Pitt | Swanson Engineering
News Listing

Nov

Nov
8
2018

Pitt’s IRISE consortium hosts first brainstorming session to map out infrastructure research strategies

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (November 8, 2018) … This past October the Impactful Resilient Infrastructure Science and Engineering (IRISE) research consortium kicked off the planning process for its 2019 research program by conducting a brainstorming session at the University of Pittsburgh campus. More than 35 transportation engineering professionals from the public, private and academic sectors joined together to present and discuss highway transportation infrastructure problems, issues and research possibilities. Founded in summer 2018 by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, IRISE utilizes the department’s expertise in transportation infrastructure to address challenges faced by industry and government agencies. Its mission is to engage in public-private collaboration while employing a systems approach toward optimizing infrastructure solutions. Julie Vandenbossche, associate professor and IRISE director, noted that the brainstorming participants discussed a wide range of problems and issues including those pertaining to compliance with new storm water requirements, understanding of infrastructure life cycle costs, structural health monitoring, performance of various types of pavement designs and overlays, bridge corrosion, landslide predictability, reducing road closure time and many others. During the session, Pitt faculty presented their qualifications and contributed additional research ideas. Dr. Vandenbossche explained that the ideas generated during the session will be considered as IRISE works with its Steering Committee members to determine the research priorities over the coming months. “We particularly appreciated everyone's willingness to share ideas with each other,” she said. “The exchange of information among different agencies and private organizations is exactly what the IRISE concept is trying to promote.” Allegheny County Manager William D. McKain stated, “I congratulate Pitt on its first IRISE meeting —-people were really engaged and the exchange of ideas and information provided a wonderful starting point for IRISE to build on and have great collaborations and meaningful outcomes.” The ideas discussed during the inaugural meeting will help in part to produce solutions that lead to more durable, longer lasting transportation infrastructure, Dr. Vandenbossche explained. In particular, solutions will be driven by: Providing safe, efficient and affordable transportation Maintaining accessibility to services, such as healthcare, at all times Meeting quality of life needs when planning projects. Improving roadway infrastructure durability should have a minimal cost to environmental health and quality of life. Additionally, Swanson School faculty will also collaborate with researchers from Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health and the School of Computing and Information to leverage a cross-disciplinary approach to solutions.“Infrastructure and transportation have traditionally been very siloed, with government, industry, utilities and engineers focusing on their own issues and problems without necessarily taking a holistic approach that improves day-to-day life for the people who use these systems,” noted James R. Martin II, the U.S. Steel Dean on Engineering. “As a researcher with a long career in civil engineering, projects like the IRISE consortium are a great example of how universities like Pitt are leveraging faculty expertise across many fields to help public and private organizations address transportation issues for the betterment of society.”For more information, visit engineering.pitt.edu/irise. ###

Oct

Oct
31
2018

Engineering Student Athletes: Jake Scarton

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

Jake Scarton Sport: Football Position: Kicker Major: Civil Engineering Class: Sophomore Hometown: Hermitage, Pennsylvania “You really have to keep up on your work during the week because you don’t have a weekend. Fridays you’re in a hotel all day, Saturdays you’re focused only on the game, and Sundays you have practice. You’re forced to be a good time manager. I was a good student in high school, but this is the first time in my life I’m starting papers three weeks in advance.” “Making Game Plans” Jake Scarton graduated high school sixth in his class with a 4.2 GPA and entered the Swanson School of Engineering with a good idea of what he wanted to study. “I like to work with my hands and be outside. My dad was a banker, but we lived on a farm. He was handy and did wood working. He really inspired me to want to create and build things,” he says. When he arrived at Pitt, Scarton started down the path of civil engineering and hasn’t looked back. Turning down offers from several Division I and Division II schools in favor of Pitt, Scarton didn’t have any doubts about walking on to the team. However, unlike his plan to study civil engineering, joining the football team wasn’t necessarily in Scarton’s playbook. He says, “I never intended to play Division I football. It wasn’t my goal or a dream as a kid. I’m just lucky to be on the team.” Only in his second year, Scarton’s already coming up with a strategy for fulfilling his academic and professional goals. “I just started classes in civil engineering, but I’m really enjoying the construction management courses I’m taking right now,” he says. “I’ll be here for four more years since I redshirted my freshman year. I’d like to go for a graduate degree like an MBA, so I’ll be well-prepared after for the work force after graduation.” Noteworthy 4.2 GPA (high school) 150+ hours community service 2x first team all-region (high school) 1x first team all-region (high school) Volunteer Kicking Coach, Kohl's Kicking Redshirt 2017-18 Volunteer at veteran's home A Typical Day 6:15 am: Wake up 7:00 am: Team breakfast 7:45 am: Meetings/film 9:00 - 11:30 am: Practice 12:00 pm: Team lunch 1:00 pm: Class 2:00 pm: Homework 4:00 pm: Class or lift 6:00 pm:     Homework and dinner 11:00 pm:     Sleep Note: This is part three of a four-part series about student-athletes at the Swanson School of Engineering. Part four will appear on the SSOE website on November 7, 2018. Part One: https://www.engineering.pitt.edu/News/2018/Craig-Bair-Soccer-Profile/ Part Two: https://www.engineering.pitt.edu/News/2018/Madeline-Hobbs-Soccer-Profile/ ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Oct
30
2018

Distilling a Solution for Fracking Wastewater

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (October 30, 2018) … Research led by the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering may have cracked the code to not only greatly reduce the amount of fresh water used in the multi-billion-dollar hydrofracturing industry, but also leverage the waste heat available at drilling sites and natural gas compressor stations to safely treat shale gas wastewater (SGWW) for reuse. As part of “Deploying Intensified, Automated, Mobile, Operable, and Novel Designs (DIAMOND) for Treating Shale Gas Wastewater,” a $5.3 million award from the Department of Energy (DOE) RAPID Manufacturing Institute, the Pitt team was awarded $1.76 million to conduct pilot testing of membrane distillation technology in the Marcellus and Utica Shale. Collaborators include Texas A&M University, University of Texas at Austin and U.S. Clean Water Technology, while industry partners are Pittsburgh-based EQT and Aquatech International, Boston’s Gradiant Corporation, and Glen Allen, Va.’s Markel Corporation. Additionally, a $0.7 million DOE award to Gas Technology Institute (GTI) will support efforts by the Pitt team ($0.445 million) to expand this study to the Permian Basin of West Texas. Leading the research is Radisav Vidic, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Department Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Swanson School, with co-PI and Associate Professor Vikas Khanna. “Hydrofracturing, originally developed to drill for oil deposits deep within rock formations, has in the past decade created a new energy boom in the U.S. thanks to its use in natural gas extraction, especially in Pennsylvania and Texas,” Dr. Vidic explained. “However, the vast amounts of water needed to fracture or “frack” the rock formations and extract the fossil fuels both wastes a valuable resource and results in wastewater contaminated with various salts and metals. This water is either shipped offsite for disposal, or is reused as a fracking fluid at a new well.” One key element of the DIAMOND mobile treatment is a membrane distillation technology, which has not been practical in the past because of high energy intensity and cost. “We have been working to adapt this technology to SGWW for more than 5 years and have obtained excellent results in the laboratory using real wastewater to produce very high quality finished water. Membrane distillation requires heating the feed wastewater, which is extremely expensive,” said Dr. Vidic. “However, the unconventional oil and gas industry generates a great amount of waste heat during compression or flaring of excess gas. Instead of losing this heat to the atmosphere, we can use it to power the membrane distillation on site making the process economically very promising.”“A unique aspect of this project is a systems-level integration of waste heat sources with SGWW generation locations to identify and exploit regional synergies and opportunities for utilizing the waste heat to treat SGWW,” said Dr. Khanna. “This is a win-win scenario where we are using available unexploited waste heat to treat SGWW and simultaneously producing high quality water that could be used for agriculture and other industries. “Rather than building treatment units at individual drilling sites or a large centralized treatment facility in the Marcellus and Utica formations in the Northeast or the Permian Basin in the South and Plains states, we can modularize the process. This has the advantage of reducing capital investment as well as the need to transport SGWW to a centralized treatment facility,” Dr. Khanna said. “This enables us to create a flexible and adaptable framework for natural gas-producing companies to access on a site-by-site basis.”Because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency prohibits the disposal of SGWW in any body of water, Dr. Vidic notes that effective, economic disposal is a pinch point for industry. “Our preliminary experimental and techno-economic assessment studies have shown promising results for economical and environmentally conscious management of SGWW using membrane distillation,” said Dr. Vidic. “In Pennsylvania, for example, drillers may use wastewater to frack the next well, but when you run out of new wells to frack, you still need to deal with SGWW that is generated by the producing wells. Meanwhile in a drought region like Texas where water is an even more precious commodity, the wastewater is disposed of in deep wells, Dr. Vidic said.“In either case, transporting freshwater and wastewater back and forth is not only expensive, but unsustainable in the long term. Our collaborators are greatly vested in this technology because it is more economical and sustainable, and reduces risk to the environment, while securing our country’s vast energy resources for decades.” Other research investigators include: Texas A&M University Mahmoud M. El-Halwagi, McFerrin Professor of Chemical Engineering and Managing Director of the Texas A&M Gas and Fuels Research Center Lucy Mar Camacho, Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering Joseph Kwon, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Debalina Sengupta, Associate Director of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station Gas and Fuels Research Center University of Texas at Austin Joan F. Brennecke, Cockrell Chair in Engineering Benny D. Freeman, Richard B. Curran Centennial Chair in Engineering Mark A. Stadtherr, Research Professor US Clean Water Technology Kurt Swogger, CEO Phil Carlberg, Chief Scientist ### About RAPIDIn December 2016, the Department of Energy announced the establishment of the 10th Manufacturing USA Institute, representing a critical step in the federal government’s effort to double U.S. energy productivity by 2030. The Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) Institute is focused on addressing the barriers listed above to enable the development of breakthrough technologies to boost energy productivity and energy efficiency through manufacturing processes in industries such oil and gas, pulp and paper and various domestic chemical manufacturers. RAPID will leverage approaches to modular chemical process intensification (MCPI) — such as combining multiple process steps such as mixing, reaction, and separation into single more complex and intensified processes — with the goal of improving productivity and efficiency, cutting operating costs, and reducing waste.

