Department of

Civil and Environmental Engineering



March 30, 2015


The Role of Verification and Validation in Predictive Geomechanics
11:30a.m., April 3, 2015
251 Willard Building

Majid T. Manzari, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
The George Washington University
Washington, DC

Reliable and accurate prediction of the response of engineering materials is a challenging task that engineers in charge of design and analysis of constructed facilities and manufactured devices face in their daily work.  The task is particularly daunting when the material of choice is a geomaterial.  Difficulty in proper characterization of material properties, complexity in the stress-strain-strength behavior of geomaterials, and multiscale/multiphysics nature of the response of these materials in boundary value problems have been a major source of concern for practicing engineers who often decide to stay with simpler tools and to rely heavily on what has worked in the past.  The availability of tremendous computational power and advanced numerical modeling techniques as well as significant improvement in the understanding and modeling of geomaterials in recent years have provided engineers with an unprecedented opportunity to use advanced modeling tools as an aid in their design works.   A major obstacle to the adoption of the new simulation tools in practice is the question of validity and reliability of the new modeling techniques. 
In this presentation, the role of verification and validation in laying out a strong foundation for predictive geomechanics is discussed.  A case study will be presented in which a series of blind predictions were used to assess the capabilities and limitations of advanced modeling tools in the simulation of seismic response of saturated soil structures containing liquefiable soils.  The performances of a few advanced elastoplastic constitutive models for soils and the capabilities and limitations of a fully-coupled effective stress-based analysis procedure will be discussed.


March 19, 2015

In the most recent institutional rankings released by the National Science Foundation of total research expenditures for science and engineering, Penn State stands second in the nation, behind only Johns Hopkins and tied with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the number of fields in which it is ranked in the top ten.

The rankings, released in February 2015, are for the 2013 fiscal year. Overall, Penn State ranked 17th nationally in total research expenditures across the board. In 12 individual fields, however, the University achieved rankings in the top ten nationally. Only Johns Hopkins, with 15 top-ten rankings, had more.

"This is testament not just to our overall strength, but to the extraordinary breadth and variety of Penn State's research enterprise," said Neil Sharkey, Vice President for Research. "Very few other institutions can demonstrate such a high level of achievement in fields as disparate as materials science and psychology."

Read full article here

March 10, 2015

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native Dennis James wasn’t really interested in attending a college too close to home. Deciding between Arizona State University and Penn State, James spent three days at University Park for Achievers Weekend. He recalled, “I networked with other students who were considering engineering, as well as engineering faculty. I was hooked.”

During his visit, James also met staff from the College of Engineering’s Multicultural Engineering Program (MEP), who helped him sort out his financial aid options. He said, “I was fortunate to be awarded a Bunton-Waller Fellowship.”

The fellowship pays full in-state tuition for James, who is the first in his family to attend college. He said being a Bunton-Waller Fellow has other advantages. “For instance, all fellows live in the same residence hall during their first year. This fosters a sense of community among students and helps ease the transition to the academic atmosphere.”

Read full article here

February 24, 2015

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), this state leads the nation in the number of bridges classified as "structurally deficient."

That's probably not a surprise to most residents who've done any driving throughout the commonwealth. Our 25,000 state-owned bridges are aging -- their average age is over 50 years -- and in need of repair. Civil engineer Farshad Rajabipour and his colleagues are working on solutions.

Rajabipour, together with Aleksandra Radlinska and Gordon Warn, all Penn State civil engineering faculty, are researching methods for enhancing the maintenance and durability of civil infrastructure -- including anything made of concrete, from bridges to roads to buildings.

Read full article here

February 19, 2015

Penn State’s student chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) will be having a joint meeting with the central section of the Mid-Atlantic Section of ITE (MASITE) on Thursday, March 26th. Transportation and traffic engineers from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region will be joining Penn State civil and transportation engineers to discuss the future of our region’s transportation. Representatives from Erdman Anthony will be doing a presentation on the recently completed Juniata River Bridge project, a project which won them the MASITE 2014 Project of the Year award. The meeting will provide an excellent opportunity for our members to network with professionals from throughout the region.

February 18, 2015

Issa Ramaji, a doctoral candidate in architectural engineering at Penn State, has been selected to receive one of two annual Chicago Committee on High-Rise Buildings (CCHRB) scholarships.

He was cited for his research on the application of modular building technology in high-rise buildings, as well as his academic achievements and community service.

Ramaji is advised by Ali Memari, the Bernard and Henrietta Hankin Chair of Residential Construction and director of the Pennsylvania Housing Research Center.

His research focuses on Building Information Modeling and multi-story modular buildings.

