Senol Utku Award

Senol Utku

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering invites current CEE graduate students to compete for the Professor Senol Utku Annual Award for best pre-Ph.D. peer-reviewed journal papers. The competition rewards the graduate student/faculty advisor team for intellectual excellence, creativity and highest quality work. The award promotes early writing of research articles among graduate students.

About Prof. Utku

This award is dedicated to Senol Utku for his exemplary academic achievements and service to this department between 1970 and 2002.

A graduate of Istanbul Technical University in 1954, Utku earned his graduate degrees from MIT (S.M in 1959 and Sc.D. in 1960). Following his graduation from MIT, he remained in Cambridge as a visiting assistant professor, and then moved onto positions at Middle East Technical University and Istanbul Technical University before joining the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a senior research engineer in 1965. In 1970, he joined the Duke Department of Civil Engineering, and by 1979 was a full professor iwith a secondary appointment in computer science.

Professor Utku advised more than 10 Ph. D. dissertations. He served as the director of undergraduate studies for seven years, and director of graduate studies for three years. Over his career he taught 15 different courses, including CE204 Plates and Shells, CE 254 Systematic Engineering Analysis, CE131 Theory of Structures, EGR 51, and 52 computational engineering courses, which were the precursor to the modern day EGR 53. He has been an inspirational mentor to younger faculty. He retired from Duke in 2002, and now resides in Istanbul, Turkey.

His research contributions are in the areas of dynamics of structures, structural optimization and methods of permutations for factorization of block tridiagonal matrices, real-time control of geometry and stiffness in adaptive structures, optimal location of redundants for prestressing adaptive trusses in spacecrafts, adaptive base isolation system for the control of seismic energy flow into buildings during earthquakes and a general idea of incorporating intelligence into engineered products as adaptive structures.

A fellow in the American Society of Civil Engineers, Utku authored nine books, among which the latest "Theory of Adaptive Structures" traces indeed a trajectory of future developments in structural mechanics, while the most classical “Elementary Structural Analysis” by Utku, Charles Head Norris, John Benson Wilbur was a fourth edition of a textbook, which educated generations of structural engineers. Utku also published over 60 widely referred to peer-reviewed journal articles.


Highest distinction: $300
High distinction: $150 and $150


February 2.

Application process

Submit four copies of a pre-Ph.D. peer-reviewed journal paper that has been published or accepted for publication between Jan. 31 of the past year and Jan. 31st of the current year. The papers must be accompanied by a dated letter of acceptance from the journal and a recommendation letter from the student's faculty advisor assessing the contribution of the student to the paper, the predicted impact of the paper and its originality, and the quality of the journal. Submissions need to go to Director of Graduate Studies John Dolbow,, or Box 90287 in the CEE Department Office.

Review Process

  • The total annual award budget is $600
  • The prizes are awarded by a Committee, which may decide on a different monetary award distribution yearly, or award none.
  • The Committee will be an ad hoc Prof. Utku Award Committee of three faculty, selected each year at a faculty meeting after the submission of papers is known to avoid conflict of interest
  • The submission deadline is 5 p.m. ET Feb. 2, to the Director of Graduate Studies.
  • The winners will present their papers in the CEE Graduate Student Seminars

Past Winners

2015 Winners

Highest distinction

  • Osman Karatum (advisor Desiree Plata) "Flexible, Mechanically Durable Aerogel Composites for Oil Capture and Recovery." Applied Materials and Interfaces.
  • Norman Pelak (advisor Amilcare Porporato) "Bistable Plant-Soil Dynamics and Biogenic Controls on the Soil Production Function." Earth Surface Processes and Landforms.

2014 Winners

Highest distinction

  • Curtis Lee (advisor John Dolbow, with Peter J. Mucha) (2014) “A narrow-band gradient-augmented level set method for multiphase incompressible flow.” Journal of Computation Physics. 273, 12-37.
  • Anna Wilson (advisor Ana P. Barros) (2014) “An Investigation of Warm Rainfall Microphysics in the Southern Appalachians: Orographic Enhancement via Low-Level Seeder–Feeder Interactions.” Journal of Atmospheric Sciences. 71, 1783-1805.

