CvEEN Professor Wins Regional Design-Build Award

Dr. Abbas Rashidi recently received the 2023 Jim Dent Leadership Award from Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), Rocky Mountain Region. This award is bestowed annually by DBIA to recognize an individual who has demonstrated leadership in the advancement of best Design-Build practices and of Design-Build as the project delivery method of choice.

Dr. Rashidi was presented the award at DBIA’s ceremony on Wednesday, June 7th, in Denver, CO.

DBIA is a membership organization that was founded in 1993 to advocate and advance single-source project delivery within the design and construction community. Rocky Mountain Design-Build Award winners set themselves apart in the industry as the nation’s best design-builders.

Since joining the University of Utah in 2017, and as the first faculty member in the area of Construction Engineering, Dr. Rashidi has always been an advocator of Design-Build as an efficient and modern delivery method for construction projects. He has been incorporating the Design-Build contents and the emerging technologies that facilitate better execution of this delivery method into his teaching and research activities.

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is home to Utah’s only Bachelor’s Degree in Construction Engineering to earn ABET accreditation. The program was officially accredited in 2022. Dr. Rashidi is proud to bring his expertise to the U and continue to establish CvEEN as a leader in Construction Engineering research and projects.

CvEEN is proud to congratulate Dr. Rashidi for this award as well as his continued dedication to teaching, college-involvement and service, and integral research in the field of Construction Engineering.






Engineering Professors Awarded Grant for Research on Human Mobility

Civil and Environmental Engineering professor Dr. Cathy Liu (co-PI), partnering with Dr. Jeff Phillips (PI), at Kahlert School of Computing, was awarded a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation on June 14, 2023, for their project titled Integrating and Learning on Spatial Data via Multi-Agent Simulation.

The project builds metro-scale foundation models for studying human mobility. It will integrate varied data including socio-demographics and movement from recorded routes and loop detectors.  The core model will be a learned simulation engine that can explore scenarios and adheres to both global and local data properties.

Phillips and Liu’s work will allow social-technical spatial scientists to compare against and study human mobility in aggregate and at scale.  Exemplar studies will address EV charging, and fair traffic policing, and it will also train next-generation spatial scientists at the interface of civil engineering and data science.

The John and Marcia Price College of Engineering congratulates Dr. Phillips and Dr. Liu on receiving such a prestigious grant for their exceptional interdisciplinary research.



Student Prepares for Sophomore Year at the U by Researching in Lab this Summer

Already active in the Engineering Scholars Program and ASCE, first-year student Melissa Jackson’s engineering studies are off to a promising start.

Melissa Jackson just completed her first year at the U, where she was an active student and community member of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Jackson was involved in the department’s chapter of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), where she got to participate in activities such as tours of the Salt Lake City International Airport while it was under construction and being shown the Geotechnical Labs by the staff at Intermountain GeoEnvironmental Services, Inc. (IGES).

Additionally, she was a member of the college’s Engineering Scholars Program, which is a cohort of students who, having demonstrated high academic achievement, build connections, friendships, and experience while also participating in unique hands-on experiences and opportunities.

Outside her interests in Civil Engineering, Jackson enjoyed being involved with the community at the U by going to football games and being a member of the U’s Marching Band.

Most notably, however, Jackson has particularly enjoyed working in Dr. Weidhaas’ lab during her first year, where she first assisted in a project researching ion exchange for munitions industrial wastewater treatment in the Spring.

This Summer, Jackson is part of a project to evaluate the retention of antibiotic resistance genes in biofilms in water systems. Funding for the munitions wastewater work is being provided by the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program.

“It has been a great learning opportunity to get hands on experience with real world problems,” said Jackson.

Melissa’s plans as a CvEEN major are to keep exploring what both the field and industry of Civil Engineering have to offer and she is currently leaning towards an emphasis in Environmental and Water engineering or Geotechnical Engineering.


Civil & Environmental Engineering Graduate Now Issues Permits For Water Treatment Facilities Across The State

As an undeclared sophomore at the U, Dani Zebelean had no idea that entering a student design competition would put her on a path to a fulfilling career doing extremely important and vital work for the state of Utah.

Now an Environmental Engineer for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Zebelean works in the Division of Drinking Water issuing construction and operating permits for drinking water facilities in Rich, Davis, Summit, and Wasatch counties.

Yet, as a sophomore, Zebelean had no idea that entering the Water Environment Association of Utah (WEAU) student design competition would introduce her to future academic and professional careers, as well as her newfound passion: water treatment.

“The competition was my first introduction into water treatment and I immediately fell in love with it,” said Zebelean.

The competition starts in the fall and wraps up in the spring with the aim of addressing a local wastewater treatment problem. For their project, Dani’s team came up with a solution for Magna’s wastewater problem to address the then upcoming Phosphorous limit. They ended up winning at the state level and going on to compete nationally at the WEFTEC conference the following fall.

From there, Zebelean went on to become involved in the Integrated Water Resources student chapter while at the U, which combined the student groups from the American Water Resources Association, American Water Works Association, and the Water Environment Association of Utah. She would go on to become the Vice President of this group for 2 years while earning her master’s.

Her passion for researching and working in water treatment led her to make the decision to pursue her master’s in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the U.

“When I was graduating with my bachelor’s, I wasn’t excited to be done with school yet. I really wanted to stay and learn more,” she said.

Specifically, Zebelean wanted more hands-on lab experience in with water chemistry, and working with her graduate advisor Dr. Jennifer Weidhaas afforded her the opportunity to run her own bio reactor for the two years she was completing her degree.

“I have to give a big shout out to Dr. Weidhaas,” said Zebelean. “I’m really proud to have accomplished writing my thesis. As I’m sure other engineers can relate, writing was not my strong suit. She played a big role in my completing it.”

Another thing Zebelean can be proud about is her thesis being accepted in ASCE’s Journal of Environmental Engineering.

Perhaps not ironically, Dr. Weidhaas was also the faculty advisor of that WEAU student competition way back when Zebelean was just a sophomore.

At the Division of Drinking Water, Dani now issues permits for treatment facilities across the state. In the summer, she also helps with Sanitary Surveys—essentially audits of water systems.

“I really love my job, and I especially like the combined office and field work,” she said. “All the water treatment and water chemistry courses I took for my bachelor’s and master’s directly apply to what I’m doing now.”

Dani’s advice to younger students at the U is to branch out, search for groups or events to join, and be open to trying new things. “You never know what might inspire you, or where it will take you,” she said.

Civil and Environmental Engineering Ph.D. Graduate Awarded 2023 Young Engineer, Begins Work as Project Engineer in Fall

Emily Williamson, recent CvEEN Ph.D. graduate, has been selected to receive the 2023 Wood Engineering Achievement Award for Young Engineer. A presentation of her award will be held at this year’s Forest Products Society‘s International Conference from June 6-8 in Morgantown, West Virginia.

The Wood Engineering Achievement Award recognizes accomplishments and innovations in the discipline of wood engineering including structures, structural elements, building codes, consensus standards, design procedures and education.

The Award alternates each year between three categories: Lifetime Achievement, Young Engineer, and Engineering Innovation. The 2023 category is Young Engineer, and we’re happy to congratulate our very own Emily Williamson on achieving the honorable distinction.

Williamson earned her Ph.D. in structural engineering in Spring of 2023 after successfully defending her dissertation, titled “Mass Timber Frame with Mass Timber Buckling Restrained Braces or Seismically Resilient Mass Timber Buildings.” Her research, under the mentorship of Dr. Pantelides, focused on the design and testing of a mass timber frame with timber buckling restrained braces. Her project aimed to develop a ductile timber lateral force resisting system to promote the resilience of timber buildings during seismic events.

She begins working as a Project Engineer at Reaveley Engineers in Salt Lake City, Utah, this Fall. She is excited to continue the problem solving and critical thinking involved in structural engineering and is pleased to pursue her passion for promoting the use of mass timber as a structural material.



Construction Engineering Bachelor’s degree becomes first ABET-accredited program of its kind in Utah

PCoE recently underwent the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology’s 18-month accreditation process.

With the site visit taking place in Fall of 2021, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering received official word in September 2022 that its Bachelor’s degree  in Construction Engineering earned accreditation status, making it the first Construction program in Utah with ABET’s seal of approval.

Sought worldwide, ABET’s voluntary peer-review process is highly respected because it adds critical value to academic programs in the technical disciplines, where quality, precision and safety are of the utmost importance.

While most colleges include Construction Engineering under the Civil and Environmental umbrella, CvEEN puts a more focused effort in training these essential engineers in the rapidly growing field.

Construction Engineering at the University of Utah is a hybrid program that prepares students to enter this exciting field. Students take courses in both civil engineering fundamentals—such as structural principles, site analysis, foundations, computer-assisted design, evaluation and testing, and materials—and instruction in construction courses, such as those related to contracting, project management, and laws and regulations.

CvEEN is proud to house the only ABET-accredited Construction Engineering program in the state.