June 2023

Message from the Head

Rao Govindaraju

I find writing this message to be somewhat bittersweet. The end of June also marks my end as acting school head for the Lyles School of Civil Engineering. And, so, this will be one of my very last messages from this position.

These past six months have been both an exciting and challenging time for me, but I am proud of all that we have accomplished. We saw nearly 150 graduate and undergraduate students earn their degrees, improvements made to Hampton Hall, and incredible progress in our research. I am so very thankful to be surrounded by such incredible students, faculty, and staff on campus and to have the support of our amazing alumni and partners around the world. Without each and every one of you, we could not be where we are today.

A number of these achievements you’ll find in greater detail in this edition of eConnections. Though, I would recommend also visiting our school’s website for even more news and updates on our efforts and achievements.

Once again, thank you for all of your support this year — and let us also offer a warm welcome back to Dr. Rao Govindaraju, who returns from sabbatical and resumes his position as school head on July 1.

Boiler up!

Luna Lu
Reilly Professor of Civil Engineering
and Acting Head of the Lyles School of Civil Engineering

Cutting-edge construction system traces its beginnings back to Purdue

Purdue engineers are taking building possibilities to new heights with the university’s role in the research and development of an innovative high-rise construction process.

Amit Varma, Purdue’s Karl H. Kettelhut Professor of Civil Engineering, began work on the steel and concrete composite construction system, called SpeedCore, almost a decade ago with the technique’s creator, Ron Klemencic of the engineering firm

Magnusson Klemencic Associates. Klemencic is a Distinguished Engineering Alumni honoree who earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Purdue in 1985.

Rainier Square, a 58-story building in downtown Seattle, was honored this year and in late 2022 for its use of SpeedCore, which cut construction time by 10 months, or close to 40 percent.

The SpeedCore research resumed a topic of interest for Varma dating back to his doctoral degree, which was based on columns using the same steel and concrete composite system.

“You could say that it was the little brother of the steel and concrete composite SpeedCore wall system. I always felt that it was an amazing idea, and it's time would come someday,” said Varma, director of Purdue’s Robert L. and Terry L. Bowen Laboratory for Large-Scale Civil Engineering Research.

SpeedCore essentially resembles a concrete sandwich, with parallel steel plates connected by metal rods in the space between the plates. The steel modules can be fabricated off site and brought into any construction layout and connected as needed. Concrete is then poured into the space between the steel plates, making the composite steel-concrete-steel sandwich system.


Upcoming Events

  • September 30 — Homecoming breakfast
  • October 9-10 — Fall Break
  • December 17-16 — Commencement weekend

Building the first highway segment that can charge electric vehicles as they drive

If you’ve wanted an electric vehicle but worry how far you could drive between charges, Purdue University engineers and the Indiana Department of Transportation are working on a solution: highways that could wirelessly charge EVs on the go.

An electrified highway in Indiana would serve much of the nation’s traffic. Eighty percent of the U.S. can be reached within a day’s drive from the state’s pass-through highways. The research team plans to construct a quarter-mile test bed to provide power to heavy-duty trucks on U.S. Highway 231/U.S. Highway 52 in West Lafayette tentatively later this year. In the next four to five years, the hope is to electrify a section of an Indiana interstate.

The results of this study are a step toward figuring out how to transfer high power to longer stretches of pavement at highway speeds and equip EVs to obtain power along them.

“Thanks once again to some engineers and pioneers from Purdue, we’re developing the world’s first highway test bed for wireless charging,” said Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb in November to attendees of COP27, a United Nations environmental conference that took place in Egypt. “Please remember that one. Yes, we will be testing whether concrete can charge passing trucks – and don’t bet against a Purdue Boilermaker.”

As reported by The New York Times, CNBC, Scripps, Popular Mechanics and other news outlets, the research has the potential to define the future of EV charging.

“The goal is to bring the charge to vehicles, rather than the vehicle stopping at charging stations,” said Nadia Gkritza, a Purdue professor of civil engineering and agricultural and biological engineering, in an episode of “Resources Radio,” a podcast by Washington, D.C., research institution Resources for the Future.

