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Mizzou Engineering faculty member wins national society honor

William J. Likos, a Mizzou Engineering civil and environmental engineering assistant professor, will formally receive ASCE's prestigious Norman Medal on Nov. 3.

Mizzou Engineering Assistant Professor William J. Likos has been selected to receive a prestigious award from America’s oldest national engineering society for his work on the role of moisture in soil strength.

Likos, a civil and environmental engineering faculty member, will receive the American Society of Civil Engineering’s (ASCE) Norman Medal during the group’s annual business meeting on Nov. 3 in Orlando, Fla. The annual award—ASCE’s most notable—recognizes papers that make a definitive contribution to the engineering field.

“This is a tremendous recognition that I am extremely honored to receive,” Likos said.”

ASCE is honoring Likos for a paper he co-authored with Colorado School of Mines Professor Ning Lu, called “Suction Stress Characteristic Curve for Unsaturated Soil.” The paper, published in a February 2006 ASCE geotechnical journal, builds a conceptual framework for quantifying how changes in moisture affect the soil’s strength and volume.

Likos said his work breaks new ground by focusing on soil moisture above the water table, rather than below it. Moisture levels in soil located near the ground surface can change considerably depending on rainfall, which may in turn affect the strength and stability of manmade embankments or excavations, possibly triggering landslides, he said.

“This article is really about how to describe that dependency of strength on moisture content,” Likos said.

Likos also won ASCE’s Arthur Casagrande Professional Development Award in 2005, which recognizes outstanding geotechnical engineering accomplishments and seeks to further the professional development of young researchers in the field.