The INFEWS grant will fund development of a decision support tool for adaptive management of food, energy, and water.

In collaboration with the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture has awarded Oregon State University a $1.5 million grant. This funding is part of the new NSF-USDA INFEWS program focused on accelerating discovery and innovation at the nexus of food, energy, and water systems. The project – a collaboration between Oregon State and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) – is led by Principal Investigator Meghna Babbar-Sebens, assistant professor in water resources engineering and the Eric H.I. and Janice Hoffman Faculty Scholar. At OSU, Babbar-Sebens is collaborating with Ganti Murthy, associate professor in biological and ecological engineering, Jenna Tilt, assistant professor in geography, and Jeff Reimer, associate professor of applied economics. At IUPUI, Babbar-Sebens is working with Snehasis Mukhopadhyay and Arjan Durresi, both professors of computer and information science.

“We are excited to lead this effort that brings researchers from engineering, social science, and computer science to develop a state-of-the-art cyberinfrastructure for adaptation planning in food, energy, and water sectors,” said Babbar-Sebens. “As part of this project, we will develop an intelligent, secure, and human computation-based decision support technology, InterACTWEL, which will enable local and regional community actors to securely network, coordinate, and co-identify robust adaptation decisions to a variety of uncertain, unanticipated, and unstable stresses. Stresses encompass chronic and sudden changes such as droughts, declining groundwater levels, new agricultural or environmental policies, climate change, and more.”

Research in this area is critical to the programmatic goals of the National Academies, USDA, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, all of whom have called for research on improved decision support methods and technologies to address grand challenges on sustainability and human adaptation in multiple sectors.

Learn more about the NSF-USDA INFEWS ongoing research and Babbar-Sebens’ research group.

Merrick HallerMerrick Haller, professor of coastal and ocean engineering and associate head of graduate affairs, has been awarded a 5-year, $1.4 million research grant from the Office of Naval Research to investigate hazardous tidal currents in coastal inlets. Under the grant, “MINERS: Multiple Inlet & Estuary Remote Sensing,” Haller and David Honegger, postdoctoral scholar in the Nearshore Remote Sensing Group, will collect radar observations at seven inlets and estuaries across the U.S. for the purpose of better understanding the dynamic current fronts that develop on the ebbing and flooding tides and how they impact the U.S. Navy’s undersea acoustics operations.

“This is an exciting project for us for several reasons,” said Haller. “Navigational inlets are dynamic places that are often dangerous for fishing boats and cargo ships, so our observations will contribute to improved maritime safety. The U.S. Navy is also interested in these data because they show how fresh water coming out of the estuaries interacts with the salty ocean water forming internal tidal bores. These highly turbulent features are hazards to underwater vehicles and disrupt underwater acoustic communication systems.”

Haller joined Oregon State in 2001. He teaches hydraulics, coastal engineering, and ocean wave mechanics. His research program centers around the remote sensing of waves and currents in the nearshore ocean in order to better understand and forecast coastal hazards such as rip currents and breaking waves. Other efforts relate to the interaction between waves and wave energy converters and quantifying the downstream effects of wave energy arrays.

Coleri_Spotlight_16_17In his research, Assistant Professor Erdem Coleri explores sustainable pavement materials, energy-efficient pavement design strategies, and infrastructure health monitoring using wireless sensor networks – research that has immediate and practical applications and results in savings for road users and governmental agencies.

Coleri, who received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis, joined Oregon State University in September 2014 after working as a postdoctoral scholar and a project scientist at the University of California Pavement Research Center and as a consultant for a wireless traffic detection system provider. Coleri credits the encouragement of others for placing him on his career path. “I was inspired to pursue engineering by my sister Sinem Coleri Ergen who is also a professor at Koc University now” said Coleri. “She is an accomplished electrical engineer and was my role model as I began my studies in college.”

Coleri earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. It was during an internship at University of California, Berkeley that another role model, Dr. Carl Monismith – known to many as the grandfather of pavement engineering – encouraged Coleri to obtain his Ph.D. in that field. “Prior to working with Dr. Carl Monismith and Dr. Bor-Wen Tsai at UC Pavement Research Center, I had not planned on a career in research and academia, but my experience with them inspired me to pursue my doctorate.”

In his current research, Coleri is in phase two of a project for the California Department of Transportation, where he is modeling the effects of different pavement types on vehicle fuel economy under a sub award from UC Davis. Ultimately, their research could lead to improved roads and improved fuel economy.

