He is currently the primary investigator or co-investigator on four different research projects that reach into security, environmental and infrastructure issues. With one of the largest research groups in the Department of Civil Engineering, he oversees eight master’s students, two Ph.D. students and four undergraduate students engaged in research. He is also teaching two courses this spring.
So it’s not surprising that when asked what non-engineering activities he enjoys for recreation, he simply laughs.
A self-described “infrastructure guy,” Dr. Bryson’s big-picture focus is on designing resilient infrastructure that can withstand severe loading events. Currently, his research is taking him to the very ground itself as he addresses soil behavior.
“There are different loading conditions that the soil experiences,” Dr. Bryson explains. “I’m trying to simulate how soil would respond to various loading conditions out in the field. If the soil is saturated, non-saturated or compacted, it will make a difference as to how it behaves.”
Complementary to Dr. Bryson’s geotechnical work on soil behavior is a project he, Drs. Michael Kalinski, Kamyar Mahboub, Lindell Ormsbee, and Braden Lusk (from the Department of Mining Engineering) are undertaking for the National Institute for Hometown Security. The $2.72 million contract is funding research into how to best protect against waterside terrorist attacks on dams. “We are assessing what commercially available technologies are out there that will detect, track and deter a possible waterside attack without using lethal means. We’re combing the world for these technologies and are in our last year of the three-year project,” he shares.
Having desired to be a builder since high school, Dr. Bryson obtained a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Florida A&M University, focusing on structural engineering. However, his first job upon graduation—with the Florida Department of Transportation—made him realize structural engineering didn’t offer what he really wanted to do. “When you drive over bridges and see large buildings, you naturally attribute those civil engineering accomplishments to structural engineers,” he says. “But I wasn’t getting to think on my feet about design and construction. I wasn’t getting to do the real engineering like I thought I would. I asked another structural engineer, ‘Who does the real design work for these projects?’ He replied, “the geotechnical engineers do all that.’ So I went back to school and started studying geotechnical engineering for my master’s and Ph.D. degrees.”
After earning his master’s degree from Howard University in Washington D.C., Dr. Bryson began working for CH2M Hill, where he, in his words, “got to be the complete, A-Z engineer.” “Clients would ask me to meet them at a farmer’s field or a swamp, and I would show up with a notepad and questions about what the developer envisioned. Then, I would put together the entire design team. I really enjoyed it, because it was what I thought I would be doing when I joined the Florida DOT.”
Six years after starting at CH2M Hill, Dr. Bryson began thinking about getting a Ph.D. Northwestern University allowed him to ease into coursework without dropping everything and moving to Evanston, IL. Upon receiving his Ph.D. in 2002, Dr. Bryson was hired at Ohio University. In 2006, he joined the faculty at UK’s College of Engineering.
While he is responsible for several projects, Dr. Bryson points to the influence he has upon students’ lives as one of the greatest payoffs of teaching. “I prefer the mentoring role more than the teaching role,” he says. “Sometimes students will come in with technical questions, and sometimes they’ll have completely non-engineering related questions and we’ll talk about life. I love helping students get involved in research and listening to their theories and approaches. In the end, I’m still a geek and I love making discoveries.”