Pitt | Swanson Engineering
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Mar

Mar
22
2017

The Swanson School Presents Alumnus Michael Flowers with 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award for Civil and Environmental Engineering

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (March 22, 2017) … Collectively they are professors, researchers and authors; inventors, builders and producers; business leaders, entrepreneurs and industry pioneers. The 53rd annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet brought together honorees from each of the Swanson School of Engineering’s six departments and one overall honoree to represent the entire school. The banquet took place at the University of Pittsburgh's Alumni Hall, and Gerald D. Holder, US Steel Dean of Engineering, presented the awards.This year’s recipient for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering was Michael Flowers, MSCE ’78, retired, President and CEO, American Bridge Company.“Civil engineering was the first engineering program established at Pitt 150 years ago, and so our civil engineering alumni have influenced the field for generations,” said Dean Holder. “Of course, one of civil engineering’s most important, historic accomplishments and contributions to society has been building bridges to connect one land mass to another. Michael Flowers, represents that strong tradition.”About Michael FlowersMichael Flowers received his MS in civil engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1978 and his BS in civil engineering from West Virginia University in 1974. He joined American Bridge Company in 1975 as a design engineer in the Pittsburgh Regional Engineering office. In the early years of his career, he worked on the repair and maintenance of a variety of steelmaking facilities for American Bridge’s parent United States Steel Corporation. In 1978, Flowers was assigned to a business unit in American Bridge responsible for major commercial construction projects in the United States, working on both high-rise buildings and bridges. His projects included Phase II of the Renaissance Center in Detroit, MI, One Mellon Bank Center, PPG Place and Fifth Avenue Place buildings in Pittsburgh, PA; and a total reconstruction of the Riverside Drive Viaduct in New York City. In 2006, Flowers became the project director for the American Bridge-led joint venture building the new $1.9 billion San Francisco-Oakland Bay Self-Anchored-Suspension Bridge in California. There he oversaw all aspects of the construction of this one-of-a kind suspension bridge project in the highly seismic Bay Area.Flowers assumed CEO responsibilities of American Bridge in January of 2011. In his capacity as CEO, he led the company’s participation in joint venture wins for the new Queensferry Crossing, a three-tower cable stayed bridge over of the Firth of Forth in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the new Tappan Zee Hudson River Bridge in Tarrytown, NY. In June of 2016 he retired as president and CEO of American Bridge. ### Photo Above: Dean Holder (left) with Michael Flowers and CEE Department Chair Radisav Vidic.
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Mar
13
2017

Pitt Civil Engineering Students Take First and Third Place at Constructors Association of WPa Student Estimating Competition

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH, PA (March 13, 2017) … A team of students from the University of Pittsburgh finished in the top spot at the inaugural Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania (CAWP) Student Estimating Competition. They beat out nine other teams and received a $1,500 award for their victory. The Panther Estimators, led by Civil and Environmental Engineering student Thomas Tresky, won the competition with a total of 208 points, securing a narrow victory over the second place team from the Pennsylvania State University, which scored 207.2 points. Team Abbey, also from the University of Pittsburgh and led by Civil and Environmental Engineering student Jon Abbey, came in third place with a score of 193.5 points. The full team rosters were: Panther Estimators • Thomas Tresky (captain) • Lee Anderson • Matt Lane • Janet D’Anna • Hannah Schell Team Abbey • Jon Abbey (captain) • Katelyn McEneaney • Andrew James • Phillip Paulone • Charles Riddle • Matt Eastburn Five universities participated in the CAWP competition: University of Pittsburgh main campus, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania State University Harrisburg and Carnegie Mellon University. The competition required students to assemble bid packages based on pre-job documents and a pre-bid meeting on a highway construction project. The students had to prepare their bids and schedules by a 6:00 p.m. deadline and then present an explanation of how they arrived at their final bid to judges the next day. Plum Contracting, Inc. provided one of its jobs to serve as the subject of the students’ bids, and Bill Woodford, recently retired chief estimator from Trumbull Corporation, developed the structure of the competition. Representatives from local construction companies served as the judges. Participating companies included: Mosites Construction Company; Swank Construction Company; Michael Facchiano Contracting, Inc.; Plum Contracting, Inc.; The Lane Construction Corporation; Brayman Construction Corporation; and Joseph B. Fay Co. Kurt Karanovich and Brian Westrom, also from Joseph B. Fay Co., mentored the two teams from the University of Pittsburgh main campus. The two-day competition took place at the Regional Learning Alliance in Cranberry Township. On the second day, students also participated in a career fair showcasing the region’s employers and potential job opportunities. The CAWP developed the Student Estimating Competition to encourage students to understand the benefits and opportunities the heavy-highway construction industry has to offer. CAWP, established in 1934, is a non-profit organization that assists workers in the heavy, highway and utility construction industry and improves relationships between contractors, their employees and the general public. ###
Author: Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Mar
8
2017

