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Professor John Schwartz Serves on Committee to Evaluate Watershed Protection Plan for NYC’s Drinking Water Supply

John Schwartz in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering was nominated and is now serving on a committee with the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) comprehensively evaluating the Watershed Protection Plan for New York City’s drinking water supply.  Eighteen experts from around the U.S. are serving on this 21-month long committee assignment. The first two meetings in the Catskills Mountain region were held in September and October. Prior to the October meeting, the committee was given a tour in the region by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, which included a visit to their NELAP accredited water quality laboratory in Kingston, the Boiceville wastewater treatment plant, the Stoney Clove stream restoration project near Phoenicia (pictured above), the DiBenedetto farm operations and pollution controls, and a land acquisition site.


Study Urban Sustainability in Freiburg, Germany

CEE Students interested in urban sustainability may want to check out the GEOG 491: Urban Sustainability: Freiburg, Germany.

The course is an immersion in a “green” city to learn about urban sustainability. The course examines characteristics of urban sustainability in the setting of Freiburg, Germany and surrounding communities. Characteristics explored include energy, housing, mobility and transportation, water and green spaces, food and agriculture, and waste management.

Interested students should contact the course instructor, Melissa Hinten, Ph.D. ( / 865-974-5353

Professor Khalid Alshibli Delivers Keynote Address at International Geotechnical Conference

CEE Professor Khalid Alshibli gave a keynote lecture at the IS-Atlanta 2018, an international conference for geotechnical engineers. His lecture, entitled “Particle Level Constitutive Behavior of Sand,” highlights the importance of considering the anisotropic behavior (i.e., different engineering properties when loading a sand grain in different directions) when compressing an individual sand grain. He is the first researcher in the geomechanics field to discover that individual sand grains exhibit anisotropic behavior. Understanding the interaction between sand grains using 3D experimental measurements has a critical impact on developing new theories about the behavior of sand.

UT Researches Effects of Fracking on Water Health

A new three-year study involving University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair for Environmental Biotechnology Terry Hazen will look at how aquatic microbial communities are impacted by biocides associated with hydraulic fracking.

“Fracking is something that has really changed the energy industry, but its environmental impacts are largely disputed,” Hazen said. “For example, biocides are used to help keep machinery and equipment protected against microbial corrosion, but that exposure can make the microbes resistant to the chemicals.”

Led by Gina Lamanendalla, Steve Techtmann, and Maria Campa, the project will look at how microbial communities are affected and consider the possibility of alternative biocides while ensuring that fracking can continue to be used to gain natural resources. Lamanendalla and Techtmann are former postdoctoral fellows of Hazen’s who are now faculty members at Juniata College and Michigan Technological University, respectively. Campa is a postdoctoral fellow with Hazen in the Methane Center in UT’s Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment.

Hazen’s team wants to clarify whether the use of biocides could lead to antibiotic-resistant strains of microbes, what the impact of the biocides is on the overall environment, and help pinpoint biocides that can continue to be used with greatest effect on equipment and the least impact on environment.

The study will specifically observe a set of streams in Pennsylvania that are near active hydro fracking sites. Those will be compared to streams not within active fracking areas.

Additionally, Hazen’s team hopes to look at what systems, biologically speaking, actively resist biocides and biocide-resistant strains.

“We’ll conduct our study over many years to help give us a better picture of what the long-term impact might be,” Hazen said. “This work could help develop future contamination-detection techniques.”

The project is backed by the National Science Foundation, with funding set to run through summer 2021.

What China Can Teach UT Students about Sustainable Engineering

CEE’s study abroad course in China, Smart Infrastructure and Sustainability Engineering, brings together a wide variety of students from across disciplines within civil and environmental engineering, as well as other majors across campus, to learn together in the largest city in the world. At Tongji University, which is on the forefront of the development of the “Smart Cities” initiative in China, students learn about the fundamental engineering concepts that impact sustainable infrastructure and design.

The focus on sustainability is of great interest and importance for the next generation of engineers, and the urban infrastructure is where we see some the world’s greatest sustainability challenges. The course takes students to the largest city in the most populous country in the world for a life-changing cultural experience and up-close look at world-class urban infrastructure.

Specifically, sustainable engineering refers to the design of human and industrial systems to ensure that humankind’s use of natural resources do not lead to diminished quality of life due either to losses in future economic opportunities or to adverse impacts on social conditions, human health and the environment. China is undergoing the most rapid urbanization in history and makes a great classroom for students with a sustainability focus.

