Prof Limin Zhang Wins Ralph B. Peck Award

Prof. Limin Zhang, Head of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, has been selected to receive the Ralph B. Peck Award 2023. Presented annually by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the Ralph B. Peck Award recognizes outstanding contribution to the geotechnical engineering profession through the publication of research, and has been hailed as one of the most renowned awards in all of geotechnical engineering. The award is therefore the culmination of years of dedicated hard work and research excellence, and an enormous milestone of Prof. Zhang’s professional career. We have invited Prof. Zhang to share some thoughts on having bestowed upon him the very prestigious honour.

“The award took me by surprise. I was told the news over the phone during a conference, but, nonetheless, it is a tremendous honour, privilege, and affirmation,” he says.

Of course, a career in research and academia is not so constantly glamorous — awards aren’t handed out every day, and there are duller days when research results and output are scarce but other chores are plenty. “The important thing is to keep at it even on days when things don’t seem to be going anywhere. Choose an area to focus on, and persevere,” reflects Prof. Zhang. He credits his strong, steadfast desire to contribute to society and improve the living standards of citizens as the drive behind his research pursuits. Since publishing his first paper in 1997, he has continued to study various local and worldwide geotechnical problems, and, to date, he has published nearly 300 papers on topics ranging from foundation, slope safety, to landslide risk management and climate change–related adaptations.

Engineering is, however, not just about resolving existing problems and making improvements on the status quo; engineering is more importantly about foreseeing and solving future problems. This point — the need to learn from the past but also predict the future — came to me very vividly when I was one of the researchers on a project to restore Sichuan after it had suffered that horrendous 2008 earthquake.” Prof. Zhang calls this experience one of the most unprecedented and impressive projects but also the biggest challenge of his career. “But it has also been the greatest motivation for my research — that we shouldn’t just focus on resolving engineering and technical complications; we should put focus on realizing what social impact our work today will have on people’s livelihoods and the local economies, as well as how it will influence future engineering projects and practices.”

Prof. Zhang also shares with us his hope and desire, beyond solving more real-life problems in the future, to educate and nurture more engineers, and he uses his own journey and experience to encourage up-and-coming engineers: “Choose a specialization that interests you, that you are passionate about, and keep up the passion. Become an expert in your field, but, all the while, remember that it is important to remain open-minded and receptive to new engineering practices and knowledge.

In conjunction with and as the 2023 laureate of the Ralph B. Peck Award, Prof. Zhang will lead a geotechnical conference at the end of March 2023 in Los Angeles.

Congratulations, Prof. Zhang!

By CIVL Student Ambassadors: Renee Foo, Sharleen Tjendraputri and Chloe Wu

Prof Limin Zhang

Prof Limin Zhang

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