Professor Andrew J. Whittle, a geotechnical engineer who served on the panel reviewing the hurricane protection systems in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and the Massachusetts governor's "stem to stern" safety review of Boston's Big Dig tunnels, will be the next head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), effective Sept. 1.
"Andrew is widely respected for his work as a civil engineer, and I am delighted to have someone of his standing in a leadership role at MIT's oldest academic department," said Subra Suresh, dean of engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering at MIT. "Andrew's work is a model for how engineering can be applied to real-world issues and challenges, which is a core value to the school and to MIT in general. I look forward to working with him and seeing the results of a broader application of his talents at MIT."
Whittle currently leads the Center for Environmental Sensing and Modeling (CENSAM), an interdisciplinary research program of the MIT SMART initiative, and holds the SMART Research Professorship. He joined the MIT faculty in 1988, was tenured in 1995, and promoted to full professor in 2000. He earned the BSc (Eng.) from the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London, in 1981 and the ScD from MIT in 1987. While in graduate school, he was the MIT John F. Kennedy Scholar from 1982 to 1984.
Much of Whittle's research deals with modeling soil behavior and predicting the performance of foundations and underground construction projects. His research has been widely used in the design of foundation systems for deepwater oil production facilities in the Gulf of Mexico. He has worked extensively on problems of soil-structure interaction for urban excavation and tunneling projects, including Boston's Central Artery-Third Harbor Tunnel and MBTA South Piers transit projects, as well as Tren Urbano, a subway system which began service in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2004. Most recently, Whittle has led research efforts in the application of wireless sensor networks for monitoring underground water distribution systems and construction projects.
Whittle is co-editor of the International Journal of Numerical and Analytical Methods in Geomechanics and a member of the editorial board of the ASCE Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering and the Canadian Geotechnical Journal. He is an active consultant who has worked on more than 25 major onshore and offshore construction projects. He has published more than 100 papers in refereed journals and conferences and has received several awards from the American Society of Civil Engineers, including the Walter L. Huber research prize (1998), James R. Croes Medal (1992) and the Thomas A. Middlebrooks Award (1997, 2002, 2005), which is awarded annually for the best paper in geotechnical engineering.
Whittle succeeds Patrick Jaillet, the Edmund K. Turner Professor, who earned a PhD from MIT in 1985 and returned in 2002 to become CEE department head. Jaillet will join MIT's interdepartmental Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems in September.
"Patrick has had a significant impact and been a tremendous force for renewal - both within the department and the School of Engineering - during his tenure as head," said Suresh. "He led a redesign of the CEE undergraduate core curriculum that integrates the civil engineering and environmental engineering science aspects of the department in the sophomore and senior years. He also hired nine new faculty members, including one of our first successful school-wide search candidates. His wise counsel and collegiality will be missed on Engineering Council."