Dept. of Civil Engineering
University of Colorado, Boulder


For a full disclosure CV, you may download my full resume,

Current Position

Professor, Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering, University of Colorado in Boulder.

President of the International Association of Fracture Mechanics for Concrete and Concrete Structures IA-FraMCoS

Chairman of the RILEM committee on Prognosis of deterioration and loss of serviceability in structures affected by alkali-silica reactions.

Research Interests

Escaping Reality
I have resisted the pressure to remain focused on one or a few research interests during my academic career, and have always sought to pursue what I perceived to be particularly interesting at a given time (a delicate balance between opportunity and interest). This has at times hurt my career, but I had fun in "escaping the reality" of academia and have always tried to think outside the box.
  1. Earthquake Engineering
    1. Non linear transient analysis of concrete dams (accompanying English and Spanish presentation).
    2. Fast Hybrid Testing. (If you are not familiar with the concept of hybrid simulation, or real time hybrid simulation, the following video (put together when we were a NEES centre) describes this novel testing paradigm, you should click on the play key bottom right).
    3. Dynamic 3DOF Pushover Tests of a R/C Column.
    4. Nonlinear Real Hybrid Simulation of a 402 DOF R/C Frame.
    5. Intersection of earthquakes and cultures.
  2. Fracture mechanics
    1. Fracture of concrete, rocks, ceramics, and polymers.
    2. Fractal analysis
  3. Concrete and reinforced concrete deterioration
    1. Alkali-Aggregate Reactions.
    2. Chloride Diffusion
  4. Nonlinear finite element simulation of reinforced concrete structures, in particular
    1. Dams (gravity, arch) subjected to strong seismic excitation, or alkali-aggregate reactions.
    2. Nuclear reactor containers, in particular: ageing, cracking, structural assessment.
  5. Performance Based Earthquake Engineering of concrete Dams (PhD Thesis of Mr. Mohammad hariri-Ardebili)
  6. Analytical analysis of arches and shells (MS Thesis of Ms. Trupti Sonavane and Mr. Ryan Georg)


Cornell University, Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, September 1980 (A. Ingraffea Advisor).
Cornell University, M.E. in Civil Engineering, January 1977.
American University of Beirut, B.E. in Civil Engineering, June 1975.
Lycée Chateaubriand, Rome, Baccalaureat Francais, Série Scientifique, 1971


As many Professors, I found most text-books inadequate, boring, and often superficial. As such I wrote over the years my own set of lecture notes:
  1. Structural Engineering, Analysis and Design.
  2. Structural Concepts and Systems for Architects.
  3. Mechanics of Reinforced Concrete.
  4. Computer Literacy for Undergraduates.
  5. Nonlinear analysis of framed structures.
  6. Finite Element Analysis of Frames.
  7. Finite Element Analysis.
  8. Advanced Mechanics of Materials.
  9. Fracture mechanics.


  1. Visiting Professor, (typically 1 summer month): Universite de Toulouse (2009), Politecnico of Catalunya, (2007, 2010); Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan, (1992, 1994, 2007);
  2. Visiting Professor, Politecnico of Milan, Department of Structural Engineering, 2003-2004.
  3. Visiting Professor, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Lausanne), Civil Engineering (January-June 1990); Material Science Department, 1997-1998.
  4. Professor (1995 to present), Associate Professor (1988-1995), Assistant Professor (1984-1988), Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder.
  5. Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, Sept. 1981-Dec. 1983.
  6. Research Associate, Department of Civil Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J., Oct. 1980 - Aug. 1981.

Funded Current Projects

  1. Alkali-Silica Reaction in Nuclear Power Plants (2014-2015) funded by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (Numerical simulation of structural components subjected to ASR and accompanying strength degradation; Development of a coupled heat-moisture code for NPP).
  2. Experimental and Numerical Investigation of Alkali Silica Reaction in Nuclear Reactors (2014-2017) funded by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (Laboratory tests to assess shear degradation in concrete due to ASR, prognosis for future expansion, and 3D seismic simulation of a NPP subjected to prior ASR strength reduction).

Past-Future Students

Recent Thesis

  1. Performance Based Earthquake Engineering of Concrete Dams, Mohammad Amin Hariri-Ardebili, Doctoral Thesis (2015) (Hopefully, a landmark work on probabilistic safety assessment of dam)

    Thesis.pdf will be made available after publication of the following papers:

    1. Quantitative Failure Metric for Gravity Dams, Hariri-Ardebili and Saouma (2015), Earthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics, Vol 44, No. 3, pp. 461-480.
    2. Quantification of Seismic Potential Failure Modes in Concrete Dams, Hariri-Ardebili, Saouma and Porter, Earthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics. Submitted.
    3. Probabilistic Seismic Demand Model and Optimal Intensity Measure for Concrete Dams, Hariri-Ardebili and Saouma, Structural Safety. Submitted.
    4. Sensitivity and Uncertainty Quantification for the Cohesive Crack Model, Hariri-Ardebili and Saouma, Engineering Fracture Mechanics. Submitted.
    5. Collapse Fragility Curves for Concrete Dams: A Comprehensive Study, Hariri-Ardebili and Saouma, ASCE Structural Engineering. Submitted.
    6. A New Class of Seismic Damage and Performance Indices for Arch Dams via ETA Method, Hariri-Ardebili, Furgani, Meghella and Saouma, Engineering Structures. Submitted.
    7. Capacity Functions for Concrete Dams: Review and Revisit, Hariri-Ardebili and Saouma, Bulletin of Earthquake Engineering. in-preparation.
    8. Seismic Fragility Analysis of Concrete Dams: A State-of-the-Art Review (1998-2005), Hariri-Ardebili and Saouma, Journal of Earhquake Engineering. in-preparation.
  2. Automated Non-Linear Pushover Analyses of Reinforced Concrete Structures, Kyle Prusinski Master Report, 2015 (Theory and Matlab based implementation of the pushover analysis of reinforced concrete frames)
  3. Analysis of Arches, Trupti Sonavane, Master Thesis, 2014 (Analytical solution (with Mathematica) of statically indeterminate arches)
  4. Historical Analysis of Arches and Modern Shells, Ryan Georg, Master Thesis, 2014 (History of analysis of arches and analytical analysis of shells with design example in Matlab)

