A Tradition of Excellence
The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois is consistently cited as one of the best graduate programs in the country. The structural engineering program has historically been a crown jewel of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and a key component of the Illinois tradition at the University of Illinois. The tradition of excellence at the University of Illinois, both in teaching and in research, goes back more that a hundred years. Arthur Newell Talbot was the founder of the strong tradition in research here at Illinois, making contributions in almost every area of civil engineering. He was among the first to systematically study the use of reinforced concrete as a building material.
Talbot was internationally recognized for his work, but his greatest achievement may have been the tradition of excellence he started at Illinois. That tradition manifested in the likes of Hardy Cross — inventor of the moment distribution method and probably one of the most influential structural engineers of the 20th century — and Nathan Newmark — one of the original pioneers of modern earthquake engineering and the person who steered this department to preeminence during the post–war boom in engineering of the fifties and sixties. Many great engineering faculty followed Newmark — Chester Seiss, William Hall, Al Ang, and Mete Sozen, to name a few.
For many years, Illinois was the only institution in the country that granted the degree of Ph.D. in civil engineering. As a result, the faculties at virtually every major university in this country, as well as many others throughout the world, are populated, to this day, with graduates from the University of Illinois.
The current structural engineering program is built around thirteen faculty members, including eight who have joined the department since 2001.
Structural engineers often speak of the “Illinois method” of education -- a special blend of theory and practice in a unique balance. This blended approach has been the result of a research program that responded very directly to the pressing problems of the professional community.
We are proud of the balance of our program within the discipline of structural engineering. There are many ways to weigh that balance — teaching vs. research, theory vs. practice, tradition vs. innovation, old vs. new . . . Our faculty is evenly divided among those devoted primarily to design and behavior of structures and those devoted primarily to the mechanics of structures. Many of our faculty are equally comfortable on both sides of this division and, in fact, we firmly believe true strength comes from each side informing the other, ... on relevance, on practicality, on fundamentals, on new approaches, on traditional biases, on virtually every important aspect of our field.