The Engineering Systems and Environment Department at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science has created a new graduate fellowship program.

The new ESE Bicentennial Graduate Fellowship invests $400,000 a year to enhance existing teaching and research assistantships for outstanding students seeking Ph.D. and Master of Science degrees in systems or civil engineering. Engineering Systems and Environment is a newly created department that is now the home of civil, systems and environmental engineering at UVA.

The fund was created for maximum flexibility, said William T. Scherer, professor and associate chair of the department. Awards can support students for a full year or supplement other funding sources.

For example, Bicentennial Fellowships may be used to boost graduate student stipends, often above National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program pay levels; provide substantive travel allowances for graduate students to attend conferences and other events; or purchase equipment.

“The Bicentennial Fellowships will help us attract — and keep — outstanding students who believe in our mission to produce high-impact research that addresses society’s most wicked problems,” Scherer said.

“ESE focuses on complex systems like transportation, public utilities, and cyber-physical applications such as smart health and automated vehicles. Engineering today requires interdisciplinary approaches, collaboration and integration of technology to address the needs of communities, individuals and the environment. Creating a unified home at UVA for civil, systems and environmental engineering makes us uniquely situated to tackle engineering’s ‘Grand Challenges.’ We’re looking for world-class graduate students who want to be part of this vision.”

One way the Bicentennial Fellowship will make a difference is by allowing faculty to extend offers to top candidates before traditional research grant funding is secured, expanding the department’s research capacity in both depth and breath. In short, the fellowships are a strategic investment in the department’s future — much like the School-wide Graduate Fellows Initiative launched in 2016. The initiative was part of several measures in recent years that have led to a surge in graduate enrollment, including a 24 percent increase from 2016 to 2017.

“Just like at the School level, we recognize that attracting the best graduate students has a ripple effect,” Scherer said. “It ensures we continue to turn out groundbreaking research, attract and retain faculty who are leaders in their fields, and provide an undergraduate experience that is second to none, with great graduate student mentors and role models.”

ESE research — strategically focused on strengths in areas such as large-scale systems and decision support, integrated infrastructure, human-automation collaboration and environmental data science — offers exciting opportunities to have real impact in the world. It also builds on the faculty’s strong collaboration in cross-cutting initiatives such as Link Lab.

Examples of ongoing research programs include Devin Harris’ Mobile Laboratory for Rapid Evaluation of Transportation Infrastructure, where researchers incorporate technologies related to smart and connected communities, vision-based sensing and crowd-sourcing while maintaining focus on civil infrastructure. In the Sensing Systems for Health Lab, Laura Barnes and her students are fusing computational methods with technology such as smartphones and wearables to design intelligent systems for understanding the dynamics and personalization of health and well-being. Lu Feng is one of several faculty working on the safety and trustworthiness of cyber-physical systems.

For more information about Engineering Systems and Environment graduate programs and funding opportunities, visit our academic programs page or contact the department at or (434) 924-5393.

Laura Barnes with Sensing Systems for Health Lab students

In the Sensing Systems for Health Lab, Laura Barnes and her students are designing intelligent systems for understanding the dynamics and personalization of health and well-being. Fusing computational methods with technology such as smartphones and wearables, her group studies how macro and micro-level human behaviors manifest in the wild and how these behaviors relate to health. Their technologies and methods have been applied to chronic diseases such as anxiety, depression, cancer, infectious disease and traumatic brain injury.