ASTM names CEE’s Jack Germaine Professor of the Year

October 30, 2009

By Debbie Levey
Civil & Environmental Engineering

As part of its “Year of the Professor” campaign throughout 2009, ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials) has chosen CEE senior research associate John Germaine as its Professor of the Year. ASTM established the award to recognize and reward the contributions of educators in the standards development process and in fostering students’ understanding of standards.

“I am absolutely delighted to be the first recipient,” said Germaine. “This award is a powerful statement that ASTM appreciates the involvement of the academic community.”

The ASTM International campaign intends to expand student knowledge and awareness of technical standards, and provides college and university educators with tools and informational programs to help them teach their students about the benefits of standardization.

Along with an extensive website offering educational resources such as standards tailored to particular subjects, ASTM International also schedules campus visits by experts. The organization provides video lessons and scholarships to students, and encourages them to become more involved in ASTM activities.

As part of the campaign, Germaine will also present a webinar at 10 a.m. Dec. 18, "Incorporating ASTM Standards into University Curricula."

“Standardization in society is crucial — that’s part of quality control,” said Germaine. “My ASTM involvement started back in 1985, when I attended a meeting and found that it was a perfect match for the kind of work I do. ASTM’s primary function is to write standards such as test methods, specifications for the components in products and procedures for particular processes. It’s very much testing related, very technical and they certainly appreciated the types of things I was interested in.”

Germaine has more than 28 years of experience as an educator, researcher and author in geotechnical engineering. He has been a member of ASTM International since 1985 and currently serves as second vice chair of Committee D18 on Soil and Rock. He has incorporated many aspects of his work with ASTM into his teaching, and co-authored a textbook, “Geotechnical Laboratory Measurements for Engineers.” Published in 2009, the book contains hundreds of references to ASTM D18 standards.

Over the years Germaine has written some new ASTM standards, and also completely revised existing standards when technology and materials changed. For example, standardization became necessary as the direct-simple-shear device (to measure the strength of soft soils) evolved from a specialized research tool into a more widely used industrial tool for analyzing highway embankments, pile foundations and cyclic loading. Germaine wrote the ASTM standard on the direct-simple-shear test for soft soils that explains how to prepare the soil in the lab for testing, gives the equipment requirements and the testing process, provides the required calculations, and dictates what, at a minimum, to provide in the test report.

Unlike concrete and steel manufactured to detailed (often ASTM) specifications, soils accumulate through a large number of natural processes and vary widely from place to place with different properties. “That’s why laboratory testing is so important in geotechnical engineering practice,” said Germaine. “We still don’t have an easy way of looking at soil and saying, ‘This is Soil A, and it will behave exactly in a certain way.’ We need to know the specific soil properties if someone plans to dig a tunnel or build something on top of it.”