Author Archives: ceenews

Five Faculty Receive Global Innovation Fund Awards

Out of 25 total awards, five CEE faculty members have received Global Innovation Fund Awards. Administered by the UW Office of Global Affairs, the Global Innovation Fund Awards provide seed funding for faculty research proposals that enhance the UW’s global engagement and reach. Congratulations to faculty members Amy Kim, Faisal Hossain, Heidi Gough, Tim Larson and Julian Marshall!

Kim-Amy_2014_web2 Amy Kim: Better Global Energy Conservation
Assistant Professor Amy Kim has received a Global Innovation Fund Award to address climate change by creating better energy conservation strategies for buildings and transportation systems, which currently cause more than two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions. Kim’s project encompasses a global approach, with the goal of informing greener building practices in both the United States and Indonesia, a country experiencing unprecedented growth. Learn more.
University of Washington Civil & Environmental Engineering faculty Faisal Hossain Faisal Hossain: Bringing Freshwater Research to Video
Associate Professor Faisal Hossain received a Global Innovation Fund Award for an interdisciplinary project that will utilize videos to tell the story of real-world water management challenges in the Mekong Region of Southeast Asia. The objective is to increase awareness about freshwater challenges around the world. Learn more.
Civil Engeneering Faculty and staff studio portrait Heidi Gough: New Water Engineering Field Course
Research Assistant Professor Heidi Gough has received a Global Innovation Fund Award to create a new study abroad program, which will bring students from Jordan to study alongside UW students to explore water-engineering issues on the Olympic Peninsula and in the San Juan Islands. Learn more.
Civil and Environmental Engineering Faculty and Staff studio portrait Tim Larson: Addressing Air Pollution and Health in China
To address air pollution in China, an interdisciplinary team including UW CEE Professors Tim Larson and Julian Marshall has received a Global Innovation Fund Award to collaborate with scientists in China on air pollution and exposure health studies. Air pollution is the fourth highest contributor to premature death in China. Learn more.
julian_marshall_cropped Julian Marshall: Addressing Air Pollution and Grand Challenges
Professor Julian Marshall has received two awards:
Addressing Air Pollution and Health in China
To address air pollution in China, an interdisciplinary team including UW CEE Professors Julian Marshall and Tim Larson has received a Global Innovation Fund Award to collaborate with scientists in China on air pollution and exposure health studies. Learn more.
Establishing a Grand-Challenges Impact Lab
To address major problems facing humanity, such as food security, clean energy and poverty, CEE Professor Julian Marshall has received a Global Innovation Fund Award to establish a new lab, called the Grand-Challenges Impact Lab. Learn more.

Julian Marshall: Establishing a Grand-Challenges Impact Lab

julian_marshall_cropped

Professor Julian Marshall.

To address major problems facing humanity, such as food security, clean energy and poverty, CEE Professor Julian Marshall has received a Global Innovation Fund Award to establish a new lab, called the Grand-Challenges Impact Lab (GCIL). By empowering students with hands-on problem-solving skills, Marshall aims to develop solutions to global problems, starting in India.

The idea for the program stems from Marshall’s experience working in rural India as a volunteer with an environmental organization in the late 1990s, prior to graduate school. This led Marshall to create the Acara Program with a colleague while he was a faculty member at the University of Minnesota. Similar to the GCIL, the Acara Program offers courses and study abroad programs to help students learn about and devise solutions to global environmental and health problems.

“My time in India was transformative personally, but in terms of helping people, my effectiveness was low,” Marshall said. “I did not know how to identify a problem or design and test a solution.”

Via the Acara program at University of Minnesota, and now the GCIL at UW, Marshall hopes to give students the appropriate tools and awareness to solve important problems. According to Marshall, grand challenges are too big and complex to belong to any one discipline. They will not be “solved” in a traditional sense, but instead must be “chipped away at” by individuals and teams.