2013 Winners

Highest distinction

  • Chandrasekhar Annavarapu (advisor John Dolbow, with M. Hautefeuille), for  “A Robust Nitsche’s Formulation for Interface Problems.”  Computational Methods Applied Mechanical Engineering. 225-228, 44-54. (2012)
  • Xue Feng (advisor Amilcare Porporato, with G. Vico), for “On the Effects of Seasonality on Water Balance and Plant Growth.”  Water Resources Research, 48, 1-12 (2012)

2012 Winners

Highest distinction

  • Ian Cassidy (advisor Henri Gavin)

High distinction

  • Tong Zhang (advisor Helen Hsu-Kim)
  • Andreas Gondikas (advisor Helen Hsu-Kim)

2011 Winners

Highest distinction

  • Tong Zhang (with Helen Hsu-Kim) for “Photolytic degradation of Methylmercury Enhanced by Binding to Natural Organic Ligands”  Nature Geoscience, 3(7), 473-476

High distinction

  • David Jassby (with Mark Wiesner), for “Characterization of ZnS Nanoparticle Aggregation Using Photoluminescence,” Langmuir, in press.

2010 Winners

Highest distinction

  • Jing Huang (advisor John Albertson) for “Analysis of Coherent Structures within the Atmospheric Boundary Layer”

High distinction

  • Amrika Deonarine (advisor Helen Hsu-Kim) for “Precipitation of Mercuric Sulfide Nanoparticles in NOM-Containing Water:  Implications for the Natural  Environment”
  • Rawad Saleh (advisor Andrey Khlystov) for “Determination of Evaporation Coefficients of Semi-Volatile Organic Aerosols Using an Integrated Volume-Tandem Differential Mobility Analysis Method”

2009 Winners

Highest distinction2009 Utku Award Winners

  • James Rigby and A. Porporato: “Spring Frost Risk in a Changing Climate,” journal - Geophysical Research Letters (May 2, 2008) 

High distinction

  • Zachary Hendren  J. Brant and M.Wiesner: “Surface Modification of Nanostructured Ceramic Membranes for Direct Contact Membrane Distillation”, Journal of Membrane Science (November 2008) JMS-081126R1
  • Jessica Sanders  J. Dolbow and T. Laursen: “On Methods for Stabilizing Constraints over Enriched Interfaces in Elasticity” International Journal for Numerical Methods in Engineering (2008) NME 2514

2008 Winners

From left, Stefano Manzoni, Shuyi Wang and Liangbo HuHighest distinction:

  • Liangbo Hu and T. Hueckel: “Coupled Chemo-Mechanics- of Intergranular Contact: Towards a Three Scale Model,” Computers and Geotechnics (2007) 34, 4, 306-327

High distinction

  • Stefano Manzoni A. Porporato and J.P. Schimel: “Soil Heterogeneity in Lumped Mineralization-Immobilization Models”, Soil Biology & Biochemistry (2008) 40, 5, 1137 - 1148
  • Shuyi Wang R.M. Holzem and C. Gunsch: “Effects of Pharmaceutically Active Compounds on a Mixed Microbial Community Originating from Wastewater Treatment Plant” Environmental Science and Technology (2008) 42(4); 1091-1095

2007 Winners

  • 2007 Senol Utku Winners, Darren Drewry, Stefano Manzoni and Gil BohrerStefano Manzoni & Amilcare Porporato for "A theoretical analysis of nonlinearities and feedbacks in soil carbon and nitrogen cycles" in Journal of Soil Biology & Biochemistry
  • Gil Bohrer, M. Wolosin, R. Brady & R. Avissar for "A virtual canopy generator (V-CaGe) for modeling complex heterogeneous forest canopies at high resolution" in Tellus
  • Darren Drewry & J. Albertson for "Diagnosing model error in canopy-atmosphere exchange using empirical orthogonal function analysis" in Water Resources Research