Civil Engineering Alumna Wanda Austin Receives 2017 Swanson School’s Distinguished Alumni Award

Civil & Environmental, Diversity

PITTSBURGH (March 8, 2017) … Collectively they are professors, researchers and authors; inventors, builders and producers; business leaders, entrepreneurs and industry pioneers. The 53rd annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet brought together honorees from each of the Swanson School of Engineering’s six departments and one overall honoree to represent the entire school. The banquet took place at the University of Pittsburgh's Alumni Hall, and Gerald D. Holder, US Steel Dean of Engineering, presented the awards.The distinguished alumna chosen to represent the Swanson School of Engineering overall in 2017 was Wanda M. Austin, PhD, MSCE ’77, MS Math ’77, retired president and CEO of The Aerospace Corporation.“The Swanson School Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes past recipients of the departmental awards who have excelled in their careers, who have been an inspiration to faculty and students at the Swanson School and who through their accomplishments and capacity have had an impact on the next generation of Pitt engineers,” said Dean Holder. “Wanda, for your incredible engineering career, and your dedication, not only to your employees but future engineers and scientists, we are proud to honor you as our 2017 Distinguished Alumna of the Swanson School of Engineering.”About Wanda AustinDr. Wanda M. Austin earned a BS in mathematics from Franklin & Marshall College, MS degrees in systems engineering and mathematics from the University of Pittsburgh and a PhD in systems engineering from the University of Southern California (USC). She is the former president and CEO of The Aerospace Corporation, an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to the application of science and technology toward critical issues affecting the nation’s space program. From January 2008 until her retirement in October 2016, Austin managed The Aerospace Corporation’s 3,600 employees and annual revenues of $917 million. She was the sixth president and first female president of the organization and is internationally recognized for her work in satellite and payload system acquisition, systems engineering and system simulation.Austin served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and she was appointed to the Defense Science Board in 2010 and the NASA Advisory Council in 2014. She is an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), a Councilor of the National Academy of Engineering and a member of the International Academy of Arts and Sciences. She also serves on the Board of Trustees for USC and the Board of Directors for the Chevron Corporation.Austin is committed to inspiring the next generation to study the STEM disciplines and to make science and engineering preferred career choices. Under her guidance, The Aerospace Corporation undertook a number of initiatives in support of this goal, including participations in MATHCOUNTS, US FIRST Robotics and Change the Equation. She is the author of Making Space: Strategic Leadership for a Complex World, which explores the leadership principles she learned during her decades-long journey as an engineer and executive in the space industry. ###
Author: Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Mar
8
2017

Five Pitt engineering faculty set university and school record by receiving competitive NSF CAREER awards in first months of 2017

Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (March 8, 2017) … The National Science Foundation CAREER award is the organization’s most coveted and competitive research prize for junior faculty, and in the first few months of 2017, the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering has been awarded five CAREER grants totaling more than $2.5 million in research funding. The CAREER program “recognizes faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.” The five awards – three in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, and one each in Civil and Environmental and Electrical and Computer – are the most received by Pitt and Swanson School faculty in a single NSF CAREER funding announcement. The three Chemical and Petroleum Engineering CAREER awards also represent the most received by a single department within the Swanson School. The faculty applied for the awards during the NSF’s 2016 solicitation period.“This is a tremendous accomplishment for our faculty, and will greatly assist them in establishing their research at this early stage of their academic careers,” noted Gerald D. Holder, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering and Distinguished Service Professor at Pitt. “This is the first time that five individuals at the Swanson School received CAREER awards in one year, which speaks to the caliber of their research.” David Vorp, the Swanson School’s Associate Dean for Research and John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering, added, “Research funding at the federal level grows tighter and more competitive each year, and so we’re very proud that these five outstanding faculty members developed such strong proposals. Most importantly, the CAREER awards include a community engagement component which is critical to inspiring future STEM careers in children and young adults.” The award recipients include: Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering John Keith, Inaugural R.K. Mellon Faculty Fellow in Energy and Assistant Professor ($500,000)Title: SusChEM: Unlocking local solvation environments for energetically efficient hydrogenations with quantum chemistry (#1653392)Summary: This project will address the production of carbon-neutral liquid fuels via electrocatalytic reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) to methanol.  Its focus will integrate high-level electronic structure theory, molecular dynamics, and machine learning to understand how interactions between solvent molecules, salts, and co-solutes regulate CO2 reduction from greenhouse gas into fuels. The graduate and undergraduate students in Dr. Keith's lab group will also develop educational modules to engage and excite students in the Pittsburgh Public School District about opportunities in STEM fields, with an emphasis on renewable energy and computational chemistry. Giannis (Yanni) Mpourmpakis, Assistant Professor ($500,000)Title: Designing synthesizable, ligand-protected bimetallic nanoparticles and modernizing engineering curriculum through computational nanoscience (#1652694)Summary: Although scientists can chemically synthesize metal nanoparticles (NPs) of different shapes and sizes, understanding of NP growth mechanisms affecting their final morphology and associated properties is limited. With the potential for NPs to impact fields from energy to medicine and the environment, determining with computer simulations the NP growth mechanisms and morphologies that can be synthesized in the lab is critical to advance NP application. Because this is a relatively new field, traditional core courses in science and engineering lack examples from the nanotechnology arena. In addition to improving the research, the award will enable Dr. Mpourmpakis and his lab group to modernize the traditional course of Chemical Thermodynamics by introducing animation material based on cutting-edge nanotechnology examples, and developing a nanoscale-inspired interactive computer game. Christopher Wilmer, Assistant Professor ($500,000)Title: Fundamental limits of physical adsorption in porous materials (#1653375)Summary: The development of new porous materials is critical to improving important gas storage and separations applications, and will have a positive impact on reducing greenhouse gases. This includes the deployment of methane and/or hydrogen gases as alternative fuels, development of new filters for removing trace gaseous contaminants from air, and separation of carbon dioxide from flue gas to mitigate greenhouse emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Dr. Wilmer’s grant will enable his lab to utilize computational methods to probe the limits of material performance for physical adsorption to porous materials. Although past computational screening has suggested physical limits of adsorption capacity for metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), this project will explore the novel use of so-called “pseudomaterials,” which represent all potential atomistic arrangements of matter in a porous material. As part of community outreach, Dr. Wilmer’s research group will develop educational movies on the fundamental science of gas adsorption, including those relevant to carbon capture to mitigate climate change. Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringKyle J. Bibby, Assistant Professor ($500,000)Title: Quantitative viral metagenomics for water quality assessment (#1653356)Summary: U.S. beaches and waterways often are closed to human contact when tests indicate an increase in E. coli, usually after heavy rains overwhelm sewage systems. However, the concentration of these common bacteria is not a reliable indicator of viruses in the water, which present a greater danger of causing illness in humans. Dr. Bibby’s research will focus on developing new DNA sequencing methods to directly measure viral loads in water and better indicate potential threats to human health. Dr. Bibby’s group, which previously studied persistence of the Ebola virus in the environment and has worked to develop novel indicators of viral contamination, will utilize quantitative viral metagenomics for viral water quality assessment. The CAREER Award includes an outreach component that allows Dr. Bibby to engage with students at the Pittsburgh Public School’s Science & Technology Academy (SciTech) next to the Swanson School, leading to development of a hands-on educational module for high school students to characterize microbial water quality. Dr. Bibby will also utilize the research to expand the H2Oh! interactive exhibit he developed with the Carnegie Science Center, enabling children to better understand the impact of water quality on everyday life. Department of Electrical & Computer EngineeringErvin Sejdić, Assistant Professor and 2016 PECASE Recipient ($549,139)Title: Advanced data analytics and high-resolution cervical auscultation can accurately predict dysphagia (#1652203)Summary: Dysphagia, or swallowing disorders, affects nearly one in 25 adults, especially the elderly and those who have suffered a stroke or neurological disease, and results in approximately 150,000 hospitalizations annually. A patient’s risk for dysphagia is diagnosed first by screening, and may require an endoscopy or fluoroscopy for further evaluation. However, some patients who aspirate do so silently, causing doctors to misdiagnose. Dr. Sejdić will utilize high-resolution vibration and sound recordings to develop a new screening technology to help doctors diagnose dysphagia and patients to learn how to properly swallow while eating or drinking. Dr. Sejdić and his lab group will also collaborate with speech language pathologists to develop an online learning module to further education and outreach throughout the U.S. ###

