University of Connecticut Civil and Environmental Engineering La

Structural Engineering and Applied Mechanics

The Structural Engineering and Applied Mechanics (STAM) group performs multi-disciplinary research in structural engineering, advanced design, structural vibrations, and other related areas. The faculty has expertise in both structural engineering, involving the design of buildings, bridges and other structures, and applied mechanics, which forms the basis of all structural analysis and design. 

The STAM group is engaged in cutting-edge research aimed at creating a more sustainable and resilient world. Our faculty have expertise in smart structures, structural health monitoring of buildings and bridges, application of advanced materials, Accelerated Bridge Construction, ultra-high performance concrete, renewable and clean energy harvesting systems, and innovative repair techniques for aging infrastructure. From earthquake engineering and multihazard resilient design, to structures in space and extreme environments, the UConn STAM group is at the forefront of structural engineering and applied mechanics research.

Featured Projects

Viscoelastic Modeling Aided Experimental Optimization toward Fracture-Resistant Porcelain-Veneered Zirconia and Lithium Disilicate Restorations

Sponsor: National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Principal Investigator: Jeongho Kim

Period: 08/01/2017-07/31/2022

Budget: $663,635

Project Abstract

Dental crowns and bridges are usually constructed by applying an aesthetic porcelain veneer to a strong core material. Ceramic core materials, such as zirconia and lithium disilicate, are currently favored for their ease of fabrication and strength. Chipping and fracture are prevalent in porcelain-veneered zirconia. The high chipping/fracture rate is due predominantly to residual stresses introduced by the high temperature veneering process, but a comprehensive knowledge of the key material, design and processing parameters that govern residual stresses remains absent. The goal of this project is to improve the fracture resistance of porcelain-veneered prostheses through the reduction of deleterious residual tensile stresses and the design of a graded veneer-core interface. The overall objectives are to develop a rigorous viscoelastic graded finite element methodology to guide the design of next-generation fracture-resistant porcelain-veneered ceramic prostheses, and to use clinically relevant fracture mechanics test methods to validate predictions from finite element modeling. The proposed research advances understanding of how stress profiles in all-ceramic prostheses can be tailored for better fracture resistance. Ultimately, such knowledge will bring us closer to a solution of a clinical problem such as chipping, delamination and fracture of porcelain veneered prostheses, reducing morbidity of dental prostheses and cost of replacement to the public. This research activity is a long-term collaboration effort with Prof. Yu Zhang at New York University.

Repair of Steel Beam/Girder Ends with Ultra High-Strength Concrete (Phase III)

Sponsor: Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT)

Principal Investigator: Arash Zaghi, Ph.D.

Period: 07/01/2018 - 06/30/2020

Budget: $479,865

Project Abstract

Coming soon.

Addressing Aging Infrastructure: From Components to Networks

Aging InfrastructureSponsor: Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN)

Principal Investigator: Varies

Period: Varies

Budget: Varies


Project Abstract

The Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Connecticut invites Civil Engineering PhD applicants to apply for a GAANN Fellowship supported by the US Department of Education in the area of addressing aging infrastructure. GAANN fellows will be engaged in cutting-edge research in several areas, including, but not limited to, “big data”, advanced sensors, optimization of transportation networks, monitoring and feedback loops to control wastewater treatment processes, new components for bridge repairs, and prediction modeling. Fellows will develop research through collaborations with faculty and stakeholders.

Understanding Behavior and Properties of Nano-Sized Particles in Cement-Based Materials

Professor Wille shows a concrete cylinder after it’s been brokenSponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Principal Investigator: Kay Wille

Period: 09/01/2015-08/31/2020

Budget: $500,000


Project Abstract

This project investigates the behavior and properties of nano-sized particles in cement-based materials. Nanoparticles have the potential to lead to more dense materials, and to carry over specific functionalities leading to novel material design possibilities, such as intelligent multi-functional highly durable engineered concretes. These design possibilities will allow for enhanced performance control and will increase the potential in effectively addressing the current poor condition of the nation's aging infrastructure as well as prepare for future infrastructure concerns. Unlocking the full potential of nano-sized particles in cement-based systems is currently held back by the limited understanding of the mechanisms by which they disperse throughout the concrete matrix. This information is critical for understanding and improving the strength and durability of the material. This fundamental research will provide needed knowledge for high quality dispersion of nano-particles in cement-based systems. Meaningful impacts will be created through educational outreach activities by a) sharing newly gained knowledge for the advancement of the cement based technology, b) inspiring and motivating the next generation to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), letting them discover their potential of creativity, and c) connecting knowledge of various science disciplines to enhance the interaction between civil engineers, materials scientists and chemists. Inspired by biology and life science, the centerpiece of the educational impact is creating 3D visualization of particle dispersion mechanisms.

The research objective is to examine and understand the dispersion mechanisms of nano-sized pozzolans in cement-based composites. The central hypothesis is that enhancing the chemical bond energy between polymer and nanoparticle (<100 nm) in addition to improving the stabilization forces between polymer-particle units in cement based matrix will lead to better dispersion quality and densification of the matrix. In pursuit of this hypothesis the proposed research is subdivided into the following five interconnected research aims, 1) constituents characterization, 2) polymer synthesis and characterization, 3) particle-polymer interfacial interactions, 4) nanoparticle stabilization and 5) concrete density assessment. A multi-method investigation is proposed to study the intriguing complex dispersion mechanisms. The main challenge of the proposed research is to isolate interconnected mechanisms to reduce the system complexity. Controlled polymer synthesis and controlled ionic concentration of the cement based pore solution are examples of facilitating the isolation of parameters influencing adsorption kinetics and dispersion mechanisms.

IRES Track II/Collaborative Research: PREEMPTIVE Multidisciplinary Natural Hazards Engineering Institute Series for Advanced Graduate Students

Natural DisasterSponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Principal Investigator: Richard Christenson

Period: 08/01/2018-07/31/2021

Budget: $299,199



Project Abstract

New technologies for improving the safety of infrastructure during natural hazards are advancing through ongoing research in the United States (U.S.) and abroad. Locations that have been recently impacted by earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes form prime opportunities for multidisciplinary groups of graduate students from the U.S. to learn the lessons of how infrastructure protective systems performed during recent disasters so that these students can direct their current and future research in the most contemporary and productive directions to better prepare the U.S. for future natural hazards. The objective of this project is to engage U.S. advanced graduate students from various disciplines in embedded learning through research at the forefront of protective systems for natural hazards engineering on the Pacific rim and beyond, and to build a sustained research community between them and their overseas counterparts. The project will enable six Advanced Studies Institutes (ASIs), each in a different location, in which the U.S. students learn from local and U.S. faculty experts, initiate protective systems research in natural hazards engineering, and experience first-hand the effects of natural hazards on built environments. Through these activities, this project advances U.S. scientific capabilities in multidisciplinary components of natural hazards engineering, and trains a diverse upcoming cohort of the scientific workforce to preemptively advance new technologies to prepare for future disasters at home; collaborate with counterparts, senior and early career faculty; and establish a new multidisciplinary approach to engineering hazard resilience. The project will involve a total of 81 U.S. graduate students via the six ASIs in different sites around the world.

The PREEMPTIVE (Pacific Rim Earthquake Engineering Mitigation Protective Technologies International Virtual Environment) ASIs explore topics in disaster science and resilient infrastructure from a highly multidisciplinary perspective to train a diverse group of graduate students in the broad areas of protective systems and disaster mitigation. A series of six week-long PREEMPTIVE ASIs are planned over three years, each enabling a cohort of advanced graduate students and senior and early-career faculty from the U.S. with counterpart faculty and students from around the world to learn about global efforts in protective systems for natural hazards, establish new frontiers of multidisciplinary research, and form long-term global professional relationships. The ASIs will explore the Resilience of Aging Infrastructure, Tsunami Hazards and Infrastructure Resilience, Structural Control & Geotechnical Challenges, Extreme Earthquake & Tsunami Hazards, Hurricane and Multi-Hazards, and Interdisciplinary Disaster Science in Costa Rica, Thailand, New Zealand, Chile, Puerto Rico, and Japan. Each ASI will consist of 2-3 day workshops, 1-2 day cultural and technical tours to provide context to the performance of protective systems in recent natural hazards, and 2-3 day collaborative group projects providing guided experiential learning experiences in infrastructure protective systems. Through this project, U.S. graduate student researchers learn to be preemptive in: addressing current and future research needs in advanced hazards mitigation; collaborating with overseas counterparts; and establishing a new multidisciplinary approach to engineering hazard resilience.

Resilient ExtraTerrestrial Habitats Institute (RETHi)

Lunar Habitat with Walker


Sponsor: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Team Leader: Ramesh Malla

Period: 01/01/2019-12/31/2024


Project Abstract

The vision of the RETH Institute is to develop and demonstrate transformative smart autonomous habitats and related technologies that will adapt, absorb and rapidly recover from expected and unexpected disruptions to deep space habitat systems without fundamental changes in function or sacrifices in safety. Incorporating a system resilience approach will be the turning point in achieving permanent deep space habitats.

RETHi will provide an agile and efficient organizational structure to strategically meet the following tightly-integrated key research objectives:

  • Establish a control-theoretic resilience framework to support resilient design, operation and management while anticipating an evolving and growing habitat over time;
  • Conduct the research and development to establish SmartHabs with autonomous abilities to sense, anticipate and respond, under a variety of manned and unmanned configurations;
  • Develop decision-making techniques that can weigh alternatives for complex interconnected, interdependent habitat systems, while also understanding, and when necessary combating, the natural human instinct to interfere or override automated systems; and  
  • Contribute to NASA’s mission to educate the next generation of engineers and scientists, while building partnerships with US industries and organizations, and other nations, and generate research and data products that will inform and guide future R&D.

Read more on UConn Today.