“Students are passionate and idealistic. They want to learn how to identify problems and solutions,” Marshall said. “In response, the GCIL will offer experiential education on tackling some of the major challenges facing society.”

Piloting in winter 2018, the GCIL will house an overseas 10-week multidisciplinary program in India that will empower students to solve problems by equipping them with the proper hands-on experience. Students will spend time learning about problems from residents and experts in locations where grand challenges are present, before developing ideas and testing solutions. To facilitate problem-solving, students will learn how to develop solutions via a “design thinking mindset” and how to create lean start-ups.

Marshall is the John R. Kiely Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering. As part of his research in air quality engineering, he regularly travels to India for fieldwork. The goals of his work in India are to understand human exposure to air pollution, in collaboration with public health researchers in understanding health impacts of air pollution, and to investigate strategies for reducing human exposure to air pollution. His current projects include indoor and outdoor monitoring campaigns in several Indian cities and in rural communities. He is especially interested in indoor air pollution, and in testing interventions involving cleaner-burning cookstoves.

The GCIL is expected to draw undergraduate and graduate students from across campus, especially from engineering, environment, policy and health programs. Faculty members from across campus will each spend one week in India, taking turns working with students during weeklong modules.

While India is a logical starting point, the program may later expand to other locations. Ultimately, the program is anticipated to be self-sustaining, with student fees covering costs.

Amy Kim: Better Global Energy Conservation

Kim-Amy_2014_web2

Assistant Professor Amy Kim

Assistant Professor Amy Kim has received a Global Innovation Fund Award to address climate change by creating better energy conservation strategies for buildings and transportation systems, which currently cause more than two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions. Kim’s project encompasses a global approach, with the goal of informing greener building practices in both the United States and Indonesia, a country experiencing unprecedented growth.

“Addressing climate change requires global effort. The built environment provides significant opportunities to lower carbon dioxide production by increasing energy efficiency. Our study is an attempt to combine these two perspectives,” Kim said.

To exchange information about current green infrastructure practices, researchers from the UW Civil & Environmental Engineering Department, including CEE Ph.D. student Lysandra Medal, and Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies will work closely with University of Indonesia researchers through a series of meetings, seminars and field visits.

Discussion topics include green retrofit strategies, smart and connected cities, green building design and sustainable urban transportation. Various stakeholders will provide input, including the Green Building Council Indonesia, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Ministry of Public Works, Seattle Smart Buildings Center, UW Campus Facility Services and Office of Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability. The award will fund travel between researchers at UW and the University of Indonesia starting in March 2017. One visit will be coordinated during the SustainableUW Festival, to allow University of Indonesia researchers to conduct a seminar on campus.

Encouraging sustainability practices in Indonesia is critical for a number of reasons. As the fourth most populous nation, with 250 million inhabitants, the country is Southeast Asia’s largest energy consumer, using 36 percent of the total energy. With current infrastructure that is aging and inadequate to support the growing country, Indonesia faces unique challenges in utilizing modern energy efficient infrastructure.

Based on their findings and discussions, the researchers plan to develop a generalizable solution to help facility managers and stakeholders better understand the impact of their decisions related to energy conservation strategies.

Tim Larson and Julian Marshall: Addressing Air Pollution and Health in China

Civil and Environmental Engineering Faculty and Staff studio portrait

Professor Tim Larson

julian_marshall_cropped

Professor Julian Marshall

To address air pollution in China, an interdisciplinary team including UW CEE faculty has received a Global Innovation Fund Award to collaborate with scientists in China on air pollution and exposure health studies. Air pollution is the fourth highest contributor to premature death in China, following hypertension, poor diet and tobacco smoking, according to the Global Burden of Disease.

