UNT researcher wins prestigious NSF award to study building design

Cheng Yu
Assistant professor of engineering technology and program coordinator for the construction engineering technology program at UNT.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- New research studying cold-formed steel and its applications as a construction material could make buildings more structurally sound and less susceptible to damage brought by natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes.

Dr. Cheng Yu, assistant professor of engineering technology and program coordinator for the construction engineering technology program at the University of North Texas, will conduct a five-year research project to study the design of cold-formed steel shear walls and to develop high-performance structures.

The project will seek to study the behavior and performance of cold-formed steel shear walls as lateral force resisting systems, which are composed of braced or shear panels in wood or steel.

The study also would design a testing method to measure how the walls are able to withstand combined loading conditions in mid- to low-rise buildings where the horizontal loads and vertical loads are applied to the building simultaneously, such as in an earthquake or hurricane.

"The use of cold-formed steel shear walls as a structural system is very underdeveloped in terms of design theory, and this project will try to develop a reliable design and approach to accurately predict its behavior under earthquakes and strong winds," said Yu. "We are seeking to close the knowledge gaps about this type of structure."

Yu has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, which is the most prestigious offered by the NSF for young researchers. The $400,010 grant supports early career development activities of educators who effectively integrate research and education within the context of the missions of their organizations.

The CAREER award holds additional promise in that the most commendable of the new award recipients could be nominated by NSF for the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. on scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers.

Yu is the sixth professor at UNT to win the CAREER award. Previous UNT award winners are Rada Mihalcea, Mohammad Omary, Pamela Padilla, Srinivasan Srivilliputhur and Angela Wilson. Mihalcea became the first at UNT to receive the PECASE award in January 2010.

Yu's project also will study how cold-formed steel, which is known to be recyclable and provide better fire resistance compared to wood, could improve methods for safer and more economical design for building structures and provide better tools for engineers.

A team of undergraduate and graduate research assistants will assist Yu with the project. The educational component to Yu's work involves developing a course curriculum, associated lab manual and textbook with the latest design theories for use by students, educators and professionals. Yu also is initiating a nationwide student competition on cold-formed steel structural design by collaborating with professional societies and other universities. 

Since joining UNT in 2005, Yu has received nearly $1.3 million in grants to study cold-formed steel structures, computational mechanics and structural stability in projects funded by organizations such as the American Iron and Steel Institute and the Metal Building Manufacturers Association.

Yu earned his doctoral and master's degrees in civil engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 2005 and his bachelor's degree from Tsinghua University in Beijing in 1998.

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