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Geotechnical Engineer Named Next Chair of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

robert gilber

The Cockrell School of Engineering has named Robert Gilbert, an accomplished professor and geotechnical engineer at The University of Texas at Austin, as the next chair of the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering.

Gilbert, who joined UT Austin as a faculty member in 1993, holds the Brunswick-Abernathy Regents Professorship in Soil Dynamics and Geotechnical Engineering. He will begin his appointment as chair on Sept. 1, 2017.

Gilbert replaces Richard Corsi, who has served as department chair since 2013 and is stepping down to focus on his research and teaching in the area of indoor air quality and pollution. Among his accomplishments as chair, Corsi hired seven new faculty members, launched a new undergraduate degree in environmental engineering and led the development of the department’s strategic plan, which focuses on solving complex problems surrounding the nexus of cities, water and energy.

“I am delighted to announce Bob as our next leader of the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering,” said Sharon L. Wood, dean of the Cockrell School. “In addition to being an internationally respected expert in geotechnical engineering, Bob is a dedicated teacher who cares deeply about the success of our students. He is the right person to continue the progress made by Rich and to further advance the department in the coming years.”

Gilbert has established himself as an expert in assessing and managing risk. He has consulted on a variety of high-profile projects, including flood protection in New Orleans, the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, nuclear waste disposal in Nevada and offshore oil and gas facilities around the world. He was awarded the Outstanding Civilian Service Award from the United States Army Corps of Engineers for his service on the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) External Review Panel in the forensic analysis of the levee failures in Hurricane Katrina.

“I am honored and excited to lead this department, which is consistently regarded as one of the finest in the nation,” Gilbert said. “I look forward to working with school and university leadership, as well as our outstanding and dedicated alumni, to continue to enhance our students’ experiences, strengthen our faculty community and advance our academic programs.”

In 2011, Gilbert received the Norman Medal, the highest award given by ASCE for a journal paper, and in 2016, he received the E.B. Burwell Award for his work with the National Science Foundation on the 2014 landslide in Oso, Washington. He is currently serving as a Governor for the Geo-Institute of ASCE and a member of the committee responsible for design guidelines for offshore facilities published by the American Petroleum Institute and the International Organization for Standardization.

Gilbert has also made a significant impact on teaching. In addition to teaching a variety of courses in geotechnical engineering and risk management, he has developed a senior capstone course in which students learn about the practice of engineering by applying their engineering skills to community-service projects under the guidance of professional engineer mentors. A number of these projects have been implemented, including rain gardens at schools that have been constructed by volunteers from UT Austin and the community alongside with K-12 students.

This year, Gilbert was inducted into UT Austin’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers. He is also a past recipient of The University of Texas System’s Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award and the Cockrell School’s Lockheed Martin Teaching Award. Gilbert and his wife live in Austin with their four children. He lives an active lifestyle, having completed two Ironman competitions and several marathons.