News Roundup from the 2022 Fall issue of the CEGE magazine


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The most prestigious undergraduate student award given by CEGE, the Simon and Claire Benson Award, recognizes outstanding undergraduate performance. The award was established in memory of two former CEGE students who were killed in a car accident. This year, in an unprecedented move, the committee decided to give two awards. Stefano Gonella, Chair of the Awards Committee, announced the awards saying, “This year, we have two ex-aequo (equally placed) Benson award winners: Marhta Burket and Anne Tuttle. Both these students deeply impressed us, with their records, their determination, and their demeanor during their interview. Both winners graduated with degrees in Environmental Engineering. Each embodies a distinct, personal path towards excellence.”

MARTHA BURKET's performance was impeccable throughout her studies. What most impressed the Committee was her inquisitive, curious, and creative mindset. She was involved with research in a number of labs, most notably in the past couple of years working under the guidance of Prof. Leif Olmanson (Forest Resources) in the area of remote sensing of water resources. There she compared methodologies for remote sensing of water color as an indicator of chemical and biological activity in the water.

ANNE TUTTLE was involved with research in Prof. LaPara’s group in the field of wastewater treatment, studying the effects of Minnesota water on the hypoxic zones in the Gulf of Mexico. Her approach to coursework and academics was a constant statement of determination and hard work, which led her to excellent academic results, but, more importantly, to the development of a sincere and thoughtful passion for environmental science and engineering. The Committee was impressed by the maturity of her reflection on her academic path and by her ability to work through challenges, progressively leading to a stronger and stronger connection with her field of study.


The U of M Twin Cities ranked No. 23 nationwide in the U.S. News and World Report rankings, our highest ranking in 12 years. The Academic Ranking of World Universities (aka The Shanghai Ranking) ranked the U of M no. 44 worldwide, and placed the Twin Cities campus at 25 in the U.S. and 10 among public universities. Washington Monthly’s 2022 College Guide ranked the U of M Twin Cities as a top-20 U.S. public university. Forbes ranked the U of M Twin Cities as a top-25 public institution in 2022. Among engineering programs, CivE was ranked 17th, and EnvE ranked 11th by U.S. News.


PAUL CAPEL hosted a group of nine scientists from Brazil and Paraguay in August 2022, as part of an international cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey. The visiting scientists represented the Brazilian Federal University for Latin American Integration (UNILA) and Itaipu Binacional, a bi-national hydropower agency and facility that supplies all of the electricity to Paraguay and a major portion of power to Brazil. While in Minnesota, the visiting scientists observed research and teaching laboratories and talked with researchers about issues of soil erosion and transport of sediment, nutrients, and man-made chemicals.

XUE FENG, McKnight Land-Grant Assistant Professor, has received a research award in the amount of $505,165 over three years to study snow hydrology. Salli Dymond (Institute on the Environment) is her co-principal investigator. The researchers propose to look at how forest controls snowpack timing and duration, and how that gets mediated by frost and lateral flow of water. They will use models and field measurements from a catchment in northern Minnesota.

QIZHI HE received a U of M Informatics Institute seed grant award. He and Ju Sun are developing a physics aware machine learning framework to help predict and reduce defects in metal additive manufacturing (3D printing). Their novel, knowledge-augmented, machine learning tool will quickly and reliably predict thermal mechanical behavior and the induced defects by using thermomechanical models and process monitoring data.

MIKI HONDZO was elected to a three- year term on the National Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Committee (NHC). The mission of the NHC is to facilitate coordination and communication of activities for the U.S. HAB community at a national level, to provide a collective voice of the academic, management, and stakeholder communities interested in national issues related to harmful algal bloom.

JOHN HOURDOS is part of an Inter- Sections grant project. InterSections is a new research funding initiative by the College of Science and Engineering; its goal is to bring together resources from around the College to encourage intersectional, collaborative research. Hourdos was instrumental in connecting Sarah Swisher from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Andreas Stein from Chemistry, Philippe Buhlmann also from Chemistry, and Arthur Erdman from Mechanical Engineering. The team will be prototyping a continuously monitoring sensor, so doctors can do some experimentation. And secondly, they will work on creating such a device at the nanoscale. Their goal is to use the InterSections seed funding to demonstrate the feasibility of manufacturing a kind of nano-needle that can measure what is desired, and then to develop a micro-electronic that allows doctors to receive continuous measurements.

