By Peter Murphy
Published July 10, 2023
Andrew Whittaker, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, won the prestigious Nathan M. Newmark Medal from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
Whittaker was honored for his “fundamental contributions to earthquake, blast, impact and performance-based engineering for buildings and mission-critical infrastructure, including advanced nuclear reactors.” He is the fifth faculty member from UB’s Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering to receive the prestigious award since 2000.
He is an internationally renowned scholar and engineer whose research and leadership has helped develop engineering standards for several national committees, including ASCE 4, ASCE 7, ASCE 43, ASCE 59 and ACI 349. He chairs the ASCE Nuclear Standards Committee, and his work has led to significant advancements in seismic isolation of nuclear reactors, power plants and facilities. Whittaker made significant contributions to the first generation of tools for performance-based earthquake engineering (FEMA 273/274, 1992-1997) and led the structural engineering team that developed the second generation of these tools (FEMA P58, 2000-2013).
Whittaker served as vice-president and later president of the Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering (CUREE) from 2003 to 2011, and on the board of directors of both the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) and the World Seismic Safety Initiative from 2008 to 2010, and on the advisory committee for the Southern California Earthquake Center from 2010 to 2017.
His contributions have been recognized by ASCE with the Walter P. Moore Jr. Award and the Stephen D. Bechtel Jr. Energy Award. He is a Fellow of ASCE and the society’s Structural Engineering Institute (SEI).
His research interests are broad and include earthquake, blast and impact engineering of buildings, bridges and nuclear structures. The National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Federal Highway Administration and Department of Transportation fund his research. Whittaker consults to federal agencies, regulators, consultancies, contractors and power utilities in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Europe, Asia and Australia.
The Newmark Medal is given to one recipient each year. The medal was established in 1975 by ASCE’s Engineering Mechanics Institute and the SEI to honor Nathan M. Newmark for his outstanding contributions in structural engineering and mechanics.
Whittaker will accept the award next March during ASCE’s Structures Congress in San Antonio, Texas. He joined UB in 2001 and received his PhD in structural engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.
UB’s legacy of excellence in structural engineering
Whittaker joins Michael Constantinou (2015), Andrei M. Reinhorn (2011), Tsu Teh Soong (2002) and George C. Lee (2000) as a recipient of the Newmark Medal. All are internationally recognized for their contributions to structural and earthquake engineering.
Michael C. Constantinou is a SUNY Distinguished Professor and Samuel P. Capen Professor in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering. He is one of the world’s leading scholars in seismic protective systems and has made key contributions to the development of standards related to seismic protective systems, including the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Recommended Provisions, ASCE standard 7 and 41, and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Guide Specification for Seismic Isolation Design. He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Patras in 2019 and was recognized by ASCE with the Charles Pankow Award for Innovation in 2005 and the Moisseff Award in 2015.
Andrei M. Reinhorn, Clifford C. Furnas Eminent Professor Emeritus, was among the UB faculty members who developed the university's seismic simulation facility, which helped bring NCEER to UB, and later led the $21 million expansion of the facility as part of NSF's George E. Brown Jr. Network of Earthquake Engineering Simulation (UB-NEES). He has received several awards from ASCE, including the Moisseiff Award and the Charles Pankow Award for Innovation. His research focused on the seismic evaluation of structures and on the development of building codes, active and passive protective systems for structures, and new computerized design programs that predict how much damage a building will sustain in a seismic event.
Tsu Teh “Larry” Soong, SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus and former Samuel P. Capen Professor, was co-principal investigator of the NSF grant that established UB’s NCEER in 1986. He received the Humboldt Foundation Senior U.S. Scientist Award in 1988 and 1992, and the Norman Medal from ASCE in 1999 in recognition of his various contributions to the research aspects of engineering disciplines. Soong’s primary research interests were in the areas of structural reliability and control, and he is a co-developer of a smart bracing system to control vibrations in skyscrapers.
George C. Lee, SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus, was instrumental in founding UB’s National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (NCEER), which later became MCEER. He served as dean of UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences for 17 years, and as chair in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering for five years. Over the course of his career, Lee earned the Superior Accomplishment Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the 2006 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. He has published over 250 papers on structural engineering and mechanics, steel structures and earthquake engineering.