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Robert J. Connor

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Research Interests

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 Systems; Historic Structures and Materials.


Dr. Connor has over fifteen years of experience in the research and testing of bridges and related structures. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the School of Civil Engineering at Purdue University. Prior to joining the faculty at Purdue, he was a Senior Research Engineer and the manager of the Infrastructure Monitoring Program at the ATLSS Engineering Research Center at Lehigh University. Over his career, he has conducted field evaluations of bridges throughout the United States and in bridge evaluations internationally. He has researched fabrication flaws, fatigue cracking, and failures and developed repair strategies for structures for a variety of agencies including state DOT, rapid transit authorities, construction companies, and structural consultants. He has developed and is currently developing fatigue design specifications for highway bridge structures and bridge expansion joints for NCHRP and state agencies. In addition, he has developed a two-day short course focused on fatigue and fracture design for steel bridge structures geared to toward practicing engineers and is the Chairman of the First International Conference on Fatigue and Fracture in the Infrastructure, to be held in August of 2006.

Prior to entering the academic profession, he worked as a design engineer responsible for the conceptual, preliminary, and final design of numerous bridge design and rehabilitation projects throughout the eastern United States.

Research Spotlight - High Mast Lighting Towers Recent failures of high-mast lighting towers in several states have raised questions as to the robustness and safety of the existing inventory of similar structures. Failure of these structures is very critical as they are typically located adjacent to Interstates or other high-speed highways. The potential exists for these fracture critical structures to fall across multiple traffic lanes or adjacent property.

Forensic studies have revealed that fatigue is the cause of most of the failures, either at the base plate-to-column weld, at the handhole detail, or of anchor rods. The loading that causes the fatigue is buffeting from wind gusts as well as vortex shedding. The latter is a phenomenon which can produce a significant number of large stress-range cycles in a short amount of time under relatively low wind speed.

A paper related to this research written by Dr. Connor and collegues, can be found here.

NCHRP 10-72 - Bridge Deck Design Criteria and Testing Procedures The objectives of NCHRP Project 10-72 are to determine the critical performance factors and design criteria that affect durability, strength, and design of deck systems. The results of an analytical study will be coupled with experimental, full-scale testing to develop testing protocols, and rational design criteria for various deck systems. More about this research can be found Here


Research Spotlight - Fracture Critical Bridges The results of NCHRP Syntehsis Project 35-08 Inspection and Management of Bridges with Fracture-Critical Details were recently published in Synthesis Report 354. The focus of this research was on the inspection and maintenance of bridges with fracture-critical members (FCMs). The primary objectives of the study were to: Survey the extent of and identify gaps in the literature; Determine best practices and problems with how bridge owners define, identify, document, inspect, and manage bridges with fracture-critical details; and Identify research needs. This report will be useful to owners and consulting engineers engaged in the design, inspection, and management of bridges with fracture-critical details as a guide to present specifications and typical engineering judgment. The report can be download here.

Research Spotlight - Heat Straightening Damage to highway bridge members can occur when over-height vehicles dynamically impact the structure or even when a vehicle loses control and crashes into a member, such as a hanger in a through truss bridge. The damage, which occurs at very high strain rates, results in significant plastic deformation in the member.  Heat-straightening along with mechanical techniques, such as jacking or pressing of damaged members, has been demonstrated to be an effective, accurate, and cost efficient repair technique when applied correctly.  

As a result, a research project entitled Heat-Straightening Repair of Damaged Steel Bridge Girders: Fatigue and Fracture Performance – NCHRP Project 10-63 , was initiated. More about this research can be found Here


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