ALIREZA KHANI presented his research as part of a panel at the ATA Conference. The panel titled “Recommendations for Developing Charging Station Infrastructure for Commercial Fleet Operations” was picked up in the Transport Topics, a newsletter for the Trucking and Freight Transportation industries (March 21, 2022).

JIA-LIANG LE and JOE LABUZ received $457,000 over three years through an NSF Grant for their project, “Objective Stochastic Modeling of Quasibrittle Damage and Failure Through Mechanistic Mapping of Random Fields.” Understanding stochastic structural response is central to reliability-based engineering designs. Quasibrittle structures can exhibit complicated failure mechanisms governed by varying material length scales. Without considering these length-scale variations when modeling the random constitutive properties, stochastic finite element simulation (a tool widely used to investigate the probabilistic behavior of structures) can be severely limited in its prediction capacity. The goal of this research is to develop a new computational framework for stochastic analysis of quasibrittle damage and fracture. The framework is anchored by a mechanism-based projection of random fields of constitutive properties onto the finite elements. The model will be validated through a unique set of experimental data on the effects of specimen size and geometry on the probabilistic failure of a porous rock. The research will be integrated with educational activities for high-school, undergraduate, and grauate students.

MICHAEL LEVIN recently completed a project with MnDOT that could affect the daily commute for thousands of people. Levin and graduate student Simanta Barman started working on this project in September 2019. They applied a new adaptive method for controlling signal timings, called max-pressure control. The method has been mathematically proven, but its performance was not well-known in practice. Levin and Barman conducted methodological improvements and simulation experiments on a calibrated model of seven intersections in Hennepin County. They found that max-pressure signal timing achieves higher throughput during peak demand and is more responsive to queues.

SONIA MOGILEVSKAYA and JOSEPH LABUZ will represent the geomechanics group in the project titled “Diagonal,” which was recently funded by the European Commission. Diagonal involves a consortium of four European institutions (University Carlos III of Madrid, Spain; University of Seville, Spain; Institute of Fundamental Technological Research, Poland; School for Advanced Studies Lucca, Italy) and six partner universities (University of Florida, USA; Northwestern University, USA; Texas A&M University, USA; University of Minnesota, USA; Monash University, Australia; Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, Brazil). Diagonal will advance the state of the art in flow and fracture of brittle and ductile functionally graded materials through (1) training and knowledge sharing activities and (2) a series of international workshops for doctoral candidates and postdoc- toral researchers from the consortium. The scientific objective is to extend the use of functionally graded materials, including fabrication with additive manufacturing techniques, in the construction of parts designed for critical structural applications in the transportation and security industries.

RAPHAEL STERN is contributing to research on deer-vehicle collisions. “The idea is to identify hot spots and see what might be contributing to these collisions,” said Stern, who is working with MnDOT. The research appeared in the Star Tribune September 19.

JUDY YANG, Assistant Professor in CEGE, has received four substantial research grants. 1) Yang received $110,000 over 2 years through the Doctoral New Investigator (DNI) grants program. She will study “Pore scale investigation of the impacts of swelling clay on oil-brine transport in porous media.” 2) A $553,400 NSF grant through the Hydrological Sciences program will support her project, “Multiscale Experimental and Numerical Investigation of Impacts of Turbulence and Vegetation on Flow and Solute Transport in Hyporheic Zone.” Her co-PI is Peter Kang (Geosciences, UMN). 3) A $326,000 grant from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) was awarded for her project titled “Mitigating Cyanobacterial Blooms and Toxins Using Clay-Algae Flocculation.” She and co-PI Miki Hondzo will investigate solutions to excessive algae growth in Minnesota’s lakes and rivers. 4) She received a second NSF grant in excess of $300,000 for her project “Collaborative Research: Grain to Channel Scale Experimental and Numerical Investigation of Cohesive Sediment Transport.”

YANG also published a new study Geophysical Research Letters, the leading journal in earth science. Said Yang, “I think our work is really transformative and fun. We constructed a transparent wetland out of glass. We tracked the movement of a fluorescent dye, and found that vegetation can increase the exchange of surface and subsurface water because it induces turbulence and spatial heterogeneity/variation in flow. Our results could have a profound impact on understanding and prediction of contaminant transport in wetlands.”  Her work was partially funded by the Minnesota Water Research Fund. Yang also presented, "Seeking to Improve Stream Restoration to Ensure Safe Drinking Water and Fisheries," at an event hosted by the Minnesota Water Research Fund.


