Engineering Systems and Environment Briefs

Welcome to Engineering Systems and Environment Briefs, a place to find quick notes and posts from our department faculty, students, staff and alumni.


    Civil Engineering Ph.D. Students Participate in Cyber-Physical Testing Workshop

    December 11, 2021

    Amedebrhan Asfaw and Malik Corum, Ph.D. students in associate professor of civil engineering Osman Ozbulut’s Resilient and Advanced Infrastructure Laboratory, received travel awards to attend a workshop sponsored by the National Science Foundation at the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure Lehigh Experimental Facility, known as the NHERI Lehigh Experimental Facility, at Lehigh University. The workshop focused on state-of-the-art cyber-physical testing methods used in the development of resilient design solutions for mitigating structural damage from natural hazards such as earthquakes. During the workshop, Asfaw and Corum also conducted cyber-physical testing on a seismic damper Asfaw designed and fabricated as part of his doctoral study.

    Asfaw and Corum are studying civil engineering in the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment. Ozbulut’s research group seeks innovations in design, materials and sensing technologies to advance a new generation of civil infrastructure systems by applying smart technologies and interdisciplinary expertise to improve the systems’ resilience and sustainability.


    ESE Graduate Students Win National GEM Fellowships

    December 10, 2021

    Systems engineering Ph.D. student DeAndre Johnson and civil engineering M.S. student Rayshaun Wheeler each won competitive GEM Fellowships to support their UVA Engineering graduate studies in the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment.

    The competitive awards from the National GEM Consortium provide tuition and fees, partial coverage of graduate research assistant stipends and summer internships. Johnson will intern at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado. Wheeler will intern at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in New Jersey. The students work as graduate research assistants on several projects of the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Logistics Systems with professor James H. Lambert, their engineering systems and environment faculty advisor, and Thomas L. Polmateer, UVA research program director of CCALS, the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Logistics Systems.


    Devin Harris to Lead Multidisciplinary UVA Team on Digital Twinning Project

    December 07, 2021

    The Department of Engineering Systems and Environment’s Devin Harris, a professor of civil engineering, and collaborators from UVA Engineering’s Department of Computer Science and UVA’s School of Education and Human Development have received a new award for $300,000 under the National Science Foundation’s Early-Concept Grants for Exploratory Research Program.

    The project, “Adaptive Digital Twinning: An Immersive Visualization Framework for Structural Cyber-Physical Systems,” aims to explore the power of artificial intelligence in the formation of digital twins for large-scale structural systems. Co-principal investigators on the project are assistant professor of computer science Brad Campbell, who holds a secondary appointment in electrical and computer engineering; assistant professor of computer science (teaching track) Panagiotis Apostolellis; and Jennifer Chiu, an associate professor of education. Harris and Campbell are members of UVA Engineering’s Link Lab, a multidisciplinary center for research in cyber-physical systems.

    The team’s research will address the need to preserve existing, often aging, physical infrastructure systems on which society relies for essential needs – such as transportation, energy, water and sanitation, and communication – while modernizing these systems to serve as the smart and agile cyber-physical systems we need to meet demands of the future.

    The NSF program funding the project, which is known by its acronym EAGER, is designed for untested but potentially transformative research approaches.


    NASA Committee Taps Venkat Lakshmi to Help Advance Space-Based Observation of Earth and Pioneering Analysis Methods to Better Inform Policy

    November 29, 2021

    Venkataraman “Venkat” Lakshmi, a civil and environmental engineering professor in the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment at the University of Virginia, has been appointed to the NASA Earth Science Advisory Committee.

    Lakshmi, whose career began at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is known for his expertise in hydrological sciences. He specializes in using data collected from space, aircraft and in situ systems along with hydrological and ecological models to make observations about the terrestrial water cycle and to better understand weather, climate and ecology.

    The Earth Science Advisory Committee supports the director of the Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters, providing advice and recommendations on earth science programs, policies, plans and priorities, to include informing decisions about the scope and implementation of programs. The committee also will provide a regular forum for broad discussion of earth science and the role of earth science within and outside of NASA.


    Rupa Valdez Receives Multiple Honors, Including the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society’s Kraft Innovator Award

    November 02, 2021
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    In the span of a few weeks this fall, University of Virginia associate professor of systems engineering and public health sciences Rupa Valdez has been recognized with a raft of professional honors, including the Jack A. Kraft Innovator Award from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Valdez, who holds joint appointments in the Department of Engineering, Systems and Environment at the School of Engineering and Applied Science as well as the Department of Public Health Sciences at the UVA School of Medicine, received the Kraft Award with her colleague Richard Holden, chair of the Department of Health and Wellness Design at Indiana University’s School of Public Health-Bloomington, “for development and advancement of innovative applications of human factors and ergonomics focused on patients’ roles in their own healthcare,” according to a society news release. The Jack A. Kraft Award was established in 1970 for significant efforts to extend or diversify the application of human factors principles and methods to new areas of endeavor. Valdez and Holden are principal creators of the field of patient ergonomics, and recently released a two-volume edited series on the topic, covering relevant theories, methods and applications.


