Ruoyang Wu Receives Prestigious Award

Ruoyang (Andrew) Wu paper titled “Experimental and Analytical Study of Seismically Repaired RC Bridge Column-to-Cap Beam Connections.” was selected as the recipient of the 2018 Nevada Medal for Distinguished Paper in Bridge Engineering. The Nevada Medal is an annual award given to an outstanding graduate student paper that has made significant contributions to the state-of-the-art in bridge engineering. Wu’s winning paper was selected by a group of experts in bridge engineering research and design.

Wu is under the direction of Dr. Chris Pantelides.

For more information please visit

COE to Host ASEE Annual Conference

The University of Utah College of Engineering is proud to be hosting the 125th American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition at the Salt Palace Convention Center June 24 – 27. The conference is dedicated to all disciplines of engineering education and will feature more than 400 technical sessions.

As the host campus, the U’s College of Engineering is welcoming some 4,000 attendees from engineering institutions all over the country. The week is expected to be full of invaluable and exciting sessions and demonstrations for all those who attend, including keynotes, exhibits, socials, tours, a pavilion of student projects, and more.

“The College of Engineering is pleased to be the host campus for the 125th Annual Conference of the American Society for Engineering Education,” said Dean Richard B. Brown. “It gives us a chance to show off student research, our beautiful campus, and the entrepreneurism for which the University of Utah is so well known.”

The College of Engineering also invites attendees to visit its booth (#601) to see interactive demonstrations with virtual reality games and applications and to view the latest prototype of a prosthetic arm that operates with a neural interface. The demos represent the work of the College’s Entertainment Arts and Engineering video game development program and the research of U bioengineering associate professor Gregory Clark.
The conference will also feature a keynote Monday morning from Pierre Haren, founder and CEO of analysts group, Causality Link. According to his biography, Haren has “led and mentored diverse teams of researchers and consultants and introduced on the market and deployed at customer sites a variety of products, from Expert Systems to Advanced Graphical User Interfaces and Operations Research as well as Watson technologies in IBM.”

The keynote will be held Monday, June 25, at 8 a.m. at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
After the conference, the College of Engineering also will be hosting an Engineering Commercialization Workshop full of important information about how to commercialize research discoveries. In addition to a keynote presentation by Ross DeVol, former chief research officer for the Milken Institute, the workshop will cover building an entrepreneurial ecosystem, policies that support commercialization, the relationship between research and entrepreneurship, an engineering entrepreneurship curriculum, managing conflicts of interest, dangers and pitfalls of commercialization, and examples of successful commercialization ventures.

The all-day workshop will be held Thursday, June 28 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Sorenson Molecular Biotechnology Building, Room 2650 (main auditorium), 36 S. Wasatch Drive, on the University of Utah campus. For more information about the workshop and to register, go to

Intermountain Section Award Winner

Nuzhat Azra recently received the Ellis L. Mathes scholarship award during the 2018 Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Intermountain Section Annual Meeting. The Intermountain Section annually awards two students in the area (Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Utah) who are enrolled in an engineering curriculum with an emphasis in transportation. A brief description of the award and the names of previous recipients can be found here.

Graduate Student Rob Sowby

Ph.D. student Rob Sowby recently won the doctoral category in the J. Paul Riley Student Paper Competition, sponsored by the Utah Section of the American Water Resources Association (AWRA). The competition, covering a variety of interdisciplinary water topics, included written papers and oral presentations on March 28 at the BYU Salt Lake Center. Sowby’s entry, “Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Drinking Water Conservation in 10 Major U.S. Cities,” was an extension of his dissertation research on the energy footprints of public water systems with faculty advisor Dr. Steve Burian. Sowby is pictured here at right with AWRA Utah Section president David Hartvigsen, left, and competition sponsor Dr. Paul Riley, center.

Dr. Doug Schmucker receives ASEE Outstanding Teaching Award

The Rocky Mountain Section of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) recently selected Dr. Schmucker to receive this year’s Outstanding Teaching Award. This important distinction is based on letters of support from students and faculty recommendations. Congratulations to Dr. Schmucker for the dedication to teaching it takes to receive this fine distinction.

The Road Less Traveled

Little Cottonwood Canyon Road, the winding 7-mile road that cuts through the Wasatch Mountains to Snowbird and Alta ski resorts, is facing catastrophic traffic congestion. Already, more than 6,600 vehicles and 12,400 people go into the canyon on peak days, and only 4 percent of those users take public transportation, according to the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT). And it’s only going to get worse.

So do you widen the canyon road, which would have a significant environmental impact? A University of Utah civil and environmental engineering class was tasked with figuring that out, and its findings suggest you don’t have to dig into the canyon and add another lane to fix the congestion.

The engineering class was hired by the Granite Community Council to conduct a study on what transportation improvements can be made to Little Cottonwood Canyon to help mitigate the rising traffic problems. Other major issues it looked at include local roads jammed with cars blocked by snow and avalanche cleanup, as well as unsafe parking on the roadway near the ski resorts. The proposed solutions will be costly, and the class will be recommending that officials institute a user’s fee, or toll, for Little Cottonwood Canyon Road (State Road 210) to help maintain the area and implement these improvements.

The 20 students, who are in a “Professional Practice and Design” engineering class, will be presenting their results to community and UDOT officials during a presentation April 19 at 9:30 a.m. at the University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library, 295 S. 1500 East, Room 1170.

“We project a 2-percent growth of users per year,” one of the class’s instructors, University of Utah civil and environmental engineering associate professor Steve Bartlett, says about Little Cottonwood Canyon. “In a 50-year span, you’re looking at doubling the users in the canyon.