Ramaji received his bachelor's and master's degrees in civil engineering from Sharif University of Technology, Iran, and worked for five years in the construction industry before starting his doctoral studies.

He will receive $3,000 and has the option to attend a future CCHRB meeting to be formally recognized.

The CCHRB is a not-for-profit organization founded to investigate problems or enhancements, support research and disseminate information for economic design, construction, operation and rehabilitation of high-rise buildings.

The committee consists of 80 members including architects, engineers, specialty consultants, building owners and building managers, general contractors, specialty contractors, representatives of professional organizations and members of the legal profession.

February 18, 2015

On Wednesday, March 4, 2015, the Penn State Chapter of ACI will be hosting a dinner downtown at the Tavern. This will be a joint function with the Pittsburgh Chapter of ACI. Civil and environmental engineering faculty are encouraged to attend at $25.00 per person.

Confirmation from all attendees is needed by Sunday, March 1 in order to confirm seats. All confirmations can be sent to Tom Pochatko at with a subject of: ACI Dinner Confirmation.

If you have any questions please contact

February 18, 2015

Challenges and Promising Strategies for Fabricating and Using
Nanomaterial-Enabled Membranes for Water Treatment
4:30pm, Monday, February 23, 2015
358 Willard Building

Mark R. Wiesner, Ph.D.
James L. Meriam Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Duke University

Membrane technologies represent a wide range of solutions for separations required in municipal water treatment. Their small footprint, ability to automate and ability to remove materials form salts to microbes, makes them attractive for both conventional water treatment as well as reuse. The literature describes many cases where nanomaterials have been used to create membranes with new or enhanced properties. However, in many instances, successful implementation these proposed uses of nanomaterials is challenged by limitations in mass transport, thermodynamics, and scale-up. This talk surveys some recent developments in membrane technologies as enabled by nanomaterials for the purposes of desalination, membrane disinfection, water reuse and other applications. The sacrificial use of nanomaterials to reduced membrane fouling, photocatalytic membranes, “high flux” membranes, and templated membranes are among the proposed uses that will be considered. Challenges associated with these strategies for using nanomaterials to enhance membranes processes will be reviewed and promising applications will be highlighted.

Mark R. Wiesner holds the James L. Meriam Chair in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Duke University where he has appointments in the Pratt School of Engineering and the Nicholas School of Environment. He serves as Director of the National Science Foundation’s Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology (CEINT). Dr. Wiesner’s research established the area of environmental nanotechnology, examining the application of nanotechnologies for environmental quality control and the possible environmental implications of nanomaterials. He co-edited/authored the book “Environmental Nanotechnologies” and serves as Associate Editorof the journals Nanotoxicology and Environmental Engineering Science. Professor Wiesner also pioneered research in the area of applications of low-pressure membranes to water treatment. He co-edited and -authored the book “Water Treatment Membrane Process,” served as the founding Chair of the American Water Works Association’s Membrane Research Committee, and serves on the editorial board of the journal Desalination. Professor Wiesner is a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the International Water Association. Wiesner is a former President of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP), a de Fermat Laureate (2004) and the 2011 recipient of the Clarke Water Prize for his work in improving water quality through advancements in membrane and nanotechnology research.

February 12, 2015

Gordon Warn, associate professor of civil engineering, along with two other Penn State faculty members, recently received a National Science Foundation (NSF) award to fund their research on resilient and sustainable building design.

Warn, along with Timothy Simpson, professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, and Lisa Iulo, associate professor of architecture, will collaborate with researchers from the University of Pittsburgh on the project.

Warn and his team received approximately $850,000 of the $1.26 million collaborative grant. The three-year project will begin March 1.

Read full Warn article here

February 13, 2015

High concentrations of dissolved iron from abandoned coal mines in Pennsylvania have been contaminating some of the Commonwealth’s streams and rivers for many years, potentially affecting aquatic habitats and drinking water for millions of residents.

To combat this problem, a team of Penn State researchers has proposed a method to eliminate much of the iron before it reaches the waterways.

Their research, published in the most recent edition of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, uses bacteria and natural iron “terraces” to remove the iron in a process called biological low pH iron oxidation.

Read full iron article here

February 4, 2015

Seminar with Dr. Tyler Ley

Associate Professor

Oklahoma State University

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 @ 9:30 a.m.

202 Hammond (Stavely Conference Room)

“Combining X-ray Tomography and Chemical Mapping for 3D Chemical Segmentation and In-situ Observations of Dissolution and Precipitation in Cementitious Systems”

Dr. Tyler Ley is an Associate Professor and the Williams Foundation Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Oklahoma State University.  He has received many awards for his teaching and research including the NSF Career Award, the OSU Regents Research Award and the ACI Walter P. Moore Jr. Faculty Achievement Award.  He is also the author of Hydration Theater ( and Engineering is Everywhere ( two novel teaching methods to help college and elementary students learn more about engineering.  His research interest is in characterizing the chemical and physical processes of cementitious systems as they react, development of novel sensors, concrete durability, and concrete construction.  More information can be found at

February 4, 2015

Jennifer Kearney, senior in civil engineering, was named one of 10 national American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) New Faces of Civil Engineering-College Edition.

