group is an achievement in its own merit,” Aref says. “Abhishek is doing very high-level analytical work related to materials and structures at multiple scales.”

Abhishek Pathak.

Abhishek Pathak

“In the medium-term, we want to develop this numerical model to predict the nature of failure in RC columns and steel columns used in civil infrastructure.” Pathak says. “Near-field and contact explosions are very hard to simulate and there is limited experimental data available because of national security implications. Long-term, we are planning to develop first-principle based simulation as experiment.”

Pathak’s project will incorporate ideas from different disciplines including some indirectly related to civil engineering. One of the ways Pathak will explore other disciplines is through participation in the National school on Neutron and X-ray Scattering, organized by the Argonne National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory this summer. “This program educates graduate students about the use of major neutron and x-ray facilities in a variety of scientific purposes,” Pathak says. 

The complexity of these issues at multiple scales is why Pathak is interested in this type of work. “I became interested in these techniques as a surrogate tool to understand materials under extreme conditions. The modeling of microscopic origins of strange behaviors in extreme conditions is a hugely debate area across several fields,” Pathak says, “I hope to incorporate some of the current unconventional techniques into my modelling framework to shed some light on these behaviors.”

This is the second consecutive year a graduate student in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering won the O.H. Amann Fellowship from ASCE. Sina Basereh won the fellowship in 2019