Robert J. Connor

Jack and Kay Hockema Professor in Civil Engineering and Director of CAI and S-BRITE

Purdue University
Lyles School of Civil Engineering
550 Stadium Mall Drive
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2051

Office: HAMP 4115 / BOWN 1024
Phone: (765) 496-8272
Web: personal web site

Specialty Area(s)

PhD, Lehigh University, 2002
MSCE, Lehigh University, 1996
BSCE, Drexel University, 1990

Research Summary
Fatigue and fracture of steel structures, field testing and remote monitoring of structures, fatigue and behavior of sign, signal, and high-mast lighting structures, load distribution and dynamic response of highway and railroad bridge structures, robust sensing and data acquisition systems, large scale structural testing in real time, bridge expansion joint system, and historic structures and materials.

Selected Research Projects

  • NCHRP Project 12-82 "Developing Reliability-Based Bridge Inspection Practices" PHASE I & II
    Professor Connor is a Co-PI with Professor Glenn Washer at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. This is PHASE II of the original project, which began in June of 2009 will have tremendous impact on the United States Infrastructure as it will present a new paradigm for the inspection of highway bridges in the United States. Specifically, a reliability-based approach to determine the frequency and scope of inspections is presented that considers bridge design characteristics, age, materials, and existing condition in a systematic analysis process. The framework being researched utilizes a semi-qualitative analysis of various risks and capability factors to provide a practical, implementable methodology that capitalizes on the vast experience and expertise of bridge owners. The proposed approach is flexible and evolutionary such that developing data, methods, and technologies can be incorporated in the future. The capabilities of inspection technologies, including Nondestructive Evaluation (NDE) techniques, for mitigating identified risks and ensuring reliability of the inspection process is also considered in the analysis. This flexible methodology allows bridge owners to identify inspection intervals based on the specific characteristics of the bridge and the intensity of the inspection process. Phase II involves pilot testing the proposed methodologies is three to five states.
  • TPF- 5(238) Design and Fabrication Standards to Eliminate Fracture Critical Concerns in Two Girder Bridge Systems
    This is pooled fund study involving FHWA, AISI, Army Corps of Engineers, FHWA, IN, IA, ID, MN, NC, OR, VA, WI. Two girder bridge systems, as well as other non-redundant systems, were developed in the two decade period starting in the 1950's. Unfortunately, knowledge of the fatigue and fracture limit states was not sufficiently advanced to avoid problems in service. Since the 1970s, there have been tremendous advances in materials, fatigue analysis, fracture mechanics, fabrication techniques, and inspection. This project will revisit the concept of Fracture Critical Bridges in the light of the advances that have been made over the last 35 years. In addition, the project will establish guidance that provides a high level of bridge safety that can then form the basis for in-service inspection decisions. The results of the research will be transformative with respect to the steel bridge industry if fully implemented. Dr. William Wright of Virginia Tech is Co-PI on the project.
  • TPF- 5(253) Evaluation of Member Level Redundancy in Built-up Steel Members
    This is pooled fund study involving FHWA, AISI, Army Corps of Engineers, FHWA, IA, IN, MN, NY, OR, WI. This study will focus on establishing the fatigue and fracture performance of existing rivet and new bolted built-up bridge components after one of the components fails. The results will be used to establish rational field inspection criteria for these members, develop qualitative assessment and design tools, and result in more economical and robust steel members and bridges.
  • NCHRP Project 12-87 - Fracture-Critical System Analysis for Steel Bridges
    Dr. Connor is Co-PI with Professor William Wright of Virginia Tech (VT is the lead institution) on this project. The objectives of this research are to (1) develop a methodology to quantify when a steel bridge system is considered FC based on loads, existing conditions, material properties, and bridge configurations, and (2) recommend AASHTO specifications using the methodology in the design of new bridges and the evaluation of existing bridges.

