Author: UConn Engineering Students and Faculty find Success in Renewable Energy Microgrid Design for Rural Ethiopia

By: Grace Seymour

Water turbine (approximately 1.4 kW of power output) on the Koga canal located in the region surrounding the study domain

STORRS - University of Connecticut students and faculty have found success in their research project conducted in rural Ethiopia that involves the installation of a renewable energy microgrid design. This design is used to grant rural communities throughout the country food, water, and economic security while in periods of severe drought. The study was recently published in the journal Sustainability, a collaboration between four departments at Uconn involving both graduate and undergraduate students. 

Stergios Emmanouil, a Ph.D. candidate in Environmental Engineering at UConn explained that the research was primarily able to take shape from local interviews conducted by the research team within the areas in need: 

“We used interviews with local officials, students, and professors from Ethiopia as an input to the study of sustainable renewable energy microgrids for one of the rural societies in the area, known as a kebele,” said Emmanouil. 

A kebele can be defined as the country’s smallest farming community that usually holds between 60 and 90 households. The project focused on the Kudmi kebele, “where irrigation water originates at a nearby artificial reservoir on the Koga River,” according to the article’s abstract. 

Emmanouil explained that the research team was able to use the Kudmi kebele’s irrigation canals to install a groundwater pumping system to augment irrigation for crops grown by local farmers, which increases the food production within this community. 

“Through the optimization procedure, we managed to estimate how we can actually cover the needs for power through pumping water to irrigate and water the plants. Based on the energy coming from the microgrids, we found that we can cover other societal needs like cooking and heating,” explained Emmanouil. 

For a country such as Ethiopia where agriculture fuels its economy, sustainable energy is necessary to keep its communities functioning. The energy developed through this research not only helps farming necessities, but also improves the community’s needs for heating, cooking, and electricity. 

With the community’s needs being fulfilled through this microgrid system created by UConn engineering students and faculty, it was equally as important for UConn sociology students and faculty to acknowledge the social impacts of this project on the locals in the kebele.

According to the project’s abstract, the sociology research team found that many locals welcome this system with open arms due to the benefits of job opportunities and access to information that it offers. 

As UConn undergraduate students Natalie Roach, (Environmental Sciences and Human Rights,) Himaja Najireddy, (Physiology and Neurobiology, Molecular and Cell Biology, Sociology,) and Sophie Macdonald, (Mechanical Engineering) are wrapping up their research on this project, they can be proud of the environmentally friendly microgrid they have created as well as its smooth transition into the Kudmi kebele.

Author: Crumbling Concrete Research Development

The UConn Crumbling Concrete Foundations team, including CEE Professors Kay Wille and Marisa Chrysochoou, as well as James Mahoney of the Connecticut Transportation Institute, is now expanding their research to help affected homeowners in Massachusetts. Check out the news story here.

Author: UConn Today Toxic Algae Article

Christine Kirchhoff, Associate Professor and Castleman Professor of Engineering Innovation in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, has had her research on toxic algae published in the September 30 issue of Nature Sustainability. You can view the UConn Today article discussing this research here.


Christine Kirchoff pictured above. 

Author: Crumbling Concrete Research at UConn Earns More Funding

Grace Seymour

Researchers of NIST project in the lab pictured above.

STORRS - The University of Connecticut has been granted $1 million from The National Institute of Standards and Technology to continue its two-year-long research project on crumbling concrete. The areas of Northeastern Connecticut and south-central Massachusetts are struggling with premature deterioration in concrete foundations due to a mineral known as Pyrrhotite.

Pyrrhotite, pronounced (PEER-o-tight,) is found in sedimentary rocks that are common in New England and are mined to produce the aggregate that makes up concrete. The use of such aggregate from local quarries in previous decades now impacts hundreds of homes in the region, as the pyrrhotite reacts and causes expansion and cracking of the concrete foundation.

Last year, NIST awarded UConn $768,000 to begin its crumbling concrete research after the federal grant was secured by Conn. Congressman Joe Courtney. The purpose of the research is to study the factors that cause expansion and develop a risk assessment framework that will predict the extent and time frame for damage. Currently, the only solution available is to lift the entire structure and replace the entire foundation for a cost upwards of $250,000 per home. The purpose of the research team is to help prioritize homes at the highest risk for extensive damage, while others may remain safe for decades to come, with appropriate maintenance measures.

This year, Congress authorized another $2 million to NIST to support the research, $1M of which will continue to support the UConn research team.

Kay Wille, an associate professor at UConn who has been working on this project, explained some of the benefits that refunding this research will give to the public: “As of right now, concrete testing in an average-sized home costs close to $2,000. But with this federal funding, people in our area can now fill out an application to get concrete testing for free if they are dealing with premature crumbling,” said Wille.

