Spotlight on Five STRIDE Graduate Students

David Farris (Auburn) | Bahareh Inanloo (FIU) | Jack Halsburg (UF)
Gökçe Palak (MSU)    | Don Watson (UF)


David Farris

David Farris (Auburn)

In January 2013, Dr. James Willis launched a sustainable pavements graduate course at Auburn University through a STRIDE-funded project. Out of the six graduate students involved in the pilot program, some decided to focus on this topic for their theses, including David Farris, who is completing a master's degree in civil engineering with a focus on pavement and materials engineering. For his graduate research, David is investigating the use of Recycled Asphalt Shingles (RAS) with the main goal of drawing conclusions about the activation of RAS in Asphalt Mixtures. 

According to David, various states and contractors currently believe that anywhere between 0-100% activation may occur. This main conflict is due to the stiff oxidized binder that is characteristic of RAS. With performance grades in the mid to high 100s it is hard to convince a contractor that a mixing temperature of 300 F will be sufficient to activate the binder. The amount of activation that occurs is the key sustainability factor for RAS. The amount of RAS binder that is activated in mixtures reduces the amount of virgin asphalt required, and therefore can stretch natural resources. In addition, since virgin binder is the main cost associated with asphalt mixtures today, the practice of including RAS will result in economic savings as well. Lastly, society benefits from the increased rutting resistance caused by the increased performance grade of the binder, and possibly the fatigue cracking resistance caused by the fibers included with RAS.

In order to try and draw a few conclusions about RAS activation, David’s research is investigating four mix designs:

  • A 4.75 mm NMAS control mix with 0% RAS
  • A 4.75 mm NMAS mix with 5% ground RAS
  • A 4.75 mm NMAS mix with 5% (centrifuge-extracted) fibers and aggregate from the shingles
  • A 4.75 mm NMAS mix with 5% (roto-vapor extracted) recycled binder from the shingles

The latter two designs are identical to the 5% ground RAS mixture, but the RAS fibers and aggregate and the RAS binder were first separated by extraction and recovery and then included in the two designs separately. David is also performing a temperature study on the 5% ground RAS design. For this design, he is mixing and compacting the samples at temperatures ranging from 225 F to 350 F. He has recently completed the first phase of his research, observing how volumetrics change based on temperature and different mixtures. His next phase is to test the four mixtures, and the 5% ground RAS mixtures with different mixing temperatures, with a few performance tests, including E*, IDT, ER, and OT.

“One lesson I have learned about engineering and research is just how little I know compared to how much there is to learn,” David said.

David expects to finish testing soon and graduate in May 2014, at which point he hopes to get a job in the “technical side” of the Asphalt Industry. In his spare time, he dabbles in photography and amateur programming and tinkers with electronics and microcontrollers.

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Bahreh InalooBahareh Inanloo (FIU)

Bahareh has always had an interest in civil engineering. She remembers planning and building houses and towns as a child, even creating an elevator out of Lego buildingblocks and cassette cases. Because of her enthusiasm for mathematics and physics, and through encouragement from her family, Bahareh decided to pursue a career in engineering. After completing a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in water resources and environmental engineering, Bahareh turned to a Ph.D. in environmental engineering to continue focusing on research.

Now in her second year as a Ph.D. student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Florida International University, Bahareh has worked since Spring 2013 under the supervision of Dr. Berrin Tansel on a project titled Consequence Based Route Selection for Hazardous Material Caro: GIS-Based Time Progression of Environmental Impact Radius of Accidental Spills. The project aimed to assess hazardous material cargo routing options to reduce potential risks due to spills and ultimately provide tools for developing strategies to minimize risks of transportation accidents which impact human health and safety as well as environmental quality. During the project, Bahareh was in charge of research methodologies and tools to be utilized in the project.

Through her work on the project, Bahareh learned how to consider the possible ways of completing a task and how to identify the optimal processes for going about that task, as well as ways to advance the project by looking at it from varying perspectives. “Working on the project was challenging sometimes,” she commented, “especially at the beginning, when research methodologies were not clear to the team.” Bahareh overcame these difficulties by studying numerous papers and books, learning about multiple available software, and consulting faculty members and experts to address the challenge. Dr. Tansel says her student is making important contributions to the field.