The project is funded by INDOT through the Joint Transportation Research Program at Purdue. The project also is affiliated with a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center called Advancing Sustainability through Powered Infrastructure for Roadway Electrification (ASPIRE). Utah State University leads ASPIRE in partnership with Purdue, the University of Colorado Boulder, the University of Texas at El Paso and the University of Auckland in New Zealand. Gkritza is the campus director of ASPIRE’s Purdue location.

Read more…

Prof. Marika Santagata recognized with Charles B. Murphy Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award

How can a classroom of over 100 students be made to feel more like a comfortable, conversational setting?

Marika Santagata, a professor in the Lyles School of Civil Engineering, starts by memorizing everyone’s name. Every student, every semester.

“They’re always a bit startled that I can remember,” she says. “It ties in with the way I teach. I always want to create interactions.”

The efforts to build relationships, support students’ interests and engage students in learning led to Santagata receiving the Charles B. Murphy Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award, the university’s highest undergraduate teaching honor.

Ensuring that each student’s experience feels individualized doesn’t stop at learning names – Santagata intentionally sees to it that people feel supported. Her ways of interacting with students encourage participation and establish an environment in which students are intellectually challenged and motivated to give their best.

“I try to develop a personal relationship with students, get to know them as people, and break down barriers to communication.” she says. “They engage with me and each other – the classroom becomes a comfortable place for learning. It just works.

“I want to make every class feel worthwhile. I teach a core course for sophomores that I see as a sort of gateway for first-year engineering students as they enter civil engineering. It’s their initial step into the field, and I am one of the first CE faculty they interact with. I take that responsibility seriously.”

She crosses paths with many of them again in their junior or senior year when they take the course in her area of specialty, geotechnical engineering. “I get to see how much they have progressed and hopefully inspire them for their entry in the profession,” she says.

Lectures and labs are only a part of Santagata’s interactions with students. She is available for continuous mentorship, whether it’s meeting during office hours for one-on-one help, focusing on career development possibilities like internships and study abroad opportunities, or involving students in research in her lab.

“I like being able to play both a role in students’ technical and personal growth,” she says. “I want to understand students, where they come from, as well as where they want to go.”

Read more…

Get Connected!

The Lyles School of Civil Engineering has several ways for you to stay up-to-date with our activities and accomplishments. One of the best ways is to subscribe to our social media channels.

We have active Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram accounts. Join us, interact, and share!

Thank you!

THANK YOU! In just 24 hours, the Lyles School of Civil Engineering received nearly $4 million in donations from our alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends. We are so incredibly thankful to everyone who supported us on Purdue Day of Giving!

This year, Purdue University raised a record $110.8 million from Boilermakers around the world demonstrating their support to Purdue University’s campuses and programs.

The Lyles School of Civil Engineering faculty members have been sharing their research through Medium — an online publishing platform. Stories submitted by our professors include research into deep neural networks used to monitor nuclear reactors, autonomous and connected vehicles, and smart testing for resilient infrastructure. You can find their articles and more at

Thanks for keeping us up to date with your contact information, life events, and career news. Send your updates to: Kathy Heath at

  • CE grad students Herta Montoya and Wen Tang received first and third place awards, respectively, in the best student paper competition held by the ASCE Structural Health Monitoring and Control Committee at the 2023 ASCE Engineering Mechanics Institute (EMI) Conference.
  • Ph.D. students Jinglin Jiang and Satya Sundar Patra have received a 2023-2024 ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers) Grant-in-Aid Award, a $10,000 award given to outstanding graduate students conducting research in High Performance Buildings or HVAC fields.
  • Ph.D. candidate Hazem Usama Abdelhady is the winner of the 2023 International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) Scholarship for his dissertation research on Great Lakes shoreline changes in response to rapid water level fluctuation.
  • Graduate student Zainab Saka has been selected by the Indianapolis Women's Transportation Seminar (WTS) Chapter as the winner of the Helene M. Overly Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded annually to inspire and support women who aspire to pursue a career path in transportation.


Your support makes it possible for the Lyles School of Civil Engineering to significantly
impact the lives of our students, our school, and all our constituents. We thank you for
your continued support!