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Retiring Burdette Looks Back on His 50-Plus Years at UT

Edwin_BurdetteGermany and Austria were still occupied by Allied forces, Hawaii and Alaska weren’t yet states, and chimpanzees—let alone humans—had not gotten anywhere near space exploration.

That was the situation around the world when Edwin “Ed” Burdette came to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville as an undergraduate in the mid-1950s.

Aside from a brief period spent earning his doctorate at the University of Illinois and one and a half years working in Memphis, he’s been in UT’s civil engineering department ever since, having seen a number of changes in his given area of expertise as well as the university and the world around him.

Although he still maintains a presence and an office on campus, Burdette “retired” at the end of June and that transition has given him the opportunity to reflect on his experiences, memories and what he hopes his legacy will be across six decades at UT.

“I grew up five miles from Martin, Tennessee, on a farm where we had no money, no running water, no phone, no car,” said Burdette. “I started out riding with friends to UT-Martin, but Knoxville was the next step. We called it ‘Big UT’ back then because Martin started out as a two-year school.”

Burdette said that UT cost about $335 per quarter at the time, far beyond his means.

In order to pay for school, he said he’d borrow the money to attend a quarter, work for six months to pay it back, and then repeat the process.

While he would eventually come to be known as an icon in the structural engineering realm, Burdette began his studies more interested in agriculture.

It was while taking a structural engineering elective that he found his newfound love, and the rest was history.

Speaking of love, Burdette found that at UT as well. He met his wife, Patsy Hill, during his graduate studies and they’ve now been married nearly six decades.

As a sign of how different the academic community was at the time, Burdette was actually given tenure at UT twice: First when he earned his master’s degree and again when he returned to campus with his doctorate.

“I feel sorry for how hard the process is for people to go through now,” said Burdette. “They have to put in so much work, so many years, so much pressure. I came at just the right time.”

When he left to get his doctorate there was no professor in the department to hold one. When he came back, there were at least three. By comparison, there are more than twenty faculty in the department with doctorates today.

One special memory of his time at UT stands out.

The Elk River in Middle Tennessee was in the process of being dammed, and the Tennessee Department of Transportation and federal authorities asked him to conduct structural tests on bridges that would be submerged.

For a structural engineer, the opportunity was a pot of gold.

“They had four bridges that they funded us to do full-scale testing on,” said Burdette. “We had to work our tails off, but we got to test each of those bridges to the point of structural failure.

“That clearly is my favorite project.”

Burdette has had many projects and many students over the years, and is able to recall aspects about many of them, a theme that resonated at his retirement ceremony.

When what he considers his legacy, Burdette points to his students.

He paraphrases a quote from the gravestone of a former Illinois chancellor, itself taken from Christopher Wren’s memorial in London: “If you would see his monument, look about you”

“I asked all the students I’ve had over the years who attended my ceremony to stand up,” said Burdette. “Then I said, ‘If you would see my monument, look about you.’ “

CEE Graduate Student Jian Sun Wins Best Student Paper at 109th Annual Conference and Exhibition of the Air & Waste Management Association

headshotJian Sun, a graduate research assistant to Professor Joshua Fu, won best student paper at the 109th Annual Conference and Exhibition of the Air & Waste Management Association (AWMA) in New Orleans on June 20-23, 2016.

Sun’s paper entitled “Climate-driven exceedance of combined nitrogen and sulfur depositions at forested areas over continental U.S.,” studies nitrogen and sulfur in forest soil to determine critical load. While emissions of nitrogen and sulfur have decreased, revisiting its impact in forested areas is crucial. Sun’s research assesses future exceedances in a changing climate using a multi-model mean from global climate-chemistry models.

“I feel grateful to receive this award,” he said. “I’m strongly encouraged by the senior researchers in the air quality areas and I’ll keep on dedicating myself into the future research.”

Professor John Schwartz Explains Results of Five-Year Sustainable Bioenergy Study in Auburn Speaks

John_SchwartzCEE Professor John Schwartz has published an article in Auburn Speaks about the outcome of five-year, $15M grant with the USDA Agricultural and Food Research initiative program, with a focused research call on sustainable bioenergy for the nation.

