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In Memorium, Bert Mullins

Former CEE faculty member Bert C. Mullins died in Johnston Memorial Hospital in Abingdon, VA, on November 4, 2016, at age 90. Bert was a veteran of two wars, World War II and Korean. He came to UT in Civil Engineering in 1960, after leaving the military as a First Lieutenant. At UT he received a BSCE degree in 1962 and an MS in Sanitary Engineering in 1963. Later he received an MSCE from Georgia Tech and returned to UT where he taught Civil Engineering classes for ten years. He was appreciated as a teacher by the undergraduate students and was voted ASCE Faculty Man of the Year by the students his last year to teach before he resigned and began a career as an engineering consultant. Two sons also graduated in engineering at The University of Tennessee:  Roger Mullins in C.E. in 1977 and Clifford Mullins in what was then Engineering Science in 1979. In 1986, the Mullins family moved to Abington, VA, where he served as General Manager of the Washington County Service Authority for seven and one-half years. Then he formed his own firm, Bert C. Mullins and Associates. Bert will be remembered as an excellent student scholar, an effective teacher, a congenial colleague and a genuinely good man.

Papanicolaou Named Fellow of the ASCE

Thanos PapanicolaouCEE Professor Thanos Papanicolaou was recently honored with the distinction of being named a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). This distinction is only granted to about one percent of the organization’s 150,000 members in the civil engineering profession.

ASCE stands at the forefront of a profession that plans, designs, constructs and operates society’s economic and social engine – the built environment – while protecting and restoring the natural environment. It is a leading provider of technical and professional conferences and continuing education, the world’s largest publisher of civil engineering content, and an authoritative source for codes and standards that protect the public.

Three Tickle College of Engineering Faculty Receive UTRF Backing

The UT Research Foundation announced its 2017 winners for maturation funding on Thursday, with faculty from three Tickle College of Engineering departments among the winners.

Daniel Costinett, of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Anming Hu, of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering; and Baoshan Huang, of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, each won backing.

Costinett, an assistant professor, was recognized for his project dealing with wireless charging technology for electronics.

Hu, also an assistant professor, was honored for his work in developing novel materials through 3-D printing applications.

Huang, an associate professor, was chosen for a project he is conducting with UT Institute of Agriculture Professor Xiaofei Ye on utilizing waste produced during biofuel production.

Along with five other winning teams, their research projects will each receive $15,000 in backing from UTRF to further explore their ideas.

A full release on the awards can be seen here.

CANstruction a Creative Outlet for Tickle College of Engineering Faculty, Students

Pikachu CANstructionA team of faculty and students from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Tickle College of Engineering displayed a true can-do effort this holiday season as they engaged in a friendly competition that collected food for the needy.

The “CANstruction” competition brought together teams throughout the area in a contest to see who could build the most elaborate displays out of canned goods. The regional round took place last week and, although UT’s team failed to advance, their effort will benefit many people around the Knoxville area.

At the conclusion of the contest, which involved 13 teams, more than 51,000 cans of food were donated to Second Harvest Food Bank. That haul was so impressive that Messer Construction, which sponsored the event, had to send for a second truck to collect all of donations.

CANstruction is a national competition that began in New York City in 1992 and has since helped donate 40 million pounds of food to food banks in cities around the world.

Jenny Retherford, a lecturer in civil and environmental engineering, said UT’s engineering team has participated in the regional CANstruction competition each year since it began in 2013.

“Our team actually began making the plan for this year back in August,” she said. “It’s a neat way to get everyone involved in giving back while at the same time making art while utilizing some design skills and programs.”

The UT team’s design was based on Pikachu, the main character from Pokémon, with a Santa Claus cap. It took about 3,000 cans of food to build the model based on CAD designs using their lab equipment.

Other team designs included Minions, Elf on a Shelf, and even an homage to the Vol Navy. The team representing Bush Beans, BarberMcMurry Architects, and Civil and Environmental Consultants contributed the most cans—more than 10,000.

Commemorative Chalkboard Preserves Lesson by Professor Emeritus Ed Burdette

Professor Emeritus Ed Burdette was honored with commemorative chalkboard.Professor Emeritus Ed Burdette was recently honored with a commemorative chalkboard encased behind glass on the fourth floor of the John D. Tickle building. The lesson displayed represents the second lecture from an introductory class on reinforced concrete, which he would have taught after stress-strain curves, basic ideas and simplifying assumptions. The work on the board is exactly consistent with the requirements of recent American Concrete Institute Building Codes: ACI 318-02 through ACI 318-14. The left hand board develops a method to calculate bending capacity; the right hand board shows an illustrative problem.

