WRITER: Tiffany Acosta
Finding an avenue that allows graduate students more time to dedicate to their research is very important. The Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship, which was awarded to six New Mexico State University civil engineering graduate students, is one way to achieve that feat.
Doctoral students Mark Manning and Alain Cuaron along with master’s students Adam Sanchez, William Toledo, Jason Alcantar and Arno Cheng are the 2018 recipients of the fellowship.
“I was elated when I received word of the Eisenhower Fellowship award,” Manning said. “It was my second year receiving the award and participating in the program, and being selected from such a strong pool of candidates is really an honor.”
Last year, four NMSU students received the award.
“I am very pleased that our students have once again been offered Eisenhower Transportation Fellowships,” said Lakshmi Reddi, College of Engineering dean. “Their success is testament to the strength of our Civil Engineering Department’s transportation program. I’m confident that this support will further them into positions of leadership in their careers.”
The award included a trip to the Transportation Research Board annual meeting Jan. 7-11 in Washington, D.C. Additionally, the fellowship provides funds for the students’ research projects.
“The trip to D.C. was a great opportunity for networking with top students, academics and professionals from around the country,” Manning said. “It was a bit frigid this year, but the chance to see and hear about the amazing research being done around the country was great.”
“This fellowship provides a unique opportunity for students to participate in a renowned transportation conference and see the research that is being done around the world and also to get to know their peers from other universities,” said David Jauregui, civil engineering department head and Ed Foreman professor. “It ultimately brings national recognition to NMSU, because this is a federally funded fellowship program.”
Manning was awarded $10,000, and his research is focused on working with Ultra-High Performance Concrete or UHPC, which is very strong and durable and less likely to crack and weather. UHPC has a longer service lifespan and less maintenance is expected during that time.
UHPC has been studied at NMSU for about 10 years, and Manning has spent four years involved with production and testing of full-scale bridge girders. UHPC developed at NMSU was used for the girders of a replacement bridge, NM Bridge No. 9706, built in spring 2017 in Anthony, New Mexico.
“This bridge is the first in the state to incorporate a UHPC superstructure, and the first in the country to use non-proprietary UHPC developed using local materials,” Manning said. “Working with NMDOT, I and other researchers from NMSU were able to install long-term monitoring sensors in the UHPC girders so that we can analyze the behavior and performance of the concrete for years to come.”
The NMSU research team won the New Mexico Chapter American Concrete Institute’s 2017 Excellence in Concrete Award for its work on the bridge.
“I’ve been extremely fortunate to work on this research, and when I was offered the chance to join and conduct large scale testing and then continue with the bridge project, I couldn’t possibly refuse such an opportunity,” Manning said.
Sanchez received $7,500, and is researching the use of UHPC for box girder joints. He will study the best mixtures and use of local materials. After successful testing, he hopes this research will aid in building a bridge in New Mexico in fall 2018.
Toledo received $5,000, and is studying the overlay potential of UHPC on existing concrete bridge decks. The goal of the project is to develop overlay technologies that can reduce maintenance costs, protect the underlying concrete deck, and extend the bridge service life.
Cuaron received $3,500, and is evaluating the performance of both High Performance Concrete or HPC and UHPC bridges using an embedded fiber optic sensor system. The goal is to use the sensors to learn about pre-stress losses, deformations, strains, thermal effects and curvature of a bridge throughout its lifespan.
Alcantar and Cheng each received $1,500. Alcantar is studying root-inspired foundations and retaining systems and how to create a tubular system through a pile foundation. Cheng is evaluating a number of pre-stressed concrete double tee bridges in the Las Cruces area that don’t have design plans, so his work will involve on-site inspections and rebar scanning to determine the bridge capacities.
The Civil Engineering professors serving as advisers to the NMSU students include Paola Bandini, Jauregui, Craig Newtson and Brad Weldon.
“Opportunities like the Eisenhower Fellowship are huge for students like myself,” Manning said. “The award aids with tuition and allows students to continue with important research, as well as network with leading professionals and benefit our careers now and in the future.”