The lead group was UTIA’s Center for Renewable Carbon with Dr. Tim Rials as the Center Director and Project Principal Investigator.  The successful grant was a team, consisting of UTK, Auburn University and North Carolina State University. Oak Ridge National Laboratory planned a support role from the Center for Bioenergy Sustainability under the leadership of Dr. Virginia Dale.

This research directly correlated with research at ORNL, where the field data collected helped calibrate ORNL’s model, the Biomass Location for Optimal Sustainability Model (BLOSM). Schwartz and his students worked with Dr. Virginia Dales’ research group to monitor three streams near Vonore, Tennessee, for several years to collect watershed-scale samples analyzed for sediment and nutrient water quality.

The team monitored runoff water quantity and quality from three switchgrass field plots for over a year on the Thompson Farm, also near Vonore, Tennessee. Results of the water quantity/quality analyses were used to calibrate the SWAT and BLSOM models. The full article is available here:

Appalachia Project Receives National Exemplary Designation from APLU

Red-Bird-full-kiosk-bw-300x225UT has been recognized nationally for a project designed to improve the wellness and disaster readiness of an Appalachian community in Clay County, Kentucky.

UT was one of only five schools to receive the C. Peter Magrath/W. K. Kellogg Exemplary Program designation this year. Sponsored by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and presented jointly by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the Engagement Scholarship Association, the exemplary designation recognizes universities’ extraordinary community outreach initiatives. The award region includes universities in the United States, Mexico, US territories, and several countries in Africa.

UT’s three-year project helped bring clean drinking water, home safety and sanitation, and emergency preparedness to Clay County, Kentucky. The county ranks near the bottom for the state’s major health indicators, including obesity, infant mortality, and disability. In rural areas, clean water is hard to come by, flooding is common, and mold is ubiquitous.

Provost Susan Martin said it is an honor for UT to be recognized for efforts to become even more engaged with its communities.

“We have worked diligently to foster collaboration among our academic departments to provide students with opportunities to learn through service and gain hands-on real-world experience,” she said. “I congratulate the faculty and students involved in this project for the difference they have helped make in so many people’s lives.”

In 2013, UT won a three-year $1.5 million grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration to fund the initiative. The Appalachia Community Health and Disaster Readiness Project involved faculty and students from the College of Nursing, the College of Architecture and Design, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the Law Enforcement Innovation Center. UT partnered with Clay County’s Red Bird Mission, Clay County Emergency Management Services, local clergy, elected officials, teachers, and law enforcement personnel.

Project outcomes include the construction of a replicable water kiosk to provide clean drinking water to thousands of families. Community-based emergency management personnel and local residents also have completed multiple disaster life support courses. The UT team identified home safety and health hazards and have begun to help the community address them through replicable low-cost solutions for repairs, replacement, and mold remediation.

“This project exemplifies how nurses can partner with diverse professions and the community to promote health and wellness,” said Victoria Niederhauser, dean of the College of Nursing. “We are very proud of the work of everyone involved—the 150 students, the faculty, the community partners, and other professionals.”

John Schwartz, associate professor of civil engineering and a project leader, noted that the exemplary designation illustrates how faculty and student engagement can be accomplished among academic disciplines that traditionally have not collaborated to any great extent.

“Over a three-year period, civil engineering seniors and students from the other disciplines completed capstone design projects, including a design of a large dam and reservoir, the water kiosk, and a sanitary sewer and treatment system for Clay County,” he said. “The projects provided a great opportunity for students to work with other university students on challenging real-world problems in our country.”

John McRae, a professor of architecture and a project leader, said that when UT architecture students began designing the water kiosk, they knew this was something important and life-changing for the families in Clay County.

“Then when they put hammer to nail, they saw that their work was transforming not just the community in Kentucky but also the community of collaborators at UT,” he said.

Along with UT, four other institutions received the exemplary designation: Cornell University, University of Missouri Extension, New Mexico State University, and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

The UT Appalachia Project team includes Lisa Davenport and Meghan Hayes from the College of Nursing; John McRae, Michelle Mokry, and David Matthews from the College of Architecture and Design; John Schwartz and Jenny Retherford from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; and Don Green and Emily Miller from the Law Enforcement Innovation Center. Gary Skolits and Stephanie Robinson from the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences conducted project evaluations.