The annual recognition honors students who demonstrate strong analytical skills, practical ingenuity, creativity, good communication skills, business and management knowledge, leadership, high ethical standards, professionalism and flexibility.

Kearney is now eligible for selection as ASCE’s national representative in the New Faces of Engineering program, sponsored by DiscoverE. The winner will receive a $500 cash scholarship.

Read full article here

February 3, 2015

The 23rd annual Housing and Land Development Conference will be held March 4 and 5 at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in University Park.

Sponsored by the Pennsylvania Housing Research Center (PHRC), the conference is intended for builders, remodelers, code officials, design professionals, engineers, educators, factory-built housing manufacturers, product manufacturers, home performance contractor engineers, developers, design professionals, planners and regulatory officials. 

Wednesday’s theme is "Housing" and participants can choose from one of three tracks: Design & Innovation, Construction or Building Codes.

The keynote speaker is Eric Werling, coordinator for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building America program.

Read full conference article here

February 2, 2015

Tong Qiu, assistant professor of civil engineering, was recently awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Early Career Development (CAREER) Award.

The CAREER award is the most prestigious award given by the NSF and is designed to support junior faculty members who have shown exceptional promise through outstanding research, excellent teaching and the integration of education and research by awarding assistant professors with five years of funding.

Read full NSF article here

February 1, 2015

The Penn State student chapter of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) took first place in the Student Chapters Residential Construction Management Competition, held during the NAHB International Builders Show on Jan. 20 to 22 in Las Vegas.

A total of 34 four-year schools participated in the competition, which gives students the opportunity to apply skills learned in the classroom to a real construction company by completing a management project/proposal.

Read full NAHB article here

January 29, 2015

According to the Schuylkill Action Network, the Schuylkill River and its tributaries provide drinking water to more than 1.5 million Pennsylvania residents and habitats for both fish and wildlife. It’s also being actively polluted.

Two abandoned coalmines in Minersville — the Oak Hill Collieries and the Pine Knot Complex — are releasing thousands of gallons of contaminated water into the river each minute.

In fact, during severe drought, “these two discharges are the Schuylkill River,” said environmental engineering professor William Burgos. “They make up something like 80 to 90 percent of what’s called the base flow.”

Not only do these discharges violate the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (PaDEP) Clean Streams Law, which was established in 1937 to “preserve and improve the purity of the waters of the commonwealth,” but they are detrimental to aquatic life, impact water quality for downstream users and cost Pennsylvania money in lost recreational tourism revenue as well.

To combat this pollution problem, Penn State civil engineering undergraduate students helped the PaDEP develop what will become the largest mine water treatment facility in the state.

The scholarships will provide recognition and financial assistance to academically talented juniors and seniors who are majoring in architectural engineering or civil engineering.

Read full treatment plant article here

January 29, 2015

PJ Dick and Trumbull Corporation have committed a total of $350,000 over the next five years to establish two scholarships in the College of Engineering.

The scholarships will provide recognition and financial assistance to academically talented juniors and seniors who are majoring in architectural engineering or civil engineering.

Read full scholarship article here

January 28, 2015

The 2015 Annual Thomas C. Kavanagh Memorial Structural Engineering Lecture will be presented on Thursday, April 2, 2015. The lecture will be held in 108 Forum beginning at 7:30 p.m.

The 2015 speaker will be Dr. Sharon Wood, professor and dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Wood is a 2013 inductee to the National Academy of Engineering for design of reinforced concrete structures and associated seismic instrumentation for extreme loadings and environment. Dr. Wood is also the vice president of the American Concrete Institute and has been nationally recognized for her research on the earthquake response of reinforced concrete structures.

Her research interests include improving the structural response of reinforced concrete buildings, design and evaluation of bridges, and development of passive sensors for infrastructure systems. She has served on federal advisory committees for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Learn more about the Thomas C. Kavanagh Lecture here


January 28, 2015

Penn State’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering added a new faculty member this semester.

Ilgin Guler has joined the department as an assistant professor in civil engineering. She received bachelor’s degrees in civil engineering and industrial engineering from Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2007 and a master’s degree and doctorate in civil and environmental engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2008 and 2012, respectively.

Learn more about Dr. Guler here

CEE News and Events Archives

Select a year: