Colonel Jason Kelly discusses US Army Corps of Engineers

Friday, March 31st
Noon, in Thornton Hall D221

Colonel Kelly will discuss the roles and responsibilities of the United States Army Corps of Engineers in relation to national civil works and military construction projects, environmental engineering regulation, national watershed strategies, public/private partnerships, and future industry trends. The second portion will focus specifically on Norfolk District projects and opportunities to work with the Corps.


The Civil Engineering seminar series is open to the University community and region.
This seminar is hosted by Professor Brian Smith.

See EVENTS for seminar details at

David Sedlak, Ph.D.: The Next Urban Water Revolutions: A Path for Avoiding Water Scarcity

Tuesday, March 28th
4PM, in Clark Hall 108

World Water Event for EVSC UG and CEE Environmental Seminar Series

David Sedlak, Ph.D.
Plato Malozemoff Professor and Co-director of Berkeley Water Center
Director of Institute for Environmental Science and Engineering (IESE)
University of California at Berkeley

Over the past 2,500 years, three technological revolutions have made it possible to quench the thirst of cities, control waterborne diseases and eliminate the pollutants that fouled urban waterways.  Water-stressed cities are currently making large investments in new, centralized approaches for obtaining drinking water that can be considered as a fourth urban water revolution.  But this may not be good enough.  Ultimately, challenges associated with climate change, sea-level rise and urbanization may create a need for yet another revolution.  The best approach for responding to these challenges is still unclear, but distributed water treatment technologies, managed natural systems and more holistic urban water management systems all have important roles to play in a fifth urban water revolution.

Professor Sedlak’s research focuses on fate of chemical contaminants, with the long-term goal of developing cost-effective, safe, and sustainable systems to manage water resources. He is particularly interested in the development of local sources of water. His research has addressed water reuse–the practice of using municipal wastewater effluent to sustain aquatic ecosystems and augment drinking water supplies–as well as the treatment and use of urban runoff to contaminated groundwater form contaminated industrial sites as water supplies.

In recent years, his research on the fate of wastewater-derived contaminants has received considerable attention. He began this research in 1996 when he developed simple methods for measuring steroid hormones in wastewater. Since that time, he and his students have studied the fate of hormones, pharmaceuticals, toxic disinfection byproducts and other chemicals. His research team has also studied approaches for remediating contaminated soil and groundwater by in situ chemical oxidation (ISCO) and advanced oxidation processes.

In addition to his laboratory and field research, Sedlak is interested in the developing new approaches for managing the urban water cycle. He is the author of “Water 4.0“, a book that examines the ways in which we can gain insight into current water issues by understanding the history of urban water systems.

For more about Professor Sedlak:

This seminar series is open to the University community and region.
This CEE Environmental Seminar host is Professor Teresa Culver.

See EVENTS for seminar details at or .

Wenqiong Tu: Role of Mechanics and Computation in Support of Automotive Problems

Friday, March 17th
Noon, in Thornton Hall D221

Wenqiong Tu, Ph.D.
FORD Onsite CAE Engineer
Engineering Technology Associates, Inc.

Role of Mechanics and Computation in Support of Automotive Problems

Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) is playing, and will continue to play, an important role in the automobile industry since CAE analysis has been proven to be a realistic way to reduce experiments and accelerate product development cycle. To be a good CAE engineer, in-depth of understanding of mechanics and good computational skills are critically important. I have worked seven months at FORD’s Safety Core Department. The knowledge in mechanics and computation I had gained through my PhD study enables me to solve diverse automotive problems and to further expose myself to more challenging tasks. This, in turn, provides more opportunities for personal and professional development. In this presentation, I will talk about three major assignments I have conducted. The first one is kinematic behavior testing for vehicle suspension system; the second one is full-vehicle analysis based on modular approach, and the third one is process automation of tire positioning via perl language.

Bio Sketch

Wenqiong Tu obtained his PhD in 2016 in Applied Mechanics in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Virginia. Currently, he is a FORD Onsite CAE engineer through Engineering Technology Associates, Inc (ETA) at FORD global core safety department and his major responsibilities are to conduct full-vehicle CAE crash analysis and develop simulation tools. During his PhD study, his research was focused on the study of damage evolution and optimization in heterogeneous materials via cohesive zone-based finite volume micromechanics under the supervision of Professor Marek-Jerzy Pindera. Wenqiong earned his MS degree in Solid Mechanics in 2011 and BS degree in Engineering Mechanics in 2008, both from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China. He also conducted a six-month internship with DS SIMULIA in Minneapolis office during June through November 2015, focused on Abaqus applications. During his PhD study at the University of Virginia Wenqiong had published five archival journal papers and three refereed conference proceedings papers.

The Civil Engineering seminar series is open to the University community and region.
This seminar is hosted by Professor Marek-Jerzy Pindera.

See EVENTS for seminar details at

Fotis Kopsaftopoulos: Towards Future Intelligent Structures and Self-aware Cyber-Physical Systems

Wednesday, March 8th
10:45 – Noon, Rice Hall Room 242

Link Lab Seminar

Fotis Kopsaftopoulos
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Structures and Composites Laboratory
Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Stanford University


Future intelligent mechanical, aerospace and civil structural systems will be able to “feel”, “think”, and “react” in real time based on high-resolution state-sensing, awareness, and self- diagnostic capabilities. They will be able to sense and observe phenomena at unprecedented length and time scales allowing for superior performance, adaptability, resilience, increased safety, optimal control, reduced maintenance costs, and complete life-cycle monitoring and management. Towards this end, current research efforts aim at the development of novel technologies that will lead to the next generation of intelligent self-sensing self-aware structures and cyber-physical systems that can sense the surrounding environment, interpret the sensing information in real time, determine their actual operating state and health condition in complex dynamic environments, and make optimal decisions for control and mitigation in the face of uncertainty.

In an effort to address these goals in a unified way, this talk will present a novel framework for the development of intelligent self-sensing self-diagnostic structural systems inspired by the unprecedented sensing and awareness capabilities of biological systems. This framework incorporates (i) bio-inspired distributed multi-modal micro-sensor networks, (ii) data-driven methods for the global modeling and identification of structural systems under varying operating states and uncertainty, and (iii) integrated state awareness and structural health monitoring (SHM) approaches for inferring the actual operating and structural health state. Prototype intelligent systems with embedded sensing and awareness capabilities will be presented with special emphasis placed on the novel concept of “fly-by-feel” aerial vehicles. Distributed micro-sensors in the form of stretchable sensor networks are used to provide the sensing capabilities, while stochastic system identification, statistical signal processing, machine learning and SHM diagnostic techniques are employed for the accurate interpretation of the sensing data and subsequent determination the operating state and structural health condition. The ultimate goal of this presentation is to provide a concise overview of the main research developments towards the next generation of intelligent self-aware cyber-physical systems that can “feel”, “think”, and “react”.

About the speaker:

Dr. Fotis Kopsaftopoulos is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Structures and Composites Laboratory in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University. He received his Diploma and Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering from University of Patras, Greece, on the topic of stochastic system identification and time series methods for structural health monitoring (SHM). His research background and interests lie within the generic context of cyber-physical systems and span the areas of intelligent structural systems with embedded sensing and awareness capabilities, structural health monitoring (SHM), stochastic identification of dynamical systems, bio-inspired “fly-by-feel” aerial vehicles, and integration of data-based with multi-scale physics-based methods for “smart” data analysis. Dr. Kopsaftopoulos has participated in various national, international and industrially supported research projects (AFOSR, NASA, NSF, ARPA-e, Boeing, Airbus, RUAG Space). He is a member of the Organizing Committee of the International Workshop on Structural Health Monitoring (IWSHM) and serves as an Associate Editor of the Structural Health Monitoring international journal.

For more information, please see this flyer.

The Link Lab seminar series is open to the University community and region.
This seminar is hosted by Professor Cody Fleming.

See EVENTS for seminar details at

Arsalan Heydarian: Lights, building, action: The impact of occupant behavior on building energy consumption

Monday, March 6th
10:45 – Noon, Rice Hall Room 242

Link Lab Seminar

Arsalan Heydarian
Postdoctoral Candidate
Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Southern California (USC)


Reports from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and other energy-related organizations around the world indicate that building energy consumption accounts for up to 30-40% of the total energy consumption in the United States and worldwide. Previous studies have shown that occupant behavior and interactions with building systems can significantly influence the total energy consumption in buildings. However, there exists a large gap in the current scientific approaches to quantitatively identify and model the influence of occupant behavior on the building energy consumption. In order to address this limitation, in my research, I (1) collected occupant-related information through immersive virtual environments (IVEs), (2) identified the factors (e.g., initial lighting setting, personality, control options, etc.) that influence occupant lighting preferences and their interactions with lighting and shading systems, and (3) integrated behavioral models into building performance simulations (BPS) in order to better identify the influence of occupants on the building energy consumption. By having access to occupant information and behavioral models, we can reduce the uncertainties related to building energy consumption and move towards integrating user-centered considerations in the design and operation of the future cyber-physical systems in order to increase their flexibility, adaptability, and resilience.

About the speaker:

Arsalan Heydarian is a Ph.D. candidate in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Southern California (USC). He received his bachelor’s degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Virginia Tech. He also holds two master’s degrees in Construction Engineering and Management and Systems Architecting and Engineering from Virginia Tech and USC, respectively. In his master’s thesis, he introduced a computer vision-based approach for automatically detecting, tracking, and recognizing actions of construction equipment in order to automatically perform productivity analysis of construction operations. In his Ph.D., he focused on investigating how the design and operation of buildings could be improved by centering them around occupant preferences and behaviors while simultaneously reducing the overall energy consumption. Arsalan has published 7 peer-reviewed journal papers and over 10 peer-reviewed conference papers.

For more information, please see this flyer.

The Link Lab seminar series is open to the University community and region.
This seminar is hosted by Professor Jon Goodall.

See EVENTS for seminar details at

Michael Plampin: Multiphase CO2 Attenuation in Shallow Aquifers

Friday, March 3rd
Noon, in Thornton Hall D221

Michael R. Plampin
National Research Program, U.S. Geological Survey
Reston, Virginia

Multiphase CO2 Attenuation in Shallow Aquifers

To assess the risks involved with leakage of stored carbon dioxide (CO2) from deep geologic formations into the shallow subsurface, it is crucial to understand how multiphase CO2 plumes are likely to evolve within shallow aquifers. Intermediate-scale laboratory experiments are ideal for investigating multiphase evolution processes, because they allow for the collection of higher-resolution data under better-controlled conditions than are possible in the field. For this study, a large, effectively two-dimensional, tank was constructed, densely instrumented, and filled with sand and water to mimic a portion of a shallow aquifer with multiple geologic facies. Lateral water flow was induced, water containing dissolved CO2 was injected, and the multiphase evolution of the CO2 plume was monitored through time via saturation, electrical conductivity, and temperature measurements from automated sensors. In addition, aqueous phase samples were collected and analysed for dissolved CO2 concentrations using an ion chromatograph, and water and gas phase outflow measurements were taken using computer-interfaced scales and flow meters, respectively. Two different sand combinations were used in separate experiments to assess the relative effects of different types of heterogeneities on the transport of CO2 through the system. Experimental results were then compared to simulations performed with the Finite Element Heat and Mass Transfer (FEHM) multiphase flow simulation code. After minimal adjustments to the important parameters, the model was able to accurately capture some, but not all, of the CO2 attenuation processes. This indicates that FEHM is potentially useful for predicting CO2 migration through shallow aquifers, but that the assumptions upon which it operates may limit its application.

The Civil Engineering seminar series is open to the University community and region.
This seminar is hosted by Professor Andres Clarens.