“The multi-level [concentration, geographical data, dispersion profile incorporating meteorological information] GIS-based framework for spatial temporal impact analysis is a key step for better understanding the impacts of hazardous cargo incidents,” Dr. Tansel said.

Bahareh learned much from her time under Dr. Tansel’s supervision. “She organizes the project in a way that the research always moves ahead without being stuck in a certain phase,” Bahareh wrote. She also admires Dr. Tansel’s ability to identify the best possible approach to a problem, a skill which Bahareh recognizes as crucial to the progress of the project and the cooperation of the team. Bahareh considers her involvement with Transportation Engineering an especially interesting benefit to working on this project. She is now an officer of Women in Transportation (WTS) FIU student chapter and is attending transportation engineering meetings and conferences. However, her most significant achievement is obtaining a position with the US Department of Transportation in the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which she will assume after her prospective graduation in 2015.

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Jack HalsburgJack Halsburg (UF)

Jack graduated in December from UF with his master’s degree in civil engineering with a focus on transportation engineering. On November 1, 2013, he successfully defended his thesis, which was based on a project he worked on under Dr. Scott Washburn titled Emissions Modeling and Implementation into Traffic Micro-Simulation, researching the various ways in which vehicle emissions are measured.

He also co-operated with Dr. David Hale from McTrans at UF to change the way that the CORSIM software calculates emissions and fuel use. As a part of the research, Jack traveled throughout Gainesville and Orlando with J.C. Chen, a team member on the project from North Carolina State University. Through these trips, the team collected valuable emissions data for the UF-TRC research vehicle. Jack implemented the traffic values acquired in the field into a CORSIM simulation file for two different networks in Florida: one on I-4 in Orlando and one on Newberry Road in Gainesville. He then analyzed this data and compared the simulation data to the field measured data.

Having such diverse responsibilities gave Jack an appreciation for the work of graduate research assistants. “It is a busy life going to school and working on a research project at the same time,” Jack wrote, “and I feel that I have been strengthened as a student because of my time on this project.” He learned more about himself through accomplishing something he was previously unaware he could do, and he discovered more about engineering in general. “I learned that engineering is not about following cookbook directions, but coming up with innovative ideas to achieve your purpose.”

Jack also feels he benefited from Dr. Washburn’s knowledge and experience in transportation engineering and research. He had many questions and concerns about his work on the project. While preparing his thesis, Dr. Washburn was always available to get him pointed in the right direction, particularly with setting goals to make his thesis more manageable. “I was grateful to Dr. Washburn for giving me specific deadlines for certain chapters of the thesis or I probably would not have used my time as efficiently or effectively,” said Jack. According to Dr. Washburn, Jack overcame any struggles along the writing process because he was a fast learner. “Working with Jack on his thesis project was a pleasure because he is a very task-oriented person, which is consistent with my personal style as well,” Dr. Washburn wrote. “Jack was an outstanding student in our graduate program and his thesis project work ultimately resulted in the revision of a very important feature in the CORSIM simulation program—the vehicle emissions modeling process.”

Jack was a transportation engineering intern at the Jacksonville office of ARCADIS from May 2013 through graduation. He would like to stay in Florida, not only because he loves it here, but also because he recently became engaged to Sarah Jeck, an attorney in West Palm Beach. Jack loves sports, especially football, and has not missed a Jacksonville Jaguars home game since 2002. He enjoys playing golf and tennis, and recently took up Frisbee golf.

Currently, Jack works as analyst in transportation planning and traffic operations for Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc., in West Palm Beach, Fla.

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Gökçe Palak (MSU)

Gökçe studied in the Ph.D. program of the Industrial and Systems Engineering department at Mississippi State University. Having completed her Ph.D. dissertation in August 2013, she graduated in December 2013. During the last year of her graduate program, she worked with Dr. Sandra Eksioglu on a project titled Analyzing the Impact of Carbon Regulatory Mechanisms on Supply Chain Management, which aims to develop models that minimize replenishment related costs in the supply chain, while accounting for the carbon emissions due to transportation and inventory holding.