EFI FOUFOULA- GEORGIOU was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Now a professor at UC Irvine, Foufoula-Georgiou’s research is focused on hydrology and geomorphology. While at Minnesota, she served as director of the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics. She was also a presidential appointee to the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board. She most recently received the 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System, an international scientific organization.

JOHN GULLIVER presented “Infiltration Measurements for Infiltration Practices,” for the Virtual Stormwater Conference, Walden Environmental Engineering on April 19. He also presented “Measuring Infiltration Rates: The pros and cons of several infiltrometers,” at the EWRI 2022 Conference Operation and Maintenance of Stormwater Control Measures, Wilmington, North Carolina in March.


MATTHEW BERENS (Ph.D. 2020), worked with PAUL CAPEL, and BILL ARNOLD to research neonicotinoid insecticides in surface water, ground- water, and wastewater. Neonicotinoids are the most widely used class of insecticides worldwide. These insecticides act non-selectively against most insects and may adversely affect non-targeted organisms. Their write-up of this research in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (ET&C) was recognized by the journal as one of the Top 10 Exceptional Papers of 2021.

CEGE Advisory Board members DAN MURPHY (BCE 1974), ALI LING (BCE 2008), SEAN SWARTZ (BGeoE 1998), and LISA CERNEY (BCE 1999), participated in a panel at the ASEE 2022 Conference in Minneapolis. The panelists discussed the positive value for engineering companies of engaging with students at universities through capstone projects, site visits, and internships.

DICK (H. RICHARD) COLEMAN (BCE 1973) posed with Paige Novak and Joe Labuz under the portrait of W. David Lacabanne, the namesake of the newly renovated rock mechanics laboratory. The Coleman Family Foundation gave a generous lead gift for the renovation at the direction of Dick and his wife Faith. They, along with other supporters, effected the renovation of the rock mechanics lab to ensure CEGE students continue to have first-rate facilities. This is the second laboratory facility modernized through the generous giving of Dick and Faith Coleman, the first being the C. Edward Bowers Fluid Mechanics Laboratory.

BOB HOLTZ (BCE and MS 1962) is featured on the Geo-Legends video interview series. While at UMN, Holtz studied with Miles Kersten, who gets a brief mention.

CRAIG JAHREN (BGeoE 1981) passed away in November 2021, at age 63. Jahren worked for many years with the City of Minneapolis.

ROMAN Y. MAKHNENKO (MS 2009, Ph.D. 2013), Assistant Professor at University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, is the founder of Shield Ukraine, an organization that sends life-saving medical supplies to Ukraine, where some of his family still live. Makhnenko recently ran a half-marathon as part of the Christie Clinic Illinois Race Weekend in Champaign. As he entered Memorial Stadium, his daughters handed him a Ukrainian flag. He held it high as he crossed the finish line. His efforts to help Ukraine were featured in the local paper where he mentioned the importance for the world of not forgetting about the war. He told CEGE, “I am doing my best to help and collect donations.”

DINO XYKIS (BCE 1981, MSCE 1983, Ph.D. 1988) was appointed Interim CEO of Power Solutions International, Inc., a company that designs, engineers, and manufactures emission-certified engines and power systems. Xykis, the company’s Chief Technical Officer, was appointed to the additional role of Interim Chief Executive Officer effective June 1, 2022.

ALWIN C. H. YOUNG (Ph.D. 1975) passed away. Yang Chang Hsin (Alwin Young) was born in Taiwan under Japanese occupation. He earned his Ph.D. in Hydraulic Engineering at the University of Minnesota where he studied at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory. He worked for Barr Engineering, and then the National Weather Service (NOAA) as a flood forecaster for over 28 years. His family invites gifts to the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory where they are starting a fellowship in his name. Go to; choose General Fund. Near the bottom of the form, check “Make this gift in honor or memory of someone,” and specify your gift in honor of Alwin Young.

Corrections (oops!)

Itasca’s contribution to the project was the neural network, not the sensor. Many thanks to David O. DeGagné for correcting our misstatement. ITASCA INTERNATIONAL, INC., won a MN Tek Award for 2021 in the category of Machine Learning. A local construction company asked Itasca to look into the problem of cranes and similar equipment being prone to toppling when moving over ground of varying deformability. Itasca developed an artificial neural network bundled into a webapp that reads raw data files from in-situ testing equipment and notifies the engineer whether the location is suitable for walking the cranes safely. Dr. Varun, Senior Geomechanics Engineer, and Dr. Jason Furtney, Chief Technical Officer and Senior Engineer, led the effort.

