Author: John DeWolf Named 2006 University Teaching Fellow

Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering John DeWolf was named one of four 2006-07 University of Connecticut Teaching Fellows. The award was formally announced at a gala banquet in April 2006. Up to four Teaching Fellows are honored each year by the University’s Institute for Teaching and Learning, and only four Engineering faculty have previously received the award since its inception in 1993.

Dr. DeWolf was delighted by the University laurel, which honored his novel teaching approach, contributions as a textbook co-author and support to students as a faculty advisor. As a teacher, he said, “I strive to make my students enthusiastic about structural engineering. I know that if I can get them to think critically about structures, they will focus on what is most important, and through this they will feel how structures behave.”

Among the most innovative courses offered students under the First Year Experience (FYE) program is one developed by Dr. DeWolf, which centers on gothic cathedrals. As design subjects, gothic cathedrals hold great complexity and mystery, making them well suited to the FYE format. Dr. DeWolf comments that gothic cathedrals were built prior to the two key components of modern structural engineering: calculus and engineering mechanics. He asserts, “The early cathedrals were magnificent structural engineering accomplishments. The cathedral builders sought to have large open spaces, requiring both large spans and high ceilings with lots of windows for light. They required great insight, and it is fun to introduce students to engineering ideas using these examples.”

“If I can help my students become enthusiastic about what they do,” he says, “I can help them become engineers. Through real examples, I encourage students to explore why the engineer followed specific paths, I encourage them to explore how construction influences the actual design and I encourage them to learn how to critically evaluate designs. It is in the evaluation of alternatives that one fully appreciates the art of engineering, and it is at this level that one truly finds design exciting.”

Writing is another novel element Dr. DeWolf has introduced in his civil engineering classes. In his Steel Design course, he explains, “I have been using written assignments as a way to further develop concepts related to structural design.” The idea behind this approach, he says, is to introduce students to real structures, help them examine how structures behave, and use short back-of-theenvelop calculations to focus on key elements in the structural design.

Dr. DeWolf is co-author, with E.R. Johnston and the late F.P. Beer, on the widely acclaimed Mechanics of Materials (3rd and 4th editions), which is used by engineering students at Carnegie Mellon University, Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois, the University of Michigan, Purdue University, the University of Wisconsin and Roger Williams University

Dr. DeWolf was previously presented the C.R. Klewin Award for Excellence in Teaching (1995, 1999, 2000 and 2004) and the 2005 Educator Career Teaching Award from the American Institute of Steel Construction. The latter award is presented to just one collegiate educator yearly and entails a $20,000 grant over two years. It is meant to bring national recognition and confer seed money for establishment of new instructional programs in steel education. He is a member of the State of Connecticut Board of Examiners for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors and the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering.

Author: Accorsi Brings Leadership to CEE Department

In June 2006, following a departmental search, professor Michael Accorsi was appointed Head of the Civil & Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department. He succeeded professor Erling Smith, who served as Head for six years before accepting the position of Interim Dean of the School of Engineering. The CEE department is home to 18 faculty members and approximately 60 graduate students. In 2005-06, the department had research expenditures of $2.1 million.

Dr. Accorsi earned his Ph.D. in Applied Mechanics at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL and began his career at UConn in 1986. He holds a joint appointment with the Mechanical Engineering Department and also currently serves as Interim Director of the Connecticut Transportation Institute, a unit of the School of Engineering.

Dr. Accorsi performs research in the general area of computational solid mechanics, with specific application to composite materials, structural acoustics, and recently, parachute mechanics. He has performed novel work in the area of computer simulation of parachute dynamics with support from the Army Research Office, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, NASA and the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center. Dr. Accorsi received the Commander’s Educational Award for Excellence from the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Command in 1998 for his research on parachutes and is currently a co-principal investigator on a DoD Common High Performance Computing Software Initiative project on Airdrop Systems Modeling. He is co-inventor on one U.S. patent.

Author: Dr. Anagnostou Awarded NASA Precipitation Grant

Dr. Emmanouil Anagnostou, associate professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, and co-PI Dr. Amvrossios Bagtzoglou, associate professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, were awarded over $433,000 to conduct research intended to improve flood prediction using satellite data. The three-year grant was awarded by NASA under the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, a program that supports use of satellites to study precipitation on Earth.

Dr. Anagnostou explained that their goal is to bridge the gap between satellite precipitation data, which provides meteorological information on a gross scale, and local Earth-based systems, to develop prediction methods that offer greater accuracy and span geographic and political barriers. “We plan to assess the potential for improving flood/water cycling predictability on the basis of current and future space based precipitation observational capabilities.”

In November, he traveled to Ethiopia with assistant professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering Mekonnen Gebremichael to propose the idea of targeting the Nile River for the study. They presented the idea before the Nile Basin Initiative forum, a group formed in 2002 to advance dialogue concerning riparian rights and use, and to work toward a shared vision for the future of the Nile. The Nile spans nine countries and is fed by two great tributaries: the White Nile, which begins in equatorial East Africa, and the Blue Nile, which begins in Ethiopia. The longest river in the world, at over 4,100 miles, the Nile courses through Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Egypt, flowing through diverse terrain and climates, from the arid northern portions to tropical southern locales. Water use is a source of friction among the nations through which the Nile passes, with Egypt consuming the largest volume.

Nile precipitation data is currently collected at the local or national level, said Dr. Anagnostou, without coordination or communication among other nations. Often, the flood prediction equipment used is not maintained and falls into disrepair, or personnel assigned to monitor and maintain the equipment are inadequately trained, said Dr. Anagnostou. Additionally, political and cultural barriers can prevent regions that are tracking precipitation data from sharing it with other regions who are also stakeholders.

Drs. Anagnostou and Gebremichael believe a system that collects precipitation data from a satellite can be used to effectively predict floods without reliance on local equipment and political interference from governments that are at odds. Satellites can provide a consistent data set and be operated by one institution that subsequently disseminates the data to all stakeholders. But satellites suffer limitations of their own, notably the problem of scale and resolution in detecting metrological sites. The algorithms used by satellites for rainfall detection are also prone to biases and errors that limit their effectiveness in modeling fine-scale metrological activities.

During the three-year project Dr. Anagnostou hopes to demonstrate that Earth-orbiting satellites can be used to effectively predict floods. He will seek to determine what parameters affect accuracy, including size of the body of water as viewed from Earth orbit, and to develop accurate modeling techniques that – combined with the imaging data captured at three-hour intervals – can aid in predicting floods. His research is expected to improve the success of hydrologic prediction from satellite precipitation estimates, thereby reducing the impact of flood events along the rivers studied.

Dr. Anagnostou said that his visit to Ethiopia allowed him to present the potential use of his team’s NASA and NSF-funded African lightning detection network to advance satellite-based estimation and short-range (1-2 days) forecasting of precipitation for the entire Nile basin. “Information on precipitation variability over the whole basin is critical to support a basin-wide decision support system that is under development with World Bank funds,” he said. The Nile Basin Initiative members, particularly representatives of the World Bank, expressed interest in funding the activity. During the visit, Drs. Anagnostou and Gebremichael also proposed that Addis Ababa University establish a summer school in the area of hydro-meteorology, climate and water cycle processes. Addis Ababa faculty were receptive to the notion, and Drs. Anagnostou and Gebremichael are seeking financing to establish the program.

Author: Engineering Professor Receives $60,000 Cash Prize

Associate professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering Emmanouil Anagnostou was presented the prestigious Marie Curie Excellence Award during official ceremonies in Dublin, Ireland on December 1, 2005. The Marie Curie Excellence Award is the highest honor of the European Commission (EC) and is intended to bring attention to the outstanding achievements of scientists who have attained a high level of excellence in their careers. The award includes a cash prize of 50,000 euros, or about $60,000 U.S. dollars.

Dr. Anagnostou was cited for his research work in “Advancing Use of Satellite Remote Sensing in Hydrology and Natural Hazards.” The EC awards just five Marie Curie Excellence Awards yearly, across a spectrum of disciplines. Dr. Anagnostou was selected by a grand jury, which judged its decision based on peer review evaluations. He is the first recipient in the area of environment and geosciences since the Commission’s founding of the award. As an award recipient, Dr. Anagnostou will deliver keynote addresses at public events across Europe with the objective of improving the visibility, recognition and attractiveness of research careers, and to enhance the public’s understanding of how science contributes to economic and societal well being.

Dr. Anagnostou joined the University of Connecticut in 1999. His research focuses on advancing precise techniques for precipitation estimation from both space and ground-based sensors, paired with the optimum assimilation of remote sensing data in atmospheric and hydrologic models for the prediction of hazardous floods and flash floods. He developed a mobile X-band Polarimetric On Wheels (XPOW) system as part of his network of highly precise instruments for hydro-meteorological data gathering.

Dr. Anagnostou previously received the 2002 Plinius Medal from the Interdisciplinary Working Group on Natural Hazards of the European Geophysical Society. He also received a National Science Foundation Early Career Award and a NASA New Investigator Award. He earned his Ph.D. in 1997 at the University of Iowa.

