John Fisher kept a large collection of student work that came from students who he taught or from those who came to him for information. His collection of student work spans from the 1960s to the early 2000s. The origin of these works range from class reports to theses for master students to dissertations for doctoral students. Patterns emerge to show what was currently being researched in the field, what issues were needing to be fixed, and what projects were being followed and scrutinized.
In the mid- to late 1960s, there is a trend of students doing research into the mechanics of joint designs, particularly bolted joints. From the late 1970s through to the mid- 1990s a major topic of study was the fatigue strength of bridges with particular parts such as the welds and girder being individual topics of study. During the late 1990s, studies were put into the testing of orthotropic bridge decks due to the Williamsburg Bridge Replacement Project. The Williamsburg Bridge failed due to multiple issue including corrosion on the girders, stress snapping the suspension cables, and the concrete that made up the deck crumbling off. This is one case where current events directly influenced student research. In the other cases, the studies could have been popular due to a professor working on that research on campus or an unknown event could have spurred the trends.
By Kevin Augustyn