Author: Drought Research Making Headlines

image of bare trees in an arid landscape against a sunset

August 8, 2022

This month, there has been a lot of buzz online surrounding UConn research at the Hydroclimatology and Biosphere-Atmosphere Interactions Lab overseen by Professor Guiling Wang. In particular, the topic of interest surrounds findings on plants' chemical markers to help forecast flash droughts far in advance.

Characterized by its rapid acceleration due to low rainfall and high temperatures, a flash drought is a subset of the already devastating natural disaster.

This summer, many regions of the country has been affected by some level of drought over varying periods; therefore, this research is happening at a crucial time. To learn more, please check out the following publications and resources:

Author: UConn CEE @ 2022 NSEE Annual Conference

Faculty members: (Prof. Shinae Jang, Connie Syharat, Prof. Davis Chacon, Prof. Sarira Motaref, Aida Ghiaei (SoE), and Prof. Manish Roy pose together for a photo

July 1st, 2022

UConn CEE faculty and grad students attended the ASEE Annual Conference in Minneapolis, MN at the end of June! Everyone had a fantastic time sharing groundbreaking research in engineering education, AR/VR as part of senior design projects, course redesign for the inclusion of neurodiversity students, and engineering for human rights!

Pictured on the side from left to right are Prof. Shinae Jang, Connie Syharat, Prof. Davis Chacon, Prof. Sarira Motaref, Aida Ghiaei (SoE), and Prof. Manish Roy.

Author: UConn CEE @ ASEE-NE 2022

Dr. Shinae Jang poses with other ASEE-NE committee members on stage

Dr. Jang (center-right) alongside other ASEE-NE Committee members

April 23, 2022

This year, Wentworth Institute of Technology hosted the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Northeast Section Conference in Boston.

Covering the New England area, the ASEE-NE section spans across the following states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Here in Connecticut—representing UConn—Pierredens Fils, Dr. Shinae Jang, Daisy Ren, Rinchen Sherpa, and Caressa Wakeman attended the weekend event, participating in the Student Paper Presentations on Saturday, April 23rd.

This CEE cohort was a mix of faculty and both graduate and undergraduate students. On Friday, the conference finished its sessions for Professional Papers and Extended Abstracts.

One of the conference’s Student Papers Track Chairs, Dr. Jang, helped lead the Saturday sessions in the morning and afternoon along with the help of Fils, a fourth-year PhD student working on his dissertation.

Throughout the day, sessions were categorized by theme for students to present their accepted papers. In particular, two sessions allowed for the hard work of UConn students to truly shine.

The first session, Smart Sensors and Structural Health Monitoring, showcased the following papers by the UConn attendees among others:

  • Technical Survey and Literature Review on Bridge Joint Monitoring Practices by Daisy Ren, Pierredens Fils, and Shinae Jang
  • Damage Identification of Crumbling Foundation using Non-Destructive Methods and Image Processing by Rinchen Tsewang Sherpa, Kay Wille, and Shinae Jang

Rinchen Sherpa presenting his academic paper in front of a powerpoint

For the first time ever, Ren, a rising fourth-year undergraduate student, gave an oral presentation at the professional conference as the first author of an academic paper (pictured above on the left).

Meanwhile, Sherpa, a civil engineering graduate student, presented on behalf of ongoing crumbling concrete research taking place at UConn (pictured above on the right).

Later in the day for the Engineering Education and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Session, Wakeman, a graduate student, presented the following paper:

  • Improving the Learning Experience of Neurodiverse Students in a Fluid Mechanics Course During the COVID-19 Pandemic by Caressa Adalia Wakeman, Amvrossios Bagtzoglou, and Maria Chrysochoou

Before working on the final paper this year, Wakeman performed qualitative analysis last summer on data collected from a junior-level fluid mechanics course taught by Dr. Bagtzoglou.

Their findings explored pedagogical themes that affect neurodiverse students in the course—seeking to better support academic needs through alternate exam modalities, course content, TA/recitation videos, etc.

As the semester progressed, the initial response rate of 28.6% jumped to 71.5% of neurodivergent students having a positive outlook towards the course’s learning experience efficacy.

Caressa Wakeman presenting her paper in front of a powerpoint

Caressa Wakeman providing context for the paper

The submitted paper was in part of the INCLUDE Project which Wakeman helps oversee to further assist neurodivergent students.

Upon seeing everyone’s diligent efforts throughout the conference, Dr. Jang enthusiastically shared her reaction and thoughts:

“I’m so happy to see the students attend after their hard work in preparing abstracts, papers, and presentations. I am so proud of all of them. I hope that these kinds of professional development opportunities are publicized more for our students to participate in to further learn and grow.”

