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Engineering pioneer David Billington, Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor of Engineering at Princeton University, will spend time with students and faculty in several different settings Friday.

Returning to Lafayette after spending two days on campus as the 1998-1999 Resnick Memorial Lecturer, Billington will interact with students in two morning meetings, attend a lunch with students and faculty, and spend time with faculty off campus in the afternoon and evening.

Billington is a major figure in thin-shelled concrete analysis and design, civil engineering history, and engineering in undergraduate curriculum. He recently received a National Science Foundation grant to study the history of the transfer of thin-shelled concrete and pre-stressed concrete technology to the United States from Europe.

“It’s not often that students can meet someone who has near legendary status among educators and researchers,” says Ed Saliklis, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, who collaborates with Billington on thin-shelled concrete research. “He is a prolific author and really world famous.”

“Students will remember this visit because in spite of that fame, he is a very personable and likeable guy,” adds Saliklis. “He is very committed to undergraduates, which I think was apparent the last time he visited Lafayette when he met with students in my First Year Seminar. They really got a kick out of it and had great discussions even though they were first-year students. Some students from that seminar will attend lunch with Billington on Friday.”

Three civil engineering majors with current or future research projects under Saliklis’ supervision will meet with Billington and Saliklis from 10-11 a.m. Peter Totev ’04 (Oberursel, Germany) will talk about his EXCEL Scholars project involving the Pennsylvania Skating Club Arena near Ardmore, Pa., which was designed by Antod Tedesko using his revolutionary, and yet no longer popular, thin-shell concrete method. Sandy Furnbach ’03 (Matawan, N.J.), who also is majoring in art history, will talk about her tentative senior thesis topic for next year: the tiled vaulting of St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York. Nathan Tregger ’03 (Niantic, Conn.), who also is majoring in math, will outline his tentative senior thesis topic for next year: using structural analysis to optimize the hyperbolic paraboloid form of nuclear cooling towers.

Billington will discuss the tradition of civil engineering instruction with the 14 students in Saliklis’ Fundamentals of Structural Engineering class. As a case study, he will use the Swiss experience at the Polytechnic Institute in Zurich, which produced the world’s greatest bridge designers.

At noon, Billington will share lunch with six students, civil engineering faculty, President Arthur J. Rothkopf ’55, Provost June Schlueter, and D.C. Jackson, associate professor of history. Jackson served as senior historian on the History of Federal Dams project led by Billington, which was sponsored by the National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation, and Army Corps of Engineers.

Billington will join Lafayette and Lehigh University engineering faculty at 2 p.m. for a roundtable discussion at Lehigh on the first-year engineering experience. “Our goal here is to inform each other of our respective first-year programs and gain some insights from Billington, who has very strong opinions about the undergraduate experience for engineers,” says Saliklis. “That will be an interesting discussion.”

The participating Lafayette faculty at the roundtable will include those who teach the Introduction to Engineering class for first-year students: Saliklis; Rebecca Rosenbauer, director of computer-aided engineering laboratories; Scott Hummel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; Yi Choung Yu, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering; David Veshosky, head of the A.B. engineering program; and Scott Moor, assistant professor of chemical engineering. Also participating will be Roger Ruggles, associate professor and head of the civil and environmental engineering; Mary Roth, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering; and James Schaffer, director of engineering.

Lafayette engineering faculty also will join Billington at a Lehigh Valley Engineering Council banquet that evening, where he will give a lecture as part of National Engineers Week.

A 1950 Princeton graduate, Billington began teaching as an associate professor at Princeton in 1960 and has remained as a full professor since 1964. He was named the first Gordon Y. S. Wu Professor of Engineering in 1996. Director of the Princeton Program on Architecture and Engineering since 1990, Billington has introduced three permanent introductory courses on engineering.

Billington is the author of six books relating to engineering and/or concrete, including Thin-Shell Concrete Structures, one of 25 books chosen as a McGraw-Hill Classic Text Reprint in 1989. He addition, he has contributed over 160 publications in journals.

Billington received the Usher Prize for Best Scholarly Work in Technology & Culture (with Jameson Doig) in 1995, the George Winter Prize from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1992, the History and Heritage Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1986, and the Dexter Prize for an outstanding book in the history of technology in 1979. Billington was a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar in 1984-85. He received honorary doctorates from Notre Dame University in 1997, Grinnell College in 1991, and Union College in 1990.

Billington was named one of five top educators in civil engineering since 1874 by the Engineering News Record in 1999 and has received numerous other teaching awards, including the School of Engineering & Applied Science Distinguished Teacher Award in 2001, Charles A. Dana Award for Pioneering Achievements in Higher Education in 1999, Educator of the Year from the Consulting Engineers Council of New Jersey in 1998 and from the Central New Jersey Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1997, President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching (at Princeton) in 1996, New Jersey State Professor of the Year Award from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 1995, and Princeton Engineering Council Excellence in Teaching Awards in 1988 and 1992. The University of Ghent, Belgium named him to the Sarton Chair for 1999-2000 and awarded him the Sarton Medal in 1999.

Billington was chairman of the American Concrete Institute and American Society of Civil Engineers Joint Committee on Concrete Shell Design and Construction from 1973-79; visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, from 1974-75 and 1978-79; chairman of the ASCE Committee on Aesthetics in Design of Structures from 1978-85; and visitor at the Federal Technical Institute, Zurich, during the summers of 1980-83. He also served on the executive council of the Society for the History of Technology from 1985-88, and was invited to visit Japan and write a detailed aesthetic evaluation of its new bridges in 1989.

Billington studied post-war innovations in construction, structural design theory, and research in Louvain, Belgium, on Fulbright Fellowships from 1950-1952. In the following years until 1960, he was a structural designer with Roberts & Schaefer Co., N.Y., for bridges and large buildings including aircraft hangers, piers, thin-shell tanks, and missile-launch facilities. He was a member of a delegation that observed concrete construction in the Soviet Union in 1958, and from 1970 until last year, Billington served a consulting engineering for thin-shell concrete cooling towers, highway accident analyses, thin-shell silos, bridge design, France’s largest overland bridge, and a book on federal dams.

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