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UT Teaching Icon Edwin Burdette Passes Away

Edwin G. Burdette, beloved professor emeritus in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), passed away Friday, May 18.

Burdette was a true teacher, having served the University of Tennessee for more than 50 years. He retired in 2016 but could often still be found on campus encouraging yet another generation of engineers and researchers.

“Ed loved teaching and considered it his life’s purpose,” said CEE Department Head Chris Cox. “His colleagues and former students will remember him exactly that way—as a demanding and awe-inspiring teacher and as a wonderful human being. We all consider ourselves fortunate to have known him. Our hearts go out to his wife Patsy and his entire family at this time of loss.”

Burdette’s research primarily focused on field testing highway bridges for the Tennessee Department of Transportation and testing anchors in concrete to support TVA’s nuclear power program.

His time at UT was filled with accolades. He was twice named an Engineering College Teaching Fellow and twice received an Alumni Outstanding Teaching award from the university. He was granted the first Fred Peebles Professorship in 1981, a title he held until his retirement. He was named Macebearer—the university’s highest faculty honor—in 1991 and received the university’s Alexander Prize in 2001. In 2017, Burdette received the Nathan W. Dougherty Award, the Tickle College of Engineering’s highest faculty honor.

“I’m very grateful for the opportunities that UT gave me, both as a student and then later as a teacher,” said Burdette upon receiving the Dougherty award. “The education I got from the college and the rewarding experience I got from working there changed my life in ways I can’t imagine.”

A testament to his service and commitment to UT, the Edwin G. and Patsy H. Burdette Fellowship in Structural Engineering and the Dr. Edwin G. Burdette Endowed Professorship were established in 1994 and 2015, respectively, thanks to generous support from former students and colleagues.

Charley Hodges, who was a student under Burdette in the 1970s, said in 2015, “This [professorship] is a chance for Lynn and me to honor someone who has influenced not only my life but also the lives of countless others. His devotion to UT and to his students has impacted multiple generations.”

Burdette, who grew up in rural West Tennessee and attended UT Martin when it was a two-year college, transferred to UT Knoxville to complete his undergraduate studies in 1957. He and his wife, Patsy Hill Burdette, were married a week after graduation, and the following year he became an instructor of civil engineering at UT. He completed his master’s in civil engineering and was named an assistant professor in 1961.

After a brief stint earning his doctorate at the University of Illinois and working in Memphis, Burdette returned to UT to teach in 1969, earning the rank of professor in 1974.

“Ed and his wife Patsy have been very dear to me since my coming to UT in 1971,” said Interim Chancellor Wayne T. Davis, who taught in the department alongside Burdette. “He will truly be missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family even as we celebrate a life well lived. He was a friend to us all.”

One person stood above the rest in Burdette’s life: his wife, Patsy, who not only played the major role in raising their five children but also insisted on striving to be the best one could be. This attitude served as both inspiration and motivation throughout his long career.

Visitation of family and friends will be 10 a.m. Saturday, May 26, at Concord United Methodist Church in Knoxville, with the funeral service to follow at 11:30 a.m.

Share a tribute of Burdette or leave your condolences for his family.

In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to the Edwin G. and Patsy H. Burdette Fellowship in Structural Engineering, with checks made payable to the UT Foundation and mailed to Engineering Development, 1506 Middle Drive, 118 Perkins Hall, Knoxville, TN 37996.



UTK CEE Students Named 2018 Lifesavers Traffic Safety Scholars

The University of Tennessee Knoxville graduate students Alexandra “Ali” Boggs and Meng Zhang were named 2018 Traffic Safety Scholars (TSS) and received an award of a $1,000 scholarship at the 36th annual National Lifesavers Conference on Highway Safety Priorities, held in San Antonio, Texas, from April 20-24. Boggs is pursuing the doctoral degree and Zhang got the doctoral degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering. They are selected through writing competitive essay which address the problem of roadway crashes.