Huge congratulations to the following students for having their papers selected at the conference’s award ceremony:

  • Best Student Paper – Rinchen Sherpa
  • Best Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Paper Award – Caressa Wakeman

From left to right, Pierredens Fils, Caressa Wakeman, Daisy Ren, Rinchen Sherpa, and Shinae Jang pose together for a group photo at conference.

From left to right, Pierredens Fils, Caressa Wakeman, Daisy Ren, Rinchen Sherpa, and Dr. Shinae Jang

Beyond the regional conference, Wakeman’s paper will also be considered in the national competition for Engineering DEI at the ASEE National Conference towards the end of June.

Following the whole experience, Wakeman especially was pleasantly surprised by the outcome:

“I felt really supported by the team. It was a really encouraging and nice experience—a huge honor. They were in the middle of awarding the professional papers, so when they called my name—it was surreal. Shinae told me, ‘Go! Go!’ I was not expecting to be called at all.”

Once again, congratulations to both Rinchen Sherpa and Caressa Wakeman for their winning papers!

Author: Academy of Distinguished Engineers: Andrew Gere (’92)

Andrew Gere speaks on a podium during induction ceremony

Andrew Gere pictured above

May 12, 2022

In honor of the Academy of Distinguished Engineers’ Class of 2021, the School of Engineering hosted an induction ceremony for the esteemed cohort in the Student Union Ballroom on May 12th. Previously, this event had been postponed in light of rising COVID-19 cases.

There are ten inductees in the Academy Class of 2021, each fostering rich backgrounds and expertise. Among the Academy Class of 2021, most notably, is Andrew Gere (’92), a UConn Civil Engineering alumnus.

In reflection of his undergraduate years, Gere recalls the way that college shaped his life:

“The civil engineering coursework at UConn was really tough—there were times when I wasn’t sure that I had what it took to get through it. What that did though, was teach me to be a problem solver, and I learned how to solve problems as part of a team. That experience has been invaluable throughout my career, and I’m thankful for it.”

Fresh out of college, Gere started his professional career as a Sanitary Engineer in the Division of Drinking Water at California Department of Health Services.

A couple of years later, he transitioned over to San Jose Water Company (SJW) where he continued to work hard and pave his way in the field.

Fast-forward 30 years of industry experience later, Gere has exemplified engineering excellence and leadership throughout his career—as demonstrated by his steady, professional trajectory upwards. Since 2016, he has been the President and Chief Operating Officer of SJW.

For context, SJW manages one of the most technically sophisticated urban water systems in the country—its scale alone reaches over one million people in the greater San Jose metropolitan area.

Despite how far apart San Jose and Storrs are, the connection is stronger than one might imagine. Back in 2019, SJW completed a merger with Connecticut Water (CW). Throughout this period, Gere not only testified before the CT Public Utility Regulatory Authority for the approval process but also collaborated with counterparts at CW on various strategies, including helping them contrive water loss control measures in place at San Jose.

Inductee Andrew Gere shakes the hand of Dean Kazem Kazerounian

Andrew Gere with Dean Kazerounian

In addition, Gere’s contributions at SJW extend nationwide, implementing state-of-the-art technologies for water loss monitoring and conservation (e.g. acoustic monitoring devices on pipe systems that "hear" leaks when they happen) while also pioneering environmental stewardship initiatives.

One initiative is the SJW Climate Change Policy which diversifies their energy portfolio, moving to electric vehicles among other conservation measures.

Gere’s impressive handle of his technical and leadership skills led to his 2020 election as Chairman of the National Association of Water Companies' (NAWC) Board of Directors.

Comprising this board, 20 of the top water industry executives from NAWC member companies "share best practices and leverage their strengths to benefit the communities they serve" (Source: NAWC). Among these members, they decide upon a Chairman each year to coordinate a strategic plan with the NAWC’s President and CEO.

To summarize his leadership style, many regard Gere as a resilient individual and a great speaker who can easily connect with listeners through his authenticity.

From left to right, Gere's daughter, Jillian, Dr. Chrysochoou, Andrew Gere, and his wife, Nancy

From left to right: Gere's daughter, Jillian, Dr. Marisa Chrysochoou, Andrew Gere, and his wife, Nancy

Considering Gere’s set of accomplishments and innovative mindset, the department is thrilled with his induction and the stellar example he sets for both students and alumni.

“I’m very humbled to be recognized by UConn Engineering in this way. It has given me a chance to reflect on my career, and it’s very satisfying to think about how my work in water has made a real difference in people’s lives.”

