Skip to content

WUOT: David Clarke Talks About Driverless Cars

David ClarkeThe Method on WUOT FM recently interviewed Center for Transportation Research Director David Clarke about the topic of driverless cars, and what obstacles—literal and figurative—stand in the way of their adaptation.

Clarke, who also serves as a research associate professor in civil engineering, is considered one of the foremost transportation experts in the country. He has been interviewed by outlets ranging from CNN and NBC News to the Philadelphia Inquirer and NPR.

The interview can be heard at WUOT FM.

The Cream of the Crop: Students with Internship and Co-op Experience are Better Prepared for Workforce

Engineering Professional Practice LogoThese days, college graduates have to do more than get good grades to be considered competitive upon graduation. One of the best ways students can stand out is to get a head start on work experience through an internship or co-cop. Civil and Environmental Engineering students at the University of Tennessee have many opportunities to apply for internships and co-ops through the Office of Engineering Professional Practice in the John D. Tickle College of Engineering, which also sponsors the Engineering Expos held in the fall and the spring.

Todd Reeves, director for the office, says that he wants students to visit the office in person to begin to see the opportunities available to them. “We want students to register with us, come in and meet with one of our ambassadors and answer some early questions,” he says. “Then they can come back and meet with a counselor to discuss career goals. We can help students target which companies they want to reach out to. They will never have more people around them helping them look for a job than when they seek an internship or co-op.”

Internship or Co-Op?

An internship in CEE is usually over the summer between a student’s junior and senior years, while a co-op happens over three semesters. In both cases, while a student is working they are not in school. On the whole, the Office of Engineering and Professional Practice would like students to see co-ops as the most valuable opportunity to set them apart from their peers.

Here’s why. The co-op experience is the one that prepares students with the most hands-on experience before they graduate. “With a co-op, students get to see firsthand what the discipline is all about,” said Reeves. “The work is often different from the academic learning. Seeing it in the field gives them an advantage and they retain that information more deeply. Then when they are back in school, their academics usually reflect the extra knowledge gained through experience.” Employers also know that co-op students will be able to contribute more as employees as well as make a transition to full-time employment more swiftly than those without the extra training. This contributes to the reason about 75 percent of students in co-op programs will end up with a job offer from their employer.

Reeves reassures students that the average length of an undergraduate education in CEE is five years, whether they co-op or not. If students get started with a co-op early, then the extra year is more than made up for with the quality of job offers students have available to them upon graduation. Additionally, CEE allows three semesters of a co-op to count in place of one of the technical electives, so they can get academic credit for their work experience.

A co-op can turn students into working adults more quickly, but it also means students might have to find housing in another city to perform the work for a given semester if necessary. However, 90 percent of the companies that employ co-op and internship students outside of Knoxville and/or outside of the student’s hometown do provide some form of housing assistance, making the transition to the work experience cost-effective for these students.

Student Experiences

in-the-fieldOne student who opted for an internship is Geneva Osborne, now a senior who had an internship at the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Region 1 Traffic Office last summer. As a traffic intern, she assisted in engineering studies and crash analyses of state routes in the 24 counties of East Tennessee. She was trained to use multiple software systems and the TITAN database to analyze potential high-crash-risk roads and worked alongside supervisors to propose solutions. “Overall, I gained a tremendous amount of experience from working at TDOT,” she said. “I now have real-world application to the concepts I’m learning in my upper-level courses and am familiar with the software used to compute potential solutions.” In addition to the technical experience she learned, Osborne also gained in communications experience. She attended public gatherings to discuss upcoming road projects with community members, law enforcement and other leaders, and she assisted in representing the office at the Fall Tennessee Section Institute of Transportation Engineers conference.

evan-lockhart-at-work-2016-2Two students who are now second-semester juniors on the co-op track are Evan Lockhart and Emma Dixon, both of whom are co-op ambassadors for the Office of Engineering Professional Practice. Lockhart’s concentration is construction, and he has enjoyed the two semesters he’s spent working for Brasfield and Gorrie, a construction company headquartered in Birmingham, AL with offices around the Southeast. “When you do a co-op, the company invests in you and sees you grow,” he says. “It actually helped me with school and I got my first 4.0 after the first rotation.” When he came back to school in the spring after that rotation, Lockhart remembers getting cross-sectional drawings from Dr. Burdette, and people would look at it and not know what they were, but he had already seen them on the jobsite. “I loved it,” he said. “I now know what’s more applicable in the real world.”

