Gavin Named Chair of Duke CEE

11/1 Pratt School of Engineering

Henri P. Gavin, an internationally regarded expert in earthquake hazard mitigation and nonlinear dynamics, will lead Duke CEE through 2024

Henri P. Gavin of Duke University
Gavin Named Chair of Duke CEE

Henri P. Gavin has been appointed the W.H. Gardner, Jr., Chair of Duke’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. An internationally recognized expert in earthquake hazard mitigation and respected mentor and faculty leader, Gavin has served in an interim capacity since mid-2020 and will now lead Duke CEE through June 2024.

“After seeing the energy and collaborative leadership he has brought to the position on an interim basis, I concluded that Henri would be an excellent choice to continue as the Gardner Chair of Duke CEE,” said Jerome P. Lynch, Vinik Dean of Engineering at Duke. “Henri has developed an international network of colleagues invested in engineering solutions to global challenges, such as resilience to earthquakes. These purposeful relationships are just one example of why Henri is an excellent person to lead Duke CEE during a period in which the department, Duke Engineering and Duke University have made a bold commitment to lead and serve society on the critical challenges posed by emerging hazards, especially climate change.”

Gavin is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Duke, where he has been a faculty member since 1995 and the interim Department Chair since 2020.

During his two years leading Duke CEE, Gavin has been deeply engaged in the creation of new curricula that are based on the department’s areas of research expertise and focused on creating inspired and well-equipped problem solvers for complex societal challenges including climate change. Duke CEE, Gavin said, seeks to be an engaged and energized community of scholars and engineers working in service to society.

“Through Duke CEE’s research, educational and outreach programs, we seek to provide leadership, expertise and training for a generation of well-equipped and inspired engineers who will take on the grand challenge of reducing the effects of climate change.”

Henri P. Gavin | W.H. Gardner, Jr. Chair of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Duke

“The disciplines of civil and environmental engineering, which had their start in ancient times and have never stopped evolving, are in our time again poised for significant transformation and societal impact,” Gavin said. “These areas of engineering practice are at the center of humanity’s efforts to reduce the effects of climate change.”

At Duke CEE, Gavin has been instrumental in developing a new interdisciplinary undergraduate major in Risk, Data & Financial Engineering and designing a forthcoming Master of Engineering degree program in Climate & Sustainability Engineering.

“We are fully aligned with Duke University’s Climate Commitment,” Gavin said. “Through Duke CEE’s research, educational and outreach programs, we seek to provide leadership, expertise and training for a generation of well-equipped and inspired engineers who will take on this grand challenge.”

Over the last two years, Duke CEE established the $26 million, National Science Foundation-funded Engineering Research Center for Precision Microbiome Engineering, or PreMiEr. This ambitious research and outreach enterprise aims to engineer microbial communities in the built environment for the benefit of society. The multi-university center is led by Duke CEE’s Claudia Gunsch.

Also, Michael Bergin, the Sternberg Family Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Duke, launched a $3.6 million initiative in partnership with Underwriter Laboratories to better understand links between air pollution and human health. That project will focus in part on recent wildfires in California.

As department chair, Gavin said he will focus on career mentoring for junior faculty and fostering continuous and open dialogue between students, staff and faculty to build a strong, supportive, diverse, and inclusive departmental community.

“Henri has developed an international network of colleagues invested in engineering solutions to global challenges, such as resilience to earthquakes. These purposeful relationships are just one example of why Henri is an excellent person to lead Duke CEE during a period in which the department, Duke Engineering and Duke University have made a bold commitment to lead and serve society on the critical challenges posed by emerging hazards, especially climate change.”

Jerome P. Lynch | VinIk Dean of Engineering at Duke

An engaging, hands-on educator, Gavin in recent fall terms has mentored student teams in Duke Engineering’s First-Year Design Program, where students in the first semester of their college experience take on authentic design challenges posed by clients in the Duke community and beyond.

Each spring, he and his students bring curious attention to Harrington Engineering Quad, where they erect “tensegrity” structures, which stand without any nails, screws, or other fasteners because of carefully balanced tension and compression among lengths of nylon cord and common lumber.

Gavin and his graduate students are internationally regarded experts in magneto-rheological material modeling, visco-elastic rolling resistance, constrained dynamics, nonstationary wind field simulation, system identification, structural dynamics, multi-agent robotics, and nonlinear control.

Through his wide-ranging work on seismic hazard mitigation, he has forged global relationships — including with leading universities and researchers in Japan, Nepal, and New Zealand.  He holds a secondary appointment in the Thomas Lord Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, is a Faculty Network member of the Duke University Energy Initiative and is a Bass Fellow. 

Civil & Environmental Engineering at Duke

  • Duke CEE hosts the nation’s #11 graduate and #12 undergraduate programs in environmental engineering, as ranked by US News 
  • Home to the $26 million National Science Foundation-funded Engineering Research Center for Precision Microbiome Engineering (PreMiEr

  • Other affiliated Duke CEE research efforts include:

  • Educational offerings include significant scholarships (typically $20,000-$30,000) to support master’s degree study on topics including:

    • Computational mechanics and scientific computing
    • Environmental geomechanics and geophysics
    • Hydrology and fluid dynamics
    • Environmental health engineering
    • Risk and decision engineering 

More about Duke CEE