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CEE alumnae Jamie Padgett wins 2011 NSF CAREER award

Dr. Jamie Padgett, assistant professor at Rice University, earned her doctorate at the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) at Georgia Tech in 2007.  She completed her studies in structural Dr. Jamie Padgettengineering, under the advisement of Dr. Reginald DesRoches, and she's quickly become very accomplished in the field.  Most recently, Padgett received the National Science Foundation's 2011 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, an honor presented to only 400 or so young researchers annually across all scientific disciplines.

NSF recognized Padgett for her research in risk assessment and life-cycle modeling to improve bridge sustainability.  In particular, her method takes into account such factors as energy usage, life-cycle costs and the potential downtime of structures.  It provides a new approach for decision makers to use in selecting upgrades to improve the safety and sustainability of these critical structures.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, as many as one in four of the nation’s bridges is structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Padgett believes a new approach is required to enhance bridge safety while achieving heightened performance goals based on defined metrics.  She states, “The infrastructure problem isn’t easily solved. Most of the bridges are more than 40 years old and are exposed to a number of threats ranging from natural hazards to increased traffic loads."

Padgett’s research team will conduct analytical modeling of data collected in field visits and perform bridge case studies. They will use vulnerability modeling to uncover the complex and intertwined effects of events that can occur throughout a typical bridge’s life, like storm surge, earthquakes, aging or deterioration and increased service-load demands. She will also involve her students in hands-on use of principles in sustainable engineering and natural hazard risk mitigation during the research. She plans to foster international exchanges with researchers in other countries as well and will recruit and retain underrepresented students to be part of her team.

“Addressing our national infrastructure problems is going to take a pipeline of students,” she said. “We need future civil engineers who will be prepared to integrate risk-assessment principles with sustainable engineering concepts and have multidisciplinary knowledge to perform this kind of work.”

Since joining the Rice faculty in 2007, Padgett was selected as one of the 14 “Best and Brightest New Faces” in engineering under the age of 30 by the National Engineers Week Foundation. She represented the U.S. at the National Academy of Engineering China-America Frontiers of Engineering Symposium in China and has spoken on bridge-safety issues in Japan. She was on the American Society of Civil Engineers Reconnaissance team that assessed damage to bridges after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

For additional information about Dr. Padgett and her research, visit:  http://www.owlnet.rice.edu/~jp7/index.html