Paving the Way

One Engineering Student’s Impact on Utah’s Asphalt Industry

Beatriz Fieldkircher, an engineering PhD candidate at the U, has long been passionate about making a meaningful impact on the world around her. She’s now doing exactly that, though in an unexpected way—by creating better solutions for asphalt pavements.

But how did such a broad desire to create a better world get chiseled down to the very specific and intricate field of asphalt and pavement research?

When she started studying Civil Engineering at the University of Santa Catarina in Brazil, Beatriz realized that by creating more sustainable and enduring infrastructure, she would be creating a more sustainable and enduring environment and society.

Specifically, while studying asphalt pavements, her interest piqued when she learned that pavements are, intriguingly, designed to fail within certain parameters. Which is what brought her to Utah.

In 2022, Beatriz sought an internship in the asphalt materials lab at the University of Utah under the guidance of Dr. Pedro Romero, an esteemed professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering whose research on asphalt pavements has been instrumental for the state of Utah. Initially driven by the desire to design enduring pavements, Beatriz’s research began to hone in on asphalt’s behavior under varying temperature conditions.

While in Utah, she watched the challenge of the temperature’s extreme variation affect the pavements.

“I saw that the studies conducted by Dr. Romero’s group addressing temperature conditions on asphalt benefit not just the contractors and agencies, but also society. And this sense of purpose increased my desire to be in academia, producing scientific knowledge.”

Now a PhD student with Dr. Romero, Beatriz recently earned recognition at the Utah Asphalt Conference, where she was awarded The Utah Asphalt Pavement Association’s $1,500 One-Time Annual Scholarship—a distinct and prestigious recognition in the state’s engineering and transportation industry.

Beatriz’s research continues to focus on asphalt mixtures and their behavior in varying temperatures. She will continue to pursue creating materials that can better endure climate change with increased temperature differentials leading to accelerated infrastructure deterioration, specifically by looking at thermal cracking. Determined to make a difference, she aims to utilize her expertise in asphalt materials, pavement design, and climate prediction to develop solutions capable of withstanding Utah’s extreme temperatures.

While balancing a full-time job as a research assistant with her graduate studies, Beatriz still makes time for her physical and mental health by taking daily workouts, having regular conversations with her family back home, and indulging in the rhythmic delights of samba, a cherished part of her Brazilian heritage.

On weekends, one can find Beatriz immersed in the vibrant atmosphere of a samba school in Salt Lake City, where she dances with joy and passion, finding solace and inspiration amidst the rhythms of her culture.

As Beatriz Fieldkircher navigates the challenges of academia and the complexities of asphalt research, she remains passionate about her pursuit of knowledge, driven by a deep-seated desire to make a meaningful impact on the world around her.




Exploring Real-World Engineering:

Engineering Students Spend a Day with Dunn Associates, Inc.

Hands-on experience is key to shaping the engineers of tomorrow. Recently, 22 students from the senior course 4900 got that chance to take a site visit to view seismic testing and soil borings. This project, focusing on building expansion and site improvements with a strong emphasis on sustainable practices, offered students a glimpse into the real-world applications of their studies.

Partnering with Dunn Associates, Inc., a trusted local Consulting Structural Engineers company, our students had the privilege of witnessing professionals in action. They observed Dunn engineers conducting seismic testing and soil borings, gaining invaluable insights into industry practices and standards.

During the visit, the parking lot buzzed with activity as Cone Penetration Testing (CPT) and Standard Penetration Testing (SPT) were conducted to analyze soil conditions. This data is instrumental in designing safe and stable structures, highlighting the practical applications of classroom knowledge.

This field trip was just one aspect of the Professional Practice & Design course sequence (4900 and 4910), where Civil and Construction Engineering students engage with real clients to engineer integrated design solutions. This capstone experience has been a pivotal component of our BSCE program since 2003, providing students with real-world design experience before graduation. Empowering them to address community challenges in Civil and Construction Engineering, this sequence ensures that our students are well-prepared to make a meaningful impact in their field.

We extend our sincere thanks to Dunn Associates, Inc. for their partnership on this capstone project, as well as to Applied Geotechnical Engineering Consultants Inc. (AGEC) for their support. The collaboration between academia and industry is crucial in preparing students for their future careers. Together, we’re building a brighter future, one project at a time.

At the University of Utah’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, we are committed to providing our students with the tools and experiences they need to succeed in the ever-evolving field of engineering. Through partnerships with industry leaders like Dunn Associates, Inc., we ensure that our students are equipped to tackle the engineering challenges of tomorrow with confidence.

Research at the U is Building Better Utah Infrastructure

Dr. Pedro Romero Honored with Friend of Industry Award at the 2024 Utah Asphalt Conference

The Utah Asphalt Paving Association—the driving force behind our road infrastructure—recently hosted the 2024 Utah Asphalt Conference from February 27 to 28. Recognized as the premier asphalt-related event in the state, the conference brought together the industry’s best minds, including Dr. Pedro Romero, an integral member of our Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering for over 20 years.

On the first day of the conference, Dr. Romero received the prestigious Friend of Industry award from the Utah Asphalt Paving Association. This honor is given to individuals who exemplify and champion the spirit of public-private collaboration. The recipients work diligently to elevate infrastructure standards in the State of Utah via the asphalt pavement sector. These awardees are at the forefront of advocating for policies and initiatives that foster a secure and innovative environment for the asphalt pavement industry. They work towards reducing operational costs while upholding principles of responsibility, safety, and ethical conduct.

Receiving this award proves that the research produced from Dr. Romero’s group is not confined to theoretical realms; rather, it is actively applied by the industry to enhance transportation infrastructure, benefiting the well-being of Utah residents.

This is aligned with University president Randall’s commitment to expand the university’s learning and knowledge enterprise beyond campus borders. The goal is to improve lives and make a global impact, a mission that Dr. Romero’s research actively supports.

Receiving the Friend of Industry award is a true honor as it affirms that the work undertaken at the University of Utah is positively impacting the world we live in—Dr. Romero’s efforts are playing a vital role in actively improving the overall quality of Utah’s infrastructure. Congratulations, Dr. Romero!

Congratulations, Dr. Romero!