Emma Diemma-dixon-co-opxon has also completed two rotations of a co-op with a construction firm, although she wants to take courses from all the disciplines before she officially decides on her concentration. She got connected with EMJ Construction in Chattanooga through a Fall Engineering Expo. During her first rotation she did office work and got to see how the business was managed and visit job sites for a day. However, her second rotation was on-site in Gainseville, FL, at the site of a new BassPro shop. “What’s cool about construction is that even if you don’t pursue it, it’s part of every aspect of civil engineering,” she said. “I got to see geotech and structural work, landscaping work and even mechanical and electrical engineering.” At first Dixon wasn’t sure she wanted to do an internship or a co-op, but after talking with other civil engineering majors and her parents, she decided it would be the best option for her academic path. “By the time an internship ends, you are just getting the hang of things,” she adds. “With the co-op, you have in-depth experience.”

CEE’s Professor Kim Carter Attends Clayton-Bradley STEM Academy’s Pistol Creek Day

Pistol Creek DayStudents of the Clayton-Bradley STEM Academy took their studies outside along the banks of Pistol Creek, which runs along the school’s property, to literally and figuratively get their feet wet with stream-based STEM activities. The event, called Pistol Creek Day, joined the Little River Watershed Association and other area organizations with the Academy’s K through 11th grade students on August 31 from 9-2 for lessons that are mostly centered on stream ecology.

Volunteers from Little River Watershed Association, Trout Unlimited, Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, IDA Engineering and TVA guided activity stations where students rotated through sessions. Activities included a nature walk and birding for grades K-2, a macro- and microinvertibrate lab and water cycle games for grades 3-5, intro to water monitoring for grades 6-8 and a fish inventory for grades 6-11.

CEE Assistant Professor Kim Carter and her UT students presented a module showing the STEM students how to measure the concentrations of nitrate, ammonia and chlorine in water from Pistol Creek using field kits. The activity was designed to educate about methods that can be used for analytical measurements.

Carter also sat on a panel discussion about the different careers in science and engineering. “I thought Pistol Creek was an exciting experience for the students as they learned about different careers in science,” she said.

Longtime Engineering Professor Goodpasture Remembered


Longtime UT civil engineering professor David W. Goodpasture passed away Wednesday, September 14, at age 77.

After attending Knoxville’s Fulton High School, Goodpasture graduated No. 1 amongst civil engineering students in the class of 1960.

He worked a short time with Boeing before earning a Masters from the University of Illinois. Goodpasture had brief stints at UT and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before returning to Illinois to earn his doctorate.

Goodpasture then returned to UT to teach in what is now the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, spending 38 years until his retirement in 2004.

Since that time, he served as a professor emeritus, bringing his total commitment to UT to more than fifty years, frequently collaborating with colleague and friend Edwin Burdette.

“David and I and later Dr. Hal Deatherage worked for many years on numerous research projects sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Transportation,” said Burdette, who recently retired as the Fred N. Peebles Professor in the department and has a professorship named in his honor.

“He was the indispensable man on those projects, the only one with the expertise to use the computerized data taking equipment necessary to perform the research.”

His particular expertise came in the testing and design of highway bridges, including being a co-investigator on the first such project at UT.

At one time or another during his tenure as a full-time professor, Goodpasture taught every required course related to structures in addition to both undergraduate and graduate courses dealing with the design and behavior of steel structures.

Burdette noted that hundreds of Goodpasture’s former students still remember his graduate course in behavior of steel structures, both for his expertise and his thoroughness

“David never really ‘bought in’ to grade inflation,” said Burdette. “He left a positive mark on civil engineering at UT, and he will continue to be remembered with pleasure and gratitude by many former students.”

A devout Christian and a longtime member of Concord First Baptist Church, he was the son of the late John and Eula Goodpasture and was preceded in death by his wife, Marion, and sister, Jacquetta Weaver. He is survived by several children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.

Read his obituary here.


