SMDI Names Recipient of 2013 Robert J. Dexter Memorial Lecture

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 16, 2013 – The Steel Bridge Task Force of the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), and the AASHTO (American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials) Technical Committee for Structural Steel Design have named Caroline R. Bennett, Ph.D., P.E., associate professor in the Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering Department at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, as the recipient of the 2013 Robert J. Dexter Memorial Lecture. The program was instituted in 2005 in memory of Robert J. Dexter, an associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Minnesota, who was an internationally recognized expert on steel fracture and fatigue problems in bridges.

The Robert J. Dexter Memorial Lecture program provides an opportunity for an individual early in his/her career in structural engineering to present a lecture on his/her steel bridge activities to the SMDI Steel Bridge Task Force and to participate in its semi-annual three-day meeting. The recipient becomes an invited guest of the Steel Bridge Task Force, which is comprised of the United States’ leading steel bridge experts. The award will be presented at the SMDI Steel Bridge Task Force meeting in Baltimore, Maryland on August 1, 2013 by Alexander D. Wilson, Chairman of SMDI’s Steel Bridge Task Force and Manager of Customer Technical Services for ArcelorMittal USA; and Gregory R. Perfetti, Chairman of the AASHTO T-14 Steel Bridge Structures Committee and State Bridge Design Engineer, Structure Design Unit, North Carolina Department of Transportation.  

Dr. Bennett’s presentation is titled “Advances in Repairing Distortion-Induced Fatigue Cracking in Steel Bridges.” Distortion-induced fatigue is a problem in aging steel bridge infrastructure that is both difficult and expensive to repair. Dr. Bennett and her team have been conducting research on the development of a practical and cost-effective retrofit technique that can be easily installed while a bridge remains under traffic and does not require removal of the bridge deck for installation. The performance of the retrofit has been studied through a series of large-scale tests and computational simulations at the University of Kansas, including evaluation of the technique on a 30-ft long, three-girder test bridge loaded in fatigue. The test results will be examined during the Robert J. Dexter Memorial Lecture.

“America’s aging infrastructure presents significant design and cost challenges to federal, state and local transportation officials—challenges which have been well-documented by the media,” Alex Wilson said. “The research being conducted by Dr. Bennett and her team shows significant promise for a steel solution that is cost-effective and keeps the bridge open to traffic, a win-win situation for both transportation officials and drivers who rely on these bridges. This research is in the tradition of Robert Dexter, who excelled at providing practical solutions to complicated steel bridge design problems.”

Dr. Bennett earned her Ph.D. and B.S. degrees in Civil Engineering from the University of Cincinnati. She is a registered Professional Engineer in the state of Kansas. She teaches courses in the subject areas of structural analysis, steel building and bridge design, and teaching. She is engaged in research that focuses primarily on extending the life of existing steel bridges, especially concerning fatigue damage and scour susceptibility. 

Honorees of the Robert J. Dexter Memorial Lecture are selected on an annual basis and chosen based on recommendations from the members of the Steel Bridge Task Force. The lecture was not presented in 2008 and 2011. Previous recipients include:

• Hassan H. Abbas, Ph.D., assistant professor of structural engineering at the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn University (2012),
• Justin Ocel, Ph.D., P.E., research structural engineer for the Federal Highway Administration (2010),
• Emmett A. Sumner III, Ph.D., assistant professor of civil engineering and technical director of the Constructed Facilities Laboratory at North Carolina State University in Raleigh (2009),
• Jennifer Righman McConnell, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Delaware (2007),
• Reagan Herman, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Houston (2006), and     
• Robert J. Connor, assistant professor of civil engineering at Purdue University (2005).

SMDI’s Steel Bridge Task Force was formed more than 40 years ago to coordinate research that establishes safe, cost-effective steel bridges and to implement these developments into steel bridge design codes, specifically the AASHTO design codes. Its members include steel producers, steel fabricators, the AASHTO Technical Committee for Structural Steel Design, university faculty, consultants and representatives from the Federal Highway Administration and National Steel Bridge Alliance.

AISI serves as the voice of the North American steel industry in the public policy arena and advances the case for steel in the marketplace as the preferred material of choice. AISI also plays a lead role in the development and application of new steels and steelmaking technology. AISI is comprised of 24 member companies, including integrated and electric furnace steelmakers, and 125 associate members who are suppliers to or customers of the steel industry. AISI’s member companies represent over three-quarters of both U.S. and North American steel capacity. For more news about steel and its applications, view AISI’s website at

The Steel Market Development Institute grows and maintains the use of steel through strategies that promote cost-effective solutions in the automotive, construction and container markets, as well as for new-growth opportunities in non-traditional steel markets. SMDI’s Steel Bridge program is conducted under the Construction Market Council, whose investor companies include AK Steel Corporation; ArcelorMittal Dofasco; ArcelorMittal USA LLC; EVRAZ North America; Gerdau; Nucor Corporation; Severstal North America; SSAB Americas; Steelscape, Inc.; ThyssenKrupp Steel USA, LLC; United States Steel Corporation; and USS-POSCO Industries. For more information, visit

Note: Caroline Bennett was interviewed by Kim Murphree at KLWN-AM Radio in Lawrence, Kansas. She discusses her research and its implications for the marketplace, as well as her interest in steel bridge design. Listen to the interview here.

Debbie Bennett
Manager of SMDI and Construction Communications
Steel Market Development Institute
Tel: 202.452.7179

Deanna Lorincz
Senior Director, Communications
Steel Market Development Institute
Tel: 248.945.4763