June 2022

Message from the Head

Rao Govindaraju

The 2021-22 school year saw a long-awaited return to normalcy. Events and celebrations that had been either made remote or outright cancelled the past couple of years have all began to return to campus. As if matching with the changing of the seasons, the vibrancy at Purdue University has only continued to grow since the beginning of the Spring Semester.

Capping off the school year was, of course, our commencement ceremony where we saw family and friends return in force to campus to celebrate our 150 students who earned their undergraduate and graduate degrees. The event, like the months leading up to the end of the school year, demonstrated the incredible dedication and efforts of our students, faculty, and staff over the years to ensure our campus remained open and safe, despite the pandemic.

Looking ahead now, I am left with a much more encouraging feeling of awaiting the next set of events to come, rather than primarily focusing on working to ensure we make it through safely. In this edition of eConnections, we share the many accomplishments of our alumni, students, faculty, and staff — as well as key research and partnerships that will potentially lead to a dramatic change in how both Purdue and the United States approach clean power and infrastructure advancements.

We are truly experiencing the spring and summer seasons here at Purdue and I cannot wait to see what spouts up and blooms next. And I hope to see many of your return to campus to celebrate with us this coming school year.

All the best,

Rao S. Govindaraju
Bowen Engineering Head of Civil Engineering
and Christopher B. and Susan S. Burke Professor of Civil Engineering

Congratulations, Class of 2022!

Congratulations to the 150-plus graduate and undergraduate students who earned their civil engineering degrees in May! We wish you the very best and look forward to your return visits to campus.

Upcoming Events

Graduate Program Ranked No. 7 in the Nation

The Lyles School of Civil Engineering remains a top 10 civil engineering undergraduate program in the United States.

U.S. News & World Report has released its national rankings of graduate programs for 2022 with Purdue Civil Engineering ranked #7 in the nation. The rankings are computed from the responses to a survey sent to deans, heads, and selected senior faculty.

Overall, Purdue University's College of Engineering graduate program was ranked 4th in the nation.

Purdue and Duke Energy to explore potential for clean, nuclear power source for campus

Purdue University and Duke Energy announced in April that they plan to jointly explore the feasibility of using advanced nuclear energy to meet the campus community’s long-term energy needs.

With interest rising worldwide in new technologies that are reliable and carbon-free, Purdue and Duke Energy intend to study power produced through Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), a move that may be unprecedented for a college campus and a potential fit for Purdue’s energy needs.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, SMRs are among the most promising emerging technologies in nuclear power. Significantly smaller than traditional nuclear power plants, an SMR could meet current and future needs for Purdue’s West Lafayette campus as well as provide excess power to the state’s electric grid. Home to one of the nation’s top nuclear engineering programs and a national leader in energy innovation that is scalable and sustainable, Purdue and its experts are uniquely qualified to evaluate this “giant leap” toward a carbon-free energy future.

“No other option holds as much potential to provide reliable, adequate electric power with zero carbon emissions,” said Purdue President Mitch Daniels. “Innovation and new ideas are at the core of what we do at Purdue, and that includes searching for ways to minimize the use of fossil fuels while still providing carbon-free, reliable, and affordable energy. We see enough promise in these new technologies to undertake an exploration of their practicality, and few places are better positioned to do it.”

Duke Energy Indiana President Stan Pinegar said, “Duke Energy is leading the industry’s biggest clean energy transformation nationwide, and exploring technologies such as this is important work to help get us there. Nuclear provides reliable energy and can complement other carbon-free energy sources, such as solar and wind. As the largest regulated nuclear plant operator in the nation, we have more than 50 years of experience with safe, reliable operations. We can share that experience with one of America’s premiere engineering schools to see what this technology could do for its campus as well as the state.”

Purdue is currently powered through the Wade Utility Plant, which is a combined heat and power system that uses steam to provide heat, electricity and chilled water that is used to cool facilities. A new Duke Energy plant on campus also provides thermal energy in the form of steam to Purdue, while also supplying Duke Energy’s Indiana customers with electricity. Approximately 50% of campus electricity is purchased from Duke Energy.

SMRs are revolutionary in part because of their modular nature. They can be prefabricated off site, thereby saving money and time in construction. And Purdue is at the forefront of this technology by pioneering, developing and verifying the steel-plate composite construction used in SMRs at the on-campus Bowen Laboratory through the Center for Structural Engineering and Nuclear Power Plants, which is led by Amit Varma, Purdue’s Karl H. Kettelhut professor of Civil Engineering and director of the Bowen Laboratory of Large-Scale CE Research.

“Steel-plate composite technology is fundamental to successfully deploying SMRs within budget and on schedule,” Varma said. “We have the world's pre-eminent team and facilities to conduct the testing, analysis, design, and construction demonstration to actualize the potential of this technology.

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!

Invention addresses the problems of running a red light at traffic intersections

An invention from Purdue University and the Indiana Department of Transportation that uses wireless communication devices could save lives at high-speed traffic signals.

