Monthly Archives: March 2017

Tim Larson Appointed Interim Department Chair

Tim Larson

From the desk of Dean Mike Bragg:

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Tim Larson as interim chair of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, effective March 16, 2017.

Tim is uniquely qualified to lead the department through a chair transition, having served as acting chair for the department twice and as an associate chair.  A respected and longstanding faculty member, Tim is well versed in the administration of the department.  As most of you know, Tim holds an adjunct appointment in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, and his research focuses on air quality management, measurement methods for atmospheric aerosols, and precipitation scavenging.  I appreciate Tim’s commitment to the department and willingness to once again take on this important leadership role.  I know that CEE will benefit from Tim’s prior experience and his dedication to the mission and excellence of the department.

I would like to thank Greg Miller for his outstanding leadership as Chair of CEE for seven years. During his tenure as chair, Greg oversaw significant growth in faculty hiring, student demand and departmental stature. We are very grateful for his commitment and leadership and look forward to working with him in his new role as vice dean.

Please join me in welcoming Tim as interim chair.  I look forward to working with Tim as we begin a search for the next CEE chair.

Best regards,

Mike

Mike Bragg
Frank & Julie Jungers Dean of Engineering
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics
College of Engineering
University of Washington

Inaugural CEE Student Film Contest Awards Announced

Best in Creativity winners Ronda Strauch and Sai Siddhartha Nudurupati; Best in Cinematography winner Molly Grear; and honorable mention recipients Begum Birsoz and Wenxin Lin, from left.

Perhaps it’s their problem-solving mindset or technical skills, but it turns out that engineers are naturals at film making. This was evidenced at UW CEE’s inaugural student film contest on March 16. A panel of judges evaluated six student-made films and selected the following winners:

Students began working on their videos in fall 2016. As several students had no prior filmmaking experience, UW Video hosted several sessions to provide technical help. The contest was organized by associate professor Faisal Hossain, a filmmaker in his spare time.

Hossain’s motivation to found the contest stems from his passion to share information about the important work of civil and environmental engineers, which is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary and diverse, he said. He also hopes to inspire and teach students about the importance of being skilled communicators.

“It’s a very important process for our students to become master communicators,” Hossain said. “The work of civil and environmental engineers permeates life and society not only through the usual notions of buildings, construction, highway and clean water, but also through energy, resources, the environment and more.”

Hossain hopes to organize another film contest again in two years. Building upon the success of this year’s contest, he hopes to eventually open it up to students from engineering schools across the U.S.

“We want this to evolve into the nation’s first engineering film festival open to all engineering majors in the U.S.” Hossain said.

Congratulations to the winners!

Tim Larson Appointed Interim Department Chair

Professor Tim Larson

From the desk of Dean Mike Bragg:

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Tim Larson as interim chair of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, effective March 16, 2017. Tim is uniquely qualified to lead the department through a chair transition, having served as acting chair for the department twice and as an associate chair.  A respected and longstanding faculty member, Tim is well versed in the administration of the department.

As most of you know, Tim holds an adjunct appointment in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, and his research focuses on air quality management, measurement methods for atmospheric aerosols, and precipitation scavenging.  I appreciate Tim’s commitment to the department and willingness to once again take on this important leadership role.  I know that CEE will benefit from Tim’s prior experience and his dedication to the mission and excellence of the department.

I would like to thank Greg Miller for his outstanding leadership as Chair of CEE for seven years. During his tenure as chair, Greg oversaw significant growth in faculty hiring, student demand and departmental stature. We are very grateful for his commitment and leadership and look forward to working with him in his new role as vice dean.

Please join me in welcoming Tim as interim chair.  I look forward to working with Tim as we begin a search for the next CEE chair.

Best regards,

Mike
Mike Bragg
Frank & Julie Jungers Dean of Engineering
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics
College of Engineering
University of Washington

Alumna Deb Niemeier Elected to the National Academy of Engineering

UW CEE alumna Deb Niemeier.

UW CEE alumna Deb Niemeier (Ph.D. ’94) has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, one of the most prestigious honors in the engineering field. Reserved for individuals who have made pioneering contributions, Niemeier is recognized for developing groundbreaking tools to improve the accuracy of estimating regional vehicle pollutants, which impact the health of minority populations that reside in close proximity to highways.

“It is an honor to be asked to join such an esteemed group,” Niemeier said. “I am grateful for all of the support I’ve had. No one ever travels a path completely on their own.”

A professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the School of Education at the University of California, Davis, Niemeier has focused her research efforts on developing better methods to estimate vehicle emissions. When she first entered the field, it was known that vehicles were significant polluters. However, despite advances in engine technology that had begun to reduce tailpipe emissions, there weren’t robust methods for estimating the impact of tailpipe emissions on regional air quality. If estimates of vehicle pollution are too low, not enough emissions control technologies are implemented. Conversely, high estimates may lead to the implementation of too many, or the wrong types, of pollution controls.

“It’s a balancing act with significant health implications, mostly for the poor and minorities,” Niemeier said. “If we don’t control emissions enough, we jeopardize health.”

Studies have shown that minority populations, particularly communities of color and low-income households, tend to live closer to congested highways. This exposes them to a variety of pollutants produced by vehicles, especially nitrogen dioxide which causes health problems such as heart attack and asthma.

To address this challenge, Niemeier and her students developed new algorithms for more accurately estimating vehicle emissions. They also drafted new regulatory guidance to ensure that public agencies utilize the new evaluation methods when making decisions related to air quality issues.

Born out of this interest in environmental justice, Niemeier and three of her students also formed a company. Primarily through pro bono work, they collaborate with legal advocacy groups and environmental law clinics on social justice issues associated with transportation-related air quality issues that impact underserved populations.

A Texas native, Niemeier moved to Seattle to attend graduate school at UW after working for a consulting firm in Maine for several years. After considering several prominent east coast engineering schools, none of which felt like a good fit, an undergraduate professor suggested visiting CEE professor Scott Rutherford, who ended up being Niemeier’s Ph.D. advisor.

Coming to UW was the best decision I ever made,” Niemeier said. “Scott was the perfect advisor for me. He set an example for me on how to let students be independent and grow, make a few mistakes, and eventually carve out their own path. I can only hope I have given my students some of what he gave me.”

Of her numerous accomplishments, Niemeier is most proud of her students, many of whom are now faculty at various institutions, including Cornell University, University of Illinois, University of New Mexico, McGill University and Georgia Institute of Technology.

“It is so much fun to watch my students grow beyond me,” Niemeier said. “They’ve taken with them an interest in social justice, working with undergraduates and a dedication to teaching that makes me proud.”

Among the many honors she has received over the years, Niemeier was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2014 and a Guggenheim Fellow in 2015. She has also served as chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Davis.

Congratulations, Deb!