UW CEE Professors Tim Larson and Julian Marshall will collaborate with Principal Investigator Sverre Vedal, Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences. The project will build on Vedal’s established relationship with investigators at the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences (CRAES) in Beijing, Nankai University and Tianjin Medical University, both in Tianjin, as well as researchers at the Beijing Institute of Heart, Lung and Blood Vessel Diseases. Other UW collaborators include associate professor Adam Szpiro and professor Andrew Zhou, both from the Department of Biostatistics.

To assist with developing and implementing an air monitoring campaign in Beijing, the funding will support the hiring of a Ph.D. or post-doctoral student. After working at CRAES for a minimum of one quarter to become familiar with the project, the student will compile extensive geographic data for Beijing including land use and traffic data, process satellite remote sensing data for estimating spatio-temporal pollutant concentrations and develop grid predictions of air pollutant concentrations for Beijing using deterministic air quality modeling methods.

The researchers envision the project as the starting point for continued air pollution research in China, with the goal of developing a self-sustaining center called the Center for Advanced Air Pollution Exposure Prediction and Health.

Faisal Hossain: Bringing Freshwater Research to Video

University of Washington Civil & Environmental Engineering faculty Faisal Hossain

Associate Professor Faisal Hossain.

Associate Professor Faisal Hossain received a Global Innovation Fund Award for an interdisciplinary project that will utilize videos to tell the story of real-world water management challenges in the Mekong Region of Southeast Asia. The objective is to increase awareness about freshwater challenges around the world.

“Our goal is to tell multi-media savvy stories of the great research we do in addressing freshwater challenges,” said Hossain, who directs the Sustainability, Satellites, Water and Environment research group.

The project leverages the expertise of three UW departments: Civil Engineering, Aquatic & Fishery Sciences and UW Video. The funding will be used to host researchers from Southeast Asia as well as send UW researchers, together with a videographer, to Southeast Asia. In both instances, footage will be captured of UW faculty and students conducting research, interacting with stakeholders and implementing solutions.

Research related to UW’s Freshwater Initiative is currently underway by Hossain and co-PI Gordon Holtgrieve, assistant professor in Aquatic & Fishery Sciences. The majority of their research in this region is related to hydropower, dams, fisheries and water management.

The Mekong Region of Southeast Asia is home to the Mekong River, the 12th longest river in the world, which runs through five countries: China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The emerging freshwater challenges in this region are related to hydropolitics, also known as water politics, where political decisions made by leaders in the various countries end up impacting the availability of water.

“The issues are made worse by more dam building in an uncoordinated manner by each nation,” Hossain said. “This is expected to negatively impact the livelihood for some, related to fisheries.”

Once the 2-3 minute videos are created, the plan is to distribute them freely. The video project builds on Hossain’s expertise creating documentaries. His third movie, “Cotton, Burgers and Water,” will be released in early 2017.

Heidi Gough: New Water Engineering Field Course

Civil Engeneering Faculty and staff studio portrait

Research assistant professor Heidi Gough.

Research assistant professor Heidi Gough has received a Global Innovation Fund Award to create a new study abroad program, which will bring students from Jordan to study alongside UW students to explore water-engineering issues on the Olympic Peninsula and in the San Juan Islands.

The new program will focus on relationships between water, engineering and culture, with an educational theme of “Integrated One Water Management.” The cultural aspect is significant, according to Gough, as culture plays an important role when determining the water needs of communities, from drinking water practices to establishing wastewater facilities. The Olympic Peninsula and San Juan Islands provide an ideal setting to study the cultural aspect, as both are home to various tribal nations that have existing treaties related to water issues.

“Students learn engineering from textbooks, but engineering happens in the real world and involves real people,” Gough said. “This course will allow students to explore the interconnections between topics that are taught as separate courses on campus.”

As part of the program, students will learn first-hand about a variety of related topics, from storm water management impacts on water quality to impacts of water resource management on drinking water treatment to how cultural views can shape water-engineering decision-making.

The program builds on an existing relationship with Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST), which started in 2012 with the formation of the Engineering Jordan study abroad program. During Engineering Jordan, JUST hosts UW students and faculty for the duration of the month-long course.