“As a second-year TSS, I was able to expand my knowledge on innovative methods to combat transportation safety-related issues,” Boggs said. She went on to say that the keynote speaker, Deborah Hersman of the National Safety Council, gave a powerful and moving presentation to the attendees of enforcers, researchers, and students that illustrated that our work to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries truly matters. It was an honor to present my research on the shortage of truck parking and its related safety implications to the attendees of the Lifesavers Conference.


“It was a wonderful experience being involved in the Lifesavers conference” said Zhang. “The Lifesavers conference provided a good opportunity for me to communicate with professionals in transportation field, especially from the practical aspect.” She said, “The human error, as a key contributing factor to roadway safety, can be reduced through the proper applications, including advanced technologies, education, and law enforcement.”

This was the third year of the Traffic Safety Scholars program, which provides college students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees the opportunity to attend the Lifesavers Conference, the largest gathering of traffic safety professionals in the U.S. The goal of the TSS program is to showcase the diversity of opportunities in traffic safety and encourage students, regardless of discipline, to pursue a career in a dynamic field that draws from a variety disciplines from engineering, education and enforcement to communications, business, marketing, medicine, public health, political science, counseling, and more.

Boggs, Zhang and their fellow Traffic Safety Scholars were honored at a pre-conference reception on April 21 in San Antonio where they were welcomed by Terry Pence, Traffic Safety Director for the Texas Department of Transportation; Erin Sauber-Schatz, Leader of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Transportation Safety Team; and John Ulczycki, Vice President of Legislative Affairs for LMG Holdings, Inc. and Chairman of the Lifesavers Board of Directors. The Scholars had the opportunity to participate in three plenary sessions and more than 80 workshops featuring leading experts in the field of distracted and impaired driving and walking; child passenger, pedestrian, bicycle, motorcycle, teen, and older driver safety; adult occupant protection; vehicle technology; law enforcement; commercial vehicles; roadway design; and more.

To learn more about the Lifesavers Conference and the TSS program, visit

Assistant Professor Nicholas Wierschem and CEE Graduate Student Publish Two Research Papers on Rotational Inertia Dampers

CEE graduate student Abdollah Javidialesaadi and assistant professor Nicholas Wierschem recently published two papers – one in Engineering Structures and one in the Journal of Vibration and Acoustics – about vibration control using tuned mass dampers enhanced with rotational inertia dampers. These papers investigate the closed-formed optimization of these devices and propose a new more effective configuration.

Rotational inertia dampers have been used for vibration reduction of Formula 1 racing cars. These dampers utilize an inerter that transfers translational motion to the localized rotational motion of a flywheel, which can provide large mass effects despite their relatively small size. Recently, these devices have been studied for passive control in structural engineering. These types of devices can be used for protecting civil structures by reducing their vibration during various types of excitation such as wind and earthquakes.

“We feel excited about the progress we are making and the contribution to the field of structural engineering and structural control,” said Wierschem. “These rotational inertia devices have a lot of potential and can help us protect structures more efficiently against wind and earthquake in the future.”

CE 481 Creates Preliminary Designs for CEC’s project with the Knoxville Zoo for the Elephant Exhibit

CE 481 is the Environmental Engineering II class focused on Water and Wastewater Engineering. The students learn how to design water and wastewater treatment processes for municipal and industrial waters. This year, a unique project appeared for James Tomiczek and Ivan Cooper at CEC, a civil and environmental consulting company in Knoxville.

The Knoxville Zoo needed to restructure the way water is provided to and disposed of for the elephant bathing, drinking and playing ponds. Department head Chris Cox set up a meeting, and after approval from Lisa New, President and CEO of Knoxville Zoo, my class got to work.

First they began doing research on Elephant enclosures. Before the students began doing design work, they had the opportunity to do a behind the scenes tour of the elephant enclosure to look at the pond and get a better understanding of the project. While at the zoo, they also got to see the water/wastewater treatment techniques for the new Tiger and Gibbon exhibits, and the Beaver exhibit. They were all very excited to get a look at multiple treatment techniques currently employed by the Zoo.