At the induction ceremony, Gere was accompanied by his wife, Nancy, and daughter, Jillian, who is also pursuing her education at UConn in Environmental Studies.

To learn more about the Academy of Distinguished Engineers’ Class of 2021, read here!

Author: Cerrai Selected for US Frontiers of Engineering: Outstanding Early Career Engineer

American flag fades into a solid blue color with text that says, "US FOE September 21-23, 2022 Seattle, WA FRONTIERS OF ENGINEERING"

May 23, 2022

It is with great honor that the department announces that Dr. Diego Cerrai has been selected as one of the outstanding 100 early-career engineers from industry, universities, and government labs to participate in the 2022 US Frontiers of Engineering Symposium, which will be held September 21-23 and hosted by Amazon in Seattle.

The symposium will focus on the following topics:

  • Microbes - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
  • Conversational AI
  • Technology and Racial Justice and Equity
  • Hydrogen: A New "Universal" Energy Carrier for the Carbon-free Future

As a scientist and engineer, Cerrai will further his knowledge on these cutting-edge research topics while also getting involved in the conversations related to the future of a carbon-free electric grid as the Eversource Energy Center Associate Director and Manager.

It is going to be a unique opportunity for a faculty member to represent our school in exciting conversations with top early-career engineers from:

  • Industry (e.g. IBM, Intel, Siemens, ExxonMobil, Microsoft, Dell, Amazon)
  • Government (e.g. NASA, Argonne, OakRidge, NREL, Air Force, NIST)
  • Top Universities (e.g. Stanford, MIT, Princeton)

Learn more about the 2022 US Frontiers of Engineering Symposium on this website!

Author: EPA Rainworks Challenge 2nd Place Winners

April 27, 2022

Please congratulate our ENVE seniors Kelsey Adamson, Fiona Casey, and their team from Environmental Science, Landscape Architecture, UConn CLEAR and Facilities for their 2nd place award in the EPA Campus Rainworks Challenge. Their project submission was titled Ecologic L.I. Sound.  This challenge is a national design competition for applying and reimagining green infrastructure on college campuses. Read the full announcement here and check out their video below!

Author: CEE Senior Design Project Winners!

Photo of the Civil Engineering booth area within Gampel Pavillion.

April 29, 2022

This afternoon, Senior Design Demo Day took place in Gampel Pavillion. Students across all engineering departments joined together to showcase all of their hard work this year. Everyone should be proud of how far they have come since their first week of college.

Congratulations to all of the graduating seniors and to the following SDP winners this year:

Civil Engineering

1st Place

Title: Modern Roundabout at the Intersection of Hunting Lodge Road and North Eagleville Road

Members: Kaitlyn Kondos, Nicole Martocchio, Joseph Mikulewicz, Avishan Montazer

Sponsor: VHB

Advisor: Shinae Jang


2nd Place

Title: Design of Site Work for Reconstruction of Washington Elementary School, West Haven, CT

Members: Fiona Casey, Aidan Fay, Katie Laresch, Meg Sirowich

Sponsor: Stantec

Advisors: Manish Roy, Philip J. Katz, P.E.


3rd Place

Title: Design of the Extension of Constitution Boulevard West in Shelton, CT

Members: Samuel Baum, Brad Kelle, Jacob Zakrzewicz

Sponsors: Luchs/DeCarlo & Doll

Advisors: Terrance Gallagher, P.E., Ronald J. Nault, P.E., Manish Roy


Environmental Engineering

1st Place

Title: Centredale Manor Restoration

Members: Scott Ackerman, Madeleine Hasson, Andrew Macklin, Taryn Shannon

Sponsor: Loureiro

Advisor: Alex Agrios


2nd Place

Title: Design of New Stormwater Management and Septic System for Fire Station 140, Tolland CT

Members: Stone Brown, Jessica Canty, Caroline Sabo

Sponsor: CHA

Advisor: Manish Roy


3rd Place

Title: Bolton Water Connection

Members: Ethan Lo, Kaelie Moran, Zachary Sagendorf, Juanita Toro

Sponsor: Town of Bolton

Advisor: Alex Agrios

Author: 2022 ASEE CE Division Officer Elections: Dr. Shinae Jang

geometric, blue american society for engineering education logo

April 23, 2022

Last week, American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) announced the officer election results for their Civil Engineering Division. We’re very proud to congratulate one of our faculty members, Dr. Shinae Jang, on her selection for a new role in ASEE.

ASEE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting educational efforts in engineering and engineering technology. It comprises over 50 divisions that support a plethora of engineering fields and efforts.