In another recent project, Coleri and his research group are working with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to develop low cost methods to improve tack coat performance for highway structures. Tack coat is a critical layer of adhesive that is applied between the layers of a road. There are major budget implications for improperly applying tack coats during construction – a road that is expected to last 20 years may only last seven. To assist in the road construction process, Coleri developed a user-friendly smartphone app in collaboration with a student from the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The app predicts the tack coat set time after the user enters the temperature, emulsion type, rate, and wind speed. Coleri and his research group also recently developed two field test devices, the Oregon Field Tack Coat Tester and Oregon Field Toque Tester, which evaluate the long-term performance and bond strength of tack coats without destructively removing core samples from the roadway. Additionally, in their newly relocated and updated pavement lab, Coleri and his group are working on two ODOT projects to improve performance of recycled asphalt pavements and reduce cracking of pavement structures.

Prior to his current research, Coleri worked toward developing a wireless sensor network that estimates the weight of moving vehicles from the pavement vibrations caused by vehicular motion. To classify the vehicles and estimate weights, a server processes wireless output from a network of sensors that measure pavement vibration and vehicle speed.

Through these and other efforts, Coleri’s research is helping to increase efficiency and safety in the fields of pavements, transportation, and materials. In recognition of his work, Coleri was named the OSU John and Jean Loosely Faculty Fellow in 2016 – and is on his way to becoming a role model for early career engineers.

1015_Spotlight_BorelloAssistant Professor Daniel Borello joined the structural engineering program at CCE in 2014 after earning his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Since I am the product of two teachers, I have always had a passion for education,” said Borello. “I entered college with the goal of becoming a physics teacher, however, my career path changed when I was inspired by the application of physics in structural engineering.”

Today, Borello combines experimental testing and numerical simulations to study the behavior of large structures, particularly steel buildings. “I’ve always been drawn to large structures,” said Borello. His other research interests are in sustainable infrastructure and mitigating the impact of earthquakes through innovative, replaceable structural systems including steel plate shear walls, self-centering systems, and supplemental energy dissipation devices. “By facilitating economical yet resilient materials and systems, I aim to enhance the life cycle and safety of large structures while improving access to such structures in developing countries,” he added.

Borello also aims to enhance access to critical information in the event of a natural disaster. Last year, he served as the primary investigator on a project funded by the Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium which proposes to develop a low-cost wireless sensor to assess the condition of bridges following a natural hazard. Using off-the-shelf hardware, Borello will configure sensors to measure structural demands and develop models that will predict damage based on the measurements. The sensor could be widely deployed throughout the Pacific Northwest to provide first responders immediate information on the state of major transportation routes.

In addition to conducting research, Borello teaches Design of Steel Structures to junior and senior students and Advanced Steel Design at the graduate level. Recalling his own first term of his master’s program, Borello advises students to “enjoy the opportunity to spend undivided attention on your research – don’t waste it!”

Borello also encourages undergraduates to get involved with activities and to “reach out to faculty if you need it. We’re here to help you succeed.”

Chris BellA familiar presence in every corner of campus, Associate School Head Chris Bell’s 35-year career at Oregon State has taken him from CCE to the College of Engineering to INTO OSU – and even to Reser Stadium, where he serves as chief marshal of the annual commencement ceremony.

Originally from England, Bell received his Ph.D. from the University of Nottingham. “I’ve been a transportation fanatic since I was eight years old,” said Bell. After earning his doctoral degree, he served as a lecturer at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland.

“My Ph.D. research was sponsored by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers on the permanent deformation of asphalt pavements,” said Bell. “At the time, the research was more sought after in the U.S. than in the U.K., and through my advisor, I had an opportunity to connect with Gary Hicks at OSU.”

In 1981, Bell joined OSU as a visiting professor in CCE, specializing in highway and transportation engineering. In 1983, he was hired as a regular assistant professor.

After earning a promotion to professor and directing the Transportation Research Institute for six years, Bell transitioned to the College of Engineering in 1997 as an associate dean, where he managed internships, awards, and international programs as well as graduate studies and industry relations. Following 11 years in that role, Bell became the director of academic programs for INTO OSU, an initiative that began in 2008 with a mission to increase the number of international students and to improve the overall level of service for that population. Not long after completing his three-year tenure, INTO OSU succeeded in more than doubling the number of international students, exceeding the university’s goals.

“My job was to take the lead on the academic programs for the INTO OSU program,” said Bell. “It was a gratifying project to work on and it was a really good thing for OSU.”

In 2011, Bell returned to CCE as associate school head, with research interests in pavement materials and design, pavement-vehicle interaction, and truck operations and safety. Soon after his return, OSU was invited to join the Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium (PacTrans) – one of 10 Regional University Transportation Centers nationwide – which was established in 2012 with an initial grant of $3.5 million from the US Department of Transportation. Bell is now finishing his term as the PI for OSU’s PacTrans efforts and as a member of the board of directors. “The universities in the PacTrans consortium have contributed heavily in safety and environmental sustainability research to address both regional and national transportation issues,” said Bell.

