CEIE OSCAR Undergraduates Complete Their Research

CEIE undergraduates have taken advantage of the GMU OSCAR program to conduct independent research with CEIE faculty, including five this year: Tom Barham, Amelia Martin, Kelsey Ryan, Sadie Fahoul, and Seth Lawler (left to right). Most received credit toward their degree for their independent study and all received a stipend for their work.

Three students worked on projects associated with flooding hazards, an issue of growing concern in Washington DC, Virginia, and Maryland with rising sea levels, increasing extreme storm events, and areas of very high value development.

  • Amelia Martin worked with Dr. Celso Ferreira to analyze the impact of hurricane flooding in the National Capital Region. She gained valuable experience using flood inundation and hazards models for this project. She input data for the DC region into ADCIRC to model the inundation from a Hurricane Sandy scenario, and then estimated losses using HAZUS.
  • Seth Lawler modeled flooding beneath a Virginia Department of Transportation highway bridge. With Dr. Burak Tanyu, he collected and analyzed soil samples retrieved from beneath the bridge. Then with Dr. Ferreira, he assembled hydrologic data from US Geological Survey gage stations, acquired a 1-D hydraulic model from Fairfax DPWES, and compiled a database of bathymetric data from the study site, input into a geodatabase using ArcGIS.
  • Kelsey Ryan undertook a transportation engineering study with Dr. Shanjiang Zhu, working also with PhD student Meredith Morgan to evaluate traffic network vulnerability and evacuation strategy during flooding in Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She learned to integrate data form different sources, analyze traffic networks, and evaluate network performance under different evacuation scenarios during a major hurricane event. Findings from this research help in developing better evacuation strategies for future hurricane events.

Two students worked on geotechnical engineering projects.

  • Sadie Fahoul undertook a project with Dr. Laura Kosoglu to evaluate various stone restoration treatments to reduce the swelling of montmorillonite clay. Expansive clays can cause landslides, wall failures, road cracking, and foundation heave due to their significant volume change, called swell, during wetting/drying cycles. The annual cost of damages in the U.S. caused by moisture fluctuations in expansive soils is estimated to cost between $13 billion to $15 billion per year. Sadie tested several promising inexpensive surface treatments commonly used in stone preservation in museums, quantifying the swell reduction of different treatments; determining the optimum treatment concentration for swell inhibition; comparing application method effects; and then recommending an optimal treatment to inhibit clay swell potential.
  • Tom Barham worked with Dr. Tanyu and Dr. Deborah Goodings to characterize the mechanical properties of corn stored in corn bins, to begin to understand the particulate mechanics of corn bin entrapment on farms. This problem is poorly defined at present so they visited a farm that grows and stores corn for livestock feed and ethanol, to understand how corn is handled. They returned with samples and then Tom tested the corn — which is like unpopped popcorn — in the direct shear apparatus to measure its shear strength. His work has just started to define the problem.