To increase cultural diversity, the award will fund two scholarships for water-related STEM majors, one for a UW student and one for a JUST student. The award also supports two cultural activities planned to emphasize the importance of water engineering on cultural Native American cultural resources. After touring a new wastewater treatment plant that will divert contaminated water from previously closed shellfish beds, students will participate in a traditional clam bake. Similarly, after touring the Elwha River Dam removal sites, the students will learn about the importance of salmon runs by participating in a traditional salmon bake.

The program will start in summer 2017 and is anticipated to become self-sustaining in future years.

Research Advises Policy Recommendations to Address Future Water Shortage for Major U.S. Cities

University of Washington Civil & Environmental Engineering faculty Faisal Hossain

Associate professor Faisal Hossain.

wondie_web

Wondmagegn Yigzaw, from Tennessee Tech University.

It’s no surprise that as cities grow larger, their water supplies experience more demand. But how exactly to translate this knowledge into action steps has, until now, escaped many research studies. A new study, which analyzed river basins in 42 major cities throughout the United States, has determined not only which ones may experience water shortages in the future, but also includes policy recommendations.

Led by associate professor Faisal Hossain, the study was conducted by Wondmagegn Yigzaw, an alumnus of Tennessee Tech University where Hossain taught prior to joining UW. The paper was published in the American Geophysical Union Journal Earth’s Future in December 2016.

graphic_web

Total population of selected cities (a) and population growth rate between 2010 and 2013 (b).

“We tried to answer the question ‘so what?’ and bridge the gap between researchers, policy makers and the general public,” Yigzaw said. “We were able to identify potential solutions to cities where future and present water availability is in question.”

Unlike some water sustainability studies, the researchers took a bottom-up approach by considering additional factors in each city that impact water demand and availability, such as population growth, migration, water use efficiency and local water availability patterns related to landscape.

“This study makes the future assessment more robust as it is not relying on just climate change scenarios, but also local factors that dictate local conditions in a more pronounced manner,” Hossain said.

While the research findings do include some good news, primarily that many growing cities have reduced their water consumption, the researchers nevertheless found that a decrease in surface water run-off will likely impact the available water supply. Making the situation more concerning is that the growing metropolitan areas tend to be located in warm climate zones that receive little rain.

In particular, the study recommends considering desalination for West Coast Cities such as Los Angeles, Calif. and San Diego, Calif. as the Colorado River’s water supply has been drastically reduced in recent years. The Colorado River, which is one of the primary rivers in the Southwestern United States, provides water for seven states. Desalination, although more expensive than existing freshwater treatment processes, has the potential to transform sea water into drinking water for populations living near the coast. The study also found that most cities within the Mississippi River basin are unlikely to face water shortages given relatively resilient water availability to future climate change. This has led the researchers to recommend transferring water from Mississippi to cities such as Phoenix, Ariz., Tucson, Ariz., and the Central Valley, Calif., where desalination is not feasible.

The study was based on terra-byte scale datasets from satellite remote sensing and climate models spanning several decades and was funded by a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship awarded to Yigzaw.

Water Resources Research Editors Honor Erkan Istanbulluoglu’s Research for Significance

Civil Engeneering Faculty and staff studio portrait

Associate Professor Erkan Istanbulluoglu.

A study published by a team of researchers including associate professor Erkan Istanbulluoglu has received the 2015 Editor’s Choice Award from Water Resources Research (WWR) journal. The award is reserved for the top 1% of articles, recognizing the most significant studies published in the journal.

The researchers accepted the award at the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) fall meeting in San Francisco, Calif., in December 2016. A leading journal that publishes original research in the natural and social sciences of water, WWR is published by AGU.

