A graduate of Istanbul Technical University in 1954, Senol Utku earned his graduate degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (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 with 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.
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.