The current PacTrans project portfolio at OSU spans a variety of focus areas, not just transportation engineering. Examples of this research are the use of mobile lidar to identify potential landslide locations and drones to perform highway bridge inspections.

“I’m excited about what we do in this school – a lot of our research plays into transportation and to making major contributions in civil engineering as a whole,” said Bell.

Through his various roles on campus, Bell will leave a long legacy of outstanding contributions to our students and the university. As he retires in June 2016, be sure to see him one last time as chief marshal, when he leads the commencement procession for thousands of graduates, which in his own words, “is an amazing day with everyone so excited and upbeat about graduating.”

Jason H. IdekerAssociate Professor Jason H. Ideker has been appointed to the editorial board of Cement and Concrete Research, a leading journal which aims to publish the best research on cement, cement composites, concrete, and other allied materials that incorporate cement.

The journal is designed to reflect current developments and advances being made in the general field of cement-concrete composites technology and in the production, use, and performance of cement-based construction materials.

“As a long-time reviewer for CCR, I am really excited to be appointed to the editorial board. It represents a great challenge but also an opportunity to shape the quality and content of our technical publications in the field of cement and concrete science and engineering,” said Ideker.

Ideker is the second representative from Oregon State on the editorial board; School Head Jason Weiss also serves as a member.

Ideker’s research interests are in the area of early-age volumetric change of cement-based materials and concrete durability. His research group investigates ways to reduce early-age cracking in high performance concrete and to understand volumetric change in alternative cementitious systems. As an internationally recognized expert in alkali-silica reaction (ASR), Ideker and his team explore ways to improve and develop new ASR test methods that accurately reflect field performance.

Amber BergerAfter earning her Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Washington State University, School of Civil and Construction Engineering Instructor Amber Berger worked for eight years in private industry, earning her Professional Engineer license in 2010. As a structural engineer in Seattle, Berger developed structural plans and coordinated comprehensive building designs for a variety of projects including the Nintendo of America corporate headquarters.

Following her time in Washington, Berger worked at NuScale Power in Corvallis as a civil structural engineer, writing and reviewing nuclear building design criteria. “Working on nuclear projects at NuScale was a totally different ballgame than my previous experience,” said Berger. NuScale designs small modular reactor nuclear plants; a technology initially developed at the Oregon State University.

After gaining experience in private industry, Berger returned to academia in 2014, completing a Master of Science in Civil Engineering with Professor Shane Brown. In her research, Berger studied whether or not engineering students understand critical concepts in their field, with a thesis titled “Student Misconceptions in Axial, Bending, and Torsional Load Cases.”

Today, Berger teaches students – and works to help them understand the concepts they need to know for their careers – in CEM 383 Structures and Orange LEAP. “I like to connect the classroom to the field and use real-world examples of applications rather than just math in my instruction,” said Berger.

Orange LEAP is new to CCE this fall and is a series of classes aimed at increasing the number and diversity of engineering graduates. The courses are designed for students with less math experience than traditional engineering students and features application-oriented, hands-on approaches that teach the most relevant math used in core engineering courses.

Through both her personal teaching style and the new Orange LEAP curriculum, Berger plays an important role in increasing the number of motivated and successful CCE graduates.

Associate Professor of Geomatics Michael Olsen
Associate Professor of Geomatics Michael Olsen

This year, Associate Professor of Geomatics Michael Olsen was named editor-in-chief of the ASCE Journal of Surveying Engineering. The Journal of Surveying Engineering is the leading journal in the field and covers the broad spectrum of surveying and mapping activities encountered in modern practice as well the role of surveying engineering professionals in an information society.

“I am honored by this opportunity to serve as editor of the prestigious Journal of Surveying Engineering,” said Olsen. “I am excited to help the journal continue to advance and incorporate the latest innovative research in geomatics and its important role and impacts throughout engineering and many other fields.”

Olsen’s current areas of research include terrestrial laser scanning, remote sensing, GIS, earthquake engineering, hazard mapping, and 3D visualization. He teaches geomatics engineering courses at OSU where he has developed innovative courses in 3D laser scanning, Digital Terrain Modeling, and Building Information Modeling.

While completing her undergraduate studies in pulp and paper engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology – Roorkee, India, CCE Assistant Professor Meghna Babbar-Sebens became keenly aware of water management issues and identified her interest in water resources and environmental systems analysis.

