Engineering Students Tackle Research Opportunities
Erica Yeung, an undergraduate senior from Miami, Oklahoma, is researching asphalt emulsion, a new kind of asphalt that saves on energy and cost.
Students, at the undergraduate and graduate levels, are a vital part of the university's research mission. By participating in research, students gain hands-on application of the information they learn in the classroom. These research opportunities also help them to discover their interests and passions and can even help to fund their education.
Nidhi Saxena, a graduate student from Hyderabad, India, is collecting data on all U.S. waterways to determine how lock performance and usage is affecting the economy. Saxena's graduate assistantship is funded by assistant professor Justin Chimka's project. She explained that research often presents challenges. "Right now, we're dealing with the difficulty of missing data," Saxena said."We have to figure out data mining techniques to get a proper subset for data analysis," she explained.
Several students are also working with assistant professor Andrew Braham in the asphalt lab at the Engineering Research Center. Erica Yeung, an undergraduate senior from Miami, Oklahoma, is researching asphalt emulsion, a new kind of asphalt that saves on energy and cost. Yeung explained that she found a passion for transportation through working in the asphalt lab. "Asphalt is a lot more than I thought it would be," she said. "There's a lot of chemistry involved in it as well as structural aspects. The opportunity I was provided with at the lab made it much more interesting. It's just been really fun, although I'm still not used to the smell of it," she remarked with a laugh.
Sadie Smith, a graduate student from Conway, Arkansas, also conducts research in the asphalt lab. She is working on a pavement recycling technique called full depth reclamation. This technique seeks to solve the problem of deteriorating roads by creating a new, stronger base as a foundation for roads. Smith and Yeung are combining their research to find an ideal temperature and pressure for asphalt emulsion.
Civil engineering graduate student Ricky Deschenes is working with professor Micah Hale. They are looking for ways to repair cracking on the barrier wall on Interstate 540, just north of the Bobby Hopper tunnel. This wall is affected by a process called an alkali silica reaction. Deschenes and other researchers are monitoring the degree of cracking on the wall and testing several methods of reducing the amount of moisture inside the concrete. Deschenes has also gained experience by participating in concrete testing at the Center for Training Transportation Professionals.
Sydney Dickson, a senior Honors College student, was attracted to the University of Arkansas in part because of the opportunity to participate in research. Dickson conducted her honors research on concrete cracking in a study called "Alkali Silica Reaction Mitigation Using High Volume Class C Fly Ash." Her research earned Dickson a fellowship from the American Concrete Institute. She presented her honors thesis in England this past fall. "My research and the opportunity to present it internationally has helped tremendously in my professional development," she said.
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