Feb

Feb
27
2017

What's Really in the Water

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (February 27, 2017) … U.S. beaches and waterways are often closed to human contact when tests indicate an increase in E. coli, usually after heavy rains overwhelm sewage systems. However, the concentration of these common bacteria is not a reliable indicator of viruses in the water, which present a greater danger of causing illness in humans. Through a five-year, $500,000 CAREEER Award from the National Science Foundation, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering will be developing new DNA sequencing methods to directly measure viral loads in water and better indicate potential threats to human health. “Quantitative Viral Metagenomics for Water Quality Assessment,” funded through the NSF’s Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems, is being led by Kyle J. Bibby, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Swanson School. The CAREER program is the NSF’s most prestigious award for junior faculty who exemplify outstanding research, teaching, and their integration. Dr. Bibby’s expertise in genomics tools to study, understand, and solve environmental challenges influenced this latest research, which will capitalize on new genetic sequencing tools used in medicine. “Viruses can persist in water longer than E.coli, and are an important component of disease caused by contaminated water,” Dr. Bibby said. “Although viruses don’t often appear in greater concentrations than bacteria, they still present a danger especially when waterways are contaminated by human waste.” According to Dr. Bibby, conventional methods used to detect viral pathogens in the environment are limited because of viral diversity. However, advances in medicine, specifically in DNA sequencing, have increased the ability to detect even the slightest viral load. Dr. Bibby’s group, which previously studied the persistence of the Ebola virus in the environment and has worked to develop novel indicators of viral contamination, will utilize quantitative viral metagenomics for viral water quality assessment. “There’s actually very little known about viral pathogen diversity and dynamics in wastewater-impacted systems because in the past, viruses were difficult to detect. New DNA sequencing methods and methods to concentrate the virus and analyze the data rapidly and accurately are necessary for this method applicable and economical. In addition, we need to demonstrate the efficiency and accuracy across several sources in the U.S.,” Dr. Bibby said. The CAREER Award includes an outreach component that allows Dr. Bibby to engage with students at the Pittsburgh Public School’s Science & Technology Academy (SciTech) next to the Swanson School, leading to development of a hands-on educational module for high school students to characterize microbial water quality. Dr. Bibby will also utilize the research to expand the H2Oh! interactive exhibit he developed with the Carnegie Science Center, enabling children to better understand the impact of water quality on everyday life. “Applying quantitative viral metagenomics to these DNA/RNA sequencing techniques has the potential to advance water quality monitoring not only in developing countries, but also in U.S. municipal systems that currently rely on fecal indicator bacteria such as E. coli to determine water quality,” Dr. Bibby said. “In the future, viral pathogen detection would be greatly beneficial in many other settings, such as sudden viral outbreaks, food production safety, and viral epidemiology.” ###

Feb
18
2017

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette features Civil Engineering Student-Athlete Zach Smith

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

There’s a dreamlike feeling that engulfs Lori Smith every time she and her husband enter Petersen Events Center. As they arrive at their seats, getting there early enough to see the end of Pitt’s pregame warm-up, they look for their son, Zach, a junior guard on the team. Before every game, without fail, he looks up, locks eyes with them and waves. It’s a brief moment, lasting no longer than two seconds, but it reinforces a reality that sometimes seems like anything but — her son is a Division I basketball player. “It’s not surreal once in a while; it’s every time we talk about it,” Lori said. “It’s an unbelievable opportunity he’s been given.” Read the full article by Craig Meyer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Feb
2
2017

Life-cycle assessment study provides detailed look at decentralized water systems

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (February 2, 2017) … The “decentralized” water system at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which treats all non-potable water on site, contributes to the net-zero building’s recognition as one of the greenest buildings in the world. However, research into the efficacy of these systems versus traditional treatment is practically non-existent in the literature. Thanks to a collaboration between Phipps and the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, researchers now have a greater understanding of the life cycle of water reuse systems designed for living buildings, from construction through day-to-day use.“Evaluating the Life Cycle Environmental Benefits and Trade-Offs of Water Reuse Systems for Net-Zero Buildings,” published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology (DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b03879), is the first-of-its-kind research utilizing life-cycle assessment (LCA). Co-authored by Melissa M. Bilec, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt and deputy director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI), collaborators at Phipps included Richard Piacentini, executive director; and Jason Wirick, director of facilities and sustainability management. Pitt PhD graduate student, Vaclav Hasik, and Pitt undergraduate, Naomi Anderson, were first and second authors, respectively. “As water becomes more of a precious resource around the globe, there is a greater focus on developing new methods of water efficiency and water conservation,” Dr. Bilec said. “We’ve worked closely with Richard and Phipps since the CSL was first designed, and its decentralized water system provides a unique opportunity to explore how these strategies can be an alternative to traditional systems.”According to Dr. Bilec, LCA scientifically analyzes the environmental impact of a product or process throughout the entire life cycle, from the materials used to build a system, to their transportation, construction, use, and, eventually, the estimated end of life. Although LCA has been used to compare centralized and decentralized water systems in different contexts, the Phipps CSL research is the first to consider both water supply and treatment at a comprehensive site or in the context of a net-zero energy/water building. “Using groundbreaking processes in the building of the CSL has allowed us to work with Pitt to conduct research and learn about their efficacy, and will allow others to use this knowledge to advance their own work,” said Mr. Piacentini, Phipps executive director. “The only way to make a difference is by providing the resources for others to succeed.”Dr. Bilec noted that while the research found that a decentralized water system operates well for a facility like the CSL, the environmental benefits or trade-offs for such systems are dependent upon their lifetime of use, and may not necessarily be practical or environmentally preferable.  For example, a similar system might be more environmentally and economically efficient for a development of multiple homes or buildings, rather than one structure. Conversely, the relative impact of a decentralized system built in a water-scarce region may be more beneficial than its environmental footprint. The decision of what water system to build and its scale, she says, should be evaluated within the context of the entire life of the structure or site it supports.She also noted that research such as this is valuable because of the community-minded approach shared between Pitt, MCSI and Phipps, and its impact on students. For example, PhD candidate Vaclav Hasik is utilizing the CSL study to inform his dissertation on resilient and sustainable systems, while summer undergraduate Mascaro Center researcher, Naomi E. Anderson, was a key participant, illustrating the success of MCSI’s summer program.“The CSL at Phipps is a tremendous case study because it has achieved four of the most sought-after awards in sustainable construction,” Dr. Bilec noted. “Richard, his board and employees are incredibly forward-thinking and committed to not only the concept of a living building but also supporting its evolution through research, and that makes Phipps a wonderful collaborator. Opportunities such as this not only advance research in the field, but also provide a tremendous experience and inspiration for students.” Other co-authors of “Evaluating the Life Cycle Environmental Benefits and Trade-Offs of Water Reuse Systems for Net-Zero Buildings” include William O. Collinge, postdoctoral associate, University of Pittsburgh; Vikas Khanna, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, University of Pittsburgh; Amy E. Landis, the Thomas F. Hash '69 Endowed Chair Professor, Glenn Department of Civil Engineering at Clemson University; and Cassandra L. Thiel, former postdoctoral associate, now assistant professor, New York University Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. ### Image above: The Center for Sustainable Landscapes exterior with constructed wetlands and lagoon at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Credit: Denmarsh Photography Inc. Image below: Diagram representing water circulation at the Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes. Reprinted with permission from "Evaluating the Life Cycle Environmental Benefits and Trade-Offs of Water Reuse Systems for Net-Zero Buildings," Environmental Science & Technology. Copyright 2017, American Chemical Society.
For information on Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, contact Connie George, Director of Marketing and Communications: 412-622-6915 ext. 3801 (market@phipps.conservatory.org)
Feb
1
2017