Community partners are Tracy Nolan of Red Bird Mission and David Watson, Clay County emergency management director.

Students Test Bioretention Media at 16th Annual Meeting of the American Ecological Engineering Society

005On June 7-9, UT hosted the 16th Annual Meeting of the American Ecological Engineering Society (AEES). This year’s conference was entitled “Rooftop to Rivers: Integrating Built and Natural Ecosystems.” Attendees included 170 students from 27 states, along with UT students from the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Biosystems Engineering, who came to learn about topics relating to watershed planning, stream restoration, sustainable food systems, and more. The conference hosted a suite of technical field trips, a student design competition and an assortment of networking activities to complement the technical sessions.

One such activity was a competition to design an optimal bioretention media for use in green infrastructure practices targeting nutrient removal and fine sediment from a synthetic urban stormwater. Teams were given a 4-ft. pipe column and their choice of various bioretention materials, such as gravel, sand and shredded hardwood mulch. T009he competition was judged on a combination of creativity, articulation of technical elements of their design, product cost, infiltration rate, and nutrient sediment removal.

The overall aim of AEES is to create a synergy between reflecting on society’s past and looking ahead to the challenges that lie ahead, while engaging members to continue to evolve with the emerging field of Ecological Engineering. The conference is co-chaired by Timothy Gangaware, Assistant Director of the Tennessee Water Resources Research Center, Andrea Ludwig, Assistant Professor of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science and John Schwartz, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

CEE PhD Student wins First Place in Engineering Mechanics Institute Granular Materials Technical Committee Student Competition

Druckrey_headshot2Andrew Druckrey, a PhD civil engineering student, recently won the first place in the granular materials technical committee student competition during the 2016 National ASCE: Engineering Mechanics Institute (EMI) conferenc
e that was hosted by Vanderbilt University, May 22-25, 2016. The competition was judged by a panel of EMI granular materials technical committee members based on the clarity, quality and technical content of the poster, and on a five-minute presentation. Andrew submitted an application and poster entitled “3D Experimental Investigation of Local Shearing and Fabric Evolution During Triaxial Compression of Granular Materials,” and was awarded first place in the competition that was recognized during the conference banquet and included a monetary prize. Andrew works under the supervision of Professor Khalid Alshibli on a grant funded by the Office of Naval Research Laboratory.

CEE Students Prepare For National Student Steel Bridge Competition

Steel Bridge

CEE students who competed in the ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) student regional competition for the steel bridge display placed in the top four in the regional competition and finished first in visual display. This earned them an opportunity to compete in the ASCE/AISC (American Institute of Steel Construction) National Student Steel Bridge Competition (NSSBC) on May 27-28 held at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Competing nationally against 47 other engineering teams will be CEE undergraduates Matt King, Mark Nichols, Cody Stephens, Clint Lynch and Matt Lyons.

ASCE Faculty Mentor, Professor Z. John Ma, notes that it is very difficult to get to nationals because the Southeast region is very competitive. “I am very proud of our team’s performance at the ASCE student conference, and I wish them the best of luck at NSSBC,” he said.

The competition, now in its 25th year, is recognized as a national showcase where students can test their skills and prepare them for real-world bridge design. The mission of the ASCE/AISC Student Steel Bridge Competition is to supplement the education of civil engineering students with a student-driven project that provides many aspects of experiential learning. The competition helps increase awareness of real-world engineering issues and requires effective teamwork and project management. Students are pushed to innovate, practice professionalism and use structural steel efficiently.

Judging the competition is based on construction time, how much the bridge deflects under the 2,500 pounds of loading and how much the bridge weighs. The team can build it in about eight minutes and 30 seconds, and the bridge currently weighs 143 pounds.

Cody Stephens, one of the team captains, thinks they stand a good chance of performing well. “Since the ASCE regional competition, we’ve reduced our construction time by more than four minutes,” he said. “Because of this, I believe that we will have a good showing at the national competition.”