Teaching Activity
CE 270 Introduction to Structural Mechanics

CE 470 Structural Design in Metals

CE 498 Senior Design

CE 591 Advanced Structural Steel Design

CE 671 Behavior of Metal Structures

CE 697S Bridge Engineering

Honors & Awards

  • AISC Special Achievement Award for Research in Fatigue and Fracture - 2012
  • Roy E. and Myrna F. Wansik Teaching Award - 2010
  • Edmund M. Burke Outstanding Civil Engineering Professor Award - 2009
  • Chi Epsilon Teaching Award - May 2009
  • Harold Munson Teaching Award - May 2009
  • Alberta Infrastructure and Alberta Transportation Innovation Award for Constraint Induced Fracture Repairs on the Heinsburg Bridge, Heinsburg, Alberta, Canada - 2008
  • Keynote Speaker for 2008 Annual ASCE MS Section Meeting, Jackson, MS - October 22-24, 2008
  • AISI/AASHTO Steel Bridge Task Force, Robert J. Dexter Memorial Lecture Award (first recipient) - August 2005
  • "Fourth World Congress on Joint Sealing and Bearing Systems for Concrete Structures," Best Paper Award - September 1996

Selected Publications

    Recent NCHRP Reports
  • Dexter, R.J., Connor, R.J., and Kaczinski, M.R., "Fatigue Design of Modular Bridge Expansion Joints", NCHRP Report 402, National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), Washington, DC, January, 1998.
  • Dexter, R.J., Connor, R.J., Mahmoud, H.N., "Inspection and Management of Bridges with Fracture-Critical Members", National Cooperative Highway Research Program, NCHRP Synthesis Report 354, National Academy Press, Washington D.C., to be published in 2005.
  • Connor, R.J., Urban, M.R., Kaufmann, E.J., "Heat-Straightening Repair of Damaged Steel Bridge Girders - Fatigue and Fracture Performance", NCHRP Report 604, National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), Washington, DC, January, 2008.
  • Connor, R.J., Liu, J., Higgins, C., "Bridge Deck Design Criteria and Testing Procedures - Final Report for NCHRP Project, 10-72", National Cooperative Highway Research Program National Academies, Washington, DC, July, 2012.
  • Connor, R.J., Collicott, S.H., DeSchepper, A.M., Sherman, R.J., and Ocampo, J.A., "Development of Fatigue Loading and Design Methodology for High-Mast Light Poles", NCHRP Report 718, National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), Washington, DC, 2012.
    Recent Peer Reviewed Publications
  • Kozy, B.M., Connor, R.J., Paterson, D., Mertz, D.R., "Proposed Revisions to the AASHTO LRFD Bridge Design Specifications for Orthotropic Steel Deck Bridges", Journal of Bridge Engineering, American Society of Civil Engineers. Volume 16, Issue 6, pp. 759-767, November/December, 2011.
  • Higgins, C., Turan, T., Connor, R.J., Liu, J., "A Unified Approach for LRFD Live Load Moments in Bridge Decks", Journal of Bridge Engineering, American Society of Civil Engineers. Volume 16, Issue 6, pp. 804-811, November/December, 2011.
  • Higgins, C., Turan, T., Connor, R.J., "Rapid Ranking Procedure for Gusset Plate Connections in Existing Steel Truss Bridges", Journal of Bridge Engineering, American Society of Civil Engineers Volume 15, Issue 5, pp. 581-596, September/October, 2010.
  • Parr, M.J., Connor, R.J., Bowman, M., "A Method for Determining the Interval for Hands-on Inspection of Steel Bridges with Fracture Critical Members", Journal of Bridge Engineering, American Society of Civil Engineers Vol. 15, No. 4, July/August 2010, pp. 352-363.
  • Warpinski, M.K., Connor, R.J., Hodgson, I.C., "The Influence of Flexibility on the Fatigue Performance of the Base Plate Connection in High-mast Lighting Towers", Journal of Structural Engineering, American Society of Civil Engineers, Vol. 136, No. 3, March 2010, pp. 324-329.
  • Hall, J., Connor, R.J.,, "The Influence of Baseplate Flexibility on the Fatigue Performance of Welded Socket Connection", Journal of Structural Engineering, American Society of Civil Engineers, Vol. 134, No. 6, June 2008, pp. 911-918.