Anil Chopra, the Horace, Dorothy, and Katherine Johnson Chair in Engineering, is retiring from UC Berkeley after a distinguished career spanning over four decades.
A renowned leader in structural dynamics and earthquake engineering analysis methods and a recipient of multiple awards, Chopra has been a member of CEE’s Structural Engineering, Mechanics and Materials faculty since 1969.
"It has been a privilege to be a member of this distinguished faculty and collaborate with outstanding students," said Chopra.
Profound influence on the direction of structural engineering
Chopra’s work on a wide range of problems in structural dynamics and earthquake engineering has had a profound influence on the direction of structural engineering research and practice.
A world leader on the response of structures to earthquakes, Chopra’s pioneering work on concrete dams and intake-outlet towers set the direction for much of the subsequent research. Starting with the earliest application of the finite element method to dynamic analysis of dams, he and his students developed rigorous methods for the analysis of the earthquake response of concrete dams, including the effects of fluid–structure and foundation–structure interaction. These methods and computer programs have been widely used in engineering practice. They have been adopted by federal and state organizations as part of their design standards. They have also been used by government agencies and private companies for the design of new dams and for the seismic safety evaluation of existing dams in the United States, and many other countries. Chopra is known for emphasizing procedures that provide the most realistic estimate of response, thereby avoiding costly and unnecessary upgrades to dams that may have otherwise been deemed unsafe. The earthquake engineering profession abandoned their traditional methods of estimating seismic demands in favor of Chopra’s methods.
He is known for pioneering work on several aspects of dynamics of buildings that influenced the direction of research and was incorporated in analysis procedures for estimating seismic demands on buildings. Chopra’s work resulted in a significant revision of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s professional guidelines for seismic evaluation of existing buildings after he demonstrated deficiencies in these guidelines.
A gifted teacher
Throughout his career, Chopra ranked among the best instructors in the Department. His accolades are especially notable considering Chopra taught courses on subjects that were conceptually difficult and required more mathematics than most CE courses. But Chopra’s love of the subject, his rare ability to organize and present inherently difficult material in fluent and cogent lectures, and his dynamic style, motivated students and left a lasting impression.
After taking a course with Chopra, many undergraduates went on to graduate school, masters students decided to pursue doctoral work, and doctoral students devoted themselves to structural engineering research.
"You can tell he is an excellent teacher because he is clear, precise, and does not force information onto students; rather, he encourages them to follow their own curiosity. His lecture style ultimately sparked my curiosity to pursue further studies in earthquake engineering," says Neal Simon Kwong (CE PhD ’15), former Chopra advisee and current CEE lecturer.
“It just doesn’t get any better than this in terms of a professor dedicating time and effort to ensure that students understand the material,” wrote a student in Chopra’s course evaluation.
“Wrote the book” on structural engineering
Chopra is the author of the highly regarded and internationally translated textbook, Dynamics of Structures: Theory and Applications to Earthquake Engineering, now in its 4th edition. The work is considered a must-read book in the field of earthquake engineering. A reviewer stated, “…there is no other comparable earthquake dynamics analysis book of comparable breadth and detail, much less of this superb quality.”
He has served as Executive Editor of Earthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics—the premier international journal in the field—for over twenty-five years.
While in his early 40’s, Chopra was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, the highest professional distinction bestowed upon an engineer.
Chopra’s dedication to teaching was recognized in 1999 when he received the Distinguished Teaching Award, the most prestigious honor for teaching on the Berkeley campus.
Chopra has received the ASCE Norman Medal four times. He is only the second individual with this distinction in the long history of the Society. This is a highly prized award for the best paper each year, appearing in all journals published by ASCE.
Chopra has also been the recipient of several other major ASCE Awards including the 1998 Ernest E. Howard Award, the 1993 Nathan M. Newark Medal, the 1989 Raymond C. Reese Research Prize, and the 1975 Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize. He also received the 2002 Housner Medal, the highest award of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute. In 2009, the publication International Water, Power & Dam Construction listed him among the “60 most influential people in the hydropower and dams industry” who “helped shape the course of the global hydro and dams’ business over the last 60 years.”
And in May, 2016, Chopra received the Berkeley Citation, the prestigious University Award that honors those who go beyond the call of duty and whose achievements exceed the standard of excellence in their fields.
“Anil is not only a mentor to his students, but a role model for his colleagues and an icon among structural engineers," said Professor Khalid Mosalam, "His dedication to his research and teaching is only paralleled by the significance of his editorial contributions to the top journal, Earthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics.”
“We wish Anil all the best in retirement after a long and very distinguished role as a professor and a leader in both teaching and research,” said Chair Robert Harley.