University of Pittsburgh set to launch Master of Science in Sustainable Engineering major and professional degree this summer

All SSoE News, Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (February 1, 2017) … Answering a demand for professional programs that help students find sustainable solutions to regional and global engineering issues, the University of Pittsburgh this summer has designed a new Master of Science in Sustainable Engineering (MSSE) program. The major and professional degree will utilize a systems-based approach to help students identify and address complex environmental and socioeconomic problems.Housed within the University’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) with the degree granted from the Swanson School of Engineering, the 30-credit MSSE integrates with nine current masters’ degree programs in engineering, and provides students the opportunity to complete two M.S. degree programs with a limited time increase. The MSSE curriculum combines an engineering technical formation with the study of sustainability from multiple perspectives such as business, policy and economics. “Sustainability is integrated throughout our engineering curriculum, especially at the undergraduate level, and this new master’s program complements and builds upon this foundation,” noted Eric J. Beckman, Distinguished Service Professor and MCSI Co-Director. “Industry, government, non-profits and even the military today understand that sustainability impacts the triple bottom line of environmental, societal, and economic problems, and is much more than recycling materials or “going green.” The MSSE will give our students a distinct advantage in pursuing sustainable solutions in various professional settings.”According to Dr. Beckman, the MSSE may also integrate community-based service-learning opportunities to help students develop regional and nationally scalable sustainability solutions. This provides students with experiences that enable them to address actual issues up close while learning to communicate sustainability issues and solutions to multiple audiences.“MCSI has a proven track record in connecting faculty research with underserved populations in the Pittsburgh region, and so this degree program will not be limited to the classroom and lab, but will also reach out into the communities that Pitt serves,” Dr. Beckman said. “Sustainability is a global issue, but its strength lies in community engagement and helping the average person understand how sustainability impacts daily life.” For more information, contact David Sanchez, Assistant Professor Civil and Environmental Engineering and MCSI Assistant Director for Education and Outreach at davidsanchez@pitt.edu or 412-624-9793. ###

Feb
1
2017

CEE’s Leanne Gilbertson Wins 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH, PA (February 1, 2017) … Leanne Gilbertson, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, is a recipient of the 2017 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award, which recognizes outstanding faculty on the basis of research, experience and academic leadership.“I am honored and grateful for the support from 3M, which comes at a critical point in my early career,” Gilbertson says. In addition to the recognition, the award provides financial support of $15,000 annually, for a total of three years, and includes an invitation to 3M’s Science & Engineering Faculty Day in June. Funds may be used for any purpose related to basic research. The 3M company established the Non-Tenured Faculty Award to encourage the pursuit of new ideas among non-tenured university professors and gives them the opportunity to interact with their peers and 3M researchers.Dr. Gilbertson’s research group is engaged in projects aimed at informing sustainable design of existing and novel materials to avoid potential unintended environmental and human health consequences while maintaining functional performance goals. Her research includes both experimental and life cycle modeling thrusts. The 3M award will support a new research direction focused on ‘Leveraging Nanomaterial Design for Next Generation Antimicrobials.’   Dr. Gilbertson earned her PhD in environmental engineering from Yale University in 2014 with support from a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and an Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship. She joined Pitt in 2015 after completing her postdoctoral research in Yale’s Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering. Dr. Gilbertson received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Hamilton College in 2007 and was a secondary school teacher for several years before going to graduate school. ###
Author: Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Feb
1
2017