Co-authors include Istanbulluoglu’s former student Omer Yetemen (Ph.D. ’14), who is currently a lecturer at the University of Newcastle, Australia, former CEE postdoc Homero Flores, and collaborators Enrique Vivoni from the University of Arizona and Rafael Bras from Georgia Tech.

award-photo_web

CEE alumnus Omer Yetemen (Ph.D. ’14) accepts the award from Alberto Montanari, chief editor of Water Resources Research.

The researchers advanced river watershed modeling by developing a numerical model of landscape evolution, detailed in the study “Ecohydrologic role of solar radiation on landscape evolution.” The new model allowed them to investigate the role of solar radiation on watershed evolution, particularly in asymmetric valleys with steep, long polar-facing slopes and shallow, equatorial-facing slopes that branch out in various directions. The new model helps explain hillslope asymmetry, which has been studied by earth scientists for decades.

A related paper co-authored by Istanbulluoglu, Yetemen and Alison Duvall, UW Earth and Space Sciences assistant professor, received the AGU’s 2016 Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award. In this study, the researchers applied the numerical model developed in the first paper across a range of latitudes and developed a plausible explanation for latitudinal variation of hillslope asymmetry observed globally.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Assistant Professor Brett Maurer Joins UW CEE Geotechnical Research Group

bmaurer_photo_web

Assistant Professor Brett Maurer.

It’s fitting that incoming Assistant Professor Brett Maurer’s career endeavors are high-reaching. During his youth, he was fascinated with tall buildings, even memorizing statistics about the tallest buildings around the world. This early interest in structures led him to pursue a career path where he is now focused on a different aspect of buildings: making them more resilient.

Maurer joins the CEE department’s geotechnical group in January 2017. His decision to join UW CEE was based on the combination of exceptional students, renowned faculty, collaboration and “aura of growth and excitement.”

“These are the elements of success that all faculty search for,” Maurer said. “But most importantly, I felt at home with my future colleagues.”

Maurer earned his Ph.D. in civil engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. His master’s and bachelor’s degrees in civil engineering are from Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York. During his undergraduate studies, Maurer became interested in geotechnical research after learning about the critical issues the field addresses.

“A series of mentors introduced me to diverse and impactful problems in geotechnical engineering, sparking a new passion,” Maurer said. “Through these relationships I came to discover not only the type of engineer I wanted to be, but also the kind of person I wanted to become.”

Maurer’s research focuses on geotechnical earthquake engineering, with the goal of reducing the impacts of earthquakes on civil infrastructure, human life and the environment. To achieve this, he researches soil liquefaction, which causes soil to behave like a liquid during earthquakes. With recent earthquakes illuminating significant shortcomings in existing buildings, roadways and other city structures, Maurer is working to develop a framework to encourage more informed decision-making around assessing and mitigating liquefaction hazards in particular.

“It’s an area of research in which more energy has been spent on response prediction than on prediction of the physical damage to infrastructure,” Maurer said. “Each is important, but building smarter, more resilient infrastructure should be the ultimate goal.”

Maurer is also performing forensic analyses of liquefaction induced by past earthquakes. There are many regions, including Seattle, where large earthquakes previously occurred, but few details have been uncovered. Studying past earthquakes can expose important information such as magnitude, recurrence-rate and the location of fault ruptures.

“By performing forensic analyses of liquefaction induced by ancient earthquakes, I hope to decode some of the seismic enigmas that persist in the U.S. and elsewhere,” Maurer said.

Maurer is “thrilled” to be moving to Seattle, He is especially drawn to the diversity of the Puget Sound region, with cities, rainforests and the Cascade Range all in close proximity. When he’s not busy working, Maurer enjoys traveling, photography and sports. His spare time typically involves a trail, kayak, or bike, with his camera in tow.

Maurer is the recipient of numerous awards, most recently the 2016 Norman Medal from the American Society of Civil Engineers. For two consecutive years, in 2014 and 2015, he won the Best Graduate Student Presentation from the Seismological Society of America Eastern Section.

