PhD Student Proposes Vision for the Future of Engineering in Utah

Mina Golazad, Construction Engineering PhD student, has been awarded second place in the ASCE Utah Younger Member Forum Scholarship program for her vision of engineering in the future state.

Mina’s response to the prompt, “Be Future Ready,” garnered recognition from the ASCE Utah Younger Member Forum. This year’s prompt challenged participants to envision the challenges new civil engineers will face in designing resilient structures for the future and predicting the changes Utah cities will undergo in the next 50 years. Scholarships were awarded based on participants’ proposal to addressing these challenges.

In her response, Mina outlined a vision for the future of civil and construction engineering, emphasizing the necessity for resilient and sustainable infrastructure to combat the impacts of climate change and accommodate population growth—two predominant issues Utah will face in the future. She highlighted key challenges, including preparing for extreme weather events, managing limited water resources, building smart cities, and integrating new technologies.

Specifically, she underscored the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in optimizing smart city operations. Mina outlined her intention to specialize in leveraging AI and big data to model urban systems, predict infrastructure failures, and enhance city management.

Furthermore, Mina emphasized the importance of collaboration and interdisciplinary engagement in addressing Utah’s growth challenges. She advocated for engineers to work alongside economists, ecologists, public health experts, and marginalized communities to develop holistic and multifunctional infrastructure solutions.

Mina’s forward-thinking response earned her the second-place award in the ASCE Utah Younger Member Forum Scholarship program, accompanied by a $1,000 scholarship. She will be honored at the ASCE Utah Section Annual Meeting on Friday, June 28th, 2024. The achievement reflects the dedication and innovation of our students in tackling pressing civil engineering challenges.

Mina is among the passionate individuals in our diverse Construction Engineering cohort, which proudly includes significant female representation, all committed to building a better future. Women make up a higher percentage in construction engineering than any other engineering field, making it a unique opportunity for women to thrive. The field also allows women to assume more leadership positions compared to other engineering disciplines, making it an excellent choice for those seeking a dynamic and inclusive career path.

Join us in congratulating Mina Golazad on this remarkable accomplishment. We look forward to witnessing her contributions to the advancement of construction engineering and its future in Utah.



$1M DOE Grant for Advanced Nuclear Energy Research

Dr. Peter Zhu’s team Plays Key Role in Securing $1M DOE Grant for Advanced Nuclear Energy Research

We are thrilled to announce that Dr. Peter Zhu, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and his lab have been collaborating with a team at the University of Illinois on a proposal that has just been awarded a $1 million grant by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP). This prestigious award recognizes Dr. Zhu’s contributions to the field of nondestructive evaluation (NDE) and its advancement to nuclear energy research and development, showcasing the team’s broad expertise in engineering research.

NEUP, a vital initiative for fostering innovation and maintaining U.S. leadership in nuclear research, supports university-led projects across the nation. In its latest round of funding, NEUP has selected 25 projects from 22 states, providing top science and engineering faculty and their students with opportunities to pioneer groundbreaking technologies and solutions in civil nuclear capabilities.

The project, titled “Local resonance-based linear and nonlinear NDE techniques for repaired DSC wall structures,” represents a significant step forward for safer and more efficient nuclear energy solutions. Collaborating with the University of Illinois, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Dr. Zhu and the team will focus on developing novel linear and nonlinear ultrasound techniques. These techniques aim to characterize and quantify the structural integrity of repaired dry storage canisters (DSCs) used for long-term spent nuclear fuel storage and management.

Dry storage canisters are vital for safe storage and management of spent nuclear fuel. However, over time, these structures may undergo wear and tear, necessitating repairs to maintain their integrity. The project’s main goal will seek to enhance the inspection and monitoring of repaired DSC wall structures, ensuring their long-term reliability and safety.

By harnessing the power of advanced NDE methods, the research aims to provide nuclear industry stakeholders with invaluable insights into the condition of DSCs, facilitating proactive maintenance strategies and mitigating potential risks associated with structural degradation.

We are excited about the potential impact of Dr. Zhu’s collaborative efforts and look forward to the advancements this project will bring to the nuclear energy sector.



Spotlight on Excellence

The U’s ASCE Student Chapter Shines Bright at Symposium

Every year, the ASCE Student Symposium brings the ingenuity and passion of engineering students together for camaraderie, competition, and shared learning. We’re pleased to report that our student chapter came back from this year’s Symposium with some well-earned accolades, including 2024’s Distinguished Chapter Award and their second Certificate of Commendation.

Utah State University hosted the ASCE Student Symposium in Logan, UT from April 11 – 13th, drawing students from across the Intermountain Southwest Conference Region. For the U’s ASCE chapter, this event served as a platform to demonstrate their recent hard work and dedication.

Amidst the spirited symposium atmosphere, the U’s ASCE chapter distinguished itself with remarkable achievements:

  • 2nd Place in the Paper Competition: Erik Bond’s eloquent presentation on ethics captivated the audience, earning accolades and recognition for the chapter’s insightful contributions.
  • 2nd Place in the Construction Institute Competition: Led by Evan Blass, Sarah Neves, Kyle Wineteer, and Szymon Zeliszcak, the chapter excelled in tackling real-world construction challenges, showcasing their expertise and professionalism.


Leadership in Action

Congratulations to ASCE for another successful year! President Kamryn Cupal has led with dedication, fostering a sense of collegiality while striving for every member’s success. As Evan Blass steps into the presidency next year, the chapter looks forward to continuing its momentum.

Behind the scenes, Dr. Christine Pomeroy has been a guiding force in her role as faculty advisor, nurturing a culture of excellence and innovation within the chapter.

“I am so proud of our ASCE student chapter,” said Dr. Pomeroy. “Our membership is comprised of future industry leaders. They are a group of bright, hardworking, and enthusiastic students.”

Dr. Pomeroy, faculty advisor for ASCE for 7 years, has been instrumental in the chapter’s growth and success. Under her guidance, the chapter was recognized for its commitment to excellence and innovation by receiving the Distinguished Chapter Award, which is only given to one out of the 36 student chapters in the Intermountain Southwest Conference Region.

Additionally, thanks to Dr. Pomeroy’s efforts, the chapter has received two Certificates of Commendation (2024, 2024) for its outstanding activities as recorded in the ASCE’s Chapter Annual Report. This is a distinction earned by only the top 5% of all student chapters worldwide.

Standing as a testament to the power of mentorship and the potential of passionate engineering students, the chapter is poised to continue its legacy of excellence at future symposiums and within the engineering community.


Tackling Growing Railroad Challenges

Dr. Peter Zhu’s Rail Engineering Proposal Secures Funding for Innovative Research

Dr. Peter Zhu, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Utah, recently secured funding to enhance railroad infrastructure safety, resilience, and efficiency. Crafted in collaboration with the University of Illinois, his research proposal has been accepted for funding by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) as part of their 2024 Grand Challenges in Railroad Engineering.

Managed in partnership with MxV Rail, the AAR’s call for proposals received nearly 40 submissions vying for limited funding slots. Titled “Improvements on Machine Learning – Rail Neutral Temperature Predictive Tool,” Dr. Zhu’s innovative approach to addressing critical issues within the railway industry ultimately secured the funding to move forward with his project.

One of the most pressing challenges faced by the railway sector is the risk of rail thermal buckling, a leading cause of train derailments. Further, with the rising average temperatures and increasing occurrences of extreme heat events, the risk of thermal buckling now poses significant challenges to the reliability of rail networks.

To mitigate this risk, Dr. Zhu’s research will work to engineer superior load and stress measurement techniques in railroads by using machine learning algorithms and cutting-edge technologies. By utilizing contactless measurement techniques and machine learning models, the team aims to enable real-time anomaly detection of thermal stress at a network level.

Leveraging this funding from MxV Rail and AAR and existing fully instrumented test site on the UTA’s Frontrunner track, Dr. Zhu‘s team will work to pioneer advancements in detecting thermal stress anomalies with in-motion sensing technology to make significant contributions towards enhancing rail infrastructure safety, resilience, and efficiency.

We look forward to seeing the power of interdisciplinary research, collaborative partnerships, and engineering excellence in Dr. Zhu’s work on this project!