Oct
4
2018

Capping Off Another Successful Year

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

Within the first week of returning to campus each semester, about three dozen civil engineering seniors gather to brainstorm project ideas and construct teams for the Senior Design Course. They will spend the next 15 weeks transforming their ideas into implementable projects complete with detailed plans for all the anticipated, and many of the unforeseeable, challenges that come with creating the next successful improvement to society’s infrastructure. Each semester concludes with an hour-long presentation emphasizing student professionalism and a strong ability to communicate months of intensive work to an audience of classmates, professors, and professional engineers. If everything goes as planned, the final presentation marks the transition from civil engineering student to civil engineer.“Before moving on to the next stage of their development, students must demonstrate through the course that they have learned a great deal in their classes and an ability to apply what they learned to challenges they might not have seen before,” says Radisav Vidic, chair of the Swanson School’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “For this reason, the Senior Design Course is the epitome of our undergraduate education.”Designing the Right Idea“Every project is interesting, or we wouldn’t do it,” says John Oyler, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. Dr. Oyler has been involved with Pitt’s Senior Design Course as coordinator for the past 27 years. All senior engineering students must complete the course during their final semesters, so Dr. Oyler has helped hundreds of Pitt engineers take their final steps toward graduation. However, not every idea starts out as a hole-in-one. “Last semester we had a team who wanted to redesign the golf course in Schenley Park. I told them, ‘You have to explain to me why this is worth doing.’ They came up with a strong proposal to support their ideas and managed to prove to us that this is really a full-blown civil engineering project that would really benefit people who used the course,” says Dr. Oyler.Another idea grew out of the department’s increasingly popular construction management program. The team specifically wanted to undertake a large project with wide scope. They found a match based on a suggestion by John Sebastian, professor of civil and environmental engineering. The idea was to devise a feasible plan for converting a former industrial site along Pittsburgh’s North Shore into a booming business and recreational district.“Thanks to Professor Sebastian, we were able to get information on a project in the works that is much too big for anybody—or at least any one group,” Dr. Oyler says. “When these students gave their presentation, it became clear somebody has to be the brains behind a project, regardless how big it is, and they were the right ones for the job.”During the spring semester of 2018, student teams came up with plans to improve and update a multipurpose campus building, design a microbrewery on the Monongahela River, and map out a revitalization strategy for a state park. One of the teams decided to focus on a major highway interchange and found the right combination of specialties was the best way to keep things running smoothly.Intersecting Disciplines“The ideal team is multidisciplinary. When we build a team, we try to represent as many different specialties as we can,” explains Dr. Oyler.Last semester, TBD Engineering formed to approach one of Pittsburgh most ubiquitous and infuriating infrastructure problems: traffic jams. The students targeted the Interstate 79 and State Route 51 interchange near Neville Island, northwest of Pittsburgh. “We were trying to decide on a project, and when someone suggested redesigning the interchange, one of our team members, Nick Bruni, jumped at the opportunity to fix it,” says Amedeo Hirata, team leader of TBD Engineering. “He lives near the intersection and has to drive through it every day.” A digital render of TBD Engineering's proposed design solution for the Interstate 79 and State Route 51 interchange. The students used infrastructure design software called AutoDesk InfraWorks to help complete the project. The two heavily-trafficked highways lack several features needed to qualify their meeting as a full interchange. When driving southbound on I-79, there is no direct route to transfer onto PA-51. As a result, commuters are forced to take an eight to 15-minute detour through Neville Island which increases overall travel and congestion. By studying crash reports, they also found the northbound on ramp to I-79 from PA-51 had inadequate merging and sight distances. As a result, it is responsible for a high number of incidents. “Right now the intersection is kind of a free-for-all, and traffic backups can stretch for up to a mile and a half during rush hour. We did lots of research and decided to propose a new design configuration called a ‘single point urban interchange.’ The proposal included a traffic light to reduce the number of potential crash zones without slowing things down,” says Hirata. Hirata handled the structural design component while working with teammates specializing in geometric, transportation, and geotechnical design as well as construction management. He says the team quickly reached a consensus that their composition was the right fit for completing the project. “As a team leader, I was really motivated to choose teammates who were recognized as the best students in my graduating class. This was my favorite undergraduate course because of the amount of freedom we were allowed right off the bat and the experience of collaborating in an environment with so many talented people,” Hirata says. Looking Forward to the Future “The Senior Design projects are not replicas of the design problems students have already seen in their other courses,” says Dr. Oyler. “The students are completing projects in the same way a project is completed outside of the classroom. By the end of the semester, they must have shown their capability to bring a project completely from start to finish.” Each semester brings a new cohort of students and project ideas waiting for cultivation. In fall 2018, one idea gaining traction is working with Allegheny County representatives to clean mine drainage pollution in Plum Borough’s Boyce Park. Another project has students looking to reduce flooding in Bridgeville in the wake of the June 20th storm, which damaged many structures and caused one fatality. Regardless of the individual challenges, all senior design teams will have to find a way to combine their knowledge a variety of civil engineering specialties into a plans for improving surrounding communities and the lives of the people that live there. “As civil engineers, we have an obligation to design, build, and maintain society’s infrastructure. The closest we can get these projects to that objective is always the goal,” says Dr. Oyler. ###
by Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Sep

Sep
26
2018

American Society of Civil Engineers Honors John Oyler with Meritorious Service Award

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (September 26, 2018) … The Pittsburgh chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) selected John Oyler, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, as recipient of the 2017 Michael A. Gross Meritorious Service Award.The award, named after Michael A. Gross who provided nearly 70 years of continuous service to the ASCE Pittsburgh Section, recognizes a lifetime of work and commitment to the civil engineering profession. It is one of the society’s most prestigious recognitions and is selectively bestowed, sometimes between spans of several years.For the past three decades, Dr. Oyler has guided civil engineers through the transition from undergraduate students to graduates and professionals. He remains an active and nationally-renowned member of the ASCE and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).Dr. Oyler’s nomination for the award came from former students wishing to pay tribute to his role in their professional development and the impact he has had on countless other students over the years. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Sep
25
2018

Advanced Infrastructure Systems Faculty Position

Civil & Environmental, Open Positions

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh invites applications for tenure-track faculty positions having an anticipated start date of September 1, 2019.  These positions are part of a strategic expansion intended to support research and teaching activities of the Advanced Infrastructure Group in the broad areas of structural engineering and mechanics, civil engineering materials, and transportation. Candidates with specialization in computational mechanics, data analytics, machine learning, resilient infrastructure systems, intelligent infrastructure, and sustainable urban engineering are especially encouraged to apply. A successful candidate must demonstrate potential for high-quality research and teaching. The Department seeks candidates with outstanding analytical, computational, and/or experimental skills that complement the existing strengths within the department (http://www.engineering.pitt.edu/Departments/Civil-Environmental/)  and across the University of Pittsburgh (https://www.pitt.edu/research) are encouraged to apply. These initiatives include nanomaterial fabrication, additive manufacturing, computational modeling, advanced materials development, sustainability, transportations systems and energy. Further, the ability to collaborate with existing centers, such as the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation http://www.engineering.pitt.edu/MCSI, the Center for Energy http://www.engineering.pitt.edu/cfe, and the Impactful Resilient Infrastructure Science and Engineering (IRISE) Consortium is highly desirable.  Preference will be given to appointees at the Assistant Professor level, but applicants with outstanding credentials will be considered at other levels. Outstanding candidates will have the opportunity to join our vibrant and growing department of 24 full-time faculty members, 300 undergraduate and 130 graduate students (50 of which are PhD students). The successful applicant will be expected to develop and sustain a strong, externally funded research program within their area of expertise and contribute to the teaching mission of the department graduate and undergraduate programs. An earned doctorate in civil engineering or a closely related field is required.  Interested applicants should submit: (1) cover letter, (2) CV, (3) teaching statement, (4) research interests and future plans, (5) statement of diversity and inclusion, (6) copies of three representative publications, and (7) the names and contact information for at least three references. Please submit the application in a single pdf file. At the time of application submission applicants should request that their references directly e-mail reference letters to the application e-mail below in order to expedite the review process. Applications and associated reference letters should be emailed to CEE19AIS@pitt.edu. Review of applications will begin November 1, 2018 and will continue until the positions are filled. We strongly encourage candidates from underrepresented US minority groups and women to apply for this position. The University of Pittsburgh is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, marital status, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status.

Sep
14
2018

Sustainable and Environmental Engineering Positions

Civil & Environmental, Open Positions

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) at the University of Pittsburgh invites applications for two tenure-track faculty positions effective September 1, 2019.  These positions are part of the strategic expansion intended to support research and teaching activities in the area of Sustainable and Environmental Engineering (SEE). For the first tenure-track position, we seek candidates with fundamental expertise, research and teaching interests in the areas of environmental aquatic chemistry, water quality, sustainable water treatment technologies, and the water-health nexus. For the second tenure-track position, we seek candidates with expertise and research and teaching interests in the broad area of sustainable urban engineering. This includes, but is not limited to, building energy use evaluation and optimization, infrastructure resiliency, big data analytics and visualization for sustainable urban systems. For both of these positions, we are interested in applicants that build on and will contribute to our current strengths in environmental systems analysis. Applicants with a research program that addresses problems at multiple scales and have the desire to work across disciplinary boundaries are particularly encouraged to apply. Preference will be given to appointees at the Assistant Professor level, but applicants with outstanding credentials will be considered at other levels. We are interested in candidates that can collaborate in interdisciplinary research and teaching within the Department and/or related focus areas in the Swanson School of Engineering. Further, the ability to collaborate with existing centers, such as the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation http://www.engineering.pitt.edu/MCSI and the Center for Energy http://www.engineering.pitt.edu/cfe, is highly desirable. Candidates will have the opportunity to join our vibrant, diverse and growing department of 24 faculty members, 300 undergraduates and 130 full-time graduate students (including 50 PhD students). Successful applicants will be expected to develop and sustain a strong, externally funded research program within their area of expertise. We strongly encourage candidates from underrepresented US minority groups and women to apply for this position.  The University of Pittsburgh is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, marital status, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status. An earned doctorate in civil engineering, environmental engineering and science, earth science or a closely related field is required.  Interested applicants should submit: (1) cover letter, (2) CV, (3) teaching statement, (4) research interests and future plans, (5) statement of diversity and inclusion, (6) copies of three representative publications, and (7) the names and contact information for at least three references. Please submit the application in a single pdf file. Applicants should request that their references directly e-mail reference letters to the application e-mail below at the time of application submission in order to expedite the review process. Applications for the first position and associated reference letters should be emailed to CEE19SE1@pitt.edu. Applications for the second position and their associated reference letters should be emailed to CEE19SE2@pitt.edu. Review of applications will begin November 1, 2018 and will continue until the positions are filled.