See EVENTS for seminar details at


Derya Aksaray: Resilient Autonomy via Formal Methods

Friday, March 3rd
10:45 – Noon, Rice Hall Room 242

Link Lab Seminar

Derya Aksaray
Postdoctoral Associate
Computer Science and
Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, MIT


Autonomous systems are increasingly becoming a part of our daily lives. For example, we envision drones to be used in security, delivery, mapping, and surveying applications, self-driving cars to share the roadways with human-driven vehicles, and service robots to assist humans in houses, hotels, or hospitals. Such autonomous systems are enabled by the recent developments in computing, manufacturing, and networking technologies. However, continuous progress in autonomy faces several challenges. For instance, such systems usually operate in dynamic environments in close proximity to humans or other robotic systems. Accordingly, safety guarantees are required to ensure that catastrophic events do not occur, especially near humans. Furthermore, resilience becomes a critical system property for preventing severe performance loss and recovering performance in the face of uncertainty.

In this talk, I will discuss the use of formal methods in developing resilient autonomy. We will consider dynamical systems, which operate under disturbances and need to satisfy a desired specification (e.g., reachability, safety, persistence). First, I will present how to generate online control policies that guarantee the satisfaction of the desired specification. Then, I will discuss cases where the desired specification is not achievable due to some disturbance. For such cases, I will introduce how to formulate relaxed specifications and propose algorithms for generating control policies that satisfy minimal relaxations. I will then talk about how to use reinforcement learning with formal methods to learn control policies for the robust satisfaction of desired specifications. Finally, I will discuss the application of the proposed methods to other complex systems such as cyber-physical systems and human-robot teams.

About the speaker:

Derya Aksaray is a post-doctoral associate in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT. Before joining MIT, she was a post-doctoral researcher at Boston University. She received her Ph.D. degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2014. She received her M.S. and B.S. degrees in Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Tech in 2011 and from Middle East Technical University, Turkey in 2008, respectively. Her research interests primarily lie in the areas of control theory, formal methods, and machine learning. Recently, her work is mainly focused on achieving safe and resilient operation of autonomous robotic systems.

For more information, please see this flyer.

The Link Lab seminar series is open to the University community and region.
This seminar is hosted by Professor John Lach.

See EVENTS for seminar details at

March 2017 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!

Grad Recruitment Weekend: THANK YOU!

CEE hosted nearly twenty-five diverse, highly-qualified prospective MS and PhD candidates during its Graduate Recruitment and Visitation Weekend, Feb 23-26. We received many compliments about the friendliness, organization, and overall effectiveness of our visit experience. Accordingly, we owe a huge THANKS to everyone who made this possible:

  • To Gail Moruza, Shraddha Prajaraj, and Erin Robartes — for chairing the weekend, including organizing student activities and facilitating the overall visit experience!
  • To current graduate students — for participating in activities on Thurs-Sun, presenting posters on Fri afternoon, and generally making us look good for the visiting prospective students!
  • To Peggy Gibson, Kim Allen, Karen Sleezer, and Pat Gibson — for organizing administrative details related to admissions, travel and accommodations, lunch, and other matters!
  • To Tony Singh and Keegan Gumbs — for organizing lab tours and the wonderful Grad Research Symposium at Slaughter Recreation Center!
  • To Professor Jim Smith and his wife Gail — for opening their home to the visitors for a lovely dinner on Friday evening.
  • To all faculty, staff, and others who met with students and represented our department so well.

Admitted students will have until April 15 to inform us whether they will come to UVA. Ten applicants — a mix of ME, MS, and PhDs — have already accepted our offers. Hopefully this trend will continue. Thanks again to everyone who contributed to making graduate admissions and recruitment such a resounding success!

Results from the Grad Research Symposium

CEE was pleased and proud to host its third annual Graduate Research Symposium on Friday, February 24, as part of the Graduate Recruiting Weekend. This event featured fourteen current CEE graduate students presenting posters related to their ongoing MS and PhD research. This year’s presenters were: Qiang Chen, Lian Cui, Mehrdad Dijazi, Nancy Dutta, Kassandra Grimes, Courtney Hill, Seongah Hong, Di Kang, Ryan Mahon, Gina O’Neil, Daniel Plattenberger, Erin Robartes, Muhammad Sherif, and Thomas Williams. The quality of the presenters was excellent, truly capturing the depth and breadth of cutting-edge CEE research at UVA. Congratulations and thank you to all presenters!