The students say officials can make several improvements to relieve traffic that would have much less environmental impact than just widening the road. More immediate measures include:

  • Avalanche sheds. Build several of these above-ground tunnels along the road to protect it and vehicles from avalanches that result in road closures.


  • Free-flow exits from the ski resort parking lots. Design better exits from the ski resorts that allow traffic to move more smoothly and freely.


  • Minor road alignments. Make minor changes to the roads for improved vehicle sightlines and to allow better merging and passing.


  • Improvements for bicyclists. Develop more paving and guardrails for biking.


Meanwhile, the class will also make other recommendations for the future that involve autonomous vehicles, vehicle-to-vehicle communications, and a user-friendly information system that would, for example, allow a person to use a cell phone to arrange a home-pickup, book a seat on a mass-transit vehicle, or reserve a parking place at a resort.

Currently, the Utah Legislature has earmarked up to $65 million for Little Cottonwood Canyon improvements, but Bartlett says the cost of the class’s proposed improvements will run well beyond $100 million. The study recommends instituting a user fee, or toll, for drivers into the canyon to help generate revenue and to encourage more people to use public transportation.

That is similar to the recommendation students from last year’s Professional Practice and Design engineering class made when they revealed the results of a study it conducted on Big Cottonwood Canyon. The Big Cottonwood Canyon Community Council hired the class — then a different group of students — to assess what it would take to manage traffic and raise revenue to maintain the restrooms and other recreation amenities. Some of their recommendations included restriping the road to include bicycle markings, expand public transportation service and reconfigure parking lots to safely include more cars. Since then, a toll for that canyon is being considered.

Bartlett, who teaches the class every year with U civil and environmental engineering adjunct professor David Eckhoff, hopes the student study can aid officials in doing what’s necessary to keep the canyon pristine for generations to come.

“Hopefully, this can be a strong voice in the planning stages,” Bartlett says. “We are hoping to plant a vision in the public mindset that a wholesale widening of the canyon is not necessary. A better use of transit and private-vehicle ridership can make up this gap.”

Civil Faculty Honored

The Career & Professional Development Center at the University of Utah honored five faculty members from the College of Engineering Friday, April 13, with this year’s Career Services Faculty Recognition Award. In all, 20 faculty members were recognized across the U campus.

The award is given to faculty who contribute to students’ career development and exploration. Nominations were made by students, and winners were selected for their dedication to help students find resources, guide their career paths and realize their potential.

This year’s College of Engineering recipients are:

  • Brittany Coats, associate professor in mechanical engineering.
  • David Schurig, associate professor in electrical and computer engineering.
  • Jennifer Weidhaas, associate professor in civil and environmental engineering.
  • Jerod Johnson, adjunct assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering.
  • John McLennan, associate professor in chemical engineering.

The recipients were honored during a presentation April 13 in the Student Services Building. Past winners of the award from the College of Engineering include mechanical engineering assistant professor Ashley Spear, chemical engineering associate professor (lecturer) Tony Butterfield and materials science and engineering assistant professor Taylor Sparks.

Undergraduate Researchers to be Honored

Two University of Utah engineering students will receive the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award from the U’s Office of Undergraduate Research Office.

Gemma Clark, a student in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, will receive the award for the Honors College while Jayden Plumb from the Department of Mechanical Engineering will receive the award for the College of Engineering.

The Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award honors a student from 17 of the university’s colleges. The awards are based on commitment to developing research skills and knowledge, evidence of independent and critical thinking, active participation in research-related activities on campus, and positive contributions to the research culture of the department, college, and university.


Clark, whose advisor is civil and environmental engineering associate professor Jennifer Weidhaas, conducted a project for the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program in which she looked at waterborne pathogens present in the runoff from various roofing materials.

In her nomination letter, Weidhaas wrote that Clark is “very detail oriented, capable of synthesizing published experimental protocols and adopting methods to our laboratory, and very inquisitive about interpretation of results. She is well beyond most undergraduate students in her mastery of interpreting experimental results, near a second-year master’s student level.”
Professor Spear of the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah on Wednesday, March 7, 2018.

Meanwhile, Plumb has been mapping out the 3D grain structure of open-cell aluminum foam used in aerospace, defense, and biomedical applications. His advisor is mechanical engineering assistant professor Ashley Spear.

“Jayden has demonstrated a remarkable level of independent and critical thinking that far exceeds his peers,” Spear wrote in a nomination letter. “Jayden’s research experience at the University of Utah has positioned him to be a successful graduate student researcher in any top program.”

The awards will be given out April 3 during a luncheon at the A. Ray Olpin Student Union.

Student Wins Sustainability Poster Contest

A poster by Ph.D. student Rob Sowby won the Graduate Research category at the 2018 Intermountain Sustainability Summit held March 1st at Weber State University. With faculty advisor Dr. Steve Burian, Sowby is quantifying the energy requirements of public water systems and developing new techniques to analyze and manage their energy use.

Abbas Rashidi Recognized as a 2017 Outstanding Reviewer

Abbas Rashidi has been recognized as a 2017 Outstanding Reviewer by the editors-in-chief of two ASCE journals: ASCE Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering and ASCE Journal of Construction Engineering and Management. The decisions have been made based upon his excellent response, turn-around time and completeness of review for technical publications throughout 2017.

Rashidi is an active member of the ASCE. He regularly reviews technical manuscripts in the area of Construction Engineering and Management for several ASCE journals including ASCE Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, and ASCE Journal of Management in Engineering. He also serves as a member of the editorial board and associate editor for ASCE Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities and ASCE Journal of Construction Engineering and Management.