Professor Dawn E. Lehman, Ph. D.

University of Washington

Professor Dawn E. Lehman, Ph. D., University of Washington, has been selected as the recipient of the 2024 Academic Engineer-of-the-Year Award in recognition of her exceptional career as a structural engineering educator, her significant contributions to seismic engineering of structural systems, and her dedicated efforts as a teacher and mentor of engineering students.

She is nationally recognized for her research program using large-scale experimental results in conjunction with high-resolution finite element analysis to develop methods for evaluating and retrofitting existing systems and for investigating performance-based seismic engineering approaches for design. She has conducted research on a range of systems, including reinforced-concrete walls and frames, steel-braced frames, as well as concrete-filled tube, precast, and reinforced-concrete bridge systems. Her research results have been incorporated into codes, design manuals, and provisional structural engineering recommendations.

June 24, 2021, the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside, Florida collapsed without warning. Professor Lehman worked with an investigative journalist team to investigate the collapse using tools and technologies developed through her research. The primary objective of the investigation was to understand how initial damage in a pool deck could lead to partial collapse of the cast-in-place reinforced-concrete structure. This work led to the team receiving a Pulitzer Prize and to making numerous presentations to international audiences.

Teaching is a critical part of her success as an educator. Her teaching goals are (1) teach fundamental knowledge yet challenge students, (2) set a high bar and level of expectation, (3) encourage collaboration and active learning, and (4) integrate prior and current class materials to create a more holistic learning experience.