CEE Department Remembers Marjean Evans

image-80924_20160829Edna Marjean Evans died peacefully in her sleep on August 26, 2016. She served as head secretary in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department for more than 20 years between the early 1970s to the mid 1990s. Graduates and former faculty members who were a part of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department during that time will remember her with a particular fondness, which stemmed from her genuinely caring attitude toward students and faculty alike, as well as her quiet competence which came to be taken for granted. She was like a surrogate mother to countless students who felt comfortable sharing their problems with her, and she would listen empathetically and generally help them to get life in perspective and their academic career on the right path. Upon her retirement, a party was held for her at the University Center, and students came from as far away as Memphis to honor her for her contributions to their lives.

“Marjean Evans was gracious and caring, as well as calm and competent,” remembers Emeritus Professor Ed Burdette. “She was a person who genuinely cared for the department and its students. She will be remembered with appreciation and affection by those who knew her.”

Former Department Head Greg Reed had the privilege of working alongside Marjean. “She was so dedicated to the department and took care of everyone – especially students,” he recalls. “She was always positive and upbeat. She helped me a lot when I was a new department head to learn and understand all the little details of the functioning of a department. I am better for having known her.”

“Marjean was the office manager when I joined the faculty in 1991,” said Professor Chris Cox, CEE Department Head. “She always cared a great deal for the students and faculty of the department. Her professional legacy is the creation of a welcoming and friendly atmosphere in the CEE office, focused on service to the students and faculty that has become something of a tradition within the department.”

Read her obituary here.

CEE Doctoral Student Hannah Woo Furthers Soil Deposition Research with Visit to Changbai Mountainside in Northeast China

Hannah Woo CEE doctoral student Hannah Woo received funding from the NSF East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute to conduct research in China last summer on the effect of elevated nitrogen deposition in soil carbon. Nitrogen deposition occurs when gaseous nitrogen emissions from anthropogenic activities deposit back down into the soil, and it is a serious problem in China. The deposition rates are already at unprecedented levels and they’re still increasing. Woo’s research is attempting to answer how this deposition level will affect the soil properties, especially the important soil organic compounds that provide essential nutrients.

Woo looked at the lighannahwoo1nin fraction within the soil organics because it’s usually a slow changing fraction amongst all of the carbon pools, but people are unsure if that’s going to be true with higher and higher nitrogen levels. Disruptions in the soil are going to be felt up the food chain as changes in carbon and nitrogen perturb essential microbial processes, flora, and fauna.

“This was my first visit to China and it was a great experience in terms of the research, culture, sightseeing and food,” said Woo. “Dr. XuDong Zhang and Dr. Hongbo He at the Chinese Academy of Science, Institute of Applied Ecology were wonderful hosts who helped me collect soil samples from the Changbai Mountainside, which is a very remote area in Northeast China.”

One of the woo2things that impressed Woo the most about graduate school culture in China was the community amongst the graduate students. “The students work together a lot more often than we do,” she noted. “I had a short amount of time for my project, so my Chinese labmates came together and helped me out a lot.”

Woo’s experience was important for her culturally as well as academically. “As a lab, we ate all our meals together nearly every day,” she said. “They taught me how to make Chinese food like chive and egg dumplings.”

“Hannah is one of our superstars, having found new sources of collaboration and funding from multiple agencies and internationally,” said Dr. Terry Hazen. “She is all a CEE VOL should be.”

UT’s Smart Communities Initiative Honored by Southeast Tennessee Development District

SCI program was honored by the SETDD boardThe University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Smart Communities Initiative was honored today by its past and continuing partner, the Southeast Tennessee Development District.

CEE’s Dr. Jenny Retherford was on hand for the events, since CEE has been one of the most engaged departments in the program.

Through SCI, which kicked off during the 2014-15 academic year, UT connects faculty and students with Tennessee cities, counties, special districts and other governmental organizations to engage in real-world problem solving aimed at improving the region’s economy, environment and social fabric. SCI is a key component of Experience Learning, the university’s initiative that emphasizes experiential learning.

Last year, SCI partnered with the Southeast Tennessee Development District. Faculty and students in 20 courses worked on 22 projects ranging from researching Cherokee Indians who walked the Trail of Tears to developing proposals for water quality improvements across the region.

