IIT Madras launches the ‘Surendra and Dorothie Shah Chair’ for Research on Sustainable Construction

CHENNAI: Indian Institute of Technology Madras has launched the ‘Surendra and Dorothie Shah Chair’ for furthering cutting-edge research in the field of Civil Engineering materials. This assumes huge significance due to the immense amount of construction work undertaken every year in India, with the volumes and expenditures continually increasing.

Prof. Surendra P. Shah, one of the foremost global experts in engineering materials, particularly concrete and other cement-based construction, chose IIT Madras to set up the Institute Chair. He has led the development of new advanced materials, which have become world standards in these fields, and his work revolutionized the way modern concretes are used worldwide.

Prof. Surendra Shah currently serves as the Presidential Distinguished Professor, University of Texas, and Walter P. Murphy Emeritus Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northwestern University. Mrs. Dorothie Shah is the founding President of the Indo American Museum, now called the National Indo American Museum, in Chicago.

Addressing the Launch Event held on Thursday (9th Dec 2021), Prof. Surendra P. Shah said, “The decision to choose IIT Madras (to set up this Chair) was very easy. As is well known, IIT Madras is one of the top institutions in India. The construction materials group is not only one of the best in India but very highly recognized internationally in the field. My association with IIT Madras has been quite long and fruitful.”

Further, Prof. Surendra P. Shah said, “In the US, we are trying to get more women into STEM. In the IIT Madras Research Group, a large number of PhD students are women, which is very impressive. Also, I believe that successful groups must be inter-disciplinary, and I know that the Research Group of IIT Madras is also associated with researchers in Chemistry, Material Sciences and Mechanical Engineering. One of the developments for which IIT Madras is nationally known is 3D Printing with concrete, which is the result of collaboration among Materials, Automation and Construction Management faculty.”

Prof. Surendra P. Shah added, “I am looking forward to continuing involvement with the IIT Madras Research Group. It is rightly poised for facing challenges of not only India and the US but global problems. The Group has already started to work on reducing carbon footprint, which affects the whole world.”

Prof. Surendra Shah is the founding director of the pioneering NSF Science and Technology Center for Advanced Cement-Based Materials that led to game-changing developments, as well as a network of researchers spreading across the World. Google Scholar shows, for him, an h-index of 141, more than 85,000 citations, and over 5,000 citations every year since 2015.

Prof. Surendra P. Shah is responsible for developing high-performance concrete, fibre reinforced concrete, self-consolidating concrete, shrinkage reducing admixtures, carbon nano-tube reinforced cement-based composites and extrusion processing of concrete. These have revolutionized the way modern concretes are used worldwide. His fundamental motivation has consistently been to connect microscopic behaviour to the structural response of concrete.

Announcing Prof. K. Ramamurthy, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras, as the first occupant of the ‘Surendra and Dorothie Shah Chair,’ Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras, said, “Prof. Ramamurthy has been a mentor for countless students not just in civil engineering but from all parts of the Institute. It is only fit that he is the first occupant of this Chair. We look forward to the continued association of Prof. Surendra P. Shah and Mrs. Dorothie Shah with IIT Madras…We are honoured to have Prof. Surendra P. Shah as our Distinguished Professor.”

Prof. K. Ramamurthy ranks amongst the top 2 per cent of researchers worldwide in Building and Construction, and is among the top at IIT Madras in terms of citations per publication. Currently, he is the Editor in Chief of the Institution of Engineers (India) Series A journal.

The Key Areas of Research that would be undertaken under the ‘Surendra and Dorothie Shah Chair’ include materials, structural design and/or technologies for construction and/or infrastructure.

In his acceptance speech, Prof. K. Ramamurthy, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras, said, “Prof. Shah has inspired all of us faculty for the last several decades and also, every time (he comes to IIT Madras), he inspires several students and research scholars. This is an endorsement for the work they are doing.

Prof. K. Ramamurthy joined IIT Madras as Lecturer in March 1992. He was subsequently promoted as Assistant Professor in June 1994, as Associate Professor in September 2000, and then as Professor in January 2004. He was designated as Institute Chair Professor in April 2020. He is also an alumnus of IIT Madras, having obtained his MS and PhD degrees from here.

Apart from research in construction materials and technologies, Prof Ramamurthy also started exploring new research areas in building science, particularly concerning acoustics, lighting and ventilation, in the last 10 years. Despite being relatively new in this area, he has already made a significant impact, with several PhD students graduating and about to graduate in this field, and is a highly sought-after reviewer today for such topics.

Prof. Manu Santhanam, Head, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras, read the citation for Prof. K. Ramamurthy. Prof. Mahesh Panchagnula, Dean (Alumni and Corporate Relations), IIT Madras, Prof. Ravindra Gettu, Dean (Industrial Consultancy and Sponsored Research), IIT Madras, and Prof. Koshy Varghese, Dean (Administration), IIT Madras, also spoke on the occasion.

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