Emily Craig, a senior sustainability major was on high alert her junior year to find a study abroad experience that both aligned with her academic and professional interests and also fit into her relatively short undergraduate timeline, as she still had to complete her “Ready for the World” requirement in order to graduate as a member of the Chancellor’s Honors Program at UT.

Since the course content was not designed to be exclusive to technical instruction, but instead to engage students in an applied, interdisciplinary dialogue about sustainability as it relates to engineering at large, it was a perfect fit for her.

“My time on this trip was one of the single most helpful experiences UT has provided me in answering the question ‘What am I going to do with my degree?’” says Craig. “By placing myself in a civil and environmental engineering environment, I had a chance to understand the work that goes into the creation of the large-scale systems we depend on, systems I hope to in some way manage in my career, as well as the care that goes into their alteration for the purpose of making a more sustainable world.”

For transportation engineering senior Zachary Jerome, experiencing different methods of transportation such as bus, train, and taxi to get around Shanghai was a highlight. He also enjoyed his group’s final presentation: to design a smart and sustainable transportation system for the city of Shanghai in the year 2035. They were able to gain insights about Shanghai through a guest faculty lecture about the Shanghai 2035 Master Plan. “We explored the city using different methods of transportation to get ideas about how we could improve the system, and then presented a proposal with design, implementation, environmental and social impacts.”

Other aspects of the trip were compelling for senior Matthew Lyons studying water resources and structures within CEE. “China’s infrastructure is 20-30 years more advanced than our infrastructure, and that creates a great learning environment for engineers,” he said. He particularly liked visiting the wastewater treatment plants where they were re-capturing phosphorous to help prevent algae blooms. Matthew shared his experiences on the CEE Above Grade Blog, including how he proposed to his longtime girlfriend, Katherine Tatum (senior in the Haslam School of Business) on the Great Wall of China.

Of course, being in China and studying alongside students at Tongji University gave everyone a great cultural exchange, allowing them to expand their horizons and see the world with fresh perspectives useful for their futures. “This class represents the very essence of study-abroad—gaining new perspectives through a truly immersive experience in a completely different culture,” says Associate Professor Qiang He, who teaches the course along with Professor Baoshan Huang. “Our students and their Chinese peers studied together, played basketball together, cooked together, ate together, squeezed into morning rush hour subway together, rode high speed rail together, and together they discussed their values, beliefs, and dreams…….A truly once-in-a-lifetime study-abroad experience!”


Click here for more information about this study abroad experience. 


Senior Design Students Win Second Place in WEF Student Design Competition

Students from the Spring 2018 Senior Design capstone course received Second Place in the Water/ Environmental Division of the Water Environment Federation (WEF) Student Design Competition. This is the second year in a row that a UT Senior Design team has won second place at this event. The WEF is considered the largest annual water quality technical conference and exhibition in the world.

The students’ capstone project required implementing stream rehabilitation strategies to stabilize various portions of the stream banks along the Alex Haley Farm property. Team members included Chelsey Brummer, Christian Kidd, Jose Luna and Jeremy Melton, who all graduated in May 2018.

“The phased restoration was a multi-discipline approach that allowed the team to develop and execute a strategic plan that supported both the stream and the needs of the farm,” said Kidd. “Personally, the project was labor intensive which allowed me to further develop my skillset as a civil engineer.”

Transportation Students Recognized with Scholarships from Tennessee Institute for Transportation Engineers

Five student members of the University of Tennessee Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Student Chapter were recognized at the Tennessee Section of ITE summer meeting in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in July. TSITE annually sponsors a student scholarship program for civil engineering students enrolled in a university in Tennessee who have proven a strong commitment in transportation engineering. Three UTK ITE student members were among the scholarship winners:


Scholarship winners

John R. Harper $2,000 Memorial Scholarship: Zhihua Zhang

William (Bill) Moore, Jr. $1,200 Scholarship: Ali Marie Boggs

Darcy Sullivan $1,200 Scholarship: Behram Wali


Two students, Xiaobing Li and Amin Mohamadi, were able to present their submitted papers in TSITE paper competition and were awarded second and third place, respectively. First place winner, Ali Marie Boggs, could not attend the meeting due to a summer internship at the National Transportation Safety Board.