The blackboard was rescued from Perkins Hall, where the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering was located for 60 years before it moved the John D. Tickle building in 2013 which has dry erase boards.

“I think it appropriate that the part of our departmental history symbolized by the black slate chalkboards be somehow recognized and honored in the new departmental home in the John D. Tickle Building,” said Burdette. “I am flattered and honored that I was selected to be a part of that recognition.”

CEE Professor Jon Hathaway Speaks about Green Infrastructure to Christian Science Monitor

Jon HathawayCEE Professor Jon Hathaway recently contributed comments to a Christian Science Monitor article about the benefits of green infrastructure. Many cities are considering implementing green infrastructure as a method of dealing with the impact of increased flooding as a result of climate change. The article shows how green infrastructure can reduce stormwater runoff and decrease the risk of flooding, thereby saving money for municipalities and residents.

Read more here.

CEE PhD Candidate Receives American Society of Highway Engineers Scholarship

Ziwen Ling Receives ASHE ScholarshipZiwen Ling, a PhD. Candidate in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), has become one of three winners of Middle Tennessee chapter of the American Society of Highway Engineers (ASHE) General Academic Scholarship. The award ceremony was held during the winter Middle Tennessee ASHE chapter meeting at Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Region 3 Building.

This scholarship encourages those students seeking a career in the highway industry. This year, the chapter received 40 applications from 8 different Universities (2 from Christian Brothers, 3 from Lipscomb, 5 from MTSU, 7 from TSU, 7 from Tennessee Tech, 3 from Memphis, 7 from UT Chattanooga, and 6 from UT Knoxville).

“My advisor, Dr. Chris Cherry, is the one I really owe a lot of thanks to,” said Ziwen. “Professor Cherry cares about students, both in terms of their educational achievement and personal well-being. He is always supportive and understanding for me and my work.”

“I would also like to thank Dr. Shashi Nambisan and Dr. Lee Han, who provided input and support. This competitive scholarship, which would validate my contribution, can boost my career experience. I hope to participate in more conferences and meetings to communicate with scholars and engineers in this field. The ASHE scholarship will help me take this step in my educational career.”

In 2016, besides this scholarship, Ziwen was also awarded Chancellor Extraordinary Professional Promise Award by UT, and a scholarship by Women’s Transportation Seminar-Center Virginia chapter. One of her papers achieved the first place of Student Paper Competition by Tennessee Section Institute of Transportation Engineers.

UT’s Penumadu Helps Develop Breakthrough Adhesive

The UT Research Foundation and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering recently submitted a patent application on behalf of Fred N. Peebles Professor Dayakar Penumadu for a new type of adhesive.

Called a “smart joint” system, the technology has a number of key features and applications and is characterized by being lightweight, flexible, inexpensive, and easy-to-install

It consists of distributed optical fiber sensors that provide critical stress, strain and temperature information to designers and manufacturers working with advanced materials.

“Smart joint can be used for optimizing, monitoring, and preventing failures between joints of materials and has applications for the aerospace, wind, infrastructure, and automotive sectors,” said Penumadu, the Joint Institute for Advanced Materials (JIAM) Chair of Excellence in the Tickle College of Engineering. “Adhesively bonded joints that are suitably surface treated show a lot of promise for maintaining stealth and avoiding holes for mechanical fasteners.

“This technology will be revolutionary for such applications.”

Luna Innovations Incorporated ODiSI product (Optical Distributed Sensing) is the key technology that allows for embedding of fiber sensors within composite materials to develop them into “smart” structures.

The current market for “lightweighting” materials already exceeds $150 billion, with a particular need—and thus, a growing market—within aerospace and automotive industries.

The technology gained attention by the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA) at its Composites and Advanced Materials Expo, where it was named a finalist for the Awards for Composite Excellence (ACE).

CEE PhD Candidate Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award from the UT Geography Department

Dr. Cheng Liu, a CEE PhD candidate, received his first PhD from UT’s Geography department in 1986. In November he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the department.

His concentration of study was Transportation Geography and GIS (Geographic Information System), but since his degree required not only a geography background but also knowledge in optimization and computer science, he also spent several years studying those disciplines as well.  “Although it took me seven years to finish the program, it was good time invested, and it helped me land my first job with Federal Express working as an operations research analyst, where my main responsibility was developing and maintaining an airline scheduling system,” he says.

