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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.


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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.

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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.


CEE Students Embrace Interdisciplinary Approach to Education

Before students have real-world experience and a chance to showcase their knowledge in a multidisciplinary setting, they may benefit by taking initiative to grow their knowledge through an interdisciplinary approach. While a multidisciplinary approach involves people from different disciplines collaborating together, an interdisciplinary approach involves an individual or team integrating and synthesizing knowledge from across a variety of disciplines. Both are important to advancing engineering and bridging the gap between academia and industry. Studies show that across disciplines, students who pursue an interdisciplinary approach to their education are better able to experience growth, creativity and problem-solving in the workplace because they aren’t stuck in silos, but rather are able to think beyond boundaries.

Two CEE graduate students are using an interdisciplinary approach to their research to gain greater insights as they tackle challenging problems. Abdollah Javidialesaadi, whose research is focused on structural dynamics and structural control, says, “We are civil engineers, so we are looking at these issues from our perspective, which is different from the mechanical engineering point of view.”

Javidialesaadi recently took courses in mechanical engineering at UT. One of his research goals is to develop applied mechanical devices to protect structures against wind and earthquakes. Because of that, he needed to grow his knowledge of both civil and mechanical engineering and become more fluent in the concepts presented in engineering journals focused on dynamics and control of structures.

“I think an interdisciplinary approach helped me to think broadly and deeply about my research,” he said. “Taking courses outside of the department helped me to think better about my research and also helped me to better understand research papers related to my works in mechanical engineering journals.”

Another student using this approach to advance his knowledge is Mohmad Mohsin Thakur who joined the CEE department in 2016 to pursue his PhD in the field of Geomechanics. “The beauty of any research problem is that it does not know whether you are an engineer, physicist or even a philosopher,” says Thakur. Part of his research involves looking at projectile penetration in sands at high strain rates, which is a multiphysics problem that involves complex phenomenon such as dynamic fracturing, material phase change and pore scale displacements.

“To capture the physics of the problem, it is essential to understand the material behavior at multi-scales by integrating experimental findings into the numerical models to provide a better theoretical framework,” says Thakur. “The fundamental understanding of this kind of work is not limited to my research problem but transcends different fields of science with implications in oil recovery, drug delivery, CO2 sequestration.”

Thakur claims that the multidisciplinary approach has helped him to view his research problem from a completely different perspective and provided him a platform to talk to professors and experts in different fields. “The project-based learning in many of the multidiscipline courses I took also helped me to learn different tools and software,” he says.

To understand the effect of surface forces at the molecular level in partially saturated granular media, Thakur took a course on molecular dynamics in the Department of Material Science and Engineering at UT. He also took mathematics and computer science related courses to provide him skills to model the material behavior in a numerical framework. He also credits his advisor, CEE Professor Dayakar Penumadu, for providing inspiration since he works on interdisciplinary problems not only related to civil engineering but beyond including material science engineering, chemical engineering, and electrical engineering.

Professor Penumadu acknowledges that the future of engineering should be focused on inter- and multi-disciplinary approaches. “Too long, innovation in engineering has fallen behind due to silo structures where students and faculty are put in confined bins with a department title and focus largely based on past literature and state-of-the-practice,” he says. “This model of education is no longer relevant. The modern era of education is going to be successful for engineering majors if these artificial demarcation lines are eliminated.”

CEE Doctoral Student Abubakr Ziedan is the 2018 Recipient of the $5,000 Donald C. Hyde Memorial Essay Scholarship from the American Public Transportation Foundation

CEE doctoral student Abubakr Zeidan, who is studying under Assistant Professor Candace Brakewood, is the 2018 recipient of the Donald C. Hyde Memorial Essay Scholarship ($5,000) from the American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF). He will receive the award at a ceremony in Nashville in September.

The contest asked students to write about the area of public transportation they are interested in and why. He wrote on the topic of transit data and how transit data can help both transit users and providers. His research focus areas include transit operations, transit mobile ticketing and transit safety.

The APT F exists to increase and retain the number of individuals choosing the transit field as a career by providing scholarships and engagement opportunities to deserving students and transit professionals.

Fred N. Peebles Professor Dayakar Penumadu is PI for New Technical Collaboration with the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation

Dayakar PenumaduThe Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) announced the technical collaboration to develop Smart Composite Pressure Vessels (SCPV) with integrated health monitoring. IACMI is managed by Collaborative Composite Solutions Corporation (CCS), a not-for-profit organization established by the University of Tennessee Research Foundation established to engage educational, economic development, trade, and professional organizations to build the skills and workforce necessary for the composite industry.

The project leader for this SCPV collaboration is Steelhead Composites, and team collaborators include Teijin Carbon, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. CEE’s Fred N. Peebles Professor and JIAM Chair of Excellence Dayakar Penumadu will serve as the project’s PI, who says: “This project outcome is to develop SCPVs using carbon fiber reinforcement with integrated health monitoring that is light weight and structurally strong and efficient which is necessary for wide implementation in fuel cell cars and safely storing compressed natural gas (CNG) or hydrogen (H2). A successful development of these tanks is critical for developing smart transportation infrastructure as the success of hydrogen energy systems is strongly dependent on affordable production of low cost and lightweight hydrogen storage devices with small volume.”

The goal of this project is to develop structurally predictable, low-cost SCPVs without compromising safety by employing integrated, reliable health-monitoring. The project leverages smart fiber optic sensor technology, integrated and developed by Professor Dayakar Penumadu, to optimize carbon fiber translation and to then integrate this technology, enabling on-demand feedback on fatigue related performance.

Two CEE undergraduates, one graduate, and one post-doc scholar will be contributing to the project by working on mechanical characterization of carbon composites and integrating sensors that can monitor its health.

This technology creates new opportunities for structural health-monitoring systems to be used in the carbon fiber compressed gas composites industry. Private industry will be able to further innovate the manufacturing process in the development of composite pressure vessels in higher volume applications.

This project is directly aligned with the training and education goals of the Tickle College of Engineering and IACMI. The college is named after Mr. John D. Tickle, whose firm Strongwell  has significant expertise in manufacturing low cost fiber reinforced composites using Pultrusion technique and is passionate about creating opportunities for training engineering students with skills relevant to the composites industry.

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.



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