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Dr. Jean-Louis Briaud | Image: Texas A&M Engineering

Dr. Jean-Louis Briaud has been honored with the 2021 Distinguished Service Award from the United States Universities Council on Geotechnical Education and Research (USUCGER). Briaud is a distinguished professor, Spencer J. Buchanan Chair Professor and Regent's Fellow in the Zachry Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Texas A&M University and program manager at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

Briaud served as an USUCGER board member from 2001-06 and as president from 2003-05. During that time, he was instrumental in the transition of the organization's name and increasing the purview from research only to education and research.

During his tenure, he was one of the leading proponents of USUCGER membership in the Geo-Coalition, providing the organization with a seat at the table in the organization that strives to coordinate the activities of geotechnical professionals.

A nomination letter highlighted his 30-plus year career and the commitment to and passion for service to the geotechnical profession, both within the academic USUCGER organization as well as within the broader community of practicing geotechnical and civil engineers through ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) and ISSMGE (International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering). He was instrumental in expanding the awards that recognize USUCGER members and supported various mentorship activities for young faculty in geotechnical engineering.

Briaud received his bachelor's degree from the Ecole Speciale des Travaux Publics in France in 1972 and his doctorate from the University of Ottawa in Canada in 1979. His expertise is in foundation engineering and, more generally, geotechnical engineering. He pioneered bridge scour in geotechnical engineering and helped drastically reduce the number of bridge failures to scour. His influential contributions include developing a patented soil erosion device and calculating the depth of scour around the bridge supports based on a targeted risk of failure. His techniques are used worldwide.

“When I was growing up in France, my dream was to be successful. As I grew older, my dream changed to wanting to help others,” Briaud said. “Indeed, I feel that my dream has come true, and I want to dedicate the rest of my life to help make dreams come true. But remember that even if your dream doesn’t come true, happiness is a choice.”

Briaud has taught civil engineering for more than 40 years and views his teaching and mentoring of students as his most significant contribution. Among his many publications, he authored Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering, a first introductory geotechnical engineering textbook to cover both saturated and unsaturated soil mechanics. He also recently took the helm as the 2021 ASCE president.