This funding will also not only help aid homeowners in this testing and repair, but it will also assist with the evaluation of public structures such as schools, churches, and bridges that may be impacted by pyrrhotite. If you are a homeowner who is dealing with crumbling concrete and believe it can be an effect of Pyrrhotite, UConn has created a request form on its engineering webpage to get a discounted or free test of your home’s concrete.

Author: Wellness Journeys: Rest & Healing Workshop

Flyer for Wellness Journeys features light blue and gray splashes of ink on a blue background.

The AAASI and CEE INCLUDE program are teaming up to bring the insights of Asian and Asian American studies to all students to support a responsive and inclusive learning environment. 

Flyer text below:

This series of three workshops is aimed at supporting the wellbeing of all students. Inspired by Asian American art and culture, these wellness journeys provide a space for healing, reflection, and mutual support for everyone.

Please join the AAASI for a workshop that challenges the conventional wisdom on wellness by addressing histories of racism and microaggressions rather than distractions and escapism.

Register here.

Author: Improving Water and Food Security in Ethiopia Through Research with a People-Centered Approach

Water coming out of a faucet attached to a white wall.

Click on the link below to see what the UN has to say about the UConn Engineering Department’s Water and Food Security, Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) project!

Author: INCLUDE Program Seeks Postdoctoral Research Associate

Blue text on mustard yellow background announces "We're hiring a postdoc. We invite you to join our team." UConn Civil & Environmental Engineering is pleased to invite applications for a Postdoctoral Research Associate to work with INCLUDE, a groundbreaking project related to neurodiversity within the context of engineering education. The INCLUDE program is a 5-year NSF-funded project aimed at building a campus-wide ecosystem to cultivate the potential of neurodivergent students to contribute to innovations in engineering. The project aims to make systemic changes in the following areas: recruitment and transition of neurodivergent students, community building, incorporation of inclusive teaching practices, holistic support, and career transition.

For more information, or to apply, please visit: 

Author: Neurodiversity in Engineering FYE Course to be Offered Fall ’21


The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) is excited to introduce a new non-residential learning community for incoming engineering students who identify as neurodiverse. Students may join the Neurodiversity in Engineering learning community by enrolling in UNIV 1810 (section 078). The class is open to freshman and sophomore engineering students from any discipline who identify as having differences in sociability, learning, attention, and/or mood, including (but not limited to) ADHD, autism, anxiety, dyslexia, and learning differences.

UNIV 1810 (Section 078) FYE Learning Community Seminar
Download the course syllabus.

For more information, or to request a permission number, please contact Connie Syharat:

Course Topics:

  • Identification of strengths/talents
  • Goal setting
  • Engineering identity
  • Self-advocacy
  • Time management and prioritizing
  • Wellness: stress, mental health, and wellbeing
  • Telling your story (Your first college resume)
  • Interview skills
  • Violence prevention
  • Tech hacks and workarounds: assistive technology tools to maximize learning

Author: Rising Seniors Awarded Moles Scholarship

Portraits of Kaitlyn Kondos and Caitlin Jenkins, overlayed on a gold background with the text Congratulations to the winners of the 2021 Moles Scholarship.

Kaitlyn Kondos and Caitlin Jenkins have been awarded scholarships by the Moles Charitable Fund for their academic excellence and their interest in the Heavy Construction Industry. Congratulations to both for this well deserved award!

Kaitlyn Kondos '22
Kaitlyn Kondos is a rising senior with an expected graduation date of May, 2022, majoring in Civil Engineering, with a minor in Construction Engineering and Management. She is a part of the University of Connecticut’s Honors Program and is involved in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and Tau Beta Pi, The Engineering Honors Society. Over the summer she will be interning at WSP USA and will begin a position as an Undergraduate Research Assistant in Fall 2021. She looks forward to returning to campus and pursuing her interests in construction management and encouraging young students to engage in STEM activities.

Caitlin Jenkins '22
Caitlin Jenkins is a rising senior in Civil Engineering with a minor in Environmental Engineering.  Her areas of interest include Geotechnical Engineering and Environmental Engineering.  In the summer of 2021 she worked for Fuss and O’Neill as an environmental compliance intern, which gave her the opportunity to be involved with the geotechnical aspects of multiple projects. In her free time she enjoys hiking and gardening.


Author: Prof. Shinae Jang Named Distinguished Engineering Educator

Portrait of Dr. Shinae Jang a woman with dark straight hair wearing a black suit jacket and a white collared shirt.

Congratulations to Shinae Jang, PhD, PE for her well deserved honor as 2021 Distinguished Engineering Educator! She was selected for her outstanding teaching and pedagogical innovation at the undergraduate level. Read the full article here.