CEEatGT Update: March 2019

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Spring Break abroad
Students from the International Disaster Reconnaissance Studies course walk through ruined buildings in Old Beichuan, China. The city has been left as a memorial to those killed when it was rocked by the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in central China. The site was one of the places students visited in China and Japan over Spring Break as they considered the impact of disasters and how communities rebuilt. (Photo Courtesy: Lynnae Luettich and Katie Popp)For students in three grand challenges engineering courses in the School, Spring Break was the culmination of a semester’s worth of planning and preparation. They spent the week doing water quality research in South America, studying transportation systems in Europe, and exploring disaster recovery and rebuilding in Asia. The trips brought students face-to-face with new cultures, new places, and new kinds of challenges. Read some of their reflections on an intense week abroad.

New rankings, same storyCEE's graduate programs in civil engineering and environmental engineering are No. 4 in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report's 2020 survey. (Graphic: Amelia Neumeister)

An updated list of the best graduate programs in civil and environmental engineering puts the School among the nation’s top five again. At No. 4, both programs continue to provide some of the highest quality master’s and doctoral degrees in America. They also extend a streak of more than two decades in U.S. News and World Report’s top 10 in each discipline.

Best teacherAssistant Professor Lauren Stewart

Women studying engineering at Georgia Tech have voted Lauren Stewart one of the best professors in the College. She received the most votes from undergraduate women asked whom they consider their best engineering professor so far. She’ll be recognized in April at the annual Women in Engineering banquet.

Elizabeth and Bill Higginbotham at dusk with the Midtown Atlanta skyline in the background. (Photo: Gary Meek)

Challenge accepted Alumnus Bill Higginbotham is the first to answer a challenge issued by fellow 1976 grad Michael Messner to help the School double its endowed faculty positions. Messner and his wife, Jenny, made a $5 million gift to the School, offering a dollar-for-dollar match for anyone who creates an endowed chair or professorship, essentially cutting the required donation in half. Higginbotham has committed $500,000 to the initiative to set up a new professorship.

Natual gas storage tanks with excess methane burning off. (Photo Courtesy: Jeffrey Phillips via Flickr)

Carbon footprint If you're someone who looks at the carbon footprint of the things you buy, you could be significantly underestimating your impact on the environment. Most carbon footprint calculations don't have accurate data about the impact of methane leakage through the natural gas transmission system, according to new research from Assistant Professor Emily Grubert published online March 13 in the Journal of Cleaner Production. Methane is the most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide.

Water pouring from a faucet. (Photo Courtesy: Steve Johnson via Flickr)

Chlorine-free Carlton S. Wilder Assistant Professor Xing Xie is working on new technology to purify water using a strong electric field to kill bacteria and other pathogens instead of chlorine. Chlorination is a time-tested approach but creates undesirable byproducts. With the support of a five-year National Science Foundation Early Career Development Award, Xie is working better understand how locally enhanced electric field treatment, or LEEFT, systems kill pathogens.

Former Ph.D. students Shelly Zhang and Eric Johnston, who have won the Sigma Xi Best Ph.D. Thesis award for 2019.

Best thesis Two of the best dissertations at Georgia Tech this year came from students in civil and environmental engineering. Eric Johnston and Shelly Zhang have won the Best Ph.D. Thesis award from Sigma Xi, an honor reserved for only nine graduate students across campus.

Cargo ship loaded with freight containers at sea with a muted, gray sky. (Photo Courtesy: Mike Baird via Flickr)

Faster shipping A quicker shipping route between Europe and East Asia would seem a no-brainer for freight companies moving many tons of goods by sea. Yet Frederick R. Dickerson Chair Srinivas Peeta and Ph.D. student Irina Benedyk found decision-makers at these companies are skeptical about such a route through the Arctic Ocean, which could become viable as more sea ice melts in the coming decades. Their study was the best of the year, according to the editor of the journal Maritime Economics & Logistics.

Professor and Associate Dean Laurence Jacobs, left, accepts a lifetime achievement award in nondestructive evaluation from Tribikram Kundu at the SPIE Smart Structures and Nondestructive Evaluation Symposium in early March. (Photo Courtesy: Laurence Jacobs and SPIE)

Lifetime achievement An international organization dedicated to advancing light-based research and technology has given Laurence Jacobs a lifetime achievement award for his work on nondestructive evaluation. SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, honored Jacobs earlier this month at the organization’s smart structures and nondestructive evaluation symposium.
  Ph.D. student April Gadsby. (Photo: Jess Hunt-Ralston)
Future leader Ph.D. student April Gadsby has joined a growing list of the School’s students identified as future leaders by the Eno Center for Transportation. Gadsby is one of 20 graduate students across the country invited to Washington this summer to learn about transportation policymaking first-hand at the Eno Future Leaders Development Conference.
Lauren Stewart and Nelson Baker, who both have earned promotions.
Promoted Lauren Stewart has earned tenure at Georgia Tech and will be promoted to associate professor this fall. Nelson Baker, who also serves as dean of professional education, will be promoted to the rank of full professor.