September 4, 2002
A simple journey from your house in the morning to your place of work introduces you to the many uses and advances of concrete. You pull away from your house off of your concrete driveway, onto the concrete roadway on your route to work. You inevitably pass numerous concrete light posts, concrete stoplight posts, drive over concrete bridges, and pass concrete benches at bus stops sitting in front of concrete buildings.
Concrete has been used in construction for more than 2,000 years, perhaps beginning with the Romans as they built roadways and aqueducts. Today we see concrete utilized in more ways than we can count. We are now witnessing the use of concrete in the construction of the world’s largest building in Chicago, Illinois. It is no wonder that Dr. Venkataswamy Ramakrishnan (Dr. Rama), Distinguished Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has devoted his life’s work to researching and understanding concrete and concrete structures.
“Concrete interests me because it is the most complex of all materials available,” said Dr. Rama. “I began studying concrete more than 30 years ago because it is such a challenging material. Despite the large number of developments over the past 10 years, what we know is so little compared to what we do not know about concrete.”
Dr. Rama completed his undergraduate studies and received his postgraduate diploma at the University of Madras, India with an emphasis in civil engineering, and social sciences. He received two Diplomas of Imperial College (equivalent to a master’s degree) from the University of London with emphases in hydropower engineering, and concrete technology, and earned his Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of London in 1960.
He began his professional career as a Junior Engineer in the Madras Public Works Department in 1952 and shortly thereafter began lecturing in civil engineering at PSG College of Technology where he advanced from an Assistant Lecturer to Professor and Head, Department of Civil Engineering in 1961 until 1969. It was the later part of 1969 when Dr. Rama came to the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology as a Visiting Professor in Civil Engineering and he has never left.
Dr. Rama is an international expert in the field of concrete and concrete structures. He has received numerous awards, and honors, and has published more than 200 research papers and technical articles; presented at more than 200 international conferences; and submitted more than 300 technical reports on completed research projects.
Most recently Dr. Rama was the recipient of two prestigious awards, The Robert E. Philleo Award and an appointment as Emeritus Member of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) standing committee on Properties of Concrete.
The Robert E. Philleo Award is the only award given for research excellence by the American Concrete Institute. It recognizes individuals for their contributions in the field of concrete and awards excellence in overall achievement. Dr. Rama was the ninth individual to ever receive the award.
Dr. Rama was only the second individual to receive an appointment as an Emeritus Member of a TRB standing committee in the concrete section. The Emeritus Membership was established by TRB two years ago as a means of recognizing the significant and long-term contributions of individuals who have provided outstanding service.
“Dr. Ramakrishnan is an internationally recognized expert on high performance concrete,” said Dr. Sangchul Bang, Dean, College of Earth Systems. “His research works have helped expand the use of high performance concrete in various civil engineering structures. His reputation spans from theory to practice and is recognized by national and international experts.
“Dr. Ramakrishnan is equally remarkable in his devotion to education. Our undergraduate and graduate students have benefitted tremendously from his knowledge and experience in structural engineering and high performance concrete. He is well respected by our students, staff, and faculty,” said Bang.
Within the field of concrete, Dr. Rama’s main research interests lie with fiber reinforced concrete, concrete fiber composites, and high performance concrete. Recently he has been involved in research with the South Dakota Department of Transportation Highway Administration in which he developed high performance concrete with 16,500-psi (pounds per square inch) strength. A bridge prestressed concrete girder was built utilizing this concrete in Sioux Falls last summer marking the first time in the United States such a high strength concrete was used in bridge construction. Traditionally bridges are built using 6,000-psi concrete. This summer the DOT plans to build a second bridge with this high strength concrete.
Since he has been at SDSM&T Dr. Rama has also completed research on shear wall structures, plastic analysis of buildings, and latex modified concrete. Shear wall is a type of structural building that has been utilized but lacks design information. Dr. Rama’s research contributed to the knowledge and method of design for this type of construction.
Plastic analysis of buildings is a new method of analysis that would replace the current elastic analysis method currently in use. Elastic analysis refers to the method that a building frame is analyzed to determine the force of the loads coming onto the frame. A new plastic analysis method would utilize the plastic behavior of concrete to make the same measurements.
Latex modified concrete is impermeable concrete that is typically used in the construction of bridges. Dr. Rama was charged by the Transportation Research Board to write a book on this subject that was published in 1980.
Additionally, for more than 30 years Dr. Rama has worked as an international consultant for such major industries in the United States as 3M Company, Mobil Research and Development Corporation, Forta Corporation, Dupont, U.S. Steel, and Allied Signal. He has done consulting for PPG – the second largest glass producer in the world – in which he is developing some glass fiber reinforced concrete, and he has also been working with 3M for the past five years developing new high-tech, synthetic fiber for addition in concrete.
“The knowledge about concrete has multiplied at least five times over the past ten years,” said Dr. Rama. “There is more knowledge being discovered each year because concrete is the most largely used construction material in the world. It is an essential part of any construction. Without concrete there is no construction,” he added.
From building a bridge, building, or sidewalk, concrete expands all facets of civilization. It is the most durable building material available and the pool of knowledge individuals draw out of about the subject is a droplet of water compared to the oceans that exist.
Dr. Rama has dedicated more than 40 years of his life and his career to expanding the knowledge and use of concrete, and he has only opened the door so slightly. Yet compared to previous and existing information, Dr. Rama has climbed mountains. As bridges are built, streets are paved, and light posts are erected today and for years to come, you can be sure that Dr. Rama is looking for a better, more durable concrete mixture to last us hundreds of years.
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