Kavanagh Lecture Series

Thomas C. Kavanagh Memorial Structural Engineering Lecture

Each spring semester, the Thomas C. Kavanagh Memorial Structural Engineering Lecture invites a nationally or internationally prominent structural engineer to Penn State University Park to speak on a timely structural engineering topic. The lecture provides faculty, students, and practitioners with the opportunity to connect, converse, and collaborate, and honors Dr. Kavanagh’s commitment and dedication to the profession and his students.

About Dr. Thomas C. Kavanagh

Dr. Kavanagh, a structural engineer, served as a Penn State civil engineering professor from 1948-52. In 1952, he joined New York University as the chair of its Department of Civil Engineering. Dr. Kavanagh served as a consultant for various firms, eventually joining Louis Berger International as its vice president in 1975. In 1976, he founded Iffland Kavanagh Waterbury, where he remained a partner until his death in 1978. Dr. Kavanagh served as a founding member of the National Academy of Engineering and served as its first treasurer from 1964-74.

2023 Lecture

Thursday, April 13
5:00-7:00 p.m.
Freeman Auditorium, Hetzel Union Building
Penn State University Park


Thomas Murphy, Ph.D., PE, SE
Senior Vice President/Director | National Bridge Group
Chief Technical Officer/Chairman of the Board | Modjeski and Masters, Inc.


Dr. Thomas Murphy is a senior vice president and the chief technical officer of Modjeski and Masters, as well as chairman of the board. He serves as the director of the National Bridge Group, which focuses on long span and complex bridge projects. He holds a doctorate in civil engineering from the University of Michigan and is a registered professional and structural engineer in 30 states and the province of Ontario. He has been responsible for the design of several long-span bridges and is an active researcher having led several national research projects that resulted in new design guidance, most recently moving the AASHTO LRFD Bridge Design Specifications from uniform hazard to risk-targeted seismic design ground motions. He has led several bridge collapse investigations and serves as a peer reviewer on complex projects. He is a member of the Caltrans Seismic Advisory Board, as well as the National Steel Bridge Alliance Technical Committee. Modjeski and Masters was founded in 1893 and focuses on all aspects of bridge engineering from research, design, construction, inspection, and rehabilitation of all bridge types.

Lecture Title

Becoming a Structural Behaviorist

Lecture Abstract

An understanding of structural and material behavior is perhaps the most fundamental aspect of what a structural engineer does.  This connection between the engineer and the structure allows for the development of efficient, economical designs and the appropriate response to unexpected events or changes to a structural system.  When this connection is absent, the risk of unwanted and even disastrous outcomes increases.  The importance of developing and maintaining a focus on structural behavior will be highlighted through the use of examples from the field of bridge engineering when things went well, and sometimes when they did not.  The paradoxical role that the tools engineers use to analyze and design play in both obscuring and enlightening structural understanding will be explored.

  • 2023 Lecture
    Thomas Murphy, PhD, PE, SE
    Thursday, April 13
    5:00-7:00 p.m.
    Freeman Auditorium, Hetzel Union Building
    Penn State University Park



The Penn State Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, established in 1881, is internationally recognized for excellence in the preparation of undergraduate and graduate engineers through the integration of education, research, and leadership.

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

212 Sackett Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-1408

Phone: 814-863-3084