Alfred Noble Prize awarded for research paper on ‘Ferrari’ overpass

Congratulations to UC Civil and Natural Resources Engineer Professor Alessandro Palermo, who has been awarded the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Alfred Noble Prize for a 2019 paper he co-authored with UC PhD graduate Dr Mustafa Mashal (now Associate Professor at Idaho State University in the US).  

The paper ‘Low-Damage Seismic Design for Accelerated Bridge Construction’ discusses the experimental testing undertaken as part of Dr Mashal’s PhD. The project was part of a broader government funded programme (NZ Natural Hazard Programme) and led to the development of an innovative, seismically resilient connection at bridge piers (or columns) designed to sustain different levels of earthquakes without damaging the column. In a world-first the low-damage technology was used in the Christchurch Wigram-Magdala Link overbridge project, which opened in 2016. At the time Professor Palermo described the overpass as the “Ferrari” of bridges.

“The novelty of the paper is not just limited to the testing process. The paper also shows how that testing translated into a design solution that was used in a real-life bridge,” Professor Palermo explains.

When notified of the Alfred Noble Prize Professor Palermo says it was a nice surprise, especially coming from the ASCE – one of the most prestigious international associations in civil and structural engineering.

“I’m happy our paper was well-received by the ASCE. Since its publication, it was one of the most downloaded papers in 2019. This award shows the research we’re doing here in New Zealand is at the forefront of earthquake bridge engineering innovation.”

The award will be formally presented to Professor Palermo and Dr Mashal in October this year.



Professor Alessandro Palermo has been awarded the ASCE Alfred Noble Prize for a 2019 paper he co-authored with UC PhD graduate Dr Mustafa Mashal.  

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