Sep
4
2018

Award-winning drinking water researcher Sarah Haig joins Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Pitt

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (September 4, 2018) … Sarah Haig, an environmental engineer with a focus on the drinking water microbiome, joins the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering this fall as assistant professor. Dr. Haig’s research combines environmental microbiology, environmental chemistry, and public health to improve water quality with a focus on drinking water systems. “Providing safe and reliable drinking water is one of the world’s most critical concerns, not only in developing countries but in many cities throughout the U.S. and developed world,” noted Radisav Vidic, Professor and Department Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Swanson School. “Sarah’s expertise in this field is an important addition to our faculty and we are looking forward not only to her contributions in the discipline but also her passion for teaching young engineers about these issue.” Dr. Haig completed her PhD, “Characterizing the Functional Microbial Ecology of Slow Sand Filters Through Environmental Genomics” in September 2014 at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. She was also a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow (October 2014 – July 2018) at the University of Michigan, in the groups of Lutgarde Raskin (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering) and John LiPuma (Department of Pediatrics), where she focused on linking the drinking water microbiome to human health.Dr. Haig has published several papers in leading journals in the fields of environmental engineering and microbiology and has given numerous presentations at national and international conferences. She has received several honors and awards for her research including Society for General Microbiology and International Water Association Young Water Professional prizes, a Lord Kelvin Adam Smith PhD scholarship, a Microbiology of the Built Environment fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and a Dow Sustainability fellowship. ###

Aug

Aug
30
2018

Power Plant Safety: From Pipe Dream to Reality

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (August 30, 2018) … A new technology able to detect potentially dangerous conditions in power plants is in the pipeline at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, thanks to a $360,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The device monitors corrosion and erosion in pipelines that, if left undetected, can lead to catastrophic explosions.Piervincenzo (Piero) Rizzo, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, is the principal investigator. The project titled “A new sensing device for disaster prevention and biomedical application” (Award No.: 1809932) will target, at its initial stage, pipes operating at high temperatures in which deterioration poses serious threats and visual inspection presents challenges.“Aging pipelines in petrochemical or nuclear power plants can cause structural failures and safety concerns, not only for workers but also people in surrounding areas,” says Dr. Rizzo. “Currently, humans are responsible for maintenance and inspection. However, the pipes can fail between inspections, human inspection is costly and often inconsistent, and plants may need to be shut down entirely during inspection, slowing down productivity.”Corrosion accounted for 16 percent of pipeline-related incidents and nearly $48 million in damages in 2017, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The data accounts for pipelines in natural gas, hazardous liquid, and liquefied natural gas plants.The main objective of the project is to develop a device that works continuously and remotely and is able to transmit relevant data wirelessly. Research gathered for the grant proposal suggests the device will be able to monitor deterioration in pipes operating at any temperature and at any location, above or below ground.“The device is based on the propagation of highly nonlinear solitary waves along a chain of spherical particles in contact to the outside surface of the pipe. We send a wave of energy through the particles and bounce it off the pipe. Changes in the wave’s shape over time reflect changes in the thickness of the pipe walls, inferring the occurrence of erosion or corrosion,” explains Dr. Rizzo.“Highly nonlinear solitary waves along have found many applications because they are fundamentally different than those waves typically encountered in acoustics and ultrasound,” he added. In his lab, Dr. Rizzo’s basic set up of the device consists of steel ball bearings about the size of gumballs aligned vertically or along an L-shaped in a plastic tube. The device can measure, for example, the internal pressure of a tennis ball simply by placing the tube against the ball and passing a wave through it.“This research will focus on validating the science behind our device and testing different materials and configurations to get the best results,” Dr. Rizzo says. “We will also be looking at other applications for the technology. For example, in a much smaller iteration, we could use the device to monitor eye pressure in individuals with or at risk for developing glaucoma.”He explains, “Glaucoma is an age-related disease and the second leading cause of blindness in the world. The risk of developing glaucoma surges when the intraocular pressure (IOP) increases due to abnormal balance between the production and drainage of the fluid inside the eye. The measurement of IOP is the cornerstone of the diagnosis and management of glaucoma because elevated IOP is the only risk factor that can be modified through invasive surgery.”For this project, Dr. Rizzo and his collaborators will also research and develop a numerical model to link the solitary waves to the IOP.Co-principal investigators Samuel Dickerson and Ian Conner will join Dr. Rizzo on the study. Dr. Dickerson, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, specializes in the electronic development of sensors and will develop a sensor to collect the wave data from the device. Dr. Conner, assistant professor of ophthalmology and bioengineering, is an eye care professional with experience in glaucoma and cataract surgery and will advise the team. ### About Dr. RizzoDr. Rizzo is widely recognized for his expertise in nondestructive testing and evaluation (NDT/E) and in structural health monitoring (SHM). He is the only person worldwide who has received both the Achenbach Medal (2012) and the SHM Person of the Year Award (2015). The Medal recognizes one young researcher who has made an outstanding contribution to the SHM. The Award recognizes “outstanding contribution to the field of SHM that will benefit society.” Both honors are selected by the editors of SHM, an International Journal, the top journal in the field. In 2016, Dr. Rizzo received the Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Scholar Award, in the category of junior scholar. This is the most esteemed award that Pitt gives to its own faculty. In July 2018, the international scientific committee of the European Workshop on SHM (EWSHM) selected the proposal of Dr. Rizzo to organize and chair the 10th edition of the workshop (EWSHM 2020). This Workshop is held every two years in Europe, and it congregates experts from all over the world to discuss the latest advancements in the area of SHM, smart materials, intelligent infrastructures, and NDE. The 2020 Workshop will be held at the University of Palermo, Italy, Dr. Rizzo’s Alma Mater. He won the competition against Berlin, Paris, and Prague—a testament to the leadership and professional stature that Dr. Rizzo has in the SHM community.
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Jul

Jul
10
2018

Fishy Chemicals in Farmed Salmon

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (July 10, 2018) … Persistent organic pollutants—or POPs—skulk around the environment threatening human health through direct contact, inhalation, and most commonly, eating contaminated food. As people are becoming more aware of their food’s origin, new research at the University of Pittsburgh suggests it might be just as important to pay attention to the origin of your food’s food.The American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology featured research by Carla Ng, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, on the cover of its June 19 issue. Dr. Ng tracked the presence of a class of synthetic flame retardants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which were once a popular additive to increase fire resistance in consumer products such as electronics, textiles, and plastics (DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.8b00146).“The United States and much of Europe banned several PBDEs in 2004 because of environmental and public health concerns,” says Dr. Ng. “PBDEs can act as endocrine disruptors and cause developmental effects. Children are particularly vulnerable.”The Stockholm Convention, an international environmental treaty established to identify and eliminate organic pollutants, listed PBDEs as persistent organic pollutants in 2009. Despite restrictions on their use, PBDEs continue to be released into the environment because of their long lifetime and abundance in consumer goods. They are particularly dense in areas such as China, Thailand, and Vietnam that process a lot of electronic waste and do not regulate much of their recycling.“The international food trade system is becoming increasingly global in nature and this applies to animal feed as well. Fish farming operations may import their feed or feed ingredients from a number of countries, including those without advanced food safety regulations,” explains Dr. Ng.Most models to predict human exposure to pollutants typically focus on people in relation to their local environment. Dr. Ng’s model compared a variety of factors to find the best predictor of PBDEs in farmed salmon, including pollutants inhaled through gills, how the fish metabolized and eliminated pollutants, and of course, the concentration of pollutants in the feed.She says, “We found that feed is relatively less important in areas that already have high concentrations of pollutants in the environment. However, in otherwise clean and well-regulated environments, contaminated feed can be thousands of times more significant than the location of the farm for determining the PBDE content of salmon fillets.”Dr. Ng says the model could be modified and applied to other fish with high global trading volumes such as tilapia or red snapper. It could also be used to predict pollutant content in livestock or feeds produced in contamination “hot spots.”“Hot spots are places identified as having high levels of pollutants,” says Dr. Ng. “As these chemicals circulate through the environment, much ends up in the ocean. It’s extremely important to pay attention to the sourcing of ocean commodities and areas where pollutant concentrations are particularly high.”Dr. Ng’s model also helps inform contamination control strategies such as substituting fish oils for plant-based materials or taking measures to decontaminate fish oil before human consumption. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Jul
2
2018

Discovering “Virtual” Resources in the National Food System

Civil & Environmental, Industrial

PITTSBURGH (July 2, 2018) … Does producing one ton of rice consume more water in Arkansas or California? Is it more sustainable for Texas to import oranges from Florida or grow its own? Will switching to water efficient irrigation pumps reduce both water and energy footprint of food production? To better integrate sustainability across multiple production systems, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded two professors from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering a $305,764 grant for their research into the interconnectivity of U.S. food, energy, and water resources. The research will focus on modeling the complex network of resources in the United States and strategies for optimizing sustainability in resource production and consumption with a focus on food, energy, and water systems.“People tend to see food, energy, and water as individual diodes on a larger network, when they are more like a mesh of connections. This research is asking how you can model the nexus of these complex systems,” says Vikas Khanna, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt and principal investigator of the study.The study titled "Modeling and Optimization of Sustainable and ResilienT FEW (MOST FEW) Networks" will use publicly available data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the Department of Agriculture, and related organizations to examine the environmental sustainability of U.S. national food system with an emphasis on interstate trade. The researchers in particular will focus on identifying networks of “virtual resources.”“Virtual resources are those consumed in a process but not intended to be directly used in the exchange itself,” Dr. Khanna explains. “For example, a large amount of water is consumed across the entire supply chain of corn. A singular focus on optimizing corn production could come at the expense of high water consumption or increased fertilizer use, or result in some other negative consequence if relationships within the system aren’t better understood.”Joining Dr. Khanna on the study as co-principal investigator is Oleg Prokopyev, professor of industrial engineering. Dr. Prokopyev specializes in Operations Research and develops tools and algorithms for describing complex, mathematical relationships in networks. Their collaboration began after Dr. Khanna used similar techniques and principles to model the London public transit system. Dr. Prokopyev recognized their common research interests, and the two decided to collaborate on the current project.Dr. Prokopyev says, “When looking at multiple objectives, most often efficiency with one thing will come at the expense of another. These are problems that don’t really have easy solutions, but there are mathematical ways to describe the processes and help people visualize how their decisions impact the network.”During the grant period, the researchers hope to identify “hot spots” for improvement opportunities and provide a range of solutions that minimize environmental impact and maximize the efficiency of resource production and consumption.“When your focus is sustainability, you always have a research application in mind,” says Dr. Khanna. “We face real life problems every day that require tradeoffs like quality for price or personal preference for availability. In the same way consumers can make better decision by being more informed, modeling the food, energy, and water networks will help to inform better decision making about our national resource policies by government, industry, utilities, and more.” ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