Principal research analyst Howell Li and transportation research engineer Jijo Mathew of the Joint Transportation Research Program in Purdue University's Lyles School of Civil Engineering have collaborated with Tom Platte at the Indiana Department of Transportation to create technology that improves safety as vehicles approach a signalized intersection.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, 2 million crashes occur annually at intersections with traffic signals, leading to hundreds of thousands of injuries and more than 3,000 fatalities.

Mathew said a driver's decision to stop at a traffic signal or continue through it is made at the onset of the traffic signal turning yellow. He said a section of roadway upstream of an intersection, known as the dilemma zone, is an area where a vehicle can neither stop safely nor clear an intersection at its present speed.

"To reduce crashes, the key idea is to provide dilemma-zone protection," Mathew said. "One would think yellow time can be extended; however, drivers tend to adapt to this, resulting in lower probabilities of stopping. The state-of-the-practice for actuated intersections – intersections where timing is influenced by sensors – is to use green extensions, where the green time is extended for a certain period when a vehicle is present. Although this reduces the exposure of vehicles to the onset of yellow, this can go only for so long."

The Purdue-INDOT technology extends green time or indicates yellow early as necessary to ensure safety and efficiency to the next intersection on a 0.1-second basis. The system would consider the trajectory of each vehicle relative to a predetermined time of when the green would end. If there is enough time to spare, the green is extended until the vehicle clears the intersection. However, when there are other vehicles competing for green time on other movements, the system would indicate yellow early before the vehicle enters the dilemma zone for a safe stop.

Li said the innovation improves upon traditional technology that extends green-light signals in several ways.

"Infrastructure sensors have a fixed range, are expensive, may require intrusive installation on existing infrastructure, and need routine maintenance to ensure proper operation," Li said. "And most sensors do not detect vehicles continuously one mile away to adjust timing changes, such as when the onset of yellow occurs."

A YouTube video featuring Li explaining how technology works is available.

The technology uses wireless communication devices placed at traffic signals and in vehicles, and specialized control logic at the signal controller to bring it all together. Li believes barriers for his technology can be overcome.

Read more about the work being done here.

Dr. Sam Labi to head Purdue's participation in USDOT-funded Build America Center

On April 8, 2022, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a $5 million grant to a multi-university public-private collaboration to establish and manage a “Build America Center.”

Purdue is a partner of the collaboration, led by the University of Maryland. Other partners include Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Stanford University, and the Rebel Group (Netherlands). Dr. Sam Labi, Professor of Civil Engineering at the Lyles School of Civil Engineering, will serve as director of the Purdue Center.

The Center will offer educational programs, information, and resources for transportation agencies in all areas of alternative and innovative project financing and delivery.

The $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes unprecedented funding for infrastructure projects and several grant programs to support project sponsors seeking to explore alternative project delivery. The Center will support the Build America Bureau and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to foster new approaches to financing development and transformation of the nation’s transportation infrastructure into a modern system.

More information on the Build America Center is available in this press release provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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

  • Erin Flanigan (BSCE '87), P.E., PMP has joined Applied Research Associates, Inc. (ARA) as a principal for Transportation Operations and Safety. In this role, she will support clients nationwide in the advancement of transportation systems management and operations (TSMO), safety, emerging technologies, and infrastructure.
  • Charles K. Nmai (Ph.D. 1987), 2012 recipient of the CE Alumni Achievement Award, has been elected to serve as president of the American Concrete Institute for 2022-2023. He is Head of Engineering at Master Builders Solutions Admixtures US LLC in Cleveland, OH.
  • Dr. Vincent T. Ricca (MSCE in Hydrology, 1964; Ph.D. in Hydraulic Engineering, 1966), Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering at The Ohio State University, passed away at his home on April 11, 2022.
  • Dr. Kasey Faust (MSCE '10, MSIE '13, PhD '15), Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, has received the Daniel W. Halpin Award for Scholarship in Construction. The award is presented by the ASCE Construction Institute.
  • Lesley Sneed (PhD '07), Professor of Civil, Materials, and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has been selected as one of the 2022 Distinguished Women Scholars for her exceptional leadership and significant contributions to her field.
  • Daryl Knip (BSCE '94) has been promoted to President/CEO of Abonmarche Consultants. Daryl is responsible for managing Abonmarche operations that include nine offices in Indiana and Michigan.
  • Hardik Shah (MSCE '03/'05) has received the inaugural 2021 Transportation Professional of the Year Award from the Indiana Section of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE). The award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the ITE Indiana Section through achievements in the transportation/traffic engineering profession.
  • Daniel Castro-Lacouture (PhD '03), is the new dean of the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, effective June 1. He will also hold a courtesy appointment in civil engineering.
  • Paul Mlakar (PhD '75) is an ASCE distinguished member with more than 40 years of service with the United State Army Corps of Engineers, now in the role of Engineer Emeritus for the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center. And 20 years ago, he led the ASCE team investigating the damage done by the Sept. 11 attack at the Pentagon. In episode 85 of ASCE Plot Points, Mlakar looks back on that investigation, Sept. 11, and how the profession has changed.

