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A firm foundation for civil engineering student researchers

Thanks to the generosity of alumnus Allan Johnson (CE ’59), graduate students in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering now conduct materials-related research in newly renovated laboratory facilities in Bolz Hall.

Allan Johnson (second from left) celebrates the opening of the Allan Johnson Civil Materials Research Laboratory on October 25, 2019 with (L to R) Allison MacKay (Professor and Chair, CEGE), Lisa Burris (Assistant Professor, CEGE) and Michael Hagenberger (Associate Dean for Facilities and Planning, COE).The state-of-the-art space enables student researchers to perform tests on concrete and related construction materials that were not possible in the space’s previous configuration, where determining the strength of a concrete sample was the primary and often only concern. In addition to strength, current research requires analyzing concrete’s reactivity, heat release, micron-level shrinkage and other properties.

As a student, Allan Johnson tested concrete in the same physical space. During his tenure as executive director of the Ohio Turnpike Commission (1970-1996), he nurtured an interest in how materials were used to form infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels and roadways. “The advances in how these structures are built and maintained always piqued my interest,” he said during the grand opening of the lab named in his honor. “You have to stay on top of things.”

Cansu Acarturk, a graduate student in CEGE's Advanced Cementitious Materials Research Group, prepares a test sample in the newly renovated Johnson Materials Lab.Assistant Professor Lisa Burris, one of three CEGE faculty members whose students will utilize the lab, added that the renovations were critical to moving Ohio State’s research endeavors forward. “Because much of our work now involves sensitive chemical procedures and temperature-sensitive measurements, having a new, clean and adequately equipped space makes this type of work possible,” she said.

The ability to engage with students and faculty who would work daily in the lab pleased Johnson. He viewed his current philanthropy as the continuation of a relationship with Ohio State that began over 50 years ago. “It’s been a rewarding experience for me,” he shared. “I will continue to support the university, the College of Engineering and the CEGE department.”

Burris saw parallels between Johnson’s support of the civil engineering program and her graduate students’ support of undergraduate researchers and student organizations such as the concrete canoe and steel bridge teams.” High quality undergraduate students, who get involved and who are mentored by good graduate students, often stay and become graduate mentors themselves,” she explained. “And through his circular process, the department grows stronger.”