Virginia Tech professor receives lifetime achievement award

BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 30, 2006 – James K. Mitchell of Blacksburg, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Emeritus Via Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, has been selected by the American Society of Civil Engineers to receive the Outstanding Projects and Leaders (OPAL) Lifetime Achievement Award in Education for 2006.

The award is given by the American Society of Civil Engineers to recognize and honor a civil engineer who has demonstrated excellence in furthering civil engineering education.

Mitchell is the sixth individual to have received the Lifetime Achievement Award in Education since it was created in 2001.

"The list of prior recipients of the OPAL Lifetime Achievement Award is very prestigious," said Bill Knocke, head of the Via Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Virginia Tech. "Adding Jim's name to the list just improves the prestige level ever further."

Outstanding Projects and Leadership awards are given to civil engineers who have demonstrated outstanding lifetime achievement, leadership, a long-term commitment to excellence, and have made significant contributions in one of five categories: design, construction, public works, education, and management. Mitchell will be presented with his award at the annual American Society of Engineers OPAL banquet this spring.

Mitchell joined the Virginia Tech faculty in 1994 as the first Charles E. Via Jr. Professor of Civil Engineering. In 1996, he was named a University Distinguished Professor by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

Mitchell's career in geotechnical engineering spans more than 50 years. He has devoted a large part of his career to teaching and research on soil properties and behavior in relation to soil compositional and environmental conditions. His other areas of interest include ground improvement, environmental geotechnics, in-situ testing, and geotechnical earthquake engineering. Mitchell was recently appointed to the American Society of Civil Engineer's New Orleans Hurricane Protection System External Review Panel.

Among his numerous awards and honors, Mitchell was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1998 and the National Academy of Engineering in 1976. He is a Fellow and honorary member of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Mitchell received the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement for his research on lunar soil. In 1999, he received the U.S. Army Chief of Engineers Outstanding Service Award and was named an International Honorary Member of the Japanese Geotechnical Society. In 2001, Mitchell was awarded the Kevin Nash Gold Medal of the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering.

Mitchell came to Virginia Tech from the University of California at Berkeley where he held an endowed chair and conducted research in both the Institute of Transportation Studies and the Earthquake Engineering Research Center. During his 36 years at Berkeley, including a five-year stint as chairman of the Civil Engineering department, Mitchell supervised the Ph.D. research of more than 65 students. Mitchell also served on active duty in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earlier in his career.

Mitchell has authored more than 300 publications resulting from his research, including three editions of his graduate-level text and reference book, Fundamentals of Soil Behavior, which has become a standard geotechnical course reference.

Mitchell earned his bachelor's degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and received his master's and his Sc.D. from the Massachusetts Institute for Technology.

The College of Engineering at Virginia Tech is internationally recognized for its excellence in 14 engineering disciplines and computer science. The college's 5,500 undergraduates benefit from an innovative curriculum that provides a "hands-on, minds-on" approach to engineering education, complementing classroom instruction with two unique design-and-build facilities and a strong Cooperative Education Program. With more than 50 research centers and numerous laboratories, the college offers its 1,800 graduate students opportunities in advanced fields of study such as biomedical engineering, state-of-the-art microelectronics, and nanotechnology