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

  • PhD candidate Mohammadhasan (Movey) Sasar has received the 2022 Purdue Graduate School Excellence in Teaching Award, the highest honor given to Purdue teaching assistants.
  • CE graduate student Yu-Ting Huang received the second place award in the best student paper competition by the ASCE Structural Health Monitoring and Control Committee at the ASCE Engineering Mechanics Institute (EMI) Conference 2022.
  • CE student athlete Alec Fleming, member of the Purdue men's track & field and cross country teams, was named Academic All-Big Ten for spring 2022. To be eligible for Academic All-Big Ten, students must carry a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. Alec has achieved this honor six times during his collegiate career.
  • PhD student Marina López-Arias has received the Spanish National Award for the Best Civil Engineering Master Thesis in the best quality category, presented by the Spanish Professional Engineers Association of Civil Engineers.
  • Congratulations to Juliana Sarisky & Jasmine Walker on being named the CE Outstanding Seniors, and to Abdullah Nafakh for receiving the Graduate Student Engagement Award for 2021-2022! They were selected due to their outstanding service to Purdue University, the community, and their academic achievements.
  • CE graduate student Peyman Yousefi won the People's Choice Award while fellow grad student Charles Kerby was the overall runner-up in this year's Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. 3MT is an international research competition that challenges graduate students to effectively explain their research (and why it matters) in language appropriate to an intelligent but non-specialist audience.
  • Josh Fiore, a sophomore studying construction engineering and management, and Joey Martin, a junior studying civil engineering, are part of the Bands & Orchestras construction ambassador team for Hagle Hall, which will serve as the new home of the department.
  • Every spring, the College of Engineering recognizes its graduate students who excel in teaching, service, and research. This year, six grad students from the Lyles School – Vito FranciosoAbdullah NafakhGaurav Chobe, Kristiaan Hector, Jeehee Lim, and Mingda Lu – were honored along with Prof. Nadia Gkritza who was recognized as Outstanding Faculty Mentor.
  • PhD student Danielle Wagner has been selected as one of four Purdue Engineering Dean's Teaching Fellows for 2022. Graduate students selected for the program embody a strong commitment to mentoring, service and outreach.
  • The Asphalt Pavement Association of Indiana (APAI) has named CE students Klayton Davis and Luke Peters as 2021 APAI Scholars.

  • Jinha Jung, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering, has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Indiana Geographic Information Council (IGIC). The IGIC also selected Prof. Jung to receive the Education and Non-Profit 2022 Excellence in GIS Award for the Indiana Statewide LiDAR Data Portal project.
  • David Yu, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering, has received an Early CAREER Development Award of $546,668 from the National Science Foundation to fund research into the enormous complexity associated with how the connections among flood disturbances, flood protection infrastructure designs, decisions of diverse actors, forms of information transmission, and underlying social attributes interweave to shape people's awareness of flood risks and community resilience.
  • Venkatesh Merwade, Professor of Civil Engineering, received the 2022 Graduate Student Mentorship Award presented by the College of Engineering at the 2022 Faculty and Lecturer Excellence Awards Banquet.
  • Laura Pyrak-Nolte, Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Science with a courtesy appointment in the Lyles School of Civil Engineering, has been elected to one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honorary societies – the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  • Robert J. Frosch, senior associate dean of the College of Engineering, executive director of strategic initiatives in the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research & Partnerships and professor of civil engineering, has been reelected as a trustee of the ACI Foundation.
  • Shirley Dyke, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering, has been named the recipient of the 2022 George W. Housner Structural Control & Monitoring Medal, presented by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Prof. Dyke also delivered keynote lectures at both the ASCE Engineering Mechanics Conference on June 1st and the 8th World Conference on Structural Control and Monitoring on June 6th.
  • Luna Lu, ACPA Professor of Civil Engineering, has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) for her entrepreneurial mindset in academia and innovations for enabling intelligent infrastructure.
  • Chad Jafvert, Lyles Family Professor of Civil Engineering and Professor of Environmental and Ecological Engineering, has been named the 2022 recipient of the Excellence in Environmental Engineering and Science Education (E4S) Award by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers & Scientists. He also has been elected as a Fellow of the Association of Environmental Engineering & Science Professors (AEESP), recognizing members who have exhibited exceptional long-term excellence in environmental research, teaching, or service to the environmental engineering and science community.
  • Purdue University's Board of Trustees approved the faculty promotions of William T. Horton to full professor, and Brandon Boor and Amisha Shah to associate professor, effective with the 2022-23 academic year.
  • Satish Ukkusuri, Reilly Professor of Civil Engineering, has been appointed co-Editor-in-Chief of the new ACM Journal on Autonomous Transportation Systems published by the Association for Computing Machinery. He will serve a three-year term through February 2025.
  • Nadia Gkritza, Professor of Civil Engineering and Agricultural and Biological Engineering, has been selected by ASCE's Transportation and Development Institute to receive the 2022 Frank M. Masters Transportation Engineering Award for "outstanding contributions to research and education enhancing innovation in transportation planning and engineering."
  • Professor Emeritus Jack Delleur passed away on Friday, February 4th. Over his decades as an educator, Prof. Delleur guided and inspired countless alumni, faculty, and friends.