Schafer named civil engineering chair

Benjamin Shafer

Benjamin Shafer

Benjamin Schafer, associate professor of civil engineering and affiliated faculty member of Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, became chair of the Department of Civil Engineering, as of July 1.

Schafer’s area of research involves thin-walled structures. Thin-walled structures aim to maximize strength and efficiency while minimizing the cost, and as a result, stability plays a crucial role in their behavior. Much of Schafer’s research involves common construction materials, such as metals, wood and plastic. But with regard to nanobiotechnology, Schafer also is looking to a naturally occurring thin-walled structure-the cell. In particular, he has studied the cell’s mechanical response via the crosslinking and bundling of actin fibers with INBT’s associate director and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering Denis Wirtz.

“The role of mechanical stability is critical in understanding many of the interesting structures inside living cells. My collaborations with Professor Wirtz have been some of the most enjoyable and interesting of my academic career,” Schafer says.

Schafer joined the faculty of the Whiting School of Engineering in 2000. His work in structural stability and computational mechanics have earned him academic acclaim, including a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, a Faculty Fellowship from the American Institute of Steel Construction, and the Collingwood Prize from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

In 2008 Schafer was named as the first Swirnow Faculty Scholar, an award given to a senior assistant professor or associate professor for excellence in his or her area of expertise. He has also received the Robert S. Pond, Sr. Excellence in Teaching Award.

Professor J. Hugh Ellis will step down as civil engineering department chair, a position he has held since 2004, to resume research and teaching in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering.

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