Meet the new Higginbotham Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering: David Frost

Friday, March 4, 2016
Professor David Frost measures the displacement of this bridge in Japan after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Frost has been appointed the Elizabeth and Bill Higginbotham Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Professor David Frost measures the displacement of this bridge in Japan after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Frost has been appointed the Elizabeth and Bill Higginbotham Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. (Photo: David Frost)
 
Professor David Frost

Professor David Frost has been named the Elizabeth and Bill Higginbotham Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

School Chair Reginald DesRoches made the appointment after the Higginbotham family created the new professorship earlier this year.

Frost said his selection for the professorship is an honor on many levels.

“I consider being a Professor as a position in which I have the opportunity to impact and influence students in the classroom and research laboratory through enthusiasm, hard work, creativity and passion,” Frost said. “Thus, I consider being recognized as the Higginbotham Professor as an endorsement of the environment I have contributed to creating.”

“I really sat down with [School leaders] and said, help me do something that solves your biggest problem,” said Bill Higginbotham, who earned his bachelor’s in civil engineering in 1976. “Your biggest problem is not the condition of the building or funding a capstone project or any other small thing. Your real problem is attracting professors or keeping the professors here. Good professors equal good students.”

Frost said he’s proud to be associated with the Higginbothams and their successful and impactful careers.

“I consider being named the Elizabeth and Bill Higginbotham Professor a charge to identify new ways to engage with these amazing donors and their passion for the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the future. As W.B. Yeats wrote, ‘Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.’ I look forward to lighting many fires with Elizabeth and Bill Higginbotham, thanks to their vision and commitment.”

Frost has been a member of the School’s faculty for two decades. His work focuses on the study and analysis of natural and man-made disasters, including creating new kinds of tools to study sub-surface soils and problems related to earthquakes and other disasters.

Elizabeth and Bill Higginbotham
Elizabeth and Bill Higginbotham. (Photo: Gary Meek)

Frost helps lead a nationwide collaboration that recently received funding from the National Science Foundation to use nature-inspired processes to reimagine geotechnical engineering. He also is a founding member of the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance Association, an NSF-sponsored group that responds to geotechnical disasters worldwide.

He was quick, however, to share credit for his career.

“A professor may lead a research group, but ultimately, it is the excellence and effort of the students who work with them that contributes to any recognition they may receive,” Frost said. “I have been incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to work with an amazing group of scholars over the years at Georgia Tech. This recognition is as much as testament to the talents of these individuals.”

As the Higginbotham Professor, Frost will receive $25,000 each year to support his educational and scholarly activities, DesRoches said

“It’s much more flexible than the funding you would get from a funding agency, so you can use it to really do creative things, to do things that are much more risky,” DesRoches said. “We see it as seed funding to be able to explore some areas that might lead to really big things for your [research] program.”

The School’s leadership and alumni External Advisory Board think such named professorships and faculty chairs are so critical to maintaining a quality program that they’ve set a goal of tripling the number of such positions in the School over the next five years. The Higginbotham Professorship is the first step toward meeting that goal.

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