Five Civil Engineering Graduate Students Earn Prestigious NSF Scholarships, Three Earn Honorable Mentions

Five civil engineering graduate students at Georgia Tech are among an elite group to be awarded fellowships under the 2011 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who have demonstrated outstanding abilities and accomplishments, as well as the potential to strengthen the vitality of science and engineering in the United States. Brittany Bruder, Josephine (Josie) Kressner, Susan Hotle, Laura Schultz, and Stephanie Smallegan will utilize the fellowships to further their education and conduct vital engineering research.  In addition, Jamie Fischer, Greg Macfarlane, and Nathan Mayercsik received Honorable Mentions.

Each of these students is very deserving of this national recognition and the School congratulates them on their accomplishments. A brief profile of each award winner is listed below along with an overview of their research.

Brittany Bruder, a Ph.D. candidate in civil engineering at Georgia Tech Savannah who obtained her undergraduate degree from Columbia University, plans to study the applicability of tidal streams as a renewable energy source in Coastal Georgia while concurrently researching new tidal turbine technologies. Bruder plans to assess the tidal hydropower potential around Rose Dhu Island with the hopes of a potential turbine prototype installation. Rose Dhu, situated 10 miles from Savannah, is the future site of an educational center for the Girl Scouts of America. Bruder’s past accomplishments include completing an internship at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility studying tides in the Chesapeake Bay, working on stadium projects for the 2012 Olympic Games while interning in a London engineering firm, cataloging civil infrastructure legislation while interning for US Senator Jim DeMint, and being selected as a member of the national engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi.

Josie Kressner is a second-year doctoral student. She was recently named the 2011 recipient of the WTS International President's Legacy Scholarship. This scholarship recognizes women who demonstrate leadership in the transportation industry and a commitment to community service. Josie was recognized for her work in co-founding Revive Atlanta, a non-profit organization that seeks to convert underutilized properties into community assets, such as parks, edible community gardens, and playgrounds.

Among all of her accomplishments so far during her graduate studies at Georgia Tech, co-founding Revive Atlanta ( is the one she is proud of most. This organization is dedicated to transforming underutilized properties into valuable community assets. The organization has formed strong partnerships with several other organizations in the Atlanta area such as the Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., Trees Atlanta, the Trust for Public Land, Park Pride, Georgia Organics, Path Foundation, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, and various neighborhood associations.

Josie’s research investigates ways in which to use credit reporting data and other highly disaggregated data to model household movements over time, particularly in transit-oriented developments, and effectively quantify short- and long-term impacts of infrastructure investments on populations and communities. Most notably, she has received a President’s Fellowship from Georgia Tech and an Airport Cooperative Research Fellowship. Through her research into the people and neighborhoods of Atlanta at Georgia Tech, she will be able to enhance the breadth and depth of the impact of Revive Atlanta’s work and hopes that through these combined efforts she will make a lasting, positive impact on the quality of life for all individuals in Atlanta.

Susan Hotle has been a researcher under the advisement of Dr. Laurie Garrow for the past year. As an undergraduate, she helped develop teaching modules based on an airline planning software, which were used in Georgia Tech’s Freight and Airports course, a high school summer camp on simulations, and high school math classes in Georgia in the fall of 2010. Also, she has helped research the effects of product debundling in the airline industry and recently submitted a journal article on the topic.

Susan is an Engineer in Training and has received the Women in Transportation’s Sharon D. Banks Undergraduate Scholarship, Mundy Travel Scholarship, Institute of Transportation Engineers Scholarship, and President’s Undergraduate Research Award. With the Mundy Travel Scholarship, she traveled to Cairo, Luxor, and Dubai to study transportation systems in foreign countries. Susan is interested in using simulation methods to study air passenger behavior as part of her graduate studies.

Laura SchultzLaura Schultz's research involves the development of a cost-benefit analysis methodology for region specific seismic retrofit techniques. She is advised by Dr. Reginald DesRoches. The evaluation algorithm she is working on must account for geographic variation in seismic risk, local materials, economic constraints, and worker skill level. It is hoped that consistent cost-benefit analysis will identify the most appropriate retrofit technique for a particular economic, environmental and social context. It will also identify regions of the world where appropriate retrofit techniques do not exist. A consistent cost-benefit analysis also would shed light on region specific strengths and weaknesses, which would be taken into account when developing new structural reinforcement techniques. She also is working to identify regional practices which lead to excessive vulnerabilities and make recommendations for policy changes which would reduce the nation’s seismic risk.


Stephanie Smallegan, who was recently inducted into the national engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi, earned her undergraduate degree from Georgia Tech Savannah and has continued her Ph.D. level studies at the campus. Smallegan’s research will utilize video observations of nearshore processes at Cape Hatteras, N.C. to address the continual shaping of coastlines and the need for a prediction methodology of future shorelines in order to provide sustainable coastal management. She will look at the causes of longshore currents, model the effect of Diamond Shoals on surf-zone waves, and examine the relative importance of cross-shore transport and wave-driven transport. It will be the first coastal erosion study of this nature to be conducted at Cape Hatteras. Smallegan’s past research accomplishments include performing beach surveys and quantifying the volume of sand lost since nourishment as part of Tybee’s Beach Morphology Monitoring project. She also participated in a coastal erosion study conducted at Myrtle Beach, S.C. that assessed the accuracy of longshore currents estimated from video observations to in situ current profiler measurements. This research was presented at the fall 2010 AGU Conference in San Francisco and the Ocean Sciences 2010 Conference in Portland, Oregon.