October 2016 Newsletter

What’s new in CEE?

Graduate students are the hands, arms, eyes, ears, and legs of CEE when it comes to research and teaching. Accordingly, the goal of the monthly newsletter will be to share information about grad-related matters and also celebrate the achievement of our graduate students; thereby creating a stronger “community of scholars”. If you have professional news  (e.g., papers accepted, thesis/dissertation milestones achieved, or conferences attended, or fellowships received) or noteworthy news (e.g., getting engaged, having a baby), please email it to cee-grad@virginia.edu!

New faculty spotlight — Leidy Klotz

CEE is delighted to welcome several new faculty members, including Professor Leidy Klotz. He holds a joint appointment between CEE and the School of Architecture, and teaches and does research in the area of  sustainable design. Here’s a little more about him, in his own words.

Where are you from, where did you do your undergraduate degree, and in what field(s)?
I grew up in Upstate New York and went to college at Lafayette College in Easton, PA. My graduating class had 13 Civil Engineering students.

Where did you do your graduate degree(s) and who was/were your adviser(s)?
I did my MS degree in Construction Engineering “at” the University of Washington while working on construction projects in New Jersey (the degree was online and I never set foot on campus). My Ph.D. is in Architectural Engineering from Penn State. I studied processes for sustainability, but Architectural Engineering is basically all the engineering that goes into the built environment, and so I had to do circuit diagrams and HVAC calculations on my qualifying exam. I benefited from having two advisors. Dr. Michael Horman mentored me on research and is my inspiration for wearing shorts to work. David Riley helped me with teaching and with figuring out ways to integrate teaching and service with research endeavors. 

What is your research area and what courses will you be teaching?
My research merges design and behavioral science with goals to improve sustainability of the built environment, and to use these insights in education. I also reserve the right to work on other topics I find interesting, which are often brought to me by students. This spring I’ll be teaching a course in Systems, Sustainability, and the Built Environment. This course takes a systems perspective to examine and enhance sustainability in the built environment. Exploration through the systems science lens will occur for various scales (e.g., materials, buildings, cities, and regions) and types of systems (e.g., physical, social, information). This course is designed to serve and encourage collaboration between students from CEE as well as those from the A-School.
When/how did you know you wanted to pursue an academic career? How does it compare to industry?
I didn’t really think about what I wanted to do for my career until my first year in industry when I realized there was no summer break. I figured I was going to be doing my job for a long time, so might as well try to find one I like. My industry job wasn’t bad, but academia is WAY better. Mondays are just as exciting as Saturdays for me, just in a different way. 

What drew you to UVA and/or what are excited about now that you are here?
It was a tough decision to leave Clemson, where I spent the last eight years. I loved the job and life there. Ultimately, the opportunity at UVA was too good to pass up because of the comprehensive quality of the University and desire to work across artificial disciplinary boundaries. These characteristics are especially vital for my scholarship. In just five weeks here, it is clear that this move was the right choice for our family.

What was the best part of graduate school (highlights, experiences, etc)?
Since I came to graduate school from industry, the best part was being in control of my own destiny. I worked when I wanted on topics that I (mostly) wanted to work on. I’m sure I “worked” more hours than when I was in industry, but it was far more enjoyable and rewarding. The second best part was that my commute went from 55 minutes on the New Jersey Turnpike to 10 minutes on bike paths.

What piece of advice do you have for graduate students?
Watch Randy Pausch’s video on time management. Seriously, watch it!

Professor Leidy Klotz — researcher, teacher, and author of “Sustainability through Soccer“!

CEE welcomes infrastructure lab manager

CEE is delighted to welcome a new infrastructure lab manager, Mr. Keegan Gumbs (rhymes with “rooms”). He joined the department in mid-September, and is located in Andrei Ramniceanu’s old office (B229C). His daily hours are approximately 8:30 am to 5 pm, and he encourages graduate student to come by and ask for help or just say hello. The lab managers play an important role in executing the research mission of the department, with special emphasis on helping graduate students get high-quality experimental results safely and efficiently.

Here are a few things to know about Keegan, in his own words: 

I’m originally from Michigan and studied Civil Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and later studied Sport Pedagogy at Baylor University. I’ve been here at UVA for about three and a half years having previously worked as facility manager for Memorial Gymnasium and the Aquatic and Fitness Center. I enjoy playing soccer, DIY projects, and mountain biking. Also, I really like donuts.  I’m known for having candy in my office so please stop by if you need a little sugar rush. I’m very excited to be here and hope to be able to support you all in one way or another!

Mr. Keegan Gumbs

Where in the world was Professor Clarens?

You may know that Professor Andres Clarens took a one-year sabbatical from UVA during 2015-2016, returning early in the summer semester. Per University policy, sabbaticals are “period[s] of time [spent] in concentrated and uninterrupted scholarly work”, that typically involve “developing new areas of research, collaborations with colleagues at other universities or laboratories or in industry, or other scholarly pursuits.” Here’s how he describes what he was doing during his time away from UVA.

Over the past year I had the opportunity to spend a sabbatical year studying the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and climate change. My research group is focused broadly on energy infrastructure and environmental systems so we use a variety of tools to examine the relationship between emerging energy technologies in the subsurface and carbon flows. We do work in two areas: the first explores the physicochemical process that can be used to store carbon; and the second involves systems-level analysis of carbon management in engineered systems. In support of these areas, we spent the fall in the Environmental Hydrogeology group at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and the spring in the Energy Systems Lifecycle Research Institute at the National Technical University of Argentina.