    Jonathan Goodall Elected Member of Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine

    October 21, 2021

    Jonathan L. Goodall, professor in the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment, has been elected as a member of the Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine. Goodall leads the UVA Hydroinformatics group at UVA Engineering. Goodall’s team collaborates with cities facing climate change-induced flooding challenges based on their research and exploration of advancements in computing and data science for solving challenging water resource management problems.


    Engineering Systems and Environment Labs Host M-Cubed Students and Families

    September 20, 2021

    The M-Cubed Summer Academy paid a visit to the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment’s Structures Lab and Omni-Reality and Cognition Lab on Saturday, Sept. 18. M-Cubed, a program designed to help rising fifth- through eighth-graders develop strong math skills, is organized by 100 Black Men of Central Virginia. M-Cubed stands for math, men and mission.

    Jose Gomez and Donna Chen, both civil engineering faculty members, hosted academy participants and their parents for tours of the Structures and ORCL labs respectively. Civil engineering Ph.D. students Heze Chen and Abdou Ndong held demonstrations in the Structures Lab, while systems engineering Ph.D. student Xiang Guo demonstrated the ORCL’s virtual reality technology.


    Students Present: Link Lab Opens Year with Poster Session

    September 02, 2021

    On Aug. 24 classes began at UVA’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. It was the first opportunity for face-to-face collaboration in over a year. Faculty and students got together in the Link Lab to catch-up and share progress on cyber-physical systems research. From humorous robots, to climate resilience through crowdsourced data, to robotic surgery and even self-powering hardware for IoT, peers and faculty were excited to share ideas while contemplating the important work that will happen in the upcoming year.


    As NASA Intern, Civil Engineering Student Lands Scholarship

    August 30, 2021
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    Avery Walters, a third-year civil engineering major in the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, has been named a John Mather Nobel Scholar. The award is given by the National Space Grant Foundation Inc. and was made possible with funding from the John and Jane Mather Foundation for Science and the Arts. Eligible recipients must be undergraduate or graduate student interns at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

    Walters, a UVA Engineering Rodman Scholar on track to graduate in three years, began interning at Goddard this summer, where he worked on building 3D models of early spacecraft, specifically Soviet “Venera” probes designed to land on Venus. The project involved researching technical documents, photographs and museum models to compile enough information on each spacecraft to produce realistic three-dimensional models using various rendering software products.

    “I focused on building a 3D model of the Venera 13 and 14 landers, which were both sent to Venus in 1981,” Walters said. “I used Blender for the 3D modeling, and even did some animations in Autodesk Maya. Animation mostly became a goal after I got to take Computer Animation: Design in Motion with Professor Earl Mark in the School of Architecture over the summer.”

    To help with his research, Walters worked with three librarians, Michael Chesnes at NASA; Erich Purpur, UVA research librarian for science and engineering; and Erin Pappas, a humanities librarian at UVA specializing in Slavic languages and literature.

    “They each helped me dig through records we have of the Soviet Venera program to find things like technical descriptions, specifications on the landers, photographs and other attempted reproductions,” Walters said. “We even found drawings that demonstrate the deployment process, which can be helpful for making animations.”

    The highly competitive scholarship provides a $3,000 travel allowance toward the cost of presenting research papers at professional conferences over two years. Recipients also meet Mather, senior astrophysicist and Goddard Fellow and Nobel Prize recipient, as well as other distinguished individuals. The scholarship program funds originated from Mather’s own 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics award.


    Systems Engineering Undergraduate Wins Cybersecurity Competition

    August 18, 2021
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    Jason Jabbour, a fourth-year systems engineering major in the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, has won the first Deloitte Commonwealth Cyber Initiative Cyber Camp.

    The competition took place virtually over three weekends from July 31 to Aug. 14. According to the camp’s website, 54 students from Virginia colleges and universities worked on a total of 42 challenges in the areas of cyber analytics, network traffic analysis, reverse engineering and cryptography. They also participated in resume-building workshops and mock interviews.

    Jabbour and his fellow participants were invited to the cyber camp as finalists after a qualifying event that whittled the field down from 148 competitors.

    After his first-place finish, Jabbour wrote to Angela Orebaugh, assistant professor of computer science at UVA Engineering, from whom he learned about the camp in Orebaugh’s Introduction to Cybersecurity class in spring 2021.

    “I could not have done this without all your preparation throughout the course,” Jabbour wrote. “Thank you for all the time you invested in your course and students like me.”

    Read more about the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative Cyber Camp and this year’s winners here.