“My undergraduate studies triggered a passion to pursue a career that would address issues related to sustainable management of water in our environment,” said Babbar-Sebens.

Throughout her studies, Babbar-Sebens excelled in courses that employed mathematics and computational thinking in solving engineering problems. After completing her bachelor’s degree, she was motivated to learn more and decided to pursue graduate school. She joined the Master of Science degree program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she used interdisciplinary optimization techniques based on evolutionary principles to solve complex groundwater management problems. Her research gave her the opportunity to consider original and creative ideas that were based on concepts she had learned in mathematics, computer science, operations research, and water resources engineering. Following her master’s, Babbar-Sebens continued to conduct further research at the University of Illinois on groundwater contamination and monitoring issues, earning a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2006.

As a postdoctoral research associate at Texas A&M University, Babbar-Sebens expanded her research to surface-water and water quality issues, applying a variety of modeling techniques to simulate aquatic contaminants at the scale of streams and watersheds.

Today, Babbar-Sebens examines how innovations in computer science and information technology can address the critical water challenges of our times. Babbar-Sebens and her collaborators have developed a web tool, Watershed REstoration using Spatio-Temporal Optimization of Resources (WRESTORE), which enables stakeholders to view and design various conservation options – such as wetlands and buffer strips – in a simulated watershed environment. Using interactive optimization methods, WRESTORE presents the best possible solutions that users will most likely prefer, based on their feedback within the web tool.

Babbar-Sebens and her research group are also examining the effectiveness of green infrastructure practices in mitigating flooding and improving urban water quality. At the OSU-Benton County Green Stormwater Infrastructure Research Facility, Babbar-Sebens and her team are identifying how a network of sensors can be used to rapidly assess site-scale performance of bioswale designs. Her team is also monitoring and examining site-scale practices to develop better prediction models for watershed-scale processes.

Through interdisciplinary approaches, Babbar-Sebens is conducting research that will assist communities in their efforts to design more resilient watershed landscapes.



Assistant Professor Andre Barbosa, who joined the CCE structural program in December 2011, is pursuing a variety of research interests that will contribute to a safer and more resilient built environment. Through research, outreach, and advocacy, Barbosa aims to increase overall community resilience.

Prior to earning his Ph.D. at the University of California San Diego, Barbosa worked for seven years in private industry, designing buildings and bridges – and much of that experience serves as the foundation for his current research that spans reinforced concrete, steel, and timber.

“What I’m most excited about today is CLT (cross-laminated timber) and its potential in Oregon and in the U.S.,” said Barbosa.

Presently, Barbosa is conducting research on CLT as an alternative to other building materials such as steel or concrete. More commonly used in Europe, CLT is beginning to be adopted in the U.S. because it features considerable savings in cost and construction time and is renewable as compared to traditional materials, especially for mid-rise building construction. CLT is formed by adhering panels of wood under high pressure and is assembled in perpendicular layers to prefabricated specifications. As one of the world’s premier timber producing regions, Oregon could benefit economically from an increase in CLT as a popular building material.

Barbosa’s research also focuses on performance-based engineering (PBE), a concept in which structures can be designed to not only withstand a major hazard such an earthquake, but also remain functional immediately following the event. Many structures built to contemporary standards withstand hazards with life-safety as a primary concern; yet the structures can suffer immense damage that makes them uninhabitable after an extreme event. “After a major event, we want the community and their activities to continue,” said Barbosa. Barbosa plans to provide engineers with continued education on PBE tools and techniques geared towards improving structural performance and resilience.

Currently, Barbosa is working on improving local resilience by assisting a Corvallis community group in their efforts to retrofit existing structures to withstand earthquakes. The majority of U.S. structures are privately owned and have not been retrofitted appropriately, thus efforts to increase awareness of the importance of retrofitting is vital for communities. With the same goal of improving community resilience to extreme hazards, Barbosa is developing research as a co-PI in the National Institute of Standards and Technology Risk-based Community Resilience Center of Excellence.

In addition to his local efforts, Barbosa has conducted international research, including a recent trip to Nepal as part of a National Science Foundation-Rapid Response Research team that he led this summer. The team assessed the damage of reinforced concrete structures with masonry infills as well as masonry buildings by acquiring structural data through ambient vibration testing, ground-based LiDAR, and other more traditional damage assessment methods. In collecting the data, Barbosa provided valuable information to assist the local rebuilding efforts in Nepal and also acquired pertinent data that will be used to assess current US guidelines on existing structures.

Through all of Barbosa’s efforts he seeks to increase the resilience of local, regional, and international communities through a combination of research, outreach, and advocacy.