Author: Engineering Faculty Garner NSF CAREER Awards

Two engineering faculty members were selected to receive the National Science Foundation (NSF) Early Career Development (CAREER) Award in 2006: assistant professor of Computer Science & Engineering Ion Mandoiu and assistant professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering Jeong-Ho Kim.

Dr. Mandoiu was awarded a five-year $554,500 National Science Foundation Early Career Development (CAREER) award for his research into methods for quickly processing high volumes of genomic diversity data.

The 13-year Human Genome Project, completed in 2003, produced a blueprint of the DNA present in the cells of each human. Genomics research focuses on variations that occur between individuals, with the objective of understanding how these variations determine elusive traits such as susceptibility to diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and other disorders and diseases.

Human cells contain two copies of each chromosome, with the exception of sex chromosomes. Humans inherit one member of each chromosome pair from their fathers and the second from their mothers. But with each new generation, the chromosomes are altered in a process known as recombination, in which members of each chromosome pair unite and exchange pieces. The result is a hybrid chromosome containing pieces from both members of a chromosome pair, and this hybrid chromosome is passed on to the next generation. The same process is repeated over the course of many generations, producing genetic variants that are catalogued in the International HapMap Project.

Genomic diversity analyses of large-scale control and population studies hold promise for clarifying the genetic basis of disease susceptibility and uncovering the pattern of historical population migrations. However, many technological and computational challenges must be overcome before researchers can begin such substantial studies. Dr. Mandoiu will focus on solving two major challenges in the puzzle: (a) development of accurate, economical methods for rapid genotyping, and (b) development of computational methods for analyzing the genetic sequences of different individuals to discover those genes linked with disease susceptibility and individual responses to medications and environmental factors.

He anticipates that the research will lead to decreased data collection costs in large-scale association studies, permitting researchers to conduct a greater number of studies at lower cost. Dr. Mandoiu also foresees that his CAREER research will enable additional applications of genomic technologies, such as genomics-based point-of-care medical diagnosis and largescale species identification. He comments that the direct beneficiary of his rapid genotyping methodology will be the biotech industry, which manufactures and commercializes genotyping assays. In addition, he says, “Biomedical researchers from academic institutions and pharmaceutical companies would indirectly benefit from reduced genotyping costs by being able to conduct larger/more genomic variability studies within the same budget. These studies are expected to have a broad impact on human health.” Possible long-term benefits may include customized medical treatments and gene therapies to modify faulty chromosomes.

After earning his Ph.D. from the Georgia Institute for Technology in 2000, Dr. Mandoiu conducted post-doctoral research and was a Research Scientist at the University of California at Los Angeles and at San Diego. He joined the University of Connecticut in 2003.

Dr. Jeong-Ho Kim, assistant professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, was awarded a five-year, $400,000 CAREER award to conduct modeling and experiments in functionally graded solid oxide fuel cells. The focus of his research is to improve the performance of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) by applying the concept of functionally graded materials (FGMs).

Fuel cells are increasingly seen as a future solution to the nation’s energy dependence on nonrenewable fossil fuels. SOFCs are particularly promising, thanks to their high power density, fuel flexibility, and potential for generating electricity and heat for industry and auxiliary power in vehicles. Despite their many advantages, says Dr. Kim, the power output of SOFCs can be hampered by interfacial delamination. “This condition results from residual stresses produced when the cell components (anode, electrolyte, and cathode) thermally expand at different rates, and also from thermal stresses generated during operational thermal cycling,” he explains.

The Department of Energy, through its Solid-state Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA) program, sets a required SOFC service life of more than 40,000 hours with hundreds of thermal cycles for stationary systems, and 5,000 hours with 3,000 thermal cycles for transportation systems. Dr. Kim seeks to overcome the factors that limit SOFC performance so these fuel cells can meet the stringent SECA standards. His CAREER research pivots on developing functionally graded electrodes and on providing SOFC design guidelines, permitting fast start-up times and longer service and thermal cycle life. Dr. Kim explains that his “investigations will address three-dimensional transient thermal fracture analysis of functionally graded SOFCs using cohesive zone models and interaction integrals along with microstructure-based stochastic fracture modeling and coupled thermo-mechanical sensitivity analysis.” This research is expected to improve the electrochemical and mechanical performance of SOFCs.

The results of Dr. Kim’s CAREER research will be introduced to high school students participating in the residential Engineering 2000 summer program—as well as high school science, math and technology teachers participating in the residential da Vinci Project. Dr. Kim joined the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department in January 2004 after receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Kim has developed strong research expertise in numerical modeling and simulation for functionally graded materials (FGMs).