The class was divided into three groups of five and were only given very basic information. A water sample from the pond was also processed by the CE 482 class, Environmental Engineering Lab, which all students in CE 481 take concurrently. This allowed them to get an idea of the water quality that they would need to treat and provided additional real-world applications to this project. This is a real design project that CEC will begin designing within the year in conjunction with the Knoxville Zoo. We were able to provide CEC with some preliminary ideas for their future design choices that will likely be made within the year. The students presented their final designs to CEC on April 26, 2018.

This project would not have been possible without the help of CEC’s James Tomiczek and Ivan Cooper, CEE Department Head Chris Cox, and Knoxville Zoo’s Lisa New and Shane Chester. The students were very excited to have a real-life problem to use for design work, and greatly appreciate the opportunity provided to them.

By Kristen Wyckoff, Lecturer

Senior Design Showcases Hands-On Community Engagement

The CE400 capstone Senior design course provides a comprehensive, team oriented, design experience in which students apply their acquired knowledge and skills toward the solution of an actual problem faced by a local community.

The projects often incorporate the knowledge base of students across different focus areas within the CEE department and require students to find solutions to real-world problems facing communities that have higher stakes than in the classroom.

The Spring 2018 class wrapped up the semester by showcasing the results of their projects that ranged from renovating an old railroad bed into public recreation space  to fixing drainage issues on roadways. Best overall went to the team that did a proposal for expanding the Greenway in the City of Maryville. Congratulations to all nine teams for excellent work!


CEE Announces Graduate Student Tennessee Fellow to Join the Department

CEE announces that Victoria Rexhausen will be joining the department as a Tennessee Fellow. The Tennessee Fellowship for Graduate Excellence is the signature graduate fellowship program at the University of Tennessee offered to top incoming doctoral and terminal-degree students. Tennessee Fellows are among an elite group of the nation’s top graduate students who have chosen the University of Tennessee for their graduate education.

Rexhausen will be graduating with honors from Mercer University with a bachelors in science and engineering in Environmental Engineering in May 2018. In August 2018, she will be joining Hathaway Research Group in pursuit of a PhD in Tickle College of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering with a specialization in Environmental Engineering.

“I believe my research experience is what made me competitive for receiving the fellowship, especially earning the EPA P3 award/funding,” says Rexhausen.

Victoria’s undergraduate research career included work on an at-home Gray water treatment system for sustainable home irrigation. Her work on this project included leading a student team to apply and earn the EPA P3 (People, Prosperity, and the Planet) award. Phase I of this award included a $15,000 grant for continuing research, as well as the opportunity to present the work at the 14th annual National Sustainable Design Expo at the U.S. Science and Engineering Fair in April 2018. Other research projects Victoria has worked on include geospatial air quality monitoring/mapping in Ecuador, design/build/test of a residential scale anaerobic digester for converting food waste to biofuel, and indoor air quality assessment in relation to COPD patients at the University of Washington Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences department. Victoria is excited to continue research at the University of Tennessee, and is incredibly humbled to be recognized as a Tennessee Fellow.

CEE professor Dayakar Penumadu to Lead Joint Investigation with Oak Ridge National Lab and RMX Technologies

CEE professor Dayakar Penumadu, who holds a Fred N. Peebles Professorship in the College of Engineering, will serve as a lead investigator of a joint effort at the University of Tennessee leveraging significant resources for this project through the Joint Institute for Advanced Materials (JIAM) and Science and Engineering Research Facility (SERF) laboratories.

Read the full press release here.

CEE Associate Professor Chris Cherry’s E-Bike Survey

CEE Associate Professor Chris Cherry and Portland State University research associate John MacArthur  published an e-bike survey funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities that has been cited by Bicycle Retailer and The Washington Post.

The survey of nearly 1,800 e-bike users in the U.S. and Canada identified some emerging trends among users, most notably that having access to an e-bike can overcome many barriers to biking. Common barriers include hills, lengthy distances and not wanting to arrive at destinations sweaty. Respondents also reported being able to transport children by bike more easily, and reported that they also felt safer on e-bikes.

Washington Post

As e-biking grows, U.S. cities consider easing rules on where the machines may be used

Bicycle Retailer

Survey says: E-biek users love the things … and use them often

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