At the end of the year, it was announced that SCI would continue to work with the Southeast Tennessee Development District as a partner while also engaging in new partnerships that can include small and rural communities. This year’s partner is Lenoir City.

“UT’s SCI program has been selected to receive the Flame Award from the district,” said Chuck Hammonds, assistant executive director of the Southeast Tennessee Development District.

“Our agency holds a full board meeting every two years and presents some awards for outstanding projects in our area. The Flame Award is the overall agency award and is named because of the symbolism of a flame or spark that kindles or starts a fire,” he said. “We are recognizing the SCI program because of the university’s commitment to engage the community to solve real-world problems and to ignite the imagination of our future leaders.”

The award was presented at today’s annual district board of directors meeting.

Kelly Ellenburg, director of UT’s Office of Service-Learning, which oversees the SCI, attended the event to represent the SCI and UT. She was joined by faculty members Brad Collett, Jennifer Retherford and Deb Shmerler.

“We’re thrilled to receive this award from the district. Our partnership with them was— and continues to be—very beneficial for all involved,” Ellenburg said. “The district represents a large area and has provided a wealth of opportunity for our faculty and students to create impact with the community by brainstorming ideas, doing research, and developing strategies to help resolve difficult and complex issues. We really appreciate that the district is recognizing the work we have done together.”

Mayors from across the region as well as elected officials at the state and national level attended the event.

“To be honored in front of so many public officials from across the area provides great exposure for the Smart Communities Initiative, our faculty and students, Experience Learning and the university as a whole,” Ellenburg said. “We hope some of these leaders learn more about our program and reach out to explore future partnerships.”

New Video Explains CEE-led Research on Concrete for Nuclear Application

Professor John Ma is leading a four-year research project in partnership with ORNL, a consortium of other universities including Vanderbilt, the University of Alabama and the University of South Carolina, as well as Ready Mix USA to study a concrete specimen in steel confinement that will have potential implications for the nuclear industry. This video shows the scope of the project, along with explanations from various partners involved in the collaboration.

Video Transcript:

Concrete. A building block. A solution to large-scale construction projects. Bridges, dams and nuclear plants.

But concrete starts cracking after you pour it. ASR, or Alkali Silica Reaction is a major degradation mechanism often called the cancer of concrete. ASR forms a gel that absorbs water and expands and does its damage over time on the surface and deceptively deep inside concrete structures. To study this process, scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, The University of Tennessee – Knoxville, and a consortium of other universities have embarked on a large-scale long-term research project utilizing a top-rate facility at UT, the John D. Tickle Engineering Building.

The experiment involves building three large concrete specimens, each about 3.5 m long, 3 meters wide and 1 m thick containing thick rebar and embedded throughout with acoustic emission and pressure sensors, fiber optics and transducers.

“We’ve got the three concrete specimens. One is confined, preventing it from expanding in one direction,” said Nolan Hayes, Graduate Research Assistant at UT. “We’ve got on unconfined reactive specimen expanding in all three directions, and then we’ve got a control specimen to base all of our measurements off of.”

“These structures are very typical of the thickness of nuclear power plant concrete structures,” said Dwight Clayton, Research Operation Manager at ORNL. “Most other concrete structures are typically thinner for transportation application, from about 8-10 inches and in nuclear applications, you’re talking about a meter thick or more. These specimens are a meter thick.”

“This experiment is truly unique,” said Dr. Yann LePape, Concrete & Civil Structures Expert at ORNL. “It’s probably the first time that speed up an experiment at that scale with so many monitoring sensors.”

Hayes added: “We’ve got multiple types of sensors. We’ve got sensors in the concrete, sensors on the surface. All of these are hooked up to four different data acquisition systems and the systems on the surface themselves measure strain information.”

“All this monitoring data coupled with non-destructive testing will be really helpful to decide what non-destructive evaluation makes sense and is actually viable and operational to be implemented in the field,” said LePape.

“You want to test the structure without completely damaging the structure,” said Sankaran Mahadevan, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Vanderbilt University. “You want to examine things without being intrusive or creating any permanent damage. It’s called non-destructive evaluation. So digital image correlation is an optical technique where we take images of any object or structure of interest in this case over a period of time and then we compare these images to a reference image.”

