Meet the 5 Huber Prize recipients for 2021

ASCE has honored Shideh Dashti, Ph.D., A.M.ASCE; Ning Lin, Ph.D., A.M.ASCE; Meagan S. Mauter, Ph.D., A.M.ASCE; Alexandros A. Taflanidis, Ph.D., A.M.ASCE; and Ming Xu, Ph.D., A.M.ASCE, as the 2021 winners of the Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prizes.

Dashti is honored for her work in advancing the state of the art in evaluating and improving the seismic performance of structures on liquefiable soil deposits. She has excelled in producing high-quality research, primarily in the areas of the influence of liquefaction on structures founded on shallow foundations, and seismic soil-structure interaction of underground structures. Her over 45 articles are published in the highest-quality journals in the field. The vast majority are authored with her Ph.D. students, postdoctoral scholars, and colleagues at the University of Colorado, and cover a wide range of topics – physical modeling studies, numerical methods, earthquake ground motion characterization, innovative sensing technologies, etc.

Dashti’s annual citation count has exploded, nearly doubling from 2017 to 2019. Many of her grants come from very competitive sources such as the National Science Foundation. Her work itself is also helping change the practice of earthquake engineering in terms of the interactions between geotechnical and structural engineers.

Lin is recognized for research that has led to significant advances in understanding risks associated with hurricanes and their impact on coastal infrastructure. She was the first to quantify tropical cyclone (TC) storm surge flood hazards in a changing climate, employing climate and sea-level-rise projections, TC simulations, and high-resolution hydrodynamic modeling – see, e.g., her signature papers by Lin et al. in Nature Climate Change (2012) and Proceedings of the Nation Academy of Sciences (2016).

She recently extended these methods and developed flood hazard maps for the entire U.S. East and Gulf Coasts considering the current and future-projected climates, providing insights into the spatial and temporal variation of future-flood risks.

Mauter is honored for her pioneering work on advancing systems, processes, and materials for energy-efficient water desalination and fit-for-purpose reuse, and for her visionary leadership as the research director of the National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI). She is the principle investigator of the Water and Energy Efficiency for the Environment (WE3Lab) at Stanford University and the research director of the National Alliance for Water Innovation. Her research advances the energy efficiency of desalination through innovation in water treatment technology, optimization of water management practices, and redesign of water policies.

Ongoing research efforts include (1) developing automated, precise, robust, intensified, modular, and electrified (A-PRIME) water desalination technologies to support a circular water economy; (2) addressing the water constraints to deep decarbonization by quantifying the water requirements of energy systems and developing new technologies for high-salinity brine treatment; and (3) supporting the design and enforcement of water-energy-food policies (e.g., Effluent Limitation Guidelines, the Clean Power Plan, CA Sustainable Groundwater Management Act). These interconnected and complementary research topics integrate Mauter’s disciplinary background in civil and environmental engineering with her postdoctoral training in public policy and her recent passion for using satellite data to inform high-resolution engineering and public policy solutions. Her past research has shaped the field in important ways, including rethinking where and how water treatment technologies are deployed, redefining the inputs to water desalination processes, and re-envisioning membrane materials for enhanced process performance.

Taflanidis is recognized for enhancing the resilience of communities to natural hazards such as hurricanes and earthquakes through decision-support tools and comprehensive risk assessment frameworks that leverage the integration of advanced statistical computing and machine learning methods. His work in surrogate modeling has transformed coastal probabilistic risk assessment. USACE now uses the numerical codes developed by his group for all products they develop for coastal risk estimation. The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs is promoting the use of the storm hazard projection tool developed by Taflanidis in planning and emergency management, and both FEMA and NOAA have recently made strategic decisions to move in similar directions using the machine-learning methodologies that he has promoted in ENH.

Taflanidis’s work in risk-conscious design has developed new methodologies for design of vibration protective devices utilizing multiple life-cycle performance metrics. His ability to bridge the machine learning and NHE communities is enabling the development of advanced UQ tools for the NHERI SimCenter, promoting advanced computational simulation across the NHE community, including regional loss assessment.

Xu is honored for his significant contributions in advancing life-cycle environmental impact assessment of industrial systems. He has made groundbreaking contributions in understanding life-cycle environmental impacts of industrial systems, focusing on both empirical analysis and methodological development. His empirical research has investigated life-cycle environmental impacts of biofuels, electric vehicles, and automated vehicles to guide technology development for avoiding unintended environmental consequences.

His methodological work has developed computational methods to incorporate human behavioral dynamics and data-driven approaches to estimate missing data in life-cycle assessment, which has significant potential to transform the practice of life-cycle assessment in civil engineering and beyond. Today, Xu is recognized as one of the world leaders in life-cycle assessment for industrial systems.

The Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prizes are awarded to members of the Society, in any grade, for notable achievements in research related to civil engineering.  Preference is given to younger members (generally under 40 years of age) of early accomplishment who can be expected to continue fruitful careers in research.


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