While models with carbon emissions are relatively new in the literature, the team intends to use these models to provide managerial insights for companies to make sustainable logistics decisions. The project team established solution algorithms for these models,and used extensions of the classical Economic Lot Sizing model to address carbon emissions. They analyzed a variety of different transportation cost structures (fixed charge and multiple setups) and product types (perishable vs. non-perishable); studied the impact of carbon regulatory mechanisms (such as carbon cap and carbon tax) on the total costs and emissions; and used numerical analysis to demonstrate the tradeoffs between total emissions and costs, transportation lead time and remaining shelf life, and transportation and inventory holding costs. 

Working on this project was both challenging and beneficial for Gökçe. “In all challenges throughout the project, Dr. Eksioglu has been an excellent mentor for both giving direction and motivation to proceed,” she said. Since this is a new area of research, it was not easy to find related literature or data on this topic; so Gökçe was very excited to see how her research can contribute to the welfare of the world. For example, general intuition is that reducing the carbon footprint of processes is very expensive; thus, some companies are still reluctant to take action with the fear of increasing their costs. However, one of the project results shows that reducing carbon footprint comes at a relatively low cost under a carbon cap policy. Thus, the results of this study provide valuable insights to the companies that can lead them to make sustainable decisions.

“I think Gökçe learned a lot from working on this project,” Dr. Eksioglu wrote. “The project provided the means for her to research a problem she has an interest on.” According to Dr. Eksioglu, the project added an additional benefit for Gökçe by funding a month-long visit to UF to collaborate with Dr. Joseph Guenes, the Co-PI of this project, who eventually became one of the members of Gökçe’s Ph.D. dissertation committee. “I think she learned a lot from this collaboration,” Dr. Eksioglu added. “When at UF, she made friends and started collaborations which I believe will serve her well in the future.”

Gökçe is currently working as a visiting assistant professor of quantitative methods in the Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business at Shenandoah University for the 2013-2014 academic year, after which, she would like to continue a career in academia. She has been taking lessons to learn flute and loves theater. 

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Don WatsonDon Watson (UF)

Don Watson is a second year Ph.D. student in Civil Engineering at UF, focusing on transportation engineering. As part of his Ph.D. project, Don is writing code to determine drivers’ lane-changing behavior in a new CORSIM application.

CORSIM currently utilizes the FORTRAN programming language, which is old and limited in its capabilities compared to newer programming languages currently available. Don is working closely with Dr. Scott Washburn to create a new version of CORSIM called Corsim-NG. Corsim-NG takes advantage of object-oriented programming within the C# programming language. So far, together they are translating the current FORTRAN code into the new C# code for the new Corsim-NG. Don is also looking at how discretionary, mandatory, and anticipatory lane changes are made in CORSIM to convert the old code into the new programming language. 

“The main challenge was trying to understand certain parts of the code in the CORSIM program,” Don said. “Since the FORTRAN programming language does not allow more than 6 characters to be used for variable names, a number of different variables in the CORSIM code had cryptic names; therefore, I had to do some investigation to determine what these variables represented. There are a few variables, however, that are a little more difficult to understand, and I may need to employ some additional methods to discern what these variables signify.”

This transportation engineer’s most valuable lesson learned: it’s okay not to have all the details nailed down before beginning a project.

“It is good to have a framework in your mind and an understanding of how you want to structure your code, but ultimately, things will come up that you don’t expect,” Don said. “As long as I had a good understanding of what I wanted to do in my head and a framework, I could start my coding process and develop the more detailed aspects as I went along.  Ultimately, this would allow me to save a lot of time at the beginning of the coding process that otherwise would potentially be wasted.”

Don has big plans outside of code: marrying his fiancée, Frances. “I am looking forward to beginning a new life with her,” he said. He and Frances love going to the Universal theme parks in Orlando, Fla. Don also loves fishing, and he recently completed his open water diver certification to scuba dive.

After graduation, Don plans to work in a post-doc position, during which he hopes to find a teaching position at a university in the southern United States. Don expects to graduate December 2015.

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