May

May
17
2018

Drivers, You're Not Alone. Pittsburgh Really Does Have Frustrating And Short On-Ramps

Civil & Environmental

Driving in Pittsburgh is confusing. The streets aren’t on a grid system and going over the wrong bridge could result in a long, unwelcomed detour. Learning to maneuver the city’s streets is frustrating, but listener Ron Dylewski found that merging onto the region’s highways to be particularly challenging. “Why are there so many on-ramps in the Pittsburgh area that are so dangerous and so short?” Dylewski asked. In the infrastructure's defense, most of Pittsburgh’s highways were built in the mid-20th Century, they weren’t really made to be highways like in other parts of the country. University of Pittsburgh Civil Engineering Professor Mark Magalotti said most of the region’s parkways were built in the 1950s and '60s, early in the era of interstate highways. Your browser does not support the audio element. Read and listen to the full story at WESA 90.5/NPR.
Katie Blackley, 90.5 WESA
May
16
2018

Concerns about Pittsburgh infrastructure loom ahead of Amazon bid

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh's government has been pushing to bring Amazon's HQ2 to the city, which comes with the promise of 50,000 new jobs. But along with the potential for a big boom is concern about how Pittsburgh's infrastructure would handle the influx of people and business. Watch Aaron Martin's complete report in the video below.
Aaron Martin, WPXI
May
15
2018

Gateway Engineers along with past President establish funds to help women engineering students at Pitt

Civil & Environmental, Diversity

PITTSBURGH (May 15, 2018) … Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a greater need for engineers over the next ten years, data show that women who earn an engineering degree are less likely to work in the engineering profession.1 At the same time, the percentage of women with engineering degrees has remained flat for more than a decade.2 However, a recent gift to the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering from one of Pittsburgh’s most successful woman engineers hopes to attract more women to the profession and help to build the professional networks needed to continue in the profession. Ruthann L. Omer, P.E. earned her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Pitt in 1983, and was the first female municipal engineering in Allegheny County and recently retired as President of Gateway Engineers. She and Gateway Engineers established two funds at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering to help the next generation of engineers succeed at the University and beyond. While the Omer Family Scholarship Fund will support undergraduate tuition and other educational expenses and to support furthering the diversity of the undergraduate student body in the Swanson School’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The Omer Family Engineering Legacy Fund established by Gateway Engineers will enhance student success by supporting the School’s award-winning chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).  Gateway Engineers’ CEO, Jason Jesso, applauds the mission of SWE. “SWE offers engineering students with opportunities to network, obtain leadership training, earn scholarships and advance their careers,” Mr. Jesso said. “We’re incredibly thankful for Gateway Engineers and Ruthann’s commitment to engineering education and student success,” noted Gerald D. Holder, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering. “They are well respected by their engineering peers in the region and are an example of the success our women engineering students can achieve in the profession.” The Omer Family Engineering Legacy Fund will enable Pitt SWE members to attend the national conference, beginning with WE18 in Minneapolis, October 18-20, 2018. ### For more information about how to give to these funds or other programs, visit the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs. About Gateway EngineersGateway is a full-service civil engineering and consulting firm with multiple offices that can design and manage a project from concept to completion. For more than 60 years, the company has been at the forefront of innovation in the engineering industry. Today, the company effectively and efficiently manages literally thousands of projects a year for a diverse group of clients throughout the country. Headquartered in Pittsburgh with offices in Butler, Pa. and Cecil Township, Pa., Gateway employs more than 160 and is consistently ranked as one of the top 500 firms in the U.S. by Engineering News-Record.1 Corbett, C., & Hill, C. (2015). "Solving the Equation: The Variables for Women’s Success in Engineering and Computing." Washington, DC: American Association of University Women.2 Yoder, B. L. (2017). Engineering by the Numbers. American Society for Engineering Education.

Apr

Apr
30
2018

Pitt Civil Engineering Graduate Student Uses Social Media Math to Link U.S. Trade Networks

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

Nemi Vora at the 3MT competition PITTSBURGH (April 30, 2018) … Developing a PhD thesis is a time-consuming process that involves committees, defenses, rewrites, and dissertations. But one University of Pittsburgh student was able to distill hers into a three-minute pitch – and was awarded for her presentation. Nemi Vora, a graduate student in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), was one of two runner-up winners at the University of Pittsburgh’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition earlier this month. Between 2012 and 2016, California faced one of its most severe droughts. Farmers risked losing their crops unless they tapped into the only other water source: groundwater. However, pumping water out of the ground requires electricity, and power plants require water for cooling. It didn’t take long before the largest electricity supply company in Southern California had to shut down two of its nuclear reactors. The drought set into motion a chain reaction threatening the region’s energy, water, and food. “We know these resources are connected. Stress in one may affect the other two, so we need to manage them together,” says Vora. “Currently, our policies are not designed to look at the whole picture. This is where my work comes in.” Vora studies how the same algorithms that power social media can be applied to government survey data about food, water, energy, and other essential resources. She is preparing her thesis titled “A systems-level framework for understanding sustainability and resilience of the U.S. Food-Energy-Water Nexus” under the advisory of CEE Associate Professor Vikas Khanna. Last year, the American Chemical Society journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering published a paper (DOI: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.6b02122) based on Vora’s research, which was highlighted on the issue’s cover page. Just as information travels through social media networks, U.S. natural resources travel through complex trade networks. Instead of sharing ideas, photos, and events, these networks share food, water, and energy. Government reports about these resources rarely go viral, but the complex statistical equations used to hone social media experiences can also help explain the interconnectivity of resources. Image: A visualization of energy embodied in irrigation from U.S. domestic food transfers. Embodied energy accounts for the total amount of energy consumed by a process. The network represents 1719 interstate transfers amounting to 274 billion megajoules of embodied energy, or roughly the amount of energy in 45 million barrels of oil.Credit: Swanson School of Engineering/Nemi Vora “We trade a lot of food in the United States, and the result is a chaotic network,” Vora explains. “To make sense out of it I use social network analysis, which is the same math used by social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. We find some interesting insights that would be much harder to piece together with traditional strategies.” For example, Vora’s analysis revealed that Texas imports more grains than any other state. Although a complete statistical analysis would be necessary to pinpoint why Texas imports so many grains, the Lone Star State most likely uses them for raising cattle, food processing, or exporting from its ports. The bulk of the grain imports into Texas are from neighboring states like Oklahoma and Kansas because transportation costs are low. However, all states in the Midwest rely heavily on the same groundwater source called the Ogallala/High Plains Aquifer. Roughly the size of Lake Huron, the aquifer supplies 30 percent of all water used to irrigate U.S. agriculture. In some areas, like Nebraska, the water supply replenishes itself faster than it’s pumped, but most of the water is being pumped out or “mined” faster than the natural hydrology can replenish itself. At the current rate, it will eventually run dry. Texas could relax its burden on local groundwater by importing water from the eastern U.S., where it’s more abundant. Although this may seem like a simple solution, eastern states rely on high-polluting pumping fuels to extract groundwater, and importing food and water would require building costly conveyance systems. Vora’s research shows how a singular focus such as “pump more ground water when water supplies are low” or “import water from another region” can have ripple effects beyond state borders. “Any increase in sourcing resources from other regions or agricultural output without a change in the current technology would end up increasing pollution,” she says. “Our reliance on trade can be a good negotiation point for convincing the states to work together on resource management and distribution decisions that will be the most beneficial for everyone.” Vora also points out that some states, such as Kansas, are committing to changes that will help preserve the Ogallala/High Plains Aquifer for future generations. Her research quantifies relationships between energy, water, and food so people can avoid crises downstream by understanding the interconnectivity of these vast, complex networks of resources. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Apr
30
2018

A Reimagined Future for Sustainable Nanomaterials

Civil & Environmental

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (April 30, 2018) ... Engineered nanomaterials hold great promise for medicine, electronics, water treatment and other fields. But when designed without critical information about environmental impacts at the start of the process, the materials’ long-term effects could undermine those advances. With a Yale-led project, a team of researchers hopes to change that. In a study published today in Nature Nanotechnology, Yale researchers outline a strategy to give materials designers the tools they need to make the necessary assessments efficiently and at the beginning of the design process. Engineers traditionally focus on the function and cost of their products. Without the information to consider long-term environmental impacts, though, it is difficult to predict adverse effects. That lack of information means that unintended consequences often go unnoticed until long after the product has been commercialized. This can lead to hastily replacing the material with another that proves to have equally bad, or even worse, effects. Having materials property information at the start of the design process could change that pattern. “As a researcher, if I have limited resources for research and development, I don’t want to spend it on something that’s not going to be viable due to its effects on human health,” said Julie Zimmerman, professor of chemical & environmental engineering and co-senior author of the study. “I want to know now, before I develop that product.”To that end, the researchers have developed a database that serves as a screening tool for environmentally sustainable material selection. It’s a chart that lists nanomaterials and assesses each for properties such as size, shape, and such performance characteristics as toxicity and antimicrobial activity. Mark Falinski, a PhD student and lead author of the study, said this information would allow researchers to weigh the different effects of the material before actually developing it. “For instance, if I want to make a good antimicrobial silver nanoparticle and I want it to require the least amount of energy possible to make it, I could look at this materials selection strategy,” he said. The database is also designed to allow researchers to enter their data and make the chart more robust. The researchers say the project is a call to action to both environmental and materials researchers to develop the data needed to aid sustainable design choices. “While materials selection is a well-established process, this framework offers two important contributions relevant to designing tomorrow’s products,” said Leanne Gilbertson, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering. “It includes engineered nanomaterials alongside conventional alternatives, as well as providing human health and environmental metrics for all materials.” Desiree Plata, John J. Lee Assistant Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and co-senior author, said they want to give engineers the means to avoid unintended consequences when creating materials. “I think engineers of all categories are hungry for this type of information,” she said. “They want to build materials that solve major crises of our time, like access to food and water and sustainable energy. The problem is they have no way to assess that sustainability in a quick and easy fashion. The article published today seeks to overcome that challenge and pave the way for sustainable nanotechnologies.”The study’s authors also include Shauhrat S. Chopra and Thomas L. Theis of the University of Illinois at Chicago. ### Yale University news release; reposted with permission. "A framework for sustainable nanomaterial selection and design based on performance, hazard, and economic considerations." doi:10.1038/s41565-018-0120-4
William Weir, Yale University
Apr
25
2018

2018 Commencement Feature: David Matelan, Veteran and Snyder Scholar

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

Reposted with permission from Pittwire. David Matelan was always building things. As an 8-year-old boy, he and his cousin found a load of bricks and built a small house in the backyard of his grandparents’ home in Pittsburgh’s Swissvale neighborhood. He helped his cousin build their own version of a Demon Drop — a free fall amusement park ride — from the top of a backyard swing. “We tested it out on his younger brother,” Matelan said. His journey to Pitt came by way of the U.S. Marines. Matelan knew by ninth grade he wanted to be part of the Band of Brothers. He spent summers installing carpet with his uncle, who had been a machinist in the Marine Corps, and whose stories were enticing. “If you’re going to join, you may as well join the best,” Matelan said. He left immediately after graduation from Gateway High School for recruit training in Parris Island, South Carolina. Now, decades after his childhood building forays, Matelan graduates from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, with hopes of working on a structural transportation project someday. Roads and subway systems interest him the most. Matelan’s five years in the military were an exciting whirlwind of being on a security guard detail for world leaders and other VIPs who would visit embassies throughout Europe and Asia. He and the other Marines in the detachment assisted the Secret Service with security sweeps before and after visits and provided 24-hour protection of the sites. His adventures included guarding the likes of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton twice in China and once in Croatia; President Jimmy Carter and his wife in China; and President Barack Obama and his wife in Ireland, with additional assignments in Japan. “I've seen more countries than U.S. states,” said Matelan. In fact, the young Marine was on duty in May 2011 inside the U.S. Embassy in Dublin when one of President Obama’s heavily-armored touring limousines “bottomed out” on the uphill exit ramp with a loud clang and actually got stuck for a while. “We heard the noise from inside but had no idea what had happened at the time,” said Matelan. The limo was carrying Secret Service staff and personnel. The Obamas were in the limo behind the stuck car. After the incident, the Secret Service released a statement that said the limo’s occupants switched to other vehicles and the entire motorcade exited the premises via another driveway. The stranded limo was freed by technicians after about 15 minutes. By late 2013, Matelan’s tours were over, and he returned to the United States and applied to a number of universities. Pitt was the first one to respond, so he enrolled the following January in the College of General Studies. As a sophomore, he transitioned into the Swanson School of Engineering. That’s when he heard from Pitt’s Office of Veterans Services that he had been nominated for and won the Lester C. Snyder, Jr. Scholarship in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, which is given to engineering students with a history of military service. The honor is named for Snyder, Jr. (ENGR ’55) who earned his civil engineering degree after twice having his studies interrupted to serve in World War II and the Korean War. His son, Les Snyder III, also earned a civil engineering degree (ENGR ’79) and decided in 2007 to establish a scholarship to honor his father’s “persistence in getting through the military, and then finishing in civil engineering, and then going on and having a very successful career.” Nonetheless, Matelan found the transition from a global career at U.S. embassies to sitting in a classroom a little tough. “Everything in the Marines came easy to me,” he said. “In college, I went from having all the answers to having all the questions.” But he persevered and was successful, which came as no surprise to Master Sergeant Chris Hoenig, who supervised Matelan in Croatia. “David is self-driven and takes the initiative to improve upon things in his scope of work to make them run smoothly,” he said. Matelan interned at Infrastructure and Industrial Constructors USA, a company owned, coincidentally, by Les Snyder III. The boy who built makeshift thrill rides was now working on the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s $53.7 million Interstate 70 New Stanton Interchange Project. He oversaw the ordering of permeable concrete pavers for several sediment basins — temporary ponds built on construction sites to capture eroded soil. He also performed quantity and production rate calculations. “The real-world knowledge on that team was invaluable,” he said. Now there’s been a job offer from the company, which Matelan is considering. With his education in leadership, focus and time management as a Marine, coupled with his Pitt schooling, he has the tools for a smooth transition. ###
Sharon S. Blake, University Communications
Apr
24
2018

Mining the Data

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (April 24, 2018) … Although Pennsylvania’s vast coal resources have been mined since before the creation of the United States, protection of the environment from the effects of mining have slowly evolved and expanded since the Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act of 1945. Act 54 of 1994 amended the Commonwealth’s mining statutes to include a new set of repair and compensation provisions for structures and water supplies impacted by underground mining. Under the Act 54 amendments, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is required to assess the implementation of the new repair and compensation provisions every five years.  Since 2009 the University of Pittsburgh has helped to mine the data that shapes how the Commonwealth conducts this assessment and responds to the concerns of individuals and industry.Funded by DEP and the U.S. Department of the Interior, an interdisciplinary team of researchers led by the University of Pittsburgh has begun the fifth report on “The Effects of Subsidence Resulting from Underground Bituminous Coal Mining on Surface Structures and Features and on Water Resources: Fifth Act 54 Five-year Report.” The $794,205 contract includes a comprehensive review of the built and natural environments impacted by long- wall, room-and-pillar, and retreat mining methods from August 21, 2013 – August 20, 2018. Principal investigator for the fifth report is Daniel Bain, assistant professor of geography and environmental engineering at Pitt and Faculty Fellow in Sustainability, and co-PI is Anthony Iannacchione, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. Investigators from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History are Stephen Tonsor, director of science and research, as well as John Wenzel, director of the museum’s Powdermill Nature Center, and Powdermill’s aquatic entomologist Andrea Kautz. “This project is an ideal wedding of the expertise in two schools at Pitt and Carnegie Museum of Natural History, providing vital information to the citizens of the Commonwealth,” Dr. Tonsor said. “The project also trains students in working with government and business, applying scientific knowledge to improve management of this economically and environmentally impactful industry.” “Thanks to this regular review, the DEP has adjusted assessment focus to evolve from basic structures to water, then streams, then wetlands, taking a deeper look at the watershed as a whole,” Dr. Bain said. “The challenge is collecting sometimes limited data from various resources, as well as new types of data such as the interaction between groundwater and streams. This process is an evolving territory for everyone involved, from the Commonwealth and mining companies to public interest groups and NGOs, but it is vital research that has a tremendous impact on environmental remediation and restoration.”The fifth report, due August 20, 2019, will include sections on impacts to structures, water supplies, groundwater, streams, wetlands, and a list of recommendations presented to the Governor, General Assembly and Citizens Advisory Council, as well as through public hearings in Harrisburg and California, Pa. “For this study we’re a combination of auditors and researchers,” Dr. Iannacchione explained. “But since the first assessment was completed in 1999, the process has not only given industry, government and non-government organizations a greater look at the impact of underground mining, but how the Commonwealth can better identify and address problems, and improve the DEP process as a whole.” ### Subsidence can sometime result in planned ponding of streams. The permit process requires that these events be identified prior to mining and that interventions be developed to mitigate the ponding events. For example, the ponding of water in the field was mitigated by draining the water, followed by re-grading. After these mitigation efforts, the field is returned to its pre-mining condition. As part of the DEP research, Pitt biology faculty and students conduct field work to determine the total biological scores (TBS) of undermined streams, evaluating conditions including stream flow and species recovery. Approximately eight hours of laboratory work to identify the genus and species of life forms is needed for every one hour of field work.

Apr
24
2018

CEE’s Melissa Bilec Wins Faculty Diversity Award

Civil & Environmental, Diversity

PITTSBURGH (April 24, 2018) … US Steel Dean of Engineering Gerald Holder announced Melissa Bilec, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and deputy director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, is the recipient of the 2017-18 Swanson School of Engineering Faculty Diversity Award. “[Melissa’s] continued accomplishments are extremely important in helping us reach our diversity goals and national prominence in this area,” wrote Gerald Holder, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering, in the award letter. He added that Dr. Bilec was chosen to receive the award for creating a positive and inclusive academic environment, participation in diversity related initiatives, and diversity enrichment within the community.The Faculty Diversity Award Committee specifically cited Dr. Bilec’s achievements as: Commitment to community engagement and building relationships with underserved communities where engineering skills and student projects can better the lives of others; leadership and mentorship for women in STEM, as co-advisor of PittSWE, the Society of Women Engineers, and by incorporating strategic plans to support diversity efforts in goals as part of the ELATE program; recognized excellence in mentorship, at the graduate and postdoctoral levels, including the 2016 Outstanding Mentor Award from the University of Pittsburgh Postdoctoral Association; and service to the Swanson School in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students through campus visits and conference participation. “I am committed to diversity and inclusion efforts both professionally and personally,” said Dr. Bilec. “I’m honored to be recognized for my particular role in our shared mission to respect and empower members of the Swanson School, the surrounding community, and beyond.”The award committee included Swanson School faculty members Dr. Jeffrey Vipperman, Dr. Judith Yang, Dr. David Sanchez, Dr. Steven Abramowitch, and Dr. Robert Parker, who served as the committee’s chair. Dean Holder presented the award to Dr. Bilec at the March 14 faculty meeting.The Office of Diversity encourages each department within the Swanson School to nominate a faculty member who shows commitment to diversity through service, teaching, and research. In addition to the award, Dr. Bilec received a $2,000 grant and induction into the Office of Diversity’s Champions for Diversity Honor Roll. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Apr
6
2018

Eleven Pitt Students Awarded 2018 National Science Foundation Fellowships

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Student Profiles

University of Pittsburgh News Release PITTSBURGH – Eleven University of Pittsburgh students and four alumni were awarded the 2018 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Eleven Pitt students and four alumni also received honorable mentions. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program is designed to ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce in the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees. Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 as well as a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for tuition and fees. The fellowship program has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers. The support accorded NSF Graduate Research Fellows nurtures their ambition to become lifelong leaders who contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching. Among this year's Pitt cohort, eight undergraduate and graduate students were awarded fellowships, joined by two Swanson School alumni now in graduate school. Four undergraduate and graduate students and one alumnus received honorable mentions. Mary Besterfield-Sacre, the Swanson School’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, attributed this year's increase in winners from engineering to a strategically focused mentor-mentee program. “The program diversity among this year’s Swanson School NSF fellows is thanks in great part to Bioengineering Professor Pat Loughlin for working with each department to identify strong candidates and faculty mentors to help them build winning portfolios,” Dr. Besterfield-Sacre said. “The NSF Graduate Research Program is incredibly competitive and we’re especially proud that undergraduates make up half of our fellows.” Current Pitt students who were awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship are seniors from: - Swanson School of Engineering: Abraham Charles Cullom (civil and environmental engineering), Vani Hiremath Sundaram (mechanical engineering and material science), Adam Lewis Smoulder (bioengineering) and Henry Phalen (bioengineering); and graduate students Megan Routzong (bioengineering), Monica Fei Liu (bioengineering), Angelica Janina Herrera (bioengineering) and Sarah Hemler (bioengineering). - Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences: Graduate students Brett Baribault Bankson (psychology), Stefanie Lee Sequeira (psychology) and Alaina Nicole McDonnell (chemistry). Current Pitt students who received honorable mentions are from: - Swanson School of Engineering: seniors Anthony Joseph O’Brian (chemical and petroleum engineering), Anthony Louis Mercader (mechanical engineering and material science), Zachary Smith (electrical and computer engineering); and graduate student Maria Kathleen Jantz (bioengineering). - Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences: graduate students Amy Ryan (chemistry), Kathryn Mae Rothenhoefer (neuroscience), Andrea Marie Fetters (biological sciences), Mariah Denhart, (biological sciences), Timothy Stephen Coleman (statistics), Hope Elizabeth Anne Brooks (biological sciences), Mary Elizabeth Rouse Braza (geology and environmental science). Alumni who were awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship include Thomas Robert Werkmeister (engineering science) and Luke Drnach (bioengineering) from the Swanson School, and Julianne Griffith (psychology and sociology) and Aleza Wallace (psychology) from the Dietrich School. Alumni who received honorable mentions include Corey Williams (bioengineering) from the Swanson School, Sarah Elise Post (biological sciences), Hannah Katherine Dollish (neuroscience and Slavik studies) and Krista Bullard (chemistry), the latter three from the Dietrich School. Visit https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/grfp/Login.do for a full list of fellows and honorable mentions and to learn more about the Graduate Research Fellowship Program. # # #
Amerigo Allegretto, University Communications
Apr
4
2018

Swanson School’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Presents Victor Bertolina with 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award

All SSoE News, Civil & Environmental, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

PITTSBURGH (April 4, 2018) … This year’s Distinguished Alumni from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have worked with lesson plans and strategic plans, cosmetics and the cosmos, brains and barrels and bridges. It’s a diverse group, but each honoree shares two things in common on their long lists of accomplishments: outstanding achievement in their fields, and of course, graduation from the University of Pittsburgh. This year’s recipient for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is Victor Bertolina, BSCE ’71, President of SAI Consulting Engineers, Inc. The six individuals representing each of the Swanson School’s departments and one overall honoree representing the entire school gathered at the 54th annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet at the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall to accept their awards. Gerald D. Holder, US Steel Dean of Engineering, led the banquet for the final time before his return to the faculty this fall. “After graduating from Pitt in 1971 and earning his commission in the United States Army, Vic worked at the West Virginia Department of Highways and later PennDOT and the city of Pittsburgh as a Bridge Engineer,” said Dean Holder. “This was the springboard to his now 40-plus year career at SAI Consulting Engineers. We applaud Vic for his accomplishments in the field of engineering, and for helping to build bridges that connect us.” About Victor Bertolina Victor Bertolina graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering in 1971 and then received a commission in 1971 in the United States Army as a Second Lieutenant. He worked for the West Virginia Department of Highways as a Civil Engineer Trainee from January to June 1972 before entering Officer Basic Training at Ft. Benning, Ga. In September 1972 he was hired by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and performed a variety of duties including bridge inspection, bridge design, and review of construction documents and inspection reports. Mr. Bertolina left PennDOT in March 1978 to serve as a bridge engineer for the City of Pittsburgh Department of Engineering and Construction. In 1977 Mr. Bertolina registered as a professional engineer in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and subsequently as a P.E. in West Virginia, South Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, and Kansas. He joined SAI Consulting Engineers, Inc. in June 1979 as a project engineer in the structure department performing bridge inspections, bridge analysis, and bridge design before becoming manager of SAI’s Structure Department. Mr. Bertolina later served SAI as Vice President, Engineering and today as President where he is responsible for the management of all functions and personnel engaged in structure design, highway design, construction inspection, in-depth bridge inspection, and structural analysis. Mr. Bertolina has been involved with several notable bridge projects in the Pittsburgh region, including the Liberty Bridge, Fleming Park Bridge, Clairton-Glassport Bridge, Wabash HOV Bridge, and the rehabilitation of the 6th, 7th, and 9th Street Bridges.During his military career he was a member of the United States Army Reserve 420th Combat Engineers, rose to rank of Captain, and held the position of Company Executive Officer. Mr. Bertolina has been a member of the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania’s International Bridge Conference Committee for more than 25 years. His community involvement includes being a long-term member of the Swanson School’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Visiting Committee, and a past parish council member and Sunday School Teacher at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. He lives in Squirrel Hill with Harriet, his wife of 45 years. ###

Apr
3
2018

Building a Reputation: Pitt ASCE Student Chapter Wins Third Distinguished Chapter Award in Three Years

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (April 3, 2018) … Civil and environmental engineering students from the University of Pittsburgh Student Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) have sustained their reputation for another year as the most outstanding chapter in Region 2 of the professional society. The chapter has won the award for the past three years.“Not only did the club do an excellent job of enhancing civil engineering students’ experiences at Pitt, but they also grew by about 20 percent, furthering their impact now more than ever,” says Anthony Iannacchione, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and faculty advisor to the student chapter.The Pitt ASCE student chapter contains about 170 members from the undergraduate civil and environmental engineering program at Pitt. They interact regularly with other student and professional chapters from ASCE Region 2, which includes Washington, DC, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and parts of northern Virginia. Judges select the regional winner of the Distinguished Chapter Award based primarily on activities recorded in the Student Chapter’s Annual Report.“Of all the challenges and obstacles we overcame this year, the greatest was the student-run career fair for civil engineering undergraduates,” says Chaz Donnelly, 2017-18 president of Pitt ASCE. “We brought representatives from 22 civil engineering companies to the campus so students could meet them and learn about internships and employment opportunities.”In 2017, the Pitt chapter also hosted the Region 2 student assembly, which included seven universities, five speakers, and a “Bridges of Pittsburgh” Dinner Cruise. The boat tour featured Pitt Professor John Oyler explaining the history of the surrounding bridges as the boat traveled under them along the city’s three rivers.The chapter members logged an impressive amount of hours doing volunteer work throughout the year on projects such as making holiday cards to send to hospitals throughout the region, the Toys for Tots charity toy drive, and joining more than 3,000 Pitt students to volunteer throughout Pittsburgh during Pitt Make a Difference Day. At the Middle School Engineering Day, members showed local middle school students how to build balsa wood bridges and demonstrated how forces work. They also had a newspaper tower competition and brought samples of concrete and steel to provide students with a hands-on way of learning about different kinds of building materials.Last year, the chapter also received awards for their performance at the Ohio Valley Student Conference hosted by Ohio State University. The competition brought together civil engineering students from 13 universities throughout Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Pitt ASCE won first place overall in the surveying and environmental review paper categories.For more information about Pitt ASCE, visit: http://pittasce.weebly.com/ ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Mar

Mar
22
2018

The New Standards of Sustainability

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (March 22, 2018) … In 1948, Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Müller received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering the insecticide properties of organochlorine dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, or DDT. Many heralded it as a “miracle chemical” capable of protecting people from disease-carrying insects. Twenty-four years later, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, established by President Richard Nixon, banned DDT for threatening the environment, especially birds of prey, and human health.“DDT is interesting because it effectively eradicated serious diseases like typhus and malaria but was banned after later realizing its adverse impacts,” says Leanne Gilbertson, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “There are many examples of new technologies that aren’t so ‘green’ when you consider the entire product life cycle such as compact fluorescent lights that rely on toxic mercury for energy-efficiency gains, solar panels made with finite and rare metals, or electric cars charged by electricity generated from coal.”At the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Gilbertson’s research group takes a “systems approach” to new technologies to determine their impact on the environment from production to disposal. Last December, her research team published a review (DOI: 10.1039/c7en00766c) in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Environmental Science: Nano featuring some of the ways nanotechnology might enhance agriculture sustainability, so long as designers and developers of these innovative solutions see the forest for the trees.“In sustainable engineering, our goal is to consider lasting effects when designing new technologies rather than narrowly focusing on the intended benefit,” says Dr. Gilbertson. “In agriculture, the potential exposure to new materials will almost always be high, so focusing design on reducing the inherent hazard, for example, would have a big impact.”The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization predicts a 34 percent increase in world population and about a 70 percent required increase in food production by 2050. The increased demand for food will affect the entire supply chain including farmers, manufacturers, processors, suppliers, retailers, and consumers. Each individual stakeholder only provides a snapshot of new technology’s impact on the environment, but taking a systems approach forces you to account for the full picture.“A cost-benefit analysis is a common approach to quantify the usefulness of a new technology. Sustainable engineers evaluate new technologies similarly except we don’t only use dollars. We include other metrics like energy consumption or emissions to the environment. Accounting for all the various stakeholders, including their incentives and tradeoffs, allows us to define a design space where there’s a benefit to using emerging technologies,” says Dr. Gilbertson.Another paper (DOI: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.7b03600) recently published by Dr. Gilbertson and her team appears in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering and shows how a sustainability metric called “atom conversion efficiency” could accurately depict the environmental impact of chemical fertilizers. Nitrogen, for example, is a potent fertilizer. It can contaminate drinking water, deplete oxygen supplies in bodies of water, and create massive dead zones in water bodies like the Gulf of Mexico.“Nitrogen is a primary macronutrient in fertilizers, but only about 50 percent actually reaches the crop, meaning the other half is released to the environment. Nanotechnology could be used to increase the amount of nutrient that reaches the crop, simultaneously decreasing the adverse impacts on the environment,” explains Dr. Gilbertson.Using corn as the model crop, Dr. Gilbertson’s paper outlines how atom conversion efficiency tracks nitrogen through its entire agricultural life-cycle, from raw form to how much nitrogen ends up in a corn kernel. Keeping nitrogen on the farm protects the environment and reduces embedded energy loss—or the massive amounts of energy consumed during the production of fertilizer. “Atom conversion efficiency identifies the greatest inefficiencies in a fertilizer system, and thus, scientists and engineers can use it to inform technology development to improve these particular areas of impact,” says Dr. Gilbertson. “Nanotechnology has the potential to revolutionize farming with nano-enabled fertilizers, crop growth regulators, pesticides, packaging materials, and sensors to monitor plant vitals. However, it’s important to take a systems approach to determine which new technologies will have the most desirable impact on the environment before they leave the lab.”If the only metric is controlling disease-carrying insect populations, then DDT is a “miracle chemical.” That designation quickly disappears when considering the entire life-cycle, including DDT’s adverse environmental impacts and potential to cause cancer in humans. Unfortunately, it had already been in use for three decades before the EPA banned it. Dr. Gilbertson is trying to make sure those same mistakes aren’t repeated in nano-agriculture. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Mar
19
2018