The event was judged by CEE faculty, including: Professors Andres Clarens, Teresa Culver, Jose Gomez, Leidy Klotz, Brian Park, Lisa Peterson, Brian Smith, and Kuo Tian. They awarded first-place honors to Erin Robartes and second-place honors to Seongah Hong. These students will receive $300 and $100 gift cards, respectively. This year’s “people’s choice” honors went to Muhammad Sherif (pictured below), based on a popular vote of event attendees. He will receive a $50 gift card. Congratulations to all of our honorees, and thank you to our judges!

Finally, thank you to all faculty, staff, and students who attended the event. Hopefully everyone agrees that it was a wonderful opportunity to learn about what’s going on in our community of scholars. Extra special thanks to Keegan Gumbs and his graduate student helpers for their hard work and excellent facilitation of this event!

CEE PhD student will compete in 3MT!

CEE PhD candidate Mohamad Alipour has qualified as a finalist for UVA’s 5th-Annual Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition.This is a fun and fast-paced event, challenging doctoral students to describe their dissertation research in three minutes or less for a general audience. 3MT celebrates the discoveries made by research students and encourages them to communicate the importance of their research to the broader community. Nearly $3000 in cash prizes will be awarded to winners!

This year’s event will be held on Wednesday, March 1 at 3 pm in the Special Collections Auditorium. CEE personnel are encouraged to attend and support Mohamad. More information is available here.

CEE’s Mohamad Alipour will present “Citizen Engineer: Crowd-Sourced Data Analytics as an Infrastructure Monitoring Solution” as part of UVA’s Three-Minute Thesis Competition on March 1.

Best wishes for a safe, restorative Spring Break!

Have you recently had a paper accepted, or do you have other professional or personal news that you’d like to share?
Email it to!

Hao Sun: Harnessing Data Analytics and Computational Models in Structural Monitoring

Wednesday, March 1st
10:45 – Noon, Rice Hall Room 242

Link Lab Seminar

Hao Sun
Postdoctoral Associate
Civil and Environmental Engineering, MIT


In recent years, advances in informatics and data science have assisted engineers to tackle structural dynamics problems. For example, health monitoring of structure and infrastructure systems has become a successful paradigm, as a valuable source of information for evaluating structural integrity and reliability throughout the lifecycle of structures as well as ensuring optimal maintenance planning and operation. Important development in sensor, computer and data analytics technologies made it possible to process big amount of data, to mine characteristic features, and to link those to the current structural conditions. In this presentation, I will talk about harnessing data analytics and computational models to tackle structural monitoring issues, through signal processing, identification, inference, computational modeling and uncertainty quantification. This talk will mainly discuss a typical topic on “combined data analytics and computational models for building monitoring” to show the basic concept. Deconvolution interferometry is employed for processing the vibration data, extracting wave propagation information and thus identifying structural characteristics. The extracted waves are then used for parameter uncertainty quantification of a computational model within the framework of hierarchical Bayesian inference. The presented methodologies can be used to process and mine big monitoring data for a real time operating system, and show a great potential in assessing structural integrity leading to a “smart structure management system”.

About the speaker:

Hao Sun has been a Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT since September 2014. He obtained his Ph.D. (2014) and M.Phil. (2013) degrees in Engineering Mechanics and M.S. (2011) degree in Civil Engineering all from Columbia University, after he completed his B.S. degree in Civil Engineering at Hohai University in 2010. He has an interdisciplinary background in both engineering and data science. His research interests include resilient and intelligent structures, advanced sensing, data analytics and inverse computational mechanics for structural monitoring. He has been a lead researcher for multiple research projects and published 18 papers in prestigious peer-reviewed journals. He also has been a Teaching Fellow co-instructing an undergraduate subject at MIT and served as a Teaching Assistant for over ten graduate and undergraduate classes in civil engineering and engineering mechanics at Columbia. Dr. Sun is the receipt of several scholarships and awards, such as two poster competition awards from EMI 2014, Boeing Fellowship, NSF Workshop Travel Award, China National Merit Scholarship, and China Civil Engineering Society Citation for Outstanding College Graduate.

For more information, please see this flyer.

The Link Lab seminar series is open to the University community and region.
This seminar is hosted by Professor Devin Harris.

See EVENTS for seminar details at


Ph.D. Proposal Presentation of Seongah Hong: Development and Evaluation of Optimal Traffic Control Strategies for Environmental Sustainability

Wednesday, March 1st
3:00 – 4:30 PM, Room 200, Wilsdorf Hall

The Ph.D. Proposal Presentation of Seongah Hong candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Civil and Environmental Engineering), will be held Mar 1st, 3-4:30 PM in Room 200, Wilsdorf Hall.  The examining committee consists of Dr. Brian Smith (Chairperson), Dr. Byungkyu Brian Park (Advisor), Dr. Donna Chen, Dr. Michael Fontaine, and Dr. Laura Barnes (System Engineering).  All interested parties are invited to attend.

Title: Development and Evaluation of Optimal Traffic Control Strategies for Environmental Sustainability


There exists a gap between the academic achievements of traffic control strategies and what is deployed in the field. Even though state-of-the-art control algorithms have been improved with various control approaches, those control algorithms were not often realized on the field due to their computational inefficiencies thus the real-time application was not feasible. In fact, one of the key features of the state-of-the-art of traffic control algorithms is the proactive control algorithms. The proactive control algorithms find the solution for the impending traffic conditions estimated by a macroscopic traffic flow model, so that the traffic congestion can be systemically prevented before they even occur. Through many studies, such proactive control algorithms proved their effectiveness in terms of mobility and safety. However, the computational inefficiency entailed by handling complex dynamic models and model calibrations impeded real-time implementation in the field.  In addition, even though the proactive approach contributed to improved performances over the pre-existing algorithms, it only guaranteed near-optimality, since the complexities of the control model only allow the use of heuristic searching method for the optimization problem.

In the meantime, many studies started to consider environmental impacts in developing control algorithms with continuously increasing concerns on energy consumptions and emissions. The availability of high-resolution individual vehicle trajectory data even supported such kinds of studies. However, it is interesting to notice that the control strategy which explicitly considers the environmental impacts is still very lacking. While fulfilling the environmental sustainability needs as well as considering the limitations of the existing traffic control algorithms, this research proposes an analytical approach-based control strategies with an objective of fuel consumptions minimization. The key merits of the proposed optimal control algorithm are: (1) it optimizes the fuel consumptions;(2) it guarantees true optimal strategy; and (3) it is computationally efficient.

This research comprises of two parts. In the Part 1, I propose to develop an optimal control algorithm framework using Pontryagin’s Minimum Principle (PMP) and apply it under various traffic control applications such as speed harmonization, ramp control and intersection control. It is important to mention that I assume perfect ideal scenario such as 100% Automated Vehicles (AVs) with perfect compliance. The evaluation results allow us to assess the greatest benefit that can be achieve out of the optimal control algorithm. In the Part 2, the optimal control algorithm will be implemented onto various scenarios and settings. I propose to consider network-wide operations comprising of multiple traffic control applications developed in the Part 1. In addition, I plan to expand the speed harmonization algorithm for various imperfect market penetrations. The effectiveness of the proposed algorithm will be comprehensively evaluated by comparing to the base case of human drivers as well as to the existing state-of-the-art algorithm. The factors affecting to the traffic performance including traffic volumes will also be considered. The lessons learned from Part 2 will help to understand the effects of the optimal control algorithm in various scenarios (e.g., combined effects upon the network-wide operations, or induced effects upon the following human driven vehicles for various market penetrations.