Four CEGE Students with China Connections Receive Hsiao Shaw-Lundquist Fellowships

Hsiao Shaw-Lundquist Fellowship Recipients, 2021

Photo above, left to right: Te Xu, Tianyi Li, Xiating Chen, and Svetlana Baranova.

Four CEGE graduate students will be supported in 2021 by the Hsiao Shaw-Lundquist Fellowship. Recipients include Svetlana Baranova, a mathematics and geomechanical engineering student advised by Sofia Mogilevskaya; Xiating Chen, a water resources engineering student advised by Xue Feng; and Tianyi Li (advised by Raphael Stern) and Te Xu (advised by Michael Levin), who both study transportation engineering.

The Hsiao Shaw-Lundquist Fellowship was established in 2005 by Jennie and Fred Hsiao who are recognized leaders in the Chinese American community in Minnesota. It is offered through the University of Minnesota China Center. The Fellowship makes financial support available to students who are full-time in the UMN graduate school, who study civil engineering, hydro-mechanics, water resources, or architecture, and who have a strong connection to or interest in China.

The China connections and interests of these four CEGE graduate students highlight benefits and cross-­fertilization that international connections bring to civil engineering.

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Svetlana Baranova’s research focuses on theoretical developments for modeling thin conductive and elastic layers. She has been collaborating with a colleague in China, Dr. Zhilin Han at Donghua University, China. “I believe,” says Baranova, “that connections with other countries are very important. A diverse team with complementary points of view is usually a strong team and results in a very productive cooperation.” Their research leverages Baranova’s theoretical results and Han’s computational techniques with help of Mogilevskaya and Dominik Schillinger (University of Hannover, Germany) to accurately model thin layers.

“This collaboration gave me an opportunity to expand and strengthen my network with the research community in China and to form long-lasting professional relationships,” says Baranova. “I truly enjoy and plan to continue my work with Dr. Zhilin Han and Donghua University. Our plan is to continue our collaboration and expand implementation of our theoretical-computational framework to a wider range of problems, including linear elasticity. Moreover, our collaboration is strengthening the relationship between CEGE and China, which could lead to an increased number of Chinese students co-advised by CEGE faculty members.”

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Xiating Chen is interested in how the underground stormwater drainage systems and above-ground urban vegetation transform urban watersheds, and what these complex interactions mean for water resources and land management in the bigger picture. Chen’s interest in stormwater research is deeply connected to her formative years in China. She grew up in Guangzhou, China, and witnessed firsthand a coastal city trapped between economic development and environmental stress. As her hometown infrastructure expanded vertically (high-rise buildings) and horizontally (sprawling transit system), the underground water infrastructure was unable to keep pace. She became more interested in the water resources management and planning through her subsequent studies and work in the US.

Chen sees that many Chinese coastal cities are under multiple threats: rising sea levels, stress of urbanization, aging infrastructure, and population growth. A situation that gave rise to a concept known as a “sponge city,” a natural-based solution to help an urban area retain and locally treat rainfall in ways that avoid overwhelming aging underground pipe systems, which can be expensive to repair. Chen is interested in these new, exciting, and useful applications, “Urban hydrology research is especially rewarding for me,” said Chen, “as it allows me to stay connected to my hometown through my work.”

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Tianyi Li is a graduate research assistant in the Transportation Cyber-Physical Systems Lab within CEGE. His research interests converge around transportation, computer science, transportation data science, and applied machine learning. He is particularly interested in understanding how new vehicle technologies, such as EVs, AVs, and shared vehicles, will influence transportation systems and society. He is personally invested in learning how potential developmental factors will influence infrastructure use, societal issues, the environment, and equity. He envisions a world where research can bridge the gap between transportation and computation by applying advanced quantitative methods to solve traditional transportation engineering problems.

Li was born in Hezuo, an impoverished and disconnected community situated in a Tibetan autonomous prefecture in China’s Gansu Province. The only way to get to Hezuo was over unpaved roads. The poor state of transportation in the region almost completely disconnected the city from the outside world. A trip to the provincial capital of Lanzhou required a five-hour road trip over steep terrain.

Through his own experiences and the knowledge passed onto him by his father who was a transportation traffic professional, Li has a deep sense of the impact road construction can have in poverty-stricken areas.

“I realized that traffic inconveniences like this are ubiquitous in small towns in the Midwest region of China. Moreover, the lack of useful transportation infrastructure leads to a lack of economic opportunity, which results in engineering talent moving away from the rural areas. It perpetuates a cycle. I want to use my skills to give back to the rural communities in Midwest China, so that the residents can be connected with the outside world while still maintaining their traditional rural cultures.”

Li sees his Ph.D. studies as a way to continue his father’s legacy, but he also sees a need to learn and apply new technologies.

Li wants to follow in his the footsteps of his father and his grandfather, who was a scholar. He wants to learn and use his knowledge to help people. “The idea of being a researcher and educator has been rooted in my heart since hearing my family stories as a young man. I am determined to pursue my dream to study and research the field of accessible transportation.”

Li is interested in researching topics at the confluence of computation, infrastructure, and the cycle of poverty in rural communities. Li looks forward to making contributions in the field of transportation engineering and in Chinese culture.

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Te Xu’s research focuses on modeling connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs) and multi-model transportation networks (including public transit and private vehicles) to predict and optimize how future technologies might affect travel demand, traffic flow, and travel equity.

Xu’s interest began when he saw the small Chinese town where he was born change as the city grew to almost 5 times its size by the time he graduated from high school. Witnessing that transformation, and the part played by the well-planned transportation network, Xu was motivated to study urban transportation.

Xu has visited several cities to observe the transportation systems, which he calls the cities’ “backbone.” He has visited  Xi’an, an ancient city in Northwest China; Shanghai, a super-metropolis; Quebec City, the capital of the largest province of Canada; and a less-developed area, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. One of Xu’s current research topics was inspired by a trip to Changzhou, China, where he investigated the Bus Rapid Transit Network.

In these travels, Xu “realized transportation planning is committed to addressing very specific and specialized problems in each region. I came to see that a traffic engineer would benefit a lot from field investigations, where he or she could get a deep sense of what challenges the city is facing, how the transportation network is designed, and how specific solutions, like the network level traffic signal control policy, could be set to address those specific challenges.”

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Receiving the Hsiao Shaw-Lundquist Fellowship allows students to continue their studies at UMN, to achieve their educational goals, and to pursue meaningful careers.

Fellowships and scholarships can offer significant support, allowing students greater peace of mind and freedom to devote themselves to their studies. If you are interested in supporting CEGE students through contributing to an existing scholarship or fellowship fund, contact Shannon Wolkerstorfer, External Relations Officer at or 612-625-6035.