After recently receiving the Faculty Early Career Development Program Award from the National Science Foundation, Matthew R. Hallowell, assistant professor of construction engineering and management, plans to offer his students a more engaging, valuable academic experience. With the NSF CAREER Award, Hallowell is conducting a large research project in which students will also have the chance to participate.
Hallowell’s groundbreaking research, “Predictive Modeling of Construction Injuries in Complex Environments,” examines how injury prevention can be improved at construction sites. Rather than quantifying individual risks, this research looks to complete a content analysis on previous injury reports to identify fundamental attributes that could contribute to injuries. From there, Hallowell is using multivariate statistics to forecast the probability of specific injuries.
As part of the educational experience, Hallowell plans to teach students how to incorporate these models within an augmented reality system. Most universities teach construction safety based on OSHA standards, but this is often not enough to prevent injuries. While OSHA standards must be followed, even OSHA-compliant companies are experiencing injuries and fatalities. By students working with this augmented reality system, they will be better prepared to respond to the dynamics and complexities of construction environments once they begin their careers.
“Instead of having a checkbox or list of rules that must be followed, students learn how to be more proactive and redesign a worksite,” Hallowell says. “For example, you can get to the site and find an exposed edge, or you can design the facility so that it never had an exposed edge in the first place.”
With this educational approach, students can expect to receive a more valuable learning experience, Hallowell says. Students are not spending their time listening to lectures. Instead, they are using classroom time to experience this innovative research firsthand.
“It’s not lecture based by any means,” Hallowell says. “It’s more experiential learning, and it’s certainly more engaging. This will encourage active learning instead of passive learning, so the students don’t just sit and listen. They do and talk.”
A new partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business and the College of Engineering and Applied Science is scheduled to begin in fall 2013. The program, funded by a gift from alumnus Dan Ivanoff and his wife Laurie, supports the creation of a construction management track within the MBA program, opens the door for graduate construction engineering and management students to take associated business classes, and includes a faculty fellowship awarded to CEAE assistant professor Amy Javernick-Will.
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Civil engineering PhD student Joshua Kearns is researching ways to improve sanitation and water quality in developing communities through the use of biochar.
Jessica Kaminsky, a doctoral student working with Assistant Professor Amy Javernick-Will, was awarded a three-year fellowship through the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Science To Achieve Results (STAR) program. Jessica is a student studying in the Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities. Her research aims to improve the sustainability of household sanitation infrastructure.
Household sanitation systems, like septic tanks, are one of the most common sources of groundwater contamination in the United States. Both domestically and internationally, they suffer from high failure rates. While some of these failures are due to poor design, many are instead caused by inadequate maintenance and operation. To address this issue, Jessica’s research will quantify the social networks that impact sanitation systems in an effort to understand how knowledge flow impacts maintenance and operation.
Three CEAE graduate students were awarded three-year fellowships through the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program. This highly competitive program provides funding for students pursuing graduate degrees in engineering, mathematics, and science.
Julie Korak, a doctoral student in the environmental engineering program, is working with Professor R. Scott Summers to develop an analytical method for detecting hydraulic fracturing fluid in groundwater. Hydraulic fracturing is widely used for the extraction of oil and natural gas. There is a growing concern that the chemical compounds, some of which are toxic, used in the fracturing process have the potential to contaminate groundwaters or enter surface waters during disposal. Julie plans to use fluorescence spectroscopy to develop an economic and simple method for detecting the presence of these compounds. Such a method would benefit both rural and urban communities wherever there is a prevalence of oil and gas development.
Austa Parker, a doctoral student in the environmental engineering program, is working on a research project with Professor Karl Linden, examining the use of advanced oxidation technologies to destroy chemical contaminants in drinking water. Her work will utilize advanced analytical chemistry techniques such as mass spectrometry and toxicity testing to identify oxidation byproducts for select chemicals on the US EPA Candidate Contaminant List. Her work will provide important information on the treatability of these contaminants, supporting policymakers, water utilities, consultants, and other academics.
Melissa Stewart, an MS candidate in the geotechnical engineering and geomechanics program, is working on a research project with Professor John McCartney involving centrifuge modeling of soil-structure interaction in energy foundations. After she completes her MS degree, Melissa will continue will her PhD degree at CU-Boulder, focusing on the impact of heat exchange on the deformation response of geosynthetic-reinforced soil structures.