Paper contest winners

1st Place $500 Award: Ali Marie Boggs, Explanatory Analysis of Automated Vehicles in California


2nd Place $250 Award: Xiaobing Li, Large-Scale Incident-Induced Congestion: En-route Diversions of Commercial Traffic Under Connected and Automated Vehicles


3rd Place $100 Award: Amin Mohamadi, Police Crash Reports as a Source to Examine Seat Belt Use Rate Distribution in Neighborhoods


Additionally, the UTK ITE Student Chapter was awarded the best student chapter for the 2017-2018 school year.


For more information, please see  and

ITE Wins Outstanding Student Chapter in Southern District

The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) student chapter at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville recently won the 2018 Outstanding Student Chapter in the Southern District of ITE. Over 25 universities from 9 different states participated in this competition with UTK ITE coming in first and receiving an award for $200.

In the report submitted for the competition, the UTK ITE noted their undergraduate membership increased by 29 percent and female membership increased by 5 percent. During the year, members participated in more than 8 outreach events ranging from Engineer’s Day to Transit Day, where the chapter engaged and motivated elementary, middle, and high school students to consider career opportunities in the transportation realm. The chapter expressed their gratitude to the university’s faculty, department staff, UTK Center for Transportation Research, Southeastern Transportation Research, Collaborative Sciences Center for Road Safety (CSCRS), and our liaisons with the Tennessee Section of ITE for their support and guidance.

Additionally, members competed in the Southern District ITE paper competition, where students submitted a maximum of 15 pages of research on a transportation subject. The award of $200 in addition to scholarly recognition went to Ali Marie Boggs on her research of partially automated vehicle crashes in California.

For more information, please see and

Love and Sustainability in Shanghai

By Matthew Lyons

This past summer I was lucky enough to travel to Shanghai and participate in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department study abroad course, UTK Smart Infrastructure and Sustainability Engineering in China. This once-in-a-lifetime trip immersed us in Chinese culture, where we studied alongside Chinese civil engineering students discussing the aspects of sustainability and smart infrastructure within the field of civil engineering, as well as seeing everything Shanghai has to offer.

My favorite aspect of the program was the numerous field trips we attended, in particular, the Shanghai Maglev and China Mobile facility. The Maglev, a magnetically levitating high speed rail, was introduced to us by one of the lead engineers for the system. Later we toured the testing facility for an up close and hands on view of the working mechanisms. This included seeing the electromagnet system that is located on the tracks and cars allowing for the system to travel at speeds over 200 mph. This speed makes a trip from the Pudong airport to downtown, which is over an hour by car, take less than 15 minutes.

A second field trip was to the China Mobile Intelligent Mobility facility center, where they are working on the revolutionary technology of 5G mobile service that will revolutionize the field of transportation. This service will allow for true autonomous vehicles and integrated systems that will connect every vehicle to the local infrastructure. With future extensions it could include the real time optimizing of traffic signals due to demand or optimizing mass transit system flow, both of which would reduce the amount of wasted time for the consumer, and, more importantly, reduce the amount of non-renewable resources needed for each trip.

After classes ended for the day, all of the students would venture downtown to see attractions and get dinner at traditional Chinese restaurants, or when we were really hungry – American fast food – such as McDonald’s, KFC, or Papa John’s. An unbeatable site in Shanghai, and one of my favorites, is The Bund, which includes the seconded tallest building in the world, the Shanghai Tower, and numerous other modern skyscrapers. These sites contrast to the early 1900’s style buildings left standing from British colonization. Not far from The Bund is the Yu Gardens, which was created in 1559 and is a small part of traditional China in an otherwise rapidly growing and modern city.

However, my favorite part of the entire experience happened following the study abroad program. Katherine Tatum, who is a senior in the Haslam College of Business, as well as my girlfriend of six years who was also on the trip, and I traveled to Beijing before heading back home. While there, we toured The Great Wall of China, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Olympic venues and enjoyed meals with local families in a Hutong village. During our climb of the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China, I was able to let her in on a secret I had been keeping from her over the past month abroad, asking her to marry me. She responded first to my question of a lifetime with a kiss before answering with “Yes!” which concluded this adventure with a moment I will never forget.

This experience of a lifetime introduced me to a multitude of different educational opportunities I would have never received in the United States, along with cultural experiences that allowed me to create friendships, try new things and see incredible sights I will cherish forever.


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