Faculty profile: Hani Salim
An engineering career in which explosives play a key role, even if the work involves minimizing their destructive impact, is the stuff that fuels most boys’ dreams: the noise, the percussion, the fire and smoke.
And though Hani Salim’s work in blast retrofit and explosion-resistant design of structures is just such a dream come true, even as a boy the associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Missouri had something entirely different in mind.
“When I was 11, I went with my uncle, a civil engineer, to his jobsite,” said Salim, who also is The LaPierre Professor of Structural Engineering. “He was working on a three-mile stretch of bridges. That day I decided to be an engineer and work on bridges.”
Before joining the Mizzou Engineering faculty in 1997, Salim hadn’t swayed from his goal, earning his master’s and doctorate from West Virginia University doing research on erecting bridges of fiber-reinforced composites.
Since coming to MU, Salim’s focus has taken a different path as businesses and agencies with structural emphases have altered their priorities.
“I started working with structural blast resistance in 1999,” Salim said. “By 2002 the work had really picked up.”
His current research includes a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) project looking at blast resistant steel studs, and projects with Black & Veatch Corporation, through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), administered by the U. S. Air Force.
“Three Black & Veatch tasks have involved making concrete masonry withstand blasts because many of the buildings overseas use this construction model,” Salim said. “Our job is to go back to the drawing board to protect [the walls’] response.”
“I work to enhance structural energy absorption and then develop analytical engineering methods to predict the response of the structures. Our work is translated into engineering guidelines that will then be available for use by the larger engineering community in the form of software or design guides,” he said.
The steel stud wall analysis code Salim developed is being used by the USACE and the State Department for construction of government buildings and is referenced by the International Building Code.
Salim’s work on campus has translated into the establishment of a full-scale experimental research facility for blast-retrofit and explosion-resistant design of structures. He also serves as associate director of MU’s National Center for Explosion Resistant Design with center director Sam Kiger, Mizzou Engineering’s dean of research.
He is an associate member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), serving on many of the organization’s committees. An active member in several additional engineering and research organizations, Salim was most recently invited to serve as an associate editor for the International Journal of Protective Structures.
Highly regarded by students, Salim teaches classes on structural analysis, bridge design and statics and engineering mechanics. He is the recipient of many teaching recognition awards, including one of MU’s prestigious $10,000 Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence.
Outside the classroom, Salim serves as faculty advisor to both the steel and timber bridge student teams. As civil engineering’s director for undergraduate studies, he acts as a student advisor, and represents the department at the six weeks of summer welcome sessions. Additionally, he introduces and supervises the hands-on bridge construction project for high school students attending engineering summer camps.
“The summer camp students work in teams. We start on Sunday night by looking at the software. They work together to develop a design while learning the concepts of load paths. Then they build the balsa wood bridges and on the final day we test them with weights,” said Salim.
“At summer welcome, a couple of parents told me their children had attended our summer camp last year and enjoyed the bridge competition so much that they chose Mizzou over schools that made more lucrative offers. They blamed me,” Salim said with a smile.
What sort of work is on Salim’s horizon?
“I can see myself eventually evolving to the study of blast resistance of systems,” Salim said. “Walls, windows and roofs – entire systems.”
In the meantime, Salim, his wife, daughters aged 12, 7 and 2, and an 11-year-old son, enjoy living in Columbia. “This town is beautiful. My family is happy here,” he said.
Salim’s children are interested in his work. He has shown them footage of some of the blast testing he has done. “I bring my son with me to campus sometimes,” he said. “He is very interested in the summer camps and in engineering, but his mother wants him to be a doctor.”
But unlike structural engineers, doctors never get to blow things up.