As a visiting faculty member in the Geosciences Faculty at Utrecht University, I worked with the
Prof. S. Majid Hassanizadeh to develop experimental and modeling tools for understanding the underlying physical processes that govern flow through porous media. Professor Hassanizadeh is a leader in this field and leads an EU center on the topic. I worked with his group and mine to build new expertise in pore-network modeling, a technique that Dr. Hassanizadeh helped pioneer, which uses high power computers to divide porous media into ball and stick models that effectively predict multiphase reactive transport. These models can be used to study problems ranging from fuel cells to geothermal energy. Separately, we started a research collaboration to understanding how nano-structures on the surface of pores in permeable media, might affect the flow of different phases of fluids. The morphology of nano-structured surfaces has been explored extensively over the past 5-10 years but the impacts of these textures in geological systems in only now being recognized. By studying these systems in micromodel conditions we have the potential to do pioneering fundamental work that could help others understand these systems. The findings of this work could have implications for a variety of different research problems including: CO2-enhanced oil recovery, shale gas production, and methane hydrate exploration. My visit to Utrecht was made possible by a partnership between the National Science Foundation and the European Research Commission for CAREER awardees.

In the spring, my family and I spent the semester visiting the Technical University of Argentina. Argentina has the largest technically recoverable shale gas resource in the western hemisphere and the second largest in the world. The United States, which has a somewhat smaller reserve, has had its energy landscape completely transformed by the deployment of technologies that enable the extraction of this shale gas. These technologies, known collectively as shale gas fracturing or ‘fracking’ have been very controversial because of their unintended or as yet unknown environmental consequences. I went to Argentina as a US Fulbright Fellow studying the impacts that development of these unconventional fossil fuels could have on the region and on global emissions of CO2. What I found was that development of these resources was going to require a major investment, but more importantly, I also found that Argentina has an enormous potential to install renewable alternatives to natural gas, specifically utility scale solar and wind. Our research then focused on modeling the energy systems in the country such that we could better understand the conditions under which renewable technologies might leapfrog unconventional fossil fuels in developing economies like Argentina.

My whole family came with me to both places. They loved the opportunity to spend a semester cruising through the bike lanes of the Netherlands and exploring nearby towns and the awesome Dutch ‘outdoor museums’. In Argentina, our kids attended school in Spanish every day and we all had the opportunity to eat some delicious food while also hiking and horseback riding in the Andes on the weekends. For my family, and for me professionally, the year abroad was a great opportunity to expanded our horizons and recharged our batteries. Most importantly, it has given us a newfound appreciation for life in Charlottesville and at UVa! 

Professor Andres Clarens and his family while on sabbatical in Argentina during Spring 2016.
In the background is Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Americas.

Social committee hosts Harvest Festival

The graduate student social committee hosted a family-friendly Harvest Festival on Saturday, October 8. Heavy rainfall from Hurricane Matthew wasn’t enough to prevent graduate students, faculty, staff, family and friends from having a fun time — with food, drinks, lawn games, and also pumpkin carving and decorating. Special thanks to graduate student Kassie Grimes, who chaired this event with assistance from Lewis Lloyd, Arun Kumar, and others. This was a wonderful opportunity for CEE personnel to connect and get to know each other.

What’s up [Post]-Doc? – Dr. Farhan Javed

Post-doctoral research associates (“post-docs”) play important roles in the research, teaching, and administrative activities of the department. However, they frequently do not get the recognition they deserve.  Additionally, senior graduate students who are nearing completion of their PhD may have questions about what to do next, how to find positions, etc. Accordingly, this feature will periodically feature CEE post-docs, so that we can learn more about them and their work.

Where are you from, where did you do your undergraduate and graduate studies, and in what fields?
I am originally from Pakistan, where I earned B.E in Civil Engineering at the National University of Sciences and Technology. I pursued a doctoral degree in Transportation Engineering at the National University of Singapore.

Who was your doctoral adviser, when did you graduate, and what was your dissertation topic?
My doctoral adviser was Dr. Fwa (T. F. Fwa), who is currently a Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Director of the Centre for Transportation Research at the National University of Singapore. I graduated in 2011, and the focus of my dissertation was to develop novel infrastructure management strategies to ensure efficient operation of existing infrastructure at an acceptable level of service.

What is your current title, who is your current mentor, and what are you working on? Is this related to your dissertation?
I am a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Virginia, and my mentor is Dr. Chen. Currently, I am addressing infrastructure management goals that aim to steer development and future evolution of the transportation network given economic, social, political, and environmental needs. My research emphasis is on advanced vehicle technologies, ridesharing, infrastructure operational capacity, efficiency, and expansion. However, since research is an evolving process, certain research topics gained more prominence than others over time.

Why did you pursue a post-doc and how did you find your current position?
Postdoctoral research helps one to prepare for future careers as researchers, and I realized that my current position could provide me with an opportunity to diversify my research profile.
What are your future career aspirations and how does your post-doc prepare you to achieve them?
I am seeking a faculty position in the field of Transportation Engineering to share with students my extensive knowledge, analytical skills, and applied research experience to solve contemporary transportation problems. I believe that my postdoctoral research experience makes me well qualified and competitive enough to meet the current and future needs of research programs in academic institutions.

What is your advice for current CEE graduate students?
Grad school is a unique experience that requires years of persistent dedication, however the journey through postgraduate academic degree is ultimately a solitary one. Advisers generally appreciate when students draw up an agenda for meetings, establish goals, and develop a concrete approach in achieving those goals. Graduate students should also use this opportunity to cultivate relationships with individuals, and expand their career network.

Anything you’d like to share about yourself professionally or personally?
I have published more than 30 papers over my professional career, and presented my research concerning Pedestrian Dynamics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). I recently received ASCE Journal of Transportation Engineering Best Paper Award*, and was nominated for Arthur M. Wellington Prize. I am also a recipient of NUS Research Scholarship, which is awarded to outstanding graduate students.

*Editor’s note: full-text of the award-winning paper is available here.