Engineering Students Help to Improve Infrastructure in Panamanian Village

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

News Release from Pittwire Most Americans expect rooms to brighten with the flick of a switch and clean water to be available at the turn of a faucet, almost without a thought.However, many communities worldwide view these as more than simple amenities; to them, they are nearly impossible to obtain.That’s where innovative engineering comes into play — with the help of University of Pittsburgh students. The Pitt Humanities, Engineering and Design Club — or Pitt HEAD Club for short — is planning a June return to their work with the Emberá, an indigenous community in Panama’s Chagres National Park, where such amenities are scarce to nonexistent.In October 2017, the team installed about 30 solar panels for the community of 80 people, which will power a freezer to store the community’s freshly caught fish. In addition, new shower heads were installed in some homes to increase water pressure, and a pedestrian bridge was built for easier travel for the monthly journey by community members to the village’s water storage facility. “The project was a true engineering challenge and provided a great learning opportunity for all the students,” said Daniel Budny, associate professor of environmental engineering and the club’s academic adviser.Budny accompanied the six-student team in October to help with building the amenities, something he has been doing since the club’s inception in 2012.“Without him (Budny), nothing would have gotten done,” said team member and senior civil engineering student Nicholas McGinley. “He really pushed us to be successful and was blunt. He said we would have to get down there and we would have to improvise upon what we planned.”The club has been visiting Panama and other locations each semester for the past five years, helping to improve people's lives of people living by designing and installing such amenities as water storage tanks, water lines, community centers and garbage storage facilities, among others. Pitt HEAD Club members (from left to right) Nicholas McGinley, Stephen Anderjack and Robert Kountz work to construct a pedestrian bridge for the Emberá community members to more easily reach their water storage facility. The Team had to work in difficult terrain in the jungles of Chagres National Park, along with sweltering heat and limited technology. The recent mission to the Emberá was the team’s most arduous. The students had to navigate the Chagres River by canoe about 20 minutes round trip each day to reach the community. Along with that, the team didn't have cell phone or wifi access and worked in temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s with high humidity.While language barrier issues were also present, a translator was brought with the team to help communicate with the Emberá villagers.“I had never been in a rainforest before this, but you’re just sliding around on mud and you have a 50-pound bag of sand or a 25-foot beam on your shoulder,” said Robbie Kountz, a team member and senior civil and environmental engineering student. “Nothing really too dangerous though. And the people were amazing and happy to see all this coming together.”Along with that, two of the team’s larger solar panels were damaged during shipping. They had to be replaced as a result, but that did not deter the team from completing its mission. Within a few hours of the chest freezer installation, Emberá community members began storing that day’s fresh catch of corvina, a highly prized fish. About 30 solar panels were installed for the Emberá community during the Pitt HEAD Club's mission in October 2017. The panels collected energy from the sun to power the community's technology, including a freezer that stores freshly caught fish. “It’s really on-the-fly thinking at all times,” said Kountz. “You just can’t stop in your tracks. You have to keep improvising your plans.”While the Pitt HEAD Club funds its own missions and receives some support from local supply companies, it received help this year through a donation from John Swanson, the Swanson School’s namesake.“It was definitely great to know that the guy who this school is named after is a big supporter of what we do,” said McGinley. “It meant a lot.” About 30 bags were packed with batteries and tools needed to complete the mission. The solar panels and the mounts used to place them were designed by mechanical engineering students who did not fly down with the team. Pitt HEAD Club member Jon Abbey measures a support beam while working on a cover for the solar-powered freezer for fish storage. For their return to the village in June, the team members are working on getting more funding for a filtration system to improve the water quality, based on samples taken during this mission.Budny said while the mission serves to improve people’s lives in other parts of the world, it also serves to teach the students and others that engineering and other sciences can solve issues outside the lab.“Our work in many cases solves a lot of issues,” he said. “It shows students the humanitarian and social impact that engineering has on society.”The missions also give students a cultural experience. For some, this was their first time visiting Panama.“It was interesting seeing the different ways people lived,” said team member and senior civil engineering student Stephen Anderjack, one such first-time visitor. “It was really hot and humid, but it was a lot of fun.” ###

Mar
12
2018

Two Pitt Teams Finish in Top Three for Second Consecutive Year at Estimating Competition

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (March 12, 2018) … Two teams from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering finished in second and third at the 2018 Student Estimating Competition presented by the Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania (CAWP).“Last year our students came in first and third place at the inaugural competition, and they made a very competitive showing again this year,” said John T. Sebastian, professor of civil and environmental engineering. “Both performances speak to the caliber of our civil engineering students, and I expect to see our students continue to achieve at the top against their peers.”Nine teams participated in the competition including students from Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, University of Pittsburgh Johnstown, Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania State University, and Pennsylvania State University Harrisburg.  As part of the competition, students received pre-job documents and attended a pre-bid meeting for a heavy-highway construction project. The teams spent the first day preparing bids and schedules. On the second day, they had 30 minutes to present their work and an explanation of how they arrived at their final bid to a panel of judges.The judges were employees from Mosites Construction Company; Swank Construction Company; Michael Facchiano Contracting, Inc.; Plum Contracting, Inc.; The Lane Construction Corporation; Brayman Construction Corporation; and Joseph B. Fay Co. Benedum Builders, the second place team, included Pitt students (left to right): Sam Byrns, Michael Donato, Mason Unger, Katey Paraskiewicz, and Hanna Rugh. Panther Estimators, the third place team, included Pitt students (left to right): Alexa Silverman, Benjamin Kottler, Matthew Lane, Nathan Irwin, and Dominic Matarazzo. Benedum Builders received $1,000 for finishing in second place. A team from the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown took the top spot. The Trumbull Corporation provided a job for the students to bid on, and Bill Woodford, retired Chief Estimator from Trumbull Corp., developed the structure of the competition. ### Photo credit: Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania (CAWP)
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Mar
1
2018

CEE Undergraduate Chaz Donnelly Wins American Bridge Leadership Award

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (March 1, 2018) … The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Pittsburgh Section presented Charles (Chaz) Donnelly, a senior civil engineering student at Pitt, the 2017-18 American Bridge Leadership Award. Donnelly was recognized for his impact on the Pittsburgh Section as well as his demonstrated leadership qualities in the civil engineering profession.“This is a highly competitive award open to all civil engineering students in the area covered by the Pittsburgh Section. Chaz is currently the president of our ASCE Student Chapter and, by all accounts, has been an outstanding leader,” said Anthony Iannacchione, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and faculty advisor to ASCE Student Chapter. Dr. Iannacchione wrote Donnelly’s letter of nomination.As president of the Pitt ASCE student chapter, Donnelly has led the approximately 170 students since fall 2017. During this time, he expanded the chapter’s fundraising efforts and led the organization of the University of Pittsburgh’s Region 2 Assembly for ASCE members throughout Washington, D.C., parts of northern Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. The assembly – which took place on November 4, 2017 – provided professional development opportunities and featured presentations on current engineering design practices from students, professors, and practitioners.ASCE has recognized the Pitt ASCE student chapter as a Ridgeway Finalist in both 2016 and 2017. There are approximately 350 ASCE student chapters nationwide, and only five chapters receive this recognition. In 2017, Pitt also received the ASCE Region 2 Distinguished Chapter Award.Donnelly is scheduled to graduate in December 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a concentration in geotechnical engineering. In addition to his coursework, he has had three co-op rotations with Massaro Construction Group. During this time, Donnelly managed subcontractor meetings, conducted follow-up meetings and assessments, developed and reviewed schedules, and resolved conflicts that arose from working with multiple contractors and stakeholders. In addition to his ASCE leadership, Donnelly is Vice President of the Pitt Space Ex/Astronomy Club. He has previously served as business manager for the American Society of Highway Engineers student chapter and membership chair, steel bridge captain, and technical paper captain for the Ohio Valley Student Conference. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Feb

