The College of Engineering showcased its expertise in earthquake, pavement engineering and science, transportation and water research to government, industry and academic institutions at the Infrastructure Forum on 18 November, in an effort to drive greater collaboration and partnership.
Nearly 50 infrastructure stakeholders from the Nevada Department of Transportation to Granite Construction to UC Berkeley participated in the on-campus forum hosted by the college’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE). Lab tours, demonstrations, discussions and a student poster session presenting current research projects were included in the event, which was coordinated by CEE Professor David McKellen.
The Forum comes at a critical time for the nation’s infrastructure. In a statement about the event, McClain pointed out that the United States’ infrastructure developed rapidly from the 1940s to the early 1980s, but has since been outdated, and in many cases, in a state of disrepair.
“This situation has persisted for decades, and it will take a significant period of national investment and remediation to reverse the trend,” McClain wrote.
Engineers have been aware of this issue for years: The National Academy of Engineering – a nonprofit that provides engineering leadership in service to the nation – as one of its 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering in 21 “Urban Restore and Repair Infrastructure” listedscheduled tribe century back in 2008.
National policy is now addressing this issue. Federal funding for the infrastructure work will come to the state through the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Engineering Dean Eric Jones raised in his address to the forum.
“There is an urgent need for cutting-edge research and development to provide the foundational elements for the next generation of infrastructure,” Jones said. “We have this amazing group of researchers that need to be invested in.”
He said that the College of Engineering has been working in this area for a long time: Equitable infrastructure is one of its main areas of focus. Engineering and designing equitable community infrastructure is a priority to mitigate wide-ranging local, regional, and global hazards, including wildfires, water issues, and earthquakes.
In the CEE department, there are research centers specializing in those areas, including the Center for Civil Engineering Earthquake Research, which is home to the recently introduced Laminar Soil Box System to test soil-structure interactions; the Western Regional SuperPOW Center, one of five centers established by the Federal Highway Administration to promote the implementation of SuperPOW technology; and the Nevada Water Innovation Institute, which worked with the local government to test wastewater and advanced water treatment of reclaimed water to determine the spread of COVID-19 in the community during the pandemic.
“People (colleges) come to us and they are pleasantly surprised,” Krishna Pagila, chairman of the CEE department, said in his welcome message on the dais. “But they shouldn’t be surprised.”
According to Pagila, CEE brings in about $7 million in research funding a year, was instrumental in the university achieving its R1 status in 2019 and Ph.D. Student enrollment has increased by 50% in the last three years.
“We have the faculty to do what they’re doing,” he said. “That’s what we want to show you.”