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Geotechnical, nuclear engineers named to National Academy of Engineering

Craig Benson

Wisconsin Distinguished Professor and Chair of Geological Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering Craig Benson.

On February 9, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) announced it has named two University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers to its 2012 class of new members.

Wisconsin Distinguished Professor of Geological Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering Craig Benson and Engineering Physics Professor Emeritus Max Carbon are among 66 new members and 10 foreign associates elected to the NAE in 2012. Election to the NAE is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer, and membership honors those who made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice or education.

The academy cited Benson for improvements in design, construction and monitoring of earthen liners and covers for municipal hazardous and radioactive waste landfills, while it recognized Carbon for establishing engineering educational programs for nuclear reactor design and safety.

Benson joined UW-Madison in 1990 after earning his PhD in civil engineering, with a focus on geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering, from the University of Texas at Austin. An expert in sustainable engineering, environmental containment systems, and waste management, he was drawn to UW-Madison because of its legacy of environmental stewardship. In 2011, he became the first UW-Madison director for sustainability research and education and also is chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and of Geological Engineering in the UW-Madison College of Engineering.

As a geoenvironmental engineering researcher, Benson focuses on assessing the sustainability of geological and civil engineering systems, reusing and recycling industrial byproducts for sustainable construction applications, and designing and assessing environmental containment systems for municipal, hazardous and radioactive waste. He has conducted research in these areas with government and industry locally, nationally and internationally.

Benson is a fellow of and has received numerous awards from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). He is active in the ASCE Geo Institute, currently serving as its board of governors vice president; and is vice chair of the American Society for Testing and Materials executive committee.

Max Carbon

Engineering Physics Professor Emeritus Max Carbon.

Carbon, a veteran of World War II, earned his PhD in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1949. He began his professional career with the General Electric Co. at the Hanford Engineer Works, working on its plutonium-producing reactors as part of the U.S. effort in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. He was leader of the Heat Transfer Group, which was responsible for the safety analysis, operating limits and cooling technology that allowed for increased plutonium production and extended reactor lifetimes. He also applied his heat-transfer analysis skills to the design of Intercontinental Ballistic Missile nose cones as head of the Thermodynamics Section at the Avco Manufacturing Corp. before joining the UW-Madison faculty.

He was founding chair of the UW-Madison Department of Nuclear Engineering, hired in 1958 as part of a growing postwar research emphasis on designing better, more efficient nuclear power plants for generating electricity. Department chair from 1958 until his retirement in 1992, Carbon led the department in establishing the nuclear engineering bachelor's, master's and PhD curricula; and recruited and hired top faculty and staff, an effort that has raised the program to its current status as among the best in the nation. Carbon also oversaw construction of the university research and training reactor, which achieved initial criticality in early 1961.

Additionally, Carbon continued research in reactor safety and heat transfer and has become nationally known for defining this growing field. He is a fellow of the American Nuclear Society and has applied his expertise in such institutions as the federal Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards and the utility industry Institute of Nuclear Power Operations. Carbon also is author of Nuclear Power: Villain or Victim? Written for nontechnical audiences, the book sets forth the benefits and risks of nuclear power.

Two College of Engineering alumni also were among those named members of NAE. Babatunde Ogunnaike (PhDChE '81) is interim dean, William L. Friend Chair of Chemical Engineering and professor in the Center for Systems Biology-DBI at the University of Delaware, Newark. NAE cited him for advances in process systems, process engineering practice, and systems engineering education. Steven Zinkle (BSNE '80, MSNE '82, PhDNE '85) is UW-Battelle corporate fellow and director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory materials science and technology division. NAE cited him for advancing understanding of radiation damage in metallic and ceramic components.

Renee Meiller
2/9/2012