Alumna reaches new heights in engineering field


Terri R. Norton has reached both academic and professional success. The Florida A&M graduate is currently an assistant professor of Construction Engineering and Architectural Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is also the principal investigator on a Nebraska Department of Roads grant.F


From an early age, Norton has always had a love for math and science. However, she did not realize her interest for engineering until high school.


“When I was younger, I wanted to be an artist,” Norton said. “I used to paint and sketch a lot.  My art became structural design when I took a drafting class in high school, which later lead to a focus of civil and structural engineering in college.”


Norton began her college career in 1995 at Florida State University where she earned her bachelor’s in civil engineering. She then continued her education at FAMU where she attained her master’s and Ph.D.  


“My research interests are in the areas of structural dynamics, natural hazard assessment and sustainability,” Norton said. ” I began studying the effects of earthquakes on civil structures during my senior year in college as a participant of the FAMU McNair program from 1999 to 2000.”


Norton said having a Ph.D. not only enhances her professional portfolio, but it gave her the ability to share her knowledge with a broader audience.


“The journey to receiving my PhD was not always an enjoyable one, but I was blessed to have a solid support system of family, friends, peers and instructors,” she said. “I also didn’t have financial worries thanks to the FAMU Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need Fellowship.”


Her former instructor, Makola Abdulla, said Norton was one of his brightest students.

“Terri is great. We met in her undergrad and I helped nurture her to get her master’s,” Abdullah said. “She was an excellent researcher and an excellent role model in our research course. She is a force to be reckoned with.”


Former classmate Professor Rae Limerick of the School of Architecture said Norton was very serious about her research.

“In the wind hazard and earthquake engineering lab instructed by Dr. Makola Abdullah, she was very down to earth,” Limerick said. “But when it came to her research she was very focused.”


Civil engineering assistant professor of Ohio University and former classmate Ken Walsh also said Norton was a serious student who was always focused on her research.



“Throughout the many years that I have known Terri, I have always been impressed with her innate desire to excel in everything she did, whether in the classroom, the research lab, or in her everyday life,” Walsh said. “I think her many accomplishments over the course of her life speak to what a truly special individual she is.”


Norton is currently researching disaster debris management which deals with the recycling and reuse of disaster debris because to the effects of the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake, 2010 Haiti earthquake and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.


“We have seen the devastating effects these natural hazards can have on the built environment,” Norton said. “I propose that the sustainable approach would be to find ways to recycle and possibly reuse the construction debris for reconstruction.”


She also wishes to continue to work in other countries. Her latest experience with the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute Societal Dimensions Reconnaissance Team that assessed the effects of the East Japan Earthquake inspires her to serve at an international level.


“I hope to go back to Japan to continue this work in the near future,” Norton said.

With her expertise in civil engineering and overall love to serve, Norton hopes to continue to make a positive impact on her local, university and professional communities through her research and service. She is active in mentor programs including Science Technology Engineering Mathematics outreach for K-12 students and advises several student groups at UNL.


“I love to do outreach,” she said. “I give project based, hands-on demonstrations and seminars here at my university. I like helping others learn.”


Norton’s twin sister Terita Norton says Norton serves from the heart.


“She goes above and beyond to help her students and is genuinely concerned about their well being,” she said. “There have been a number of times when she’s personally funded her Earthquake Engineering Research Institute team so that they could participate in the National EERI Competition.


Terita Norton says her sister is a dedicated professor and leads by example. 


 “She spends late nights thinking of different ways to engage her students in the classroom and I believe provides more office hour opportunities to students than any other professor in her department,” she said. “She’s a role model and inspiration to all she encounters. I am so proud of her.”