ASCE Pittsburgh Names Andrew Bunger 2016 Professor of the Year

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH, PA (February 1, 2017) … The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has chosen Andrew Bunger, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, as the 2016 Professor of the Year for the Pittsburgh Section. Bunger will receive the award at the Pittsburgh Section’s Engineer’s Week Banquet on February 18 at the Engineer’s Society of Western Pennsylvania.The ASCE Section Award Committee stated it selected Bunger for his continual excellence in teaching, contribution to professional guidance and the development of civil engineering students by reinvigorating the geotechnical engineering program at the University of Pittsburgh, among other criteria.Bunger’s research interests include the mechanics of hydraulic fractures, interaction between shale formations and drilling fluids, the emplacement dynamics of magma intrusions, core discing and poroelasticity. His experience includes research for the oil and gas industry, geothermal industry, mining industries and carbon sequestration.The National Science Foundation also recognized Bunger earlier this year by awarding him a $310,000 grant to study how naturally-occurring dikes swarms can lead to improved methods of oil and gas reservoir stimulation. The study will look at the 1,900-mile-long Mackenzie Dike Swarm and other ancient geological features to determine the mechanics of the self-organizing behavior within swarms. Bunger will investigate why naturally occurring dike swarms organize themselves uniformly across great distances, but man-made cracks associated with hydraulic fracturing tend to localize to one or two dominant strands.Bunger received his PhD and MSc in geological engineering from the University of Minnesota. He also received a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor of arts degree in physics/engineering science from Bethel University. He has a second appointment in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at Pitt. ###
Author: Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Jan

Jan
19
2017

Geosciences-Inspired Engineering

Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (January 19, 2017) … The Mackenzie Dike Swarm, an ancient geological feature covering an area more than 300 miles wide and 1,900 miles long beneath Canada from the Arctic to the Great Lakes, is the largest dike swarm on Earth. Formed more than one billion years ago, the swarm’s geology discloses insights into major magmatic events and continental breakup. The Mackenzie Dike Swarm and the roughly 120 other known giant dike swarms located across the planet may also provide useful information about efficient extraction of oil and natural gas in today’s modern world. To explore how naturally-occurring dike swarms can lead to improved methods of oil and gas reservoir stimulation, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Earth Sciences awarded a $310,000 award to Andrew Bunger, assistant professor in the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering. Dike swarms are the result of molten rock (magma) rising from depth and then driving cracks through the Earth’s crust. Dike swarms exhibit a self-organizing behavior that allows hundreds of individual dikes to fan out across large distances. Although petroleum engineers desire to achieve the same effect when creating hydraulic fractures for stimulation of oil and gas production, the industrial hydraulic fractures appear far more likely to localize to only one or two dominant strands. This localization leaves 30-40 percent of most reservoirs in an unproductive state, representing an inefficient use of resources and leading to unnecessary intensity of oil and gas development. In the study, “Self-Organization Mechanisms within Magma-Driven Dyke and Hydraulic Fracture Swarms,” Bunger will take a novel approach to understanding the mechanics of fluid-driven cracks, which he refers to as “geosciences-inspired engineering.” Like the growing field of biologically-inspired engineering, Bunger will be looking to processes in the natural world to better understand the constructed or engineered world. “I would like to challenge myself and the geoscience community to look at naturally occurring morphologies with the eye of an engineer,” says Bunger. “The first part of the study will involve developing a mechanical model to explain the behavior of the dike swarms. We are borrowing from a theoretical framework developed in biology called ‘swarm theory,’ which explains the self-organizing behavior of groups of animals.” Swarm theory, or swarm intelligence, refers to naturally and artificially occurring complex systems with no centralized control structure. The individual agents in the system exhibit simple or even random behavior, but collectively the group achieves emergent, or “intelligent,” behavior. “One of the hallmarks of self-organizing behavior within swarms was recognized by swarm theory’s earliest proponents, who were actually motivated by developing algorithms to simulate flocks and herds in computer animation,” Bunger explains. “They proposed that all swarming behavior can be tied to the presence of three basic forces. One of these leads to alignment of the members with each other – it is what makes a flocking bird fly in the same direction as its neighbors. A second force is associated with repulsion – it keeps birds within a flock from running into each other and knocking each other out of the air. The third force is attraction – an often instinctive desire of certain animals to be near other animals of their own species, typically for protection from predators.” “If you look at dike swarms,” Bunger continues, “They have been called ‘swarms’ for decades, but there has never been an effort to identify the mechanical origins of the three forces that are known to be present any place that swarming morphology is observed. When we view dikes in this way, we see that the alignment and repulsive forces have been recognized for years, although never placed in the broader context of their role in swarming. However, the origin of the attractive force is problematic. Why do all these dikes have any mechanical impetus to grow near each other? Because the mechanical origin of the attractive force has not been known, it is unclear why natural fluid-driven cracks – dikes – tend to exhibit swarming behavior while such an outcome is far less commonly observed in man-made fluid-driven cracks associated with hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas reservoirs.” “We will use computational models and analogue experiments, which use artificial materials to simulate the Earth’s processes, to develop a new theory of fluid-driven crack swarms,” says Bunger. “Through this advance, we would like to improve the stimulation methods used for oil and gas production. This will be a win-win for both industry and our society that depends upon the energy resources they produce. Industry will benefit from more efficient methods, and society will benefit from lower energy costs and a decreased environmental footprint associated with resource extraction.” In addition to a deeper understanding of the geological process that occur throughout Earth’s history, Bunger also sees his research impacting planetary research of Mars and Venus. Both rocky planets contain a large number of giant dike swarms. Understanding how the geometry of dike swarms relates to the conditions in the Earth’s crust at the time of emplacement will lead to a new method for ascertaining the little-known geological structure and history of Mars and Venus though analysis of the geometry of their many giant dike swarms. ### Photo above: Dr. Bunger in his Benedum Hall lab with the newly-installed compression frame he uses to simulate the high-stress environment deep inside the Earth.
Author: Matthew Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Jan
4
2017

