Craig Benson (MSCE 1987, Ph.D. 1989) was one of 66 new members and 10 foreign associates elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 2012. Election to the NAE is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer.
Benson, Wisconsin Distinguished Professor, director of sustainability research and education, and chair of civil and environmental engineering and of geological engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was specifically cited by the NAE for "improvements in design, construction and monitoring of earthen liners and covers for municipal hazardous and radioactive waste landfills."
He has served as the director of the Recycled Materials Resource Center, which focuses on sustainable construction of transportation infrastructure. He is a vice-president of the Geo-Institute of ASCE's Board of Governors and is a vice chair of the Executive Committee of ASTM Committee D18 on Soil and Rock. He previously served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Geo-Institute's Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering and is also a member of the UT CAEE Academy of Distinguished Alumni.
“My expertise falls broadly in the discipline referred to as geoenvironmental engineering,” he says. This discipline is at the interface of the built and natural environments, and deals with issues in the subsurface or interactions between conditions at the earth's surface and the subsurface. In most cases, the important objectives are protecting soil and ground water or engineering systems that reduce emissions or save energy. This requires knowledge of the mechanisms controlling energy and mass transfer in the subsurface and development of creative approaches to control the rate at which energy and/or mass is transferred. These principles are applied to controlling contaminant migration in the unsaturated zone and ground water, managing the movement of heat and water in near-surface soils, and assessing energy usage and emissions associated with geological engineering structures at the interface of the earth's surface.
Benson continues, “My research in geoenvironmental engineering fits in three broad classes: sustainability assessment of geological and civil engineering systems, reuse and recycling of industrial byproducts for sustainable construction applications, and design and assessment of environmental containment systems for municipal, hazardous, and radioactive wastes. In each of these areas, we emphasize a full range of study from basic theory to practice and address energy and mass transfer issues. Our research includes fundamental laboratory studies, development of computer models, and practical field demonstration of new technologies. In many cases, our research findings are validated at full-scale in operating facilities or infrastructure in collaboration with industry and/or government agencies.”