When many dismissed the bamboo plant for construction purposes in the past, a UNM professor snagged thousands of dollars by embracing it.

Civil engineering professor Timothy Ross has received a Fulbright grant of 54,000 Brazilian reals, or about $25,000, to study potential uses of bamboo for building construction in general. He will spend two months in Brazil this summer and another two months there next year for research. He received another Fulbright grant in 2001 to work on railway safety and reliability systems in Canada.

Ross leaves for Rio de Janeiro July 1.

Ross said he first started research on bamboo out of curiosity two years ago. He said that through his research, he discovered that bamboo is actually more durable than wood.

“The shear strength of bamboo is two to three times more than that of wood,” he said. “With such tremendous strength capacity, why are we ignoring bamboo as a structural material? We use it for furniture, but many people around the world use this even in one-story houses.”

Bamboo is also more economical and more environmentally friendly than wood, Ross said. He said bamboo, which is a grass, grows 10 to 30 times faster than trees.

“The imported cost of bamboo here is still less than the cost of wood here,” he said. “And there are many, many parts of the world that don’t have access to wood. The timber supply that we have around the world is being depleted.”

Ross said he has visited Brazil multiple times in the past, and in his upcoming travel to the country, he aims to foster a tighter relationship between UNM and Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, the university where he is set to do research. He said he is not worried about the language barrier due to the 15 units of Portuguese he took at UNM two years ago.

Ross, 64, came to UNM as a professor in January 1987. He was president of the faculty senate for a year in 2011.

But he said his stint in Albuquerque was not totally planned.

“I was in graduate school at Stanford, and I fell in love with a woman there who was from Albuquerque,” he said. “After I finished my education, I chased her out here. I didn’t catch her. But I met another lady whom I married, and we raised four children here.”

Still, he said he’s happy with his decision to stay in the city.
“I don’t regret it. I love the culture, I love the people I love the food,” he said. “And I really like my job.”

Ross said he is optimistic that bamboo will become a more prominent construction material in the future.