UNL Masters’ Week lures Lutes back to the College of Engineering
-Carole Wilbeck, Engineering Communications
As Atorod Azizinamini, professor of civil engineering, reminded a senior-level class that civil engineers must constantly ask “What if … ?,” the guest at the back of the room nodded his head in agreement.
Structural reliability expert Loren Lutes--’60 B.S. and ’61 M.S. CIVE, and more recently professor emeritus with Texas A&M University--was a UNL 2010 Masters’ Week guest with the College of Engineering and found much to agree with as he visited classes and chatted with students, Nov. 11-12. Master's Week, conducted by the Nebraska Alumni Association, annually brings honored UNL alumni back to campus to interact with students and faculty.
Lutes told them about his studies in Stout Hall (the former UNL building that was home to civil engineering) and his visits to Nebraska Hall (current site of many civil engineering courses) where 50 years ago students could use “the engineering computer,” which filled a heavily air-conditioned room and ran on paper tapes, until it was replaced by a punch-card model the size of a dining table.
Although not too nostalgic for the slide rule days, Lutes noted users had to know what they were doing: “You had to know where to put the decimal point—it didn’t do that thinking for you.” He also praised cross-disciplinary efforts: how learning “the mechanics of materials” benefits a civil engineer. And he expressed appreciation for the efforts of graduate students helping to advance research.
Growing up on a ranch near North Platte, Lutes never dreamed he’d have an academic career; he said he followed advice to “do what you enjoy,” and he repeated that wisdom for today’s Nebraska Engineering students.
“I chose structural analysis because I liked it,” said Lutes who, after earning his Ph.D. at the California Institute of Technology in 1967, entered a productive academic career. “Teaching is not always easy, but it is ultimately very satisfying.” His teaching career included time at Rice University, the University of Chile, the University of Waterloo in Ontario, George Washington University and more. Lutes co-wrote the authoritative Random Vibrations: Analysis of Structural and Mechanical Systems, among other books.
At UNL, Lutes was welcomed with celebratory dinners and tours, including transportation facilities at Whittier Research Center. He kept a warm smile while remembering the chill of November on the plains as he observed UNL’s SAFER barrier with Dean Sicking on the grounds of the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility near Lincoln’s airport, and commented: “You’re very ambitious and creative with your projects here.”