Welcome, Brett!

Refugee Reconnaissance: Improving Wastewater Treatment During Crisis Response

group_web

Collecting samples are CEE faculty members Heidi Gough and Amy Kim, Jordan University of Science and Technology faculty members Muna Abu-Dalo and Jamal Abu-Ashour and CEE graduate student Chris Callahan, from left.

By Brooke Fisher

It’s an oxymoron of sorts: better refugee camps. But despite contradictory terms, a team of CEE researchers is working to improve wastewater treatment systems at refugee camps, which are typically constructed quickly to accommodate people displaced by both natural and man-made disasters.

To achieve this goal, the researchers are investigating the Azraq Refugee Camp in central Jordan, which they visited four times this past year. Currently housing more than 45,000 refugees from the Syrian Civil War, preparations are underway to more than double the size of the camp, which consists of row after row of small white cabins situated in a remote area. The camp has the potential to become one of the largest refugee camps in the world.

“Our goal is not to improve this camp; there are engineers working on that. We are focused on a bigger picture goal. Our work will help the next camps that are set-up,” said CEE research assistant professor Heidi Gough.


camp-from-distance_web

The Azraq Refugee Camp.


Led by Gough, the project is a collaborative effort that includes CEE faculty Amy Kim, graduate students Chris Callahan and Heta Kosonen, and faculty and students from the Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST). During the team’s week-long visits to the camp, they work at the JUST host campus, departing early in the morning to travel several hours via escort to the camp.

“Often we get on the plane not knowing if the permits for camp entry have been approved. The officials are cautious about letting people into the refugee camp,” Gough said. “Our partners at UNICEF, who are very interested in our work, have been incredibly efficient in making sure that we get the access we need to get our work done.”

Wastewater is an increasingly critical, and often overlooked, element of refugee camps, as water must be properly treated before being released back to the environment in order to prevent health hazards for both people and wildlife. Modern wastewater treatment facilities are almost unheard of in refugee camps, due to limited budgets and lack of time to establish proper facilities. The Azraq Refugee Camp is unique, therefore, as it is the second refugee camp in the world to use a modern wastewater treatment system. Most refugee camps simply use pit latrines and cesspools.

Within the refugee camp, neighborhood blocks contain showers and wash stations designed to serve 16 families each. The wastewater is pumped every 2-3 weeks and transported by truck to the wastewater treatment plant, located inside the camp boundaries. Eventually, the treated wastewater will be repurposed for agricultural uses in the arid region.

With limited financing for a wastewater system, decommissioned reactor units were recovered from a United Nations base in Afghanistan and shipped to the camp, where they were refurbished. Once the reactor units were capable of holding water, a fixed-film biological treatment process was implemented to remove carbon and nitrogen and to separate solids from the wastewater.

may-sample-collection_adjusted_web

Collecting samples are CEE faculty member Amy Kim and graduate student Chris Callahan, from left.

“Compared to a normal wastewater treatment plant, this is very different,” graduate student Heta Kosonen said. “Wastewater treatment typically looks like industrial buildings. With this mobile construction technology and remote location, it looks more like a shipyard.”

The researchers do not directly interact with the refugees at the camp, but spend their time at the nearby wastewater treatment facility where they conduct interviews with the staff at the facility, make field observations and collect water samples.

“The more information and data we can gather and publish, the easier it will be for future disaster response teams to cultivate a plan that works for their wastewater needs,” graduate student Chris Callahan said.

A few key findings that have surfaced are the need for a contingency plan to accommodate additional wastewater, pipes that can be easily reconfigured and well-trained wastewater facility staff. With limited Internet and cell phone service at the camp, the researchers are also exploring recommendations for enhanced communication.

The researchers are currently compiling their data and plan to soon publish their findings. The research is funded by a National Science Foundation Rapid Response Research grant, in partnership with UNICEF, which oversees water sanitation at the camp.