The University of South Florida Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering has a large research program that does several million dollars of research on an annual basis supported by state, regional, federal, and industrial sponsors. The department currently has 75 Master’s and 51 PhD active graduate students. Our research areas include Environmental and Water Resources Engineering, Geotechnics and Geoenvironmental Systems, Structures and Materials Systems, and Transportation Systems.
The fields of environmental and water resources engineering have long been known for its breadth and ability to adapt to the new technological, societal, and global problems facing the environment. Major research areas include water quality engineering; air quality engineering; fate and transport of contaminants in the environment; surface water hydrology and hydraulics, computational fluid mechanics,groundwater hydrology, environmental biotechnology and nanotechnology; waste management; and, sustainability and ecological engineering. Other focus areas include water reuse, green engineering, renewable energy, fate of emerging contaminants, and humanitarian engineering that has a developing world focus.
The graduate program in water resources is focused on environmental and water resource issues pertinent to urban coastal environments. Increasing pressure on Florida’s fragile water resources and coastal ecosystems necessitates an integrated approach to hydrology, hydraulics and environmental engineering. Students have the opportunity to develop expertise in hydrology, environmental quality, and treatment/management strategies relevant to urban and natural environments. The program provides training in urban and coastal hydrology, hydraulics, water quality, and environmental process engineering that can be applied to research on hydrology, surface water quality, treatment and delivery of potable water, water reuse, protection and management of groundwater, and stormwater management. Advances in information technology such as GIS, remote sensing, and on-line sensors are incorporated into the program.
One area of emphasis is the integration of advanced theoretical and computational models with remotely sensed data and field measurements to facilitate management of sustainable water resources in the context of the complete water cycle. Other focus areas include development of improved tools for controlling potable water quality; removal of cyanobacterial toxins from surface water; optimization of reclaimed water systems for removal of pathogens, endocrine disruptors and other pharmaceutically active compounds; development of treatment wetlands for control of nutrients, and alternative water and wastewater treatment technologies.
Water Quality Engineering. Physicochemical and biological processes (e.g., advanced oxidation, sorption with smart materials, disinfection, membrane separation, activated sludge, high-rate nitrification, anaerobic digestion, membrane bioreactors) for water and wastewater treatment; Water reuse; Desalination; Alternative water sources; Water quality monitoring and indicators; Water distribution systems; Microbial safety of drinking water; Monitoring and removal of emerging micropollutants (e.g., pharmaceutical and personal care products).
Air Quality Engineering
Mathematical modeling of air-borne pollutant formation, transport, and chemistry in the atmosphere; Measurement of air pollutant amounts and fluxes; Engineering systems for the control of air pollutants from stationary and mobile sources; Atmospheric deposition and effects of atmospheric pollutants on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems; Air quality, health, and environmental justice in developing cities.
Fate and