Published: September 1, 2006

Author: Jack Stephens: Driven to Improve Road Durability

Dr. Jack Stephens, emeritus professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, maintains a busy schedule that would challenge the stamina of a 20-year old. At a time when many in his peer group spend their days pursuing recreational activities, he remains active as Senior Research Advisor of the Connecticut Advanced Pavement Lab associated with the Connecticut Transportation Institute. He formally retired in 1989 and has remained vital and productive in the 16 years since.

Dr. Stephens was initiated into the joys of the highway as a child, riding as a passenger with his father through the nation’s heartland. The elder Stephens was a maintenance manager for the Lubright Division of Mobil Oil, and his job entailed 100,000 miles of driving every 11 months, according to Dr. Stephens. It’s a safe bet that today’s national highways bear little resemblance to those of Dr. Stephens’ childhood.

Like many of his generation, Dr. Stephens’ aspirations for college took a back seat to World War II. During the war, he served in the infantry as a member of General Patton’s famed Third Army as it marched from Wiesbaden, Germany to Linz, Austria. After completing his military service, Dr. Stephens earned his B.S. in Civil Engineering at UConn in 1947. In addition to securing his degree, he also married his wife of 57 years, the former Virginia Ives, whom he met while she was a student secretary to Engineering Dean John Lampe. The couple has two sons, both civil engineers, and two daughters.

Dr. Stephens began his engineering career with the Connecticut Department of Transportation, where he built bridges. He then embarked on a decidedly circuitous route toward earning his master’s and doctoral degrees, which took him from Yale University to Purdue University, then the University of California at Berkeley, and back to Purdue, where he ultimately earned both his M.S. (1955) and Ph.D. (1959) degrees. It was during his graduate years that he first kindled his appetite for pavement design which, he remarked, should be “locality oriented” to account for climate, native materials and traffic characteristics.

After joining the faculty of the Civil Engineering Department at UConn in 1950, he soon became involved in state and regional transportation issues. Together with Edward Gant, whose expertise lay in structures and mechanics, he was instrumental in the 1962 Connecticut State Legislature’s creation of a continuing Joint Highway Research Project between the Connecticut Department of Transportation and UConn.

He also founded the Connecticut Transportation Institute (CTI), the Connecticut Technology Transfer Center (CTTC) and the Connecticut Advanced Pavement Lab (CAP Lab)-all located at the University’s Depot Campus. In addition, Dr. Stephens was an original member of the Board of Directors, and remains on the Board, of the New England Transportation Technician Certification Program. Dr. Stephens continues to write research proposals, oversee technical work, assist in project reports and serve as a member of various panels and committees. In addition to countless research contributions, Dr. Stephens’ career has also entailed some administrative service: from 1965-72, he served as Head of Civil Engineering.

Dr. Stephens spends substantial time as a research specialist at the CAP lab, which serves the Northeastern U.S. in implementing SuperPave. SuperPave is the acronym for Superior Performing Asphalt Pavements, which arose from a $50 million research effort by the Federal Strategic Highway Research Program to develop new ways to specify, test and design asphalt materials. The lab continues to design and test new SuperPave mixes, and serves as an educational center for undergraduates studying bituminous concrete.

With a goal toward improving the durability of roadways, Dr. Stephens and his colleagues are hard at work developing composite asphalts that incorporate recycled asphalt, bituminous binders, manufactured sand and course aggregate. Recycling old pavement material, Dr. Stephens explained, eliminates the problem of disposal and permits the state to save petroleum. Along the way, the team has experimented with some unexpected materials, including cornmeal, sawdust, and even powdered paper.

One career highlight involves his work in development of an additive to reduce corrosion of reinforcing in concrete.

With funding from the Federal Highway Administration, Dr. Stephens pioneered use of a new anticorrosive additive. Later, working with professor Gregory Frantz, he produced findings that were corroborated by teams at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Today, 10 states are conducting field tests of the material developed by Drs. Stephens and Frantz, disodium tetrapropenyl succinate (DSS), which Dr. Stephens deems “the best anticorrosion additive I’ve seen in 60 years of working with construction materials.”

Dr. Stephens has received numerous plaudits, including fellowships to the Automobile Safety Foundation and Asphalt Institute; a teaching excellence certificate from the Western Electric Fund; the Connecticut Section/American Society of Civil Engineers Benjamin Wright Award; and at the University of Connecticut, the Alumni Association Distinguished Public Service Award and the Engineering Alumni Award. He is listed in The Marquis Who’s Who publication Who’s Who in Science and Engineering (2005-2006).