Feb
7
2018

Master Builders’ Association Awards $15,000 to Pitt Civil Engineering Students

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (February 7, 2018) … The Master Builders’ Association of Western Pennsylvania, Inc. (MBA) and the Construction Advancement Program (CAP) honored three University of Pittsburgh students with $15,000 in scholarships at the MBA’s Annual Membership Reception. All three students belonged to the Swanson School’s undergraduate Civil Engineering Program and focus on Construction Management.The top prize of $10,000 went to Alexander Citerone, and second place went to Nicole Bell and Kate Lundy, who were in a statistical tie and split awards of $2,500 at the annual banquet on January 19 at the Duquesne Club in downtown Pittsburgh.“Construction Management encompasses a broad skill set capable of meeting modern challenges in building, and rebuilding, public and private infrastructure,” said John T. Sebastian, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt. “These are some of the most remarkable students at the University, and we’re grateful for the MBA’s and CAP’s investment in their success.”Mr. Sebastian joined Pitt in 2015 as the inaugural McKamish Construction Management Director. In addition to developing an undergraduate concentration in Construction Management, the Directorship established the MS in Civil Engineering with a Construction Management Focus at Pitt, which emphasizes managerial decision-making in an engineering context. The MBA and CAP have awarded nearly $180,000 in annual scholarships to Pitt students since 1998. The scholarship program began through a collaboration between CAP and Pitt Engineering that identified Construction Management as a critical area of focus to improve the skills and marketability of Pitt graduates as well as the quality of engineers entering the workforce after graduation.About CAPThe Construction Advancement Program is a service organization established in 1961 via the collective bargaining agreements between the MBA and the various building trade unions. The primary function of CAP is to provide services benefiting all persons, management, and labor alike, who earn their living in union construction.About the MBASince 1886, MBA contractors have set the standard in Western PA for construction excellence by investing in a skilled workforce, implementing award-winning safety programs, and offering the best management expertise. For more information on the MBA, please call 412-922-3912 or visit www.mbawpa.org. ### Above image: Alexander Citerone (left) and Kate Lundy (right) at the Master Builders' Association Annual Membership Reception
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Feb
7
2018

Growing a more sustainable banana

Civil & Environmental

Read the full article at NPR. ...Disease threatens the Cavendish banana, too. A similar fungal strain to Panama disease, called Tropical Race 4, has decimated banana crops in recent years. So conventional banana cultivation relies on a mix of fungicides, herbicides and nematocides, says Carla Ng, an environmental engineer at the University of Pittsburgh who has studied pesticide runoff from banana farms. Ng says that the levels of pesticides that wind up in your banana are regulated to be within a safe range for consumption. But her research has found that pesticides sprayed on conventional banana crops can put surrounding ecosystems at risk. "Even when the fruit are perfectly well below [pesticide limits for humans], you can still reach peak concentrations in the environment that are above critical toxic thresholds," Ng says. She says pesticide runoff from bananas can wind up concentrating in waterways, threatening fish and other water dwellers.

Feb
5
2018

Data-driven dialogue

Civil & Environmental

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (February 5, 2018) ... It’s been a decade since the start of the Marcellus Shale gas boom in Pennsylvania, and today more than 10,000 unconventional gas wells dot the state’s hills and valleys. The industry’s rapid development created economic opportunities for many, but also brought environmental concerns, and sometimes led to contentious conversations. A team of researchers studying water quality around hydraulic fracturing, the process used to extract gas from rock deep underground, have found a blueprint to move those conversations forward. Shale Network for the past six years has fostered a dialogue about shale drilling between concerned citizens, watershed groups, government regulators and personnel from large energy companies by focusing on publicly available water quality data. An annual workshop hosted at the Penn State’s University Park campus gives people a chance to come together, learn about the latest water quality research and data, and talk about ways to move forward together. “I don’t believe that anyone else was able to bring such a diverse group of people together to discuss this extremely complex problem from their unique perspectives, with a common goal to jointly advance the understanding of this problem and rationally discuss possible ways forward,” noted Radisav Vidic, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh and a Shale Network member. A shared interest in gathering, discussing and improving water quality data among diverse groups can lead to productive conversations that data alone cannot address, the scientists reported in “Engaging over data on fracking and water quality,” published in the journal Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.aan6520). “We’ve been trying to figure out how to pull people together and look at numbers to understand impacts,” said Susan Brantley, distinguished professor of geosciences and director of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Penn State. “That can lead to better decisions. “That’s really what Shale Network is all about,” said Brantley, who is lead investigator of the group. “We want to help everyone understand what the numbers — in this case water chemistry numbers — mean related to shale gas development.” For the past six years, Shale Network researchers have collected and published water quality data online. Their database contains more than a million pieces of data from 28,000 locations across the state, some never available before. The Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science (CUAHSI) hosts the public database with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). “We have all these data points that are starting to be at our fingertips, and we have computational tools to work with the data,” Brantley said. “Yet, the numbers don’t mean anything unless you are working together. Not just with geologists or geochemists, but people who live in the area the data comes from. You need that collaboration to understand what the numbers mean. Local community members teach us about their landscapes and their needs.” Brantley said people know what is happening in their backyards. Watershed groups near Pittsburgh, for instance, know to look out for discharge from old coalmines, which wouldn’t be a factor in other parts of the state. The database has proven useful, but even more important has been the process of building it, the researchers said in the paper. Collaborations between diverse stakeholders have helped forge a social network with diverse perspectives and concerns. “We may have developed a blueprint for how to engage different stakeholders and develop a commonality of purpose even in something as controversial and complicated as unconventional gas extraction,” Vidic said. “Perhaps this blueprint can be applied for the same problem elsewhere in the world or for other complex problems.” Shale Network researchers act as honest brokers in discussions like those that take place at the group’s annual workshops. “We are not trying to prove fracking is bad,” Brantley said. “We are not trying to prove water quality is perfect. We are trying to look at what the water chemistry looks like in the areas where fracking is occurring and help all kinds of people talk about that together.” Co-authors include Kathryn Brasier, associate professor of rural sociology, Dave Yoxtheimer, EESI research assistant, and Tao Wen, a post-doctoral scholar, all at Penn State; Candie Wilderman, professor emerita at Dickinson College; and Jonathan Pollack, CUAHSI program manager. Founded in 2010 with NSF funding, the Shale Network is a collaborative effort between Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh, Dickinson College and CUAHSI to collect and analyze data on water quality in the Marcellus Shale drilling region. ###
Matt Carroll, Science Writer, Penn State Earth and Environmental Systems Institute

Jan

Jan
31
2018

Pitt “Inventor Labs” Look to Inspire the Next Generation of Green Engineers

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (January 31, 2018) … A new grant awarded to the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering will encourage collaboration between university engineering students and K-12 students across the region. The funding will support the creation of Inventor Labs that strengthen community ties by providing hands-on learning spaces in underserved schools and communities in the region.“Our goal is to engage students from a young age through the time they start applying to colleges by giving them opportunities to interact with science and technology,” says David Sanchez, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental engineering and Assistant Director at the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at Pitt. “This is the third consecutive year Pitt received the award, and it will help us continue to grow the large network of University resources we share with our community neighbors.”The $35,000 grant comes from Constellation, an Exelon company—a provider of power, natural gas, and renewable energy headquartered in Baltimore—as part of its E2 Energy to Educate program. Dr. Sanchez is the director of the Energy to Educate program at Pitt and coordinates University efforts to engage K-12 students, teachers, and communities with concepts in clean energy solutions and sustainability.“The Community Engagement Center and the Manufacturing Assistance Center Makerspace are two existing programs at the University of Pittsburgh we are leveraging in particular to help achieve our goal of strengthening our community presence and creating opportunities for students to learn about energy and sustainable engineering,” Dr. Sanchez says.The heart of the project is student participation and the development of student-made, energy technology prototypes. Through a series of “Design-Build” challenges, students will learn about sustainability issues surrounding electric cars, wind and water turbines, and waste-heat and wastewater.“The Design-Build challenges are based on engineering concepts linked to Pittsburgh themes like self-driving car initiatives and an abundance of dams and rivers,” adds Dr. Sanchez.Dr. Sanchez plans to help a total of 60 student teams this year learn about engineering design, embedded systems, programming, and energy devices. Students will be able to showcase their creations at their schools, enter them in tech competitions, and implement them in their communities.“The students will be building electric cars powered by Lithium-ion batteries, small-scale wind turbines, and solar panels to power water treatment pumps,” says Dr. Sanchez. “The really interesting thing is the students will get feedback on their prototypes from engineers currently working in the energy field.”Last year alone, the award funding helped Pitt directly impact more than 1,500 students from universities, charter schools, middle schools, and outreach programs. The “Teach the Teacher” program, a two-day workshop at the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, indirectly impacted an additional 1,300 students by instructing teachers from the region how to integrate sustainable engineering concepts into their classrooms.The award also supported collaboration with Swanson School student clubs and local pre-college students. Dr. Sanchez participated in The Society of Women Engineers’ “Girls Engineering in Middle School” day and taught them how to build electrical circuits out of clay. He also helped high school and middle school students build wind turbines at The National Society of Black Engineers “A Walk for Education,” their largest service and outreach program. Constellation also served as one of the sponsors for the Design EXPO showcasing more than 90 projects from 400 Pitt engineering students.“In the same way we strive to find sustainable solutions to engineering challenges, we want to use this funding to create a sustainable impact on the community. Enhancing the personal and technical formation of each of these students in the realm of energy and sustainable engineering is not only a joy to be a part of but an opportunity to build long term community equity,” says Dr. Sanchez. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Jan
7
2018

Road to Success

Civil & Environmental

Professor Mark Magalotti comments on how improved vehicle efficiency has impacted infrastructure funding. View the video and transcript here.
Full Measure
Jan
3
2018

CEE's Andy Bunger Collaborates with LSU Faculty in Gulf Research Grant

Civil & Environmental

12-07-17 LSU Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering faculty Wesley Williams and Mileva Radonjic received more than $7.5 million of the total $10.8 million awarded today by the Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to projects that address systemic risk in offshore oil and gas operations.Williams, a professional in residence, received $4,910,000 for his project, “Experiments on Multiphase Flow of Live Muds in a Full-Scale Wellbore With Distributed Sensing for Kick and Gas-in-Riser Detection/Mitigation.” The research is being conducted in cooperation with Texas A&M University and Weatherford.Radonjic, an associate professor, received $2,614,000 for her project, “Mitigating Risks to Hydrocarbon Release Through Integrative Advanced Materials for Wellbore Plugging and Remediation.” The work is being conducted in cooperation with LSU Petroleum Engineering Assistant Professor Ipsita Gupta, Andrew Bunger from the University of Pittsburgh, Raissa Feron from the University of Texas at Austin and Malin Torsater from SINTEF, a research company in Norway. Read the full article here.
Joshua Duplechain, Director of Communications, LSU