headshot of James Canning

james canning

Karl Frank

Ph.D., Lehigh University, Civil Engineering, 1971
M.S., Lehigh University, Civil Engineering, 1969
B.S., University of California at Davis, Civil Engineering, 1966

Professor Emeritus Karl Frank has had an enormous impact on the structural engineering profession through his teaching and research UT. He served on the faculty for over 35 years and is recognized as an honorary member of the Academy of Distinguished Alumni for making a profound impact on substantial numbers of students, and for his significant research and administrative contributions that have enhanced the department. Outside of the university, his breadth and depth of knowledge in the field of structural engineering in so many areas have made him a world expert.

Karl joined the CAEE faculty in 1974 as an assistant professor and has a long history of innovative research on a variety of topics ranging from fatigue and fracture of structural steel, behavior of stay cables, the design and behavior of structural connections, structural stability, non-destructive testing (NDT) evaluation of structural components and many other significant contributions to the structural engineering body of knowledge. Also known for being unselfish with his time and willingness to lend a hand, he is an admired member of our CAEE community. Throughout the years, he helped many faculty members and students achieve success, even if they were not on his project team. 

In addition to teaching, Karl served two four-year teams as Director of the Ferguson Structural Engineering Lab. Under his supervision, the laboratory evolved from static testing machines to one of the most versatile fatigue and dynamic closed-loop testing facilities in the world. Throughout his time at UT, he was a mentor to many, always leading by example and demonstrating the value of teamwork and ingenuity. Many of Karl’s students have gone on to make important contributions in academia, government and the private sector.

Karl’s research has brought international attention to the CAEE department, and he has received recognition and awards such as the ASCE Raymond C. Reese Research Prize, the ASCE James Croes Medal and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Institute of Steel Construction. His ability to fully understand the structural demands of a bridge, identify problematic designs from either a fabrication or erection perspective while also being able to recommend improved details or fabrication techniques is a testimony of his unique abilities.

Karl is also proof that engineers never really retire – after “retiring” from UT. Karl went to pursue a second career as chief engineer for the largest steel bridge fabricator in the U.S. Karl has trained countless students to be sound engineers, developed some of the top testing capabilities in the world, and utilized his skills to tackle issues that affect our safety. He has brought honor and recognition to the CAEE department at The University of Texas at Austin.