Rejection letters, correspondence, and miscellanea from the otherwise empty annals of the Journal of Universal Rejection.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spotlight on Associate Editor: David J. Elton

The first in an irregular series of biographical sketches of editorial board members:

Biographical Sketch for Dr. David J. Elton, P.E.

Dr. David Elton has taught geotechnical engineering for over 25 years, at the university level and in numerous short courses. His teaching is marked by humor, insights into the profession and burdensome homework assignments, for which he has received notoriety amongst students. He is a professional civil engineer with degrees from Clarkson College of Technology, Utah State University, and Purdue University. Having run out of degrees, he had to work for a living for whoever would take him; first at The Citadel and later Auburn University, where he is a vested member of the Alabama Retirement System.

In a career characterized by its lack of focus, he has done research in geotechnical engineering, pavements, deep foundations, geosynthetics, expert systems, highway engineering, earthquake engineering, Soils Magic and fuzzy sets, authoring many technical publications. His honors include a US patent, the Fred Burggraf Award of the Transportation Research Board, the inaugural Distinguished Educator award from US Universities’ Council on Geotechnical Engineering Research and the IGS Service Award, and a sheaf of certificates from short courses. Dr. Elton serves on ASCE, TRB, USUCGER committees, and recently ascended to the lofty position of El Presidente of the North American Geosynthetics Society in a small, bloodless coup in Cancun. His website, http://www.eng.auburn.edu/users/elton/ had details, but is largely shameless self-promotion of his videotapes.

He was editor of the International Geosynthetics Society Newsletter for five years which no one reads, is active in geosynthetics research which no one funds, writes refereed papers which have been ignored, and, in 1994, organized and directed five years of the NSF/IFAI Professor Training Course for Geosynthetics, which was met with wild acclaim.

His illustrious history of rejection begin in 1963, when, after being born, he was immediately rejected by his parents. Other notable rejections include:

1958-1966 Rejected by almost all of my peers for participation in kickball, soccer and later sandlot baseball games. I wasn't merely picked last, I wasn't picked.

1966-1980 (the academic years). I was rejected for parts in school plays,  choral recitals (can't carry a tune in a bucket I was told!). Continued rejection took the form of never having a date in the first five years of college.

1980-present. While becoming a Full Professor, he experienced rejection from many prestigious journals, federal funding agencies (incl. the National Science Foundation!), the state Department of Transportation research bureau and, largely, by my colleagues, who maintain that they don’t have time Elton’s nonsense, and my supervisor, who has rejected numberless pleas for pay raises.

His journal paper rejection rate stands at a hearty 42%, and his funded proposal rejection rate at a healthy 81%.

He is the father of five children, all of whom, out of respect for their father’s profession, have declined to pursue bachelor’s degrees in engineering.

He’s been honored with membership in tbp, the National Engineering Honor Society, FKF a National Scholastic Honor Society, and the National Civil Engineering Honor Society, and is a Professional Engineer, Soils Magician and, after 25 years, a full Professor of Civil Engineering. Every publication of his contains at least three Greek letters. Amazing.


  1. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

  2. Credit goes to Dr. Elton for writing his bio. I'm glad you're enjoying the blog.

  3. Very nice and funny bio! And awesome Journal of yours!

  4. I was wondering if the good Doctor, in one of his various underground explorations, discovered a time portal which enabled him to be rejected by his peers for sports teams (1958-1966) before being born (1963). Proofreading, the key to good rejection.

  5. Also rejection for mixed usage of first and third person.