Research Opportunities

Openings for Research Assistants

The following research projects are a sample list of funding opportunities for research assistantships for the current graduate student admission cycle. Additional opportunities continuously arise.

Project Title: Evaluating and Optimizing Performance of a Novel Hydrogel: A Tunable Sorbent for PFAS Removal from Contaminated Water

Overview: Per- and poly-fluoro-alkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of over 4,000 synthetic chemicals that are toxic, persistent and widespread in the environment and in living organisms, including 95% of the US population. The first goal of this research is to demonstrate the efficacy and improve the performance of a novel hydrogel adsorbent that has tunable properties and can simultaneously remove a broad range of PFAS from contaminated water. The second goal is to develop a treatment process to mineralize sorbed PFAS and regenerate hydrogel for reuse. In addition to applications, we will also elucidate the molecular mechanisms for hydrogel adsorption and PFAS defluorination.

Project Start Date: Summer 2021 (preferred) or Fall 2021

Lead Researcher(s): Pei Chiu (UD) and Seetha Coleman (Center for PFAS Solutions)

Conceptual treatment process for removing and degrading PFAS in polluted water.

Conceptual treatment process for removing and degrading PFAS in polluted water.

Project Title: Integrating fluid mechanics and soil mechanics for high fidelity modeling of sediment transport and soil stability

Overview: Due to the rising sea-level and increased storm intensity, coastal communities are facing unprecedented challenges, such as beach erosion and extreme scour around the foundation of infrastructures and buildings. Subjected to extreme flow intensity and wetting-drying evolution, these processes cannot be modeled by the conventional sediment transport methodology and a novel integration of fluid mechanics and soil mechanics is required. The project will enhance an existing open-source three-dimensional two-phase model, SedFoam, to incorporate the state-of-the-art understanding of unsaturated soil mechanics for simulating dune erosion and foundation scour. This project may be one of the first of its kind to integrate the inter-disciplinary realms of coastal and geotechnical engineering.

Project start date: Fall 2021

Lead researchers: Tian-Jian Hsu (thsu@udel.edu) and Aritra Banerjee (aritra@udel.edu)

3D simulation of scour around a short cylinder using SedFoam. The project will enhance SedFoam for more challenging simulation of foundation scour and dune erosion.

3D simulation of scour around a short cylinder using SedFoam. The project will enhance SedFoam for more challenging simulation of foundation scour and dune erosion.

Project Title: Are there regional concrete microbiomes? Identifying bioindicators for concrete structural health monitoring

Overview: Concrete is a very common building material and it hosts a dynamic community of microbes. Recently, we showed that most bacteria in concrete come from the components of the concrete mix, and that certain species of bacteria are associated with concrete damage. However, concrete is made with local materials. Are the damage-associated species also local? Or, since all hardened concrete has similar physical and chemical characteristics, can we use any concrete to identify universal bio-indicators for damage? To identify bio-indicators and develop effective monitoring tools, we must first compare the microbes in concrete from a range of geographic regions.

Project Start Date: Fall 2021, Summer 2021 is an option

Lead Researcher(s): Julie Maresca

We have confirmed that there are microbes in concrete by cultivating them (top) and by 16S amplicon sequencing (bottom). Next, we will use metagenomic sequencing from geographically diverse samples to compare the microbes in concrete from different parts of the country.

We have confirmed that there are microbes in concrete by cultivating them (top) and by 16S amplicon sequencing (bottom). Next, we will use metagenomic sequencing from geographically diverse samples to compare the microbes in concrete from different parts of the country.

Project Title: Quantifying Durability of Re-Recycled Asphalt Mixtures

Overview: Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement (RAP) is a highly recyclable waste product generated from the removal of asphalt pavement surfaces. Many of our asphalt pavements include some amount of RAP material. With wide adoption of RAP, consideration needs to be given to re-recycling of pavement material. Due to aging and oxidation, RAP generally exhibits a much higher stiffness than virgin material, which underscores the importance of testing its durability. This problem is exacerbated with repeated recycling of the material. The proposed study involves development of laboratory simulation of re-recycling of asphalt mixtures and quantifying cracking resistance and moisture susceptibility of these mixtures.

Project Start Date: Fall 2021

Lead Researchers: Haritha Malladi (malladi@udel.edu), Nii Attoh-Okine (okine@udel.edu)

An old and worn asphalt pavement being cold milled, resulting in the generation of RAP (credit: forconstructionpros.com)

An old and worn asphalt pavement being cold milled, resulting in the generation of RAP (credit: forconstructionpros.com)

Project Title: Development of a Robust Computational Methodology for Saturated Geomaterials using Non-Conforming, Mixed Finite Elements

Overview: To simulate the response of saturated geomaterials requires an approximate approach such as the finite element method that employs a generalized Biot formulation. Under isothermal conditions, the primary dependent variables are displacements (u) and pore fluid pressure (p), which are suitably coupled. The stability of “u-p” elements requires that the displacement approximation be one order higher than the pressure approximation. The most popular u-p elements thus employ a quadratic u approximation and a linear p approximation. To overcome shortcomings in the development of higher-order u-p elements, it is proposed to develop such elements using a novel, non-conforming approximation for the pore pressure.

Project Start Date: Fall 2021.

Lead Researcher: Dr. Victor N. Kaliakin

Typical Consolidation Application that would Benefit from Higher-Order u-p Elements.

Typical Consolidation Application that would Benefit from Higher-Order up Elements.

Project Title: Blockchain-based and Artificial Intelligence Enhanced Transportation Management Systems

Overview: The goal of this project is to develop blockchain-based and artificial intelligence enhanced transportation management systems to address issues and challenges in transportation safety, mobility, and security. These systems will leverage sensors in connected and automated vehicle environments to provide AI-based decision-making approaches to automate and optimize traffic management operations.

Project Start Date: Fall 2021

Lead Researcher: Mark Nejad (nejad@udel.edu)

Traffic management leveraging sensors and analytics

Traffic management leveraging sensors and analytics.

Project Title: Quantifying object mobility and morphodynamics during simulated extreme events in a large wave flume

Overview: The project focuses on determining morphodynamic response to simulated extreme event forcing using a wide array of in situ sensors and numerical modeling simulations. Of primary importance in the burial/exhumation/mobility of variable density objects (surrogate munitions) placed across the beach profile.

Project Start Date: Fall 2021

Lead Researcher(s): Jack Puleo (jpuleo@udel.edu)

Large outdoor wave flume study of surrogate munition mobility and burial (blue and pink objects). Data were collected using imagers on towers and from sensors on the metal frames.

Large outdoor wave flume study of surrogate munition mobility and burial (blue and pink objects). Data were collected using imagers on towers and from sensors on the metal frames.

Openings for Research Fellows:

Fellowship opportunities for incoming Ph.D. students are available through the Civil and Environmental Engineering Distinguished Scholars Award.

Details:

  • Awards are administered as PhD research and teaching assistantships
  • Yearly stipend of $34,000 + $1,000 toward student fees
  • Conference attendance or professional development workshop allotment of $1500/year
  • Full tuition waiver
  • Each award is for up to 5 years
  • You select the CEE concentration to study

Eligibility:

US citizen or permanent resident and:

  • from an underrepresented group in STEM, and/or
  • a first-generation college student, and/or
  • a member of the LGTBQ+ community, and/or
  • a student with extenuating personal circumstances.