Six CEE students awarded Mary Gates Research Scholarship

“I loved spending time hiking and skiing in the mountains as a kid, but I never thought I would be able to work in that kind of environment while simultaneously studying engineering.”

Colin Butler is among six CEE students who were recently awarded the Mary Gates Research Scholarship for 2014-2015. These competitive scholarships allow undergraduates at the University of Washington to deepen their inquiry into a project or discipline while guided by faculty.

Mary Gates Research scholar

Colin Butler at forest station near Snoqualmie Pass.

Working with associate professor Jessica Lundquist, Colin’s research has him taking a different approach to measuring energy transfer between the snow surface and local atmosphere. “Using a vertical array of temperature and wind speed sensors instead of a sonic anemometer (3D wind speed instrument), I will be able to collect more reliable data than is currently available from the existing instrument, which doesn’t work well in wet or icy conditions,” Colin said. The ultimate goal will be to better predict snowmelt timing and runoff.

CEE student James Neher, working with associate professor Alex Horner-Devine and active in both the Ecohydrology and Environmental Fluid Mechanics research groups, is researching the mechanics of salt wedge estuaries. “Salt wedges modify the hydrodynamic behavior of the estuary.  Most notably, they divert the lighter, faster moving freshwater away from the river bed, preventing uplift of sediments,” said James. This can be a concern in rivers such as the Duwamish, where highly contaminated sediments can be uplifted and enter the Puget Sound.

Both students have found their research experience to be challenging and rewarding. While unforeseen setbacks can be discouraging, “I find them slightly thrilling,” said James. “Each time I wonder if I could have stumbled across something truly new and unobserved in the scientific world.” For Colin, “the last six months have pushed me harder to learn more and adapt to new situations than ever before.”

Students can also get a glimpse into graduate studies by engaging in undergraduate research. “Getting the chance to observe a number of different research pathways within hydrology has opened my mind up to new interests in the field,” said Colin.

Undergraduate research has bridged the gap between academics and personal hobbies for Colin.

“Starting out I wasn’t sure what to expect from a job that had me doing so many different and challenging tasks, but after climbing trees in the Olympic Mountains, hiking around Snoqualmie Pass, and tinkering with instruments on campus I discovered that work can be just as fun and exciting as play when you’re doing something that interests you in a place you would choose to be in your free time.”

CEE 2014-15 Mary Gates Research Scholarship Awardees

Name Major Research Faculty Sponsor
Butler, Colin Thomas CIV E Alternative Method for Measuring Turbulent Flux: Implications for Snowmelt and Water Resources Jessica Lundquist
Fang, Xuzhi (Mark) CIV E Quantification of antibiotic resistant gene degradation during chlorine treatment Michael Dodd
Guo, Alan Hai CIV E Photochemical activation of free chlorine for enhanced inactivation of chlorine-resistant pathogens Michael Dodd
Neher, James Michael CIV E Dynamic Coupling in Salt Wedge Estuaries Alex Horner-Devine
Thorson, Theodore CIV E Snow Water Equivalent: A Predictive Model Based on Snowfall Depth and Ambient Temperatures Jessica Lundquist
Wright, Benjamin CIV E; ECON Travel Time Reliability of HOV and HOT Lanes during Traffic Incidents Yinhai Wang

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