“We use acoustic emission sensors, and the acoustic emission sensors essentially a piezoelectric element with a preamplifier and the in the sensor,” said Dr. Paul Ziehl Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of South Carolina. “With any specimen in the lab, we have three embedded acoustic emission sensors that are already cast in the concrete and we have four surface mounted acoustic emission sensors.”

“It takes two years to cure the specimen inside the chamber,” said Dr. John Ma, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UT and the project’s principal investigator. “When I say chamber, we’re talking about a large-scale chamber about 50 ft. long by 30 ft. wide by 20 ft. high. Inside chamber we need to control the temperature and humidity. Over two years’ time.”

Then the environmental chamber is kept at a constant 100 degree F and 100 percent humidity.

“In this condition the reaction is accelerated and under normal circumstances in a real-life scenario this would occur in maybe 50 years, maybe fifty years in a nuclear power plant,” said Hayes.

“In this project we’re doing everything we can to make our concrete representative of how ASR develops in the real world as opposed to meeting an ultra-accelerated laboratory experiment,” said Dr. Eric Giannini, Assistant Professor of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering. “Making a reaction mixture is pretty easy if you have the right aggregate. Start with the highly reactive aggregate ores and then add alkalis to the mixture, in this case the form of sodium hydroxide and basically providing it much fuel for the fire impossible or in some cases with respect to this project we actually dial that back a little bit so that we don’t create too much expansion too quickly.”

Ready Mix concrete, the concrete mix supplier is less than two miles from the John D. Tickle facility.

“Fortunately it’s been a cooperative effort with multiple universities and our opportunity to work with Tennessee to be a part of such an experiment gives Ready-Mix producers the opportunity to experiment with this so that in the future we have a much better working knowledge with these particular four mixes that I have all the aspects that come along with it and need oppressive” said Kenneth Lovelace, Quality Control Sales Rep for Ready Mix USA.

Dr. Ma added: “You need a group of dedicated people because I cannot do it myself because we’re talking a large-scale structure. Give you an example. Change one of the boundary conditions of my specimen and it takes 50 tons of steel to confine this state. “

Dedicated personnel spent a long, hard and hot day pouring the concrete into three forms.

“This is a great opportunity for our students to work on a really big problem with a world class team,” said Dr. Chris Cox, Professor and dead of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at UT. “They may not get another opportunity like this in their lives. This could be a landmark opportunity in their career. They’re going to write their masters’ theses their doctoral theses and research papers based on this research. They’re also getting experience in planning and executing a large, complex project and that’s a skill very valuable to civil engineers that they’ll be able to take with them into the workplace. We’re in the knowledge business and this is a great opportunity for us to contribute to knowledge related to civil engineering infrastructure to develop infrastructure that is safer, smarter and more sustainable.”

Three CEE Representatives Honored with ASCE Awards at 2016 Tennessee Engineers’ Conference

asceThe Tennessee Engineers’ Conference is the premier gathering for engineering professionals to connect with each other, learn from other leaders in the state, expand their awareness of challenges across the engineering landscape and see the newest technology innovations.

Three representatives from the CEE department were honored at the conference with Tennessee ASCE awards for their outstanding contributions in the field.

Dr. Retherford (Dr. J) received the Peter G. Hoadley Award for Outstanding Educator;

Nancy Roberts received the Daniel B. Barge Jr. Award for Distinguished Service;

and Liam Weaver (not pictured) received the award for Student Chapter Member.

CEE Department Head Chris Cox said the following about the three recipients: “I am extremely pleased that three of our best have received recognition from ASCE. Dr. Retherford has completely transformed our senior design class. The student projects typically address real-world problems being faced by our local communities, and all of the realistic constraints that come with them.

“Additionally, Ms. Roberts has taken it upon herself to be the liaison between the Student Chapter and the Knoxville branch of ASCE. She provides assistance with their service projects and conference competitions, recruits local professionals to serve as advisors, welcomes new graduates to the young member group within the Knoxville branch, and helps them with networking within the local civil engineering community.

“Finally, Liam’s leadership as president of our student chapter during the last year was inspiring. There were a number of strong leaders in the student chapter during his year of leadership, and he did a remarkable job inspiring them to chip in, trusting everyone to do their part, and keeping everyone focused on a common goal.”

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.