Graduation year correction: ROBERT KRUSSOW (BCE 2004, PE LEED AP) joined 3M as the Facilities Civil Engineer. He provides civil engineering and project management services to 3M facilities in the U.S. and Canada.


Minnesota Surveyors and Engineers Society (MSES) awarded 22 scholarships for a total of $44,000 in the 2022-2023 academic year. Awardees from UMN Twin Cities campus include TESSA EDGE, MADELINE FIDLER, CHANDLER LALLAK, and NOAH STRUCK. BERIT KLEIN also received a scholarship and the high distinction of the Weinel Scholarship Designation.

NOAH GALLAGER (advised by Andy Erickson and John Gulliver) was selected as the winner of the 2022 Richard P. Braun Transportation Scholarship. The scholarship honors Richard P. Braun for his leadership in transportation within MnDOT and for founding CTS. Gallager was honored at the CTS Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon, May 9, 2022, with a plaque and a $1,000 scholarship.

GRANT GOEDJEN, a doctoral candidate co-advised by William Arnold and Paul Capel, is trying to discover what happens to pesticides in compost. This spring, the Compost Research and Education Foundation (CREF) awarded him one of their two 2022 Compost Research Scholarships in recognition of his work.

KIMI GOMEZ, advised by Raymond Hozalski, completed her Ph.D. degree on the international day of honoring women engineers. Her research on microbial communities that live in the biofilms of drinking water distribution systems will help make our water safer.

PRAMESH KUMAR, advised by Alireza Khani, completed his Ph.D. in April. His dissertation, titled “Modeling and Design of Integrated Transit Systems with Strategic Passenger Behavior,” develops modeling frameworks to predict strategic passenger behavior in transit networks and use behavior in the design and long-term planning of integrated transit systems. Kumar devised efficient algorithms to solve the proposed models. Numerical experiments show that the park-and-ride passengers commuting from suburban regions to Downtown Minneapolis could save around 36 hours every year by employing strategic routing.

JIYONG LEE, a Ph.D. student, studies river flows and works at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory. He is featured on a video on the SAFL website, explaining that one of SAFL’s great advantages is support of an excellent engineering team that can build tools and equipment needed for research.

ENZO MARIETTE was a visiting student from The École nationale des travaux publics de l'État or ENTPE (translated: the National School of Public Works of the State) in France. Mariette is a civil engineering student in the first year of his Master of Science degree. He had a summer internship in CEGE. Mariette shared this about his experience: "I am very happy that Prof. Marasteanu welcomed me into his research team to work on the evaluation of rheological parameters to predict non-related cracking susceptibility of asphalt binders. It was an American way to approach this topic, and I found it very interesting. It has been rewarding to understand how the research community works here in the United States.”

ADEL SOROUSH, now a postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Illinois Chicago, completed his Ph.D. in 2021, advised by William A. Arnold and R. Lee Penn (Chemistry). His thesis explores “The role of continuous contaminant exposure and natural organic matter on the evolving reactivity of iron oxide nanoparticles.” The findings of this research demonstrated that the reactivity of iron oxide particles evolved during exposure to contaminants, and reactivity depends on the iron oxide phase, hydrodynamics of water flow, and the presence of other environmentally relevant components like natural organic matter. By advancing our understanding of iron oxide reactivity in the subsurface environments, better prediction of the efficacy and optimization of remediation methods are possible.

JACKIE TAYLOR, co-advised by Miki Hondzo and Vaughan Voller, presented her Ph.D. dissertation June 13th, 2022. Her research was on Modeling the Vertical Distributions of Microcystis and Aeruginosa.

Graduate student NICK TECCA, John Nieber (Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering), and John Gulliver published “Bias of stormwater infiltration measurement methods evaluated using numerical experiments” in Vadose Zone Journal (Sept/Oct 2022).

STUDENTS toured a construction site at the northwest corner of 4th and 15th Avenues SE in Dinkytown last February. The building is a multi- family residential building with a post-tensioned concrete podium and five levels of wood framing on top. Lionel Dayton, the Engineer of Record, has extensive experience with post-tensioned concrete, and he enjoyed sharing this knowledge with students.