For the ASEE Civil Engineering Division, this year is the first time there is an all-female slate of officers:

Division Chair: Tonya Nilsson

Vice Chair/Program Chair: Jennifer Retherford

Freshman Director: Mónica Palomo

Newsletter Editor: Shinae Jang

Dr. Jang has been an active member within the organization for two years and even received the Emerging Leader Fellow Award last year at the 2021 ASEE Annual Conference. After this year’s conference in June, Dr. Jang will officially begin work on the newsletters.

Check out ASEE’s website here!

Author: Sensor Work Makes the Cover of ES&T

detailed diagram explaining the hs-ism soil nitrogen sensor research

April 14, 2022

Recently, Environmental Science & Technology accepted a research paper lead authored by PhD student, Yingzheng Fan. ES&T is the premier journal within the field of environmental engineering. The research covers accurate and continuous monitoring of soil nitrogen which is critical for determining its fate and provides early warning for swift soil nutrient management.

"Traditional soil nitrogen measurements are usually ex-situ using lab-based approaches that cause severe time delay. Our solid-state ion selective membrane (S-ISM) sensors address this imminent challenge by coating ultra-thin polyacrylamide hydrogel on the S-ISM surface to absorb water contained in soil. Tests using real-world soil obviously showed the enhanced accuracy and stability of these sensors. This pioneering study establishes a framework capable of real-time in situ, long-term continuous soil monitoring, a crucial technology with profound impacts on soil system resilience, nutrient management, contaminant removal, and energy-saving practices."

To learn more, feel free to read the full paper here!

Author: UConn Eversource Energy Center Partners with Dominion Energy

Image of transmission power lines against a sunset

Power lines and storms (Photo Credits: Yoonjin Lee)

April 9, 2022

Last month, Dominion Energy UConn signed an agreement with UConn to support a new, preliminary study focused on the development of an Outage Prediction Model (OPM) for Dominion Energy’s Virginia and North Carolina service territory. At UConn, Dr. Diego Cerrai is the PI for this initiative, with the support of Dr. Emmanouil N. Anagnostou (Co-PI, Associate Dean), three graduate students, and one post-doctoral associate.

In the past month, Dr. Cerrai has also been named the Associate Director for Storm Preparedness and Emergency Response for the Eversource Energy Center (EEC). The new study officially began in January 2022 and will last through December 2023.

The proposed model will be used as a tool to prepare for storm-related power outages in the electric distribution system. While transmission lines move electricity across large distances and are supported with tall towers, distribution lines are the power lines that we usually see on the sides of roads. Based on these distribution lines’ proximity to nearby vegetation, they are regularly interrupted during storms by falling trees or branches which cause outages.

The UConn EEC already has developed outage prediction models for Eversource Energy and AVANGRID, showing great predictability in the weather patterns of New England. The model analyzes data and predicts storm-related outages in advance of rain/windstorms, thunderstorms, snow/ice storms, extreme storms, and tropical storms. The interactions that occur in the relationship between weather, trees, and infrastructure, vary by storm type.

For example, a snowstorm’s impact can differ if precipitation is heavy or wet versus when it is dry; wet snow readily sticks to trees and lines, pulling them down making them susceptible to breakage. The team is determined to improve such models to not only replicate the real-world consequences of storm damages but to also help prepare repair crews beforehand.

Eversource’s current OPM is operational in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and New Hampshire. The new study will continue to strengthen existing outage models with the inclusion of mid-Atlantic storm data. Through this opportunity, researchers such as Dr. Cerrai will be able to carry over their existing expertise to generalize a predictive model that will be more accurate to geographic regions outside of New England.

One of the main research goals is to further validate the existing models in New England for other areas and make iterative improvements. In these first steps, this collaboration has the potential to inspire future projects, expanding to more states further south. The keyword is preparedness—these models continue to impact the way the world prepares for and recovers from storms.

After having the first kick-off meeting with Dominion Energy in mid-February, Dr. Cerrai proudly shared his hopes for the future: 

“I have been working towards this goal for a long time, and I am very happy to start this collaboration because it is important for our students and more in general for the scientific community to gain additional knowledge on the relationship between weather, vegetation, and infrastructure in a way we have not seen before. It is also important for our industry partners because we will share our expertise gained with the UConn OPM, which is a state-of-the-art model that has been developed for all storm types, which is one of a kind."

At Dominion Energy, Shad Hedrick who works in the Emergency Preparedness Center states, “Leveraging an outage prediction model to develop plans is exciting. I’m looking forward to the partnership with UConn.

Congratulations once again to the Eversource Energy Center and to Dominion Energy regarding this promising agreement!