Western Transportation Institute
As noted in my 'Career Goals and Objectives,' in the fall of 2011, I was awarded a research assistant position at the Western Transportation Institute (WTI). WTI is the country's largest National University Transportation Center focused on rural transportation issues (http://www.wti.montana.edu/), and is affiliated with Montana State University (MSU). The research project I am working on is called, "Relative Operational Performance of Geosynthetics Used as Subgrade Stabilization." I will be using this project for my thesis, which intends to cover: strain gaging techniques for geosynthetics, the measurable benefits of using geosynthetics, and the material properties that play important roles in geosynthetics. There are 13 state DOT's that are funding this research, so it is evident that it is needed and will be beneficial to the engineering and construction communities.
McNair Scholars Program
In spring of 2010, I was accepted into the McNair Scholars Program at Montana State University. The program is named after Ronald E. McNair, a NASA mission specialist astronaut and nationally recognized physicist. McNair, who grew up in poverty and segregation, lost his life when the space shuttle Challenger exploded on Jan. 28, 1986. The McNair Program was established by Congress in his honor and prepares either first generation, low income students and/or minority students for graduate school. Every admitted scholar performs and presents their research throughout the United States and also is required to attend numerous seminars and cultural meetings.
My McNair research focused on x-ray computed tomography (CT) techniques on geomaterials. I performed numerous CT scans on gravel and coarse sands, and then I compared these results with the traditional destructive testing methods (e.g. sieve analyses). My research furthered the previous research of former Montana State University graduate student, Brent Nielsen.
The importance of this research is to eliminate bias in testing methods and increase the efficiency of the testing procedures. The bias is virtually eliminated because with CT technology the tests can be ran over and over again, whereas with the traditional methods, sometimes only one test for the soil sample can be performed. Destructive testing also takes a lot of time, perhaps days to even weeks, whereas with the new CT scanners, the testing and analysis time is significantly reduced.
The current conclusions are that the CT scans produce highly accurate results for gravel material properties such as: void ratios, porosities, and grain size distributions. This research has also demonstrated that pore size distribution modeling is possible with CT technology.
Attached below are two publications that I was co-author on. Also attached is a recent competition I was involved in (for fun). It is the American Society of Civil Engineers 2012 Student GeoPrediction Competition. I worked directly with an undergraduate student, had a great experience, and we placed 4th in the nation!