After a couple of years with Federal Express, Liu returned to Knoxville to work for Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) where he’s been for more than 25 years.  Soon after he started working for ORNL, he enrolled in a part-time Masters program in the UT Computer Science Department and graduated in 1992. Over the years he has developed various computer systems in the area of GIS, traffic simulation model, and environment modeling sponsored by DOT, DOE, and DOD.

In 2013 Liu started developing a global scale emergency evacuation system. This system can quickly generate emergency evacuation scenarios in a short period of time for anywhere around the world. ( Initially this project required his GIS and Computer Science background, but the more he worked on this project, the more he realized the importance of traffic engineering. Again Liu decided to go back to school to get a second PhD in traffic engineering from the CEE department. “I think one should have more than one branch of knowledge for whatever field he/she is in,” he says.  “Higher education institutions should provide interdisciplinary programs to encourage students to explore different areas of study to help them ready for the real world.”

Other accomplishments include receiving the Excellence in Applied Geography Award from the Association of American Geographers three times and the Outstanding Public Domain Software Award from the AAG.  He was also a principal developer on the Air Defense Analysis System (ADANS) for which he received an Honorable Mention for the Franz Edelman Award for Excellence in Management Science.

“Cheng is very interested in geovisualization, and much of his work focuses on optimizing over large networks,” said Bruce Ralston, Professor Emeritus of the UT Geography Department who presented Liu with the award. “He is always pushing himself (and me) to stay on the front edge of geospatial technology. Many of us are better off for Cheng’s generosity in sharing his intellectual curiosity and thirst for learning.”

CEE Professor Lee Han is Liu’s current faculty advisor. “He was a committee member for my students for several years, and then he got so excited and intrigued by the idea of doing doctoral research again that he enrolled in the CEE transportation doctoral program,” he says. “Being his advisor has given me an opportunity to learn new and exciting things from him every day.”


UT, Center for Transportation Research Help Fund Road Safety Center

chris-cherryThe University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will be a leading contributor to the Collaborative Sciences Center for Road Safety, a new national university transportation center funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Highway Safety Research Center, the CSCRS unites leading programs in transportation research, planning, public health, data science and engineering, with UNC, UT, Duke University, Florida Atlantic University and the University of California, Berkeley, all taking part.

The Center for Transportation Research and the asad-khattakDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering will lead UT’s efforts at the new center.

“Our participation builds on both the department and the Tickle College of Engineering’s history of leadership in transportation safety, and extends it to the national level,” said Chris Cox, head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “Our students and faculty will make significant contributions toward decreasing the 38,000 fatalities that occur on U.S. roadways each year.”

Beaman Distinguished Professor Asad Khattak will serve as principal investigator on the project, with Associate Professor Chris Cherry also playing a large role. Both researchers work with CTR along with their primary roles in civil engineering.

“This consortium will lead efforts to meet transportation safety needs throughout the United States,” said Khattak. “We will examine behaviors that lead to high levels of crash and injury risks, the role of connected and automated vehicles and integrated systems solutions for safety, extracting new knowledge from big data to improve safety, and understanding transportation workforce culture.”

One hope for the center is that it can accelerate progress in reducing injuries and fatalities on the nation’s roads by offering a new model for understanding and addressing traffic safety issues.

By improving those issues, Khattak pointed out, the work of the center should also reduce the amount spent on transportation safety, which accounts for almost $1 trillion per year in the U.S.

First-year funding for the center will total $2.8 million, with up to $15 million in grant funding over five years available.

CSCRS is being set up to foster ideas that will allow the group to lead and influence the future of transportation safety research for the nation by promoting collaboration, multidisciplinary research and education, and technology transfer activities.

“Transportation professionals are challenged to design systems that provide mobility benefits that limit risks,” said Cherry. “This new national research center will focus on safe systems that merge all aspects of transportation mobility, access and technology by breaking down some traditional silos that have limited gains in safety for all road users.

“Through this multidisciplinary center, we will move safety science and engineering research to a new level.”

CTR director David Clarke said that the center will fully participate in all CSCRS activities.

“We will conduct safety research, develop new approaches to education and workforce development, and communicate results to transportation professionals and practitioners at all levels,” he said. “Our objectives include educating a technology-savvy workforce that can provide innovative solutions to safety problems today and well into the future.”

The grant funds one of five national centers that will be awarded under the University Transportation Centers Program to advance research and education initiatives that address critical transportation challenges facing the nation.

View the comprehensive award announcement on the USDOT website.


Lissa Gay (865-974-8760,

David Goddard (865-974-0683,

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