Instructor Jenny Retherford will be attending the competition and agrees that this year’s team of students will be extremely competitive. “They have it all – students who performed design and analysis of the bridge, students who labored over the construction and students who contribute to the competition build performance,” she said. “Overall, I look to see them placing well nationally – I hope within the top 10.”



Request for Google Map Participation to Honor Dr. Edwin Burdette

SnapshotProfessor Edwin Burdette is honoring after 50 years teaching at UT. His impact is far and wide, and we’re requesting help for all those who’ve worked with him to participating in mapping their location in the world using the following instructions:
Here’s what I need you to do: 1)Follow this link:…
Burdette’s Range of Influence

2) Select the “Work Location” or “Project” layer

3) Click the balloon and then the map location to add your project or office. This can be current or any or all of your office locations or projects. (make sure you hit save when you add it)

4) Share this with anyone you know who had Dr. Burdette. He has 50 years of students. I’m betting we can fill this map.

CEE PhD Student Selected as Outstanding Reviewer by ASCE Journal of Management in Engineering

Abotaleb 1Ibrahim Abotaleb, a first-year PhD student studying Construction Engineering and Management, was recently selected as an Outstanding Reviewer by the ASCE’s Journal of Management in Engineering in recognition of the timeliness, thoroughness and quality of his peer reviews for the journal. Abotaleb is a Chancellor’s Graduate Fellow within the department and is advised by CEE Professor Islam El-adaway. “Peer review plays a critical and essential role in ensuring the quality of scholarship in engineering journals,” says CEE Department Head Professor Chris Cox. “It is very unusual for a graduate student to be named an Outstanding Reviewer. This recognition signifies Ibrahim’s dedication to and engagement in scholarly community and is a testament to the mentoring he is receiving from Dr. El-adaway.”


CEE Alumnus Now Helps Construction of Campus Renovations

IMG_0056Native Knoxvillian Jay Emison followed in his family’s footsteps when he chose to attend UT for his undergraduate degree, and he followed his own calling when he stayed for his Master’s. After graduating with a CEE in 2011, he rolled right into the department’s graduate program where he concentrated in Construction and Structures.

Now that he’s employed by Knoxville-based construction firm, Rentenbach where he’s worked for two and half years, Emison has a hand in helping with the renovation of UT’s Student Union renovation. Over the years, Rentenbach has built several sections of Neyland Stadium, Hodges Library, Stokely Management Center, the Howard Baker Center and is currently constructing The Student Union, Strong Hall and the Ken and Blaire Mossman Building.

“My education at UT prepared me for my career in construction in several ways,” he said. “It helped me learn how to multi-task to meet deadlines while developing an understanding of structural components.”

In his role at Rentenbach, he is responsible for the submittal process of Phase 2 of the Student Union, which entails procuring all materials that are used to construct and finish the building and maintaining constant communication between suppliers, trade contractors (installers), the design team and UT to ensure the correct material is procured and installed.

All structural, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, life safety systems, utilities, building envelope, skylights, framing and drywall, millwork, floor finishes, ceiling finishes, kitchen equipment, classroom furniture, auditorium equipment (seats, curtain, lighting and audio systems), security, telecommunication, lighting, restroom fixtures, landscaping and irrigation and all other materials and systems go through Emison to get approved by the design team. It is his responsibility to ensure that all of these materials make it to the jobsite on time, as well as updating the contract drawings and communicating changes, among many other administrative and project management tasks.

“My greatest satisfaction comes from pleasing a client by providing a building that was constructed with integrity,” he says. “I enjoy observing construction activities and being a part of an ever changing professional environment that is evolving from lessons learned from previous projects.”

U.T. not only provided Emison the education he would need to succeed in his career, but it also gave him the connections to meet the right people and land a job right out of school. He thanked the person who put him in touch with Rentenbach, and in response was told that he had earned it. “It really made me look back on what all I accomplished throughout my education and feel proud of being a part of UT CEE,” he says.

Emison couldn’t be more pleased with landing at Rentenbach. “Our motto is ‘Building with Integrity,’ and our goal is to be the most sought after contractor in the markets we serve,” he says. “These core values are why most of our business is from repeat clients. We have been and always will be the contractor clients can count on to make every decision with integrity.”

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