Vern Schaefer


Interim Director, CEER





Professor, Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering


InTrans, CEER, MTC

About Vern

Dr. Schaefer’s research has covered a wide variety of geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering areas, predominately in landslides and slope stability, ground improvement, earth retention systems, engineering behavior of over-consolidated clays and clay shales, glacial till permeability, water and contaminant migration in fractured soils, and geotechnical aspects of pavement systems. He has developed 44 projects, generating over $9 million in research from the National Science FoundationFederal Highway Administration, United States Geological Survey, United States Environmental Protection Agency, and numerous state agencies. Dr. Schaefer was the primary investigator for the SHRP2 R02 project Geotechnical Solutions for Soil Improvement, Rapid Embankment Construction, and Stabilization of the Pavement Working Platform from 2007 to 2013. This $3,700,000 project was aimed at improving access to geotechnical engineering technologies for transportation infrastructure and developed the GeoTechTools web-based information and guidance system, which is currently being deployed to state DOTs across the country. 


  • PhD, Civil Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 1987 
  • MS, Civil Engineering, Iowa State University, 1981 
  • BS, Civil Engineering, South Dakota State University, 1978 

Professional Experience

  • Professor of Civil Engineering, Iowa State University (ISU), January 2003 to present. 
  • Geotechnical Engineering Specialist, Office of Infrastructure, Federal Highway Administration, Washington, D.C., July 2013 through June 2014. 
  • Focus Group Leader, Geotechnical & Materials Engineering, Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering Department, ISU, August 2012 to present.
  • James M. Hoover Chair of Geotechnical Engineering, ISU, August 2004 to May 2009.
  • Associate Director for Research, Center for Portland Cement Concrete Pavement Technology, ISU, November 2004 to November 2006.
  • Division Leader, Geotechnical & Materials Engineering, Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering Department, ISU, May 2003 to May 2006.
  • Visiting Scientist, EROS Data Center, Sioux Falls, South Dakota September 2000 to August 2003.
  • Hydrologist (Faculty Appointment), U.S. Geological Survey, South Dakota District, October 1991 to October 1995 and September 1996 to July 2003.
  • Head, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, South Dakota State University (SDSU), July 2000 to December 2002.
  • Acting Head, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, SDSU, July 1999 to June 2000.
  • Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, SDSU, July 1996 to December 2002.
  • Director, Northern Great Plains Water Resources Research Center, SDSU, August 1994 to December 2002.
  • Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, SDSU, July 1991 to June 1996.
  • Acting Director, Northern Great Plains Water Resources Research Center, SDSU, August 1990 to July 1994.
  • Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering, SDSU, August 1988 to June 1991.
  • Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering, University of New Mexico, January 1987 to July 1988.
  • Geotechnical Engineer, Hoskins-Western-Sonderegger, Inc., December 1980 to August 1983. 

Selected Research

  • A Pilot Study to Investigate the Use of Aggregate Screenings in Roadway Construction 
  • Synthesis of Non-destructive Testing Technologies for Geomaterial Applications  
  • Improving PCC Mix Consistency & Production by Mixing Improvements  
  • Utility Cut Repair Techniques—Investigations of Improved Utility Cut Repair Techniques to Reduce Settlement in Repaired Areas, IHRB 03-11
  • Determination and Evaluation of Alternative Methods for Managing and Controlling Highway-related Dust, Phase II Proposal for Demonstration Project
  • Optimization and Management of Materials in Earthwork Construction
  • Embankment Quality Phase IV (Scope Change): Measurements of Seasonal Changes and Spatial Variation in Pavement Subgrade Properties—A Link to Pavement Performance.
  • Field Evaluation of Compaction Monitoring Technology–Phase II
  • Iowa’s Pervious Concrete Pavement Water Quality Project–Phase I
  • Design Guide for Improved Quality of Roadway Subgrades and Subbases  

Selected Publications

  • Tong, B. and Schaefer, V. R. (accepted for publication). “Optimization of Vibro-compaction Design for Liquefaction Mitigation of Gravity Caisson Quay Walls.” Submitted to the International Journal of Geomechanics.   
  • Douglas, S. C. and Schaefer, V. R. 2012. “Reliability of the Priebe Method for Estimating Settlements for Stone Columns.” Proc., Institution of Civil Engineers, Ground Improvement, DOI: 10.1680/grim.12.00012.
  • Douglas, S. C., Schaefer, V. R., and Berg, R. R. 2012. “Selection Assistance for the Evaluation of Geoconstruction Technologies for Transportation Applications.” Geotechnical and Geological Engineering Journal, Springer, 30(5):.1231-1247.
  • Haselbach, L., Boyer, M., Kevern, K. T., and Schaefer, V. R. 2011. “Cyclic Heat Island Impacts in Traditional Versus Pervious Concrete Pavement Systems.” Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, Concrete Materials 2011, pp. 107-115.
  • Rupnow, T. D., Wang, K., Schaefer, V. R., and Tikalsky, P. J. 2011. “A Simple Method for Characterizing and Predicting Temperature Behavior of Ternary Cementitious Systems.” Journal of Construction and Building Materials, 25(5):  2290-2297.
  • Schaefer, V. R., Kevern, J. T., Izevbekhai, B., Wang, K., Cutler, H. E., and Wiegand, P. 2010.  “Construction and Performance of the Pervious Concrete Overlay at MnROAD.” Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, Concrete Materials 2010, No. 2164, pp. 82-88.
  • Rupnow, T. D., Schaefer, V. R., and White, D. J. 2010. “Investigation of the Use of Limestone Screenings in Roadway Construction.”  Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, Geomaterials 2010, No. 2167, pp. 53-60.
  • Cutler, H. E., Wang, K., Schaefer, V. R., and Kevern, J. T. 2010. “Resistance of Portland Cement Pervious Concrete to Deicing Chemicals.” Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, Concrete Materials 2010, No. 2164, pp. 98-104.
  • Kevern, J. T., Schaefer, V. R., and Wang, K. 2009. “The Effect of Curing Regime on Pervious Concrete Abrasion Resistance,” ASTM Journal of Testing and Evaluation, 37(4).  

Professional Affiliations, Honors, and Service

  • Chi Epsilon, Civil Engineering Honorary, 1977
  • Tau Beta Pi, Engineering Honorary, 1978
  • Phi Kappa Phi, University Honorary, 1979
  • Outstanding Young Civil Engineer for 1991, ASCE–South Dakota Eastern Branch
  • Researcher of the Year, 1998, College of Engineering, South Dakota State University
  • Named “Friend of ASCE” by South Dakota State University ASCE Student Chapter, 2002.
  • Silver Medal for innovative excellence in manufacturing at INPEX 2004, Pittsburg, PA, Hydropave Testing Device, in collaboration with Professor Ratnasamy Muniandy, Universti Putra Malaysia.
  • Joseph C. and Elizabeth Anderlik Undergraduate Teaching Award, Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, Iowa State University, May 2013.  

Completed Research

In-Progress Research