Benjamin Schafer, the Willard and Lillian Hackerman Professor of Civil and Systems Engineering and director of the Ralph O’Connor Sustainable Energy Institute (ROSEI), has been selected to receive the 2024 T.R. Higgins Lectureship Award from the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC).

The award honors an outstanding lecturer and author whose technical paper is considered an outstanding contribution to the engineering literature on fabricated structural steel. Schafer was recognized for “Review of Local Buckling Width-to-Thickness Limits,” a paper that provides the complete context and background for how engineers select the dimensions of columns and beams used in steel structures.  Local buckling is a limit of performance that often controls when engineers try to minimize the amount of steel used in their selected members.

Benjamin Schafer

“Recently for AISC I led a task group that delved into and documented thoroughly how we handle the critical issue of defining the limits on performance due to local buckling in steel shapes, this paper encapsulates our findings. The paper details the underpinning assumptions, the critical and simplifying decisions leading to engineering design rules, and our aspirations for significant future improvements,” said Schafer. “Being chosen for this award is a big honor and I am truly humbled to have been selected.”

Schafer’s selection also recognizes his overall contributions to the AISC organization. AISC leads in creation of the nation’s building standards for structural steel and he holds positions as chair or vice chair on various AISC committees and has been awarded research funding by the group on multiple occasions.

“Dr. Schafer’s work in the areas of structural stability and local buckling in hot-rolled structural members is consistently outstanding,” said AISC Vice President of Engineering and Research Christopher H. Raebel in a press release announcing Schafer’s selection. “And his reputation as a researcher, professor, and lecturer is similarly remarkable–in fact, the jury’s selection was unanimous. It is a privilege to have him represent AISC as a T.R. Higgins Lectureship Award recipient.”

In addition to giving at least six lectures about his research at various universities across the country, Schafer will also give the final keynote address at the 2024 NASCC: The Steel Conference, set for March 20-22, 2024, in San Antonio, where he will also receive a $15,000 honorarium. Referred to by Schafer as an “ultimate lecture,” it’s a talk he has attended numerous times throughout his career. It’s also a lecture that he has seen many peers deliver, which is another reason being selected is so special to Schafer.

“The lecture typically has more than 1,000 people in attendance, so that will be a moment when it really sets in that I’ve been selected for this honor,” Schafer said. “What’s also rewarding is that I’ve seen so many peers and colleagues that I respect present their work at this lecture, and now it’s my turn. As exciting as winning is for me personally, joining that group of supremely impressive structural steel engineers is the best part of this. It’s basically the most respected people in my field, and I’m honored to call many of them my friends.”

Though this award recognizes a body of work that predates the establishment of ROSEI, Schafer believes that his role at the institute is a natural progression of his two decades of work in the field.

“When I was starting out as a structural engineer the term ‘efficiency’ really meant cost, and keeping those costs down while building safe structures,” Schafer said. “More than 20 years of academia and living on the planet later, more efficient means less carbon. Steel is critical to our society, today we need to figure out ways to create and utilize steel with the least amount of carbon possible, and I am proud to contribute to that work.”