CEE Graduate Student Lisa Stabryla Inducted into Carson Scholarship Fund Hall of Fame

Civil & Environmental

BALTIMORE, MD (January 4, 2017) … The Carson Scholars Fund (CSF) has announced Lisa Stabryla, graduate researcher and teaching assistant in the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will enter its second class of inductees to the Carson Scholars Hall of Fame. Stabryla will join four other Carson Scholar Alumni at the Maryland Awards Banquet in spring 2017 for recognition of their success and excellence in professional, academic and community efforts.The CSF has an alumni network of more than 4,000 members and introduced the Hall of Fame with 20 inductees last year in celebration of its 20th anniversary. Stabryla received a $1,000 college scholarship from CSF in 2010 for academic excellence and her dedication to serving the community. She earned a B.S. in engineering science from Pitt and is currently pursuing a PhD in environmental engineering under the advisory of Dr. Leanne Gilbertson, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering.“We are very proud of Lisa and delighted that her dedication as a student, researcher, teacher, mentor and leader continues to be recognized by the Carson Scholars Fund,” said Gilbertson.About Lisa StabrylaStabryla joined Dr. Gilbertson’s lab in 2016 as a graduate researcher and teaching assistant. Previously she worked as an undergraduate student researcher in the Bibby Lab and the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI). During a co-operative education position with Cardno ChemRisk in Pittsburgh, PA, she co-authored a scientific publication published in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology. She has also interned with the Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner and the McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine at Pitt.In addition to her many academic accomplishments, Stabryla volunteered for the Fund for Advancement of Minorities through Education as a MATHCOUNTS instructor. In this role, she developed creative methods for teaching inner city African American middle school students in Pittsburgh. She volunteered with the INVESTING NOW Summer Enrichment Program at Pitt and helped introduce underrepresented high school students to sustainability concepts through building miniature wind turbines and solar cells. Stabryla also participated in the MCSI Teach-the-Teacher Workshop to help engage middle school teachers to adopt sustainability and engineering practices into the classroom. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer