CEEatGT Update: July 2018

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Bio beadsTwo samples of the super-absorbent polymer beads Xing Xie is developing to improve diagnostic tests on biological samples in far-flung places. These beads, roughly half a millimeter in size, have been dyed so they're easier to see. (Photo: Jess Hunt-Ralston)
Xing Xie has been developing a new environmental sampling technique that he thinks could have an unexpected application: preserving biological samples for transport to diagnostic facilities. The Grand Challenges Explorations initiative at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation agreed, and has funded an exploratory project to see if the idea works. Xie’s blend of environmental and biomedical engineering has the potential to significantly improve diagnostic test results in far-flung places.

Next frontierGeothermal plant. The Next Frontier in Renewable Energy: Hot rocks combine with water to create power. (Graphic: Sarah Collins)

In the next two decades, the world faces a yawning gap in the energy we produce and the energy we consume. Estimated at more than 4 terawatts — that’s 4 trillion watts — it’s a gap equivalent to 10,000 times the output of Hoover Dam. Assistant Professor Sheng Dai is working with the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy on one of the renewable sources that could help us make up ground: geothermal energy.

Unique mixPaper origami models demonstrate various folding patterns that can be useful in engineering applications. In the foreground is a sheet in the Miura-ori pattern. (Photo: Rob Felt)

Physics, biology, architecture and math, plus virtually every kind of engineering. Students from all of those majors don’t often take classes together, but a new course from Glaucio Paulino blended all of those in the exploration of origami principles for engineering applications. His Origami Engineering class, available again this fall, offers a unique experience that students said was challenging, insightful and valuable.

Environmental engineering senior Megan Haynes, center, with her mechanical engineering collaborators Andrey Gunawan, left, and Shannon Yee. Haynes has been doing research on desalination that recently won her second place in an American Society of Mechanical Engineers paper competition. (Photo Courtesy: Megan Haynes)

Interdisciplinary Megan Haynes had hoped to work on research before she finished her bachelor’s degree this summer. She didn’t expect to find a home in a mechanical engineering lab, let alone create an award-winning study as a result. She said working with mechanical engineers helped her think about things differently and see new possibilities for her work — and, maybe, her career.

Screenshot of WABE-FM website featuring Randall Guensler and Daniel Walls explaining their simple wheelchair-based system for cataloging sidewalk conditions.

Scouting sidewalks With an inexpensive setup based on a wheelchair and a tablet computer, Professor Randall Guensler has helped Atlanta catalog 1,200 miles of sidewalks. Now, his team has moved northwest to help Cobb County officials understand how their sidewalks fare. He and graduate student Daniel Walls recently demonstrated their system to Atlanta NPR station WABE-FM.

Army Lt. Col. Kate Sanborn, the new commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Honolulu District. (Photo Courtesy: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

Engineer, commander Kate Sanborn finished her civil engineering Ph.D. in May. Just two months later, she’s making history as the first woman to lead the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Honolulu District. Sanborn finished her degree alongside her husband, Marc, who’s taking command of an engineering brigade at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. Both are lieutenant colonels in the Army.

Ph.D. student Jianfeng Zhou, who has won a fellowship from the National Water Research Institute.

Water fellow Second-year Ph.D. student Jianfeng Zhou has won a two-year fellowship from the National Water Research Institute to support his work using low-voltage electricity to disinfect water. Zhou said the NWRI-BioLargo Graduate Fellowship offers funding he needs to finish his doctoral studies as well as validation for the research he’s been doing.

Professor Hermann Fritz

Hesburgh fellow Professor Hermann Fritz will join other top teachers at Georgia Tech this fall in a program to further build their skills and try new approaches in the classroom. The Hesburgh Award Teaching Fellows are mid-career and senior faculty members who have demonstrated excellence in teaching and expressed interest in enhancing student learning.

Kostas Konstantinidis, the new Maulding Faculty Fellow in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. (Photo: Jess Hunt-Ralston)

Maulding fellow Professor Kostas Konstantinidis has been named the Maulding Faculty Fellow in the School. The appointment reflects Konstantinidis’ prolific research efforts in environmental microbiology and its intersections with engineering, genomics and computational biology. He said the resources from such an endowed position allow him to take risks that open up productive new areas of inquiry.

UNTIL NEXT TIME...