Current Students

  1. Experimental Assessment of Shear Strength Degradation in Concrete due to ASR, Robert Sparks, Master Thesis, 2016 (Laboratory tests to determine shear degradation in concrete subjected to pure shear)
  2. Performance based Earthquake Engineering of a Twenty Story Reinforced Concrete Building, Harry McElroy, Master thesis expected in Dec. 2015

Future Students

I have historically had very few graduate students.

Minimum requirements: I would expect my graduate students to be very comfortable with Matlab and/or Mathematica, and be ready to write all reports in LaTeX and draw with Visio. If you are comfortable with Fortran, c++, Python, Unix it is a plus. I am currently looking for a student with proven laboratory skills for a project starting June 2016.

Potential Thesis Topics

Topics of interest for future independant studeis, master thesis/report or PhD thesis include:
  1. Analysis of membrane structures (required reading Otto Frei
  2. Analysis of parabolic arches, shells.
  3. Theory of Design (Application of Maxwell's lemma)
  4. Theory of forces, impetus.
  5. Help in editing a book I am writing on Structural Analysis (drawing, editing).


A full list of my publications is easily found in my my resume.


  1. Cracking of a Nuclear Reactor Container I have lately been heavily involved in the root cause investigation of the craking on a nuclear reactor container. This involved both 3D nonlinear finite element analysis, as well as performing various tests on concrete cores recovered from the site.
  2. Non linear transient analysis of concrete dams: From 2000-2009 my research has been funded by the Tokyo Electric Power Service Company (TEPSCO). Within the framework of this project, we seek to develop a State of the Art finite element program (Merlin) for the 3D nonlinear, transient, multiple-CPU, analysis of concrete dams. Centrifuge tests for validations were also performed both in Boulder and Tokyo. OpenGL based pre and post processors are also being developed. (Kumo and Spider). Prior to this project, I was funded for 5 years by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to examine the applicability of fracture mechanics to concrete dams. Much of this researchon dam safety is summarized in
  3. Fast Hybrid Testing: From 2005-2009 I directed and managed the CU-NEES site. Following the closure of the site, I supervised the development of development of Mercury, a software to facilitate single site, hybrid simulation through serial or parallel computers, and taking advantage of innovative hardware such as FPGPA)
  4. Currently testing a reinforced concrete frame previously tested on a shake table. Another component is to explore the applicability of FHT to aerospace vehicle testing.
  5. Fracture of concrete: Over the years, I have conducted numerous innovative and large scale tests to examine the fracture properties of concrete. These include: large wedge splitting tests (1.5x1.5 m and 7.5 cm MSA); Static and Dynamic fracture properties; Static and dynamic fluid pressure inside cracks; Fatigue crack propagation; Fracture of joints subjected to both static and cyclic loads. In practically all cases tests were first performed, a theoretical model was then developed, and finally a finite element code (MERLIN) was then modified to implement the model and test it.
  6. Fracture of Solid Rocket Propellants Through a collaboration with a German company, we have tested the fracture energy of solid rocket propellant, then modeled the cracking of the propellant in a rocket, and are currently developing a code which couples combustion simulation with fracture mechanics.
  7. Fracture of rocks: Tested soft rock (Tuffo), and planning to apply those test results to the analysis of cave stability in Naples (with Prof. Viggiani/Grenoble).
  8. Fracture of Ceramics: (with Prof. Sbaizero) performed numerical simulations of ceramic fractures by applying concrete nonlinear models.
  9. Fractal analysis: Performed some early tests to determine the fractal dimension of cracked concrete, extended the size effect law to account for fractal cracks.
  10. Alkali-Aggregate Reactions: Developed a constitutive model for concrete undergoing AAR. Implemented the model in MERLIN and then performed 3D analyses of both dams and massive reinforced concrete strucutres. Designed, built and tested a triaxial frame to subject a concrete cube undergoing an AAR to a constant pressure, temperature and humidity, and then measure expansion in the three directions.
  11. Chloride Diffusion: Developed a fully coupled nonlinear model (finite difference) for the coupled diffusion of chloride and carbonation in concrete. Applied this model to subsequently determine the extent of corrosion and cracking in the concrete.
  12. Nonlinear finite element simulation of reinforced concrete: This is an extension of my work in dams. Having the appropriate computational tools (MERLIN), I have performed the nonlinear analysis of a portion of a nuclear reactor containment vessel, and performed a number of simulations (with Prof. Al-Mahaidi and Spacone) for the fracturing of FRP.

Computer Programs

Developed, supervised development of the following computer programs:
  1. Finite Element Analysis MERLIN, User's manual, and Theory manual.
  2. Optimized Computational Environement for Real Time Hybrid Simulation MercuryFinite Element Mesh Generator KumoNoSu.
  3. Finite Element post-processor, Spider.
  4. Modeling of concrete deterioration, CDAP.
  5. Simulation of silica aggregate reaction (at the macro-level), SIMSAR.
  6. Generation of Finite Element mesh for heterogeneous material, PARSIFAL.


Phone: +1 303 492-1622
saouma at
Mailing Address: 428 UCB; University of Colorado; Boulder, CO, 80309-0428


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