University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering


Grad Student Wins Fellowship to Study Soil’s Resistance to Bending


Toby Weber

A UH Cullen College of Engineering graduate student has won a fellowship to research an underused method of distributing the load of a structure in soil.

Taraka Ravi Shankar Mullapudi, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, won the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Trent R. Dames and William W. Moore Fellowship. The award is available to graduate students, professors and practicing engineers, with winners selected based on the technical and social value of their research and its potential to advance the science and profession of engineering. While past awards have been in the $2,000 to $6,000 range, Mullapudi’s fellowship award totals $10,000.

Mullapudi, who is studying under the guidance of Prof. Ashraf Ayoub, will use this funding to examine the interaction of inelastic soil structure behavior.

“Soil can resist loads proportional to its normal displacement at a particular point, which is what most structures rely on,” Mullapudi said. “But it can also resist bending because of the cohesive nature of the soil, and usually this bending resistance is neglected. We are investigating and numerically simulating that interaction.”

Better understanding the interplay between tensionless soil and a load that is applied on structural components will allow architects and engineers to design structures (such as buildings and bridges) that more efficiently and effectively distribute their weight, Mullapudi said. When his research is complete, ideally his findings will be incorporated into structural design computer software.

This is not the first recognition Mullapudi has received from the ASCE. He also won the organization’s 2009 O.H. Ammann Research Fellowship in Structural Engineering and the 2010 Best Paper Award from the group’s Texas Section. Mullapudi is also very active in the life of the college and university, serving as president for the University of Houston chapter of Chi Epsilon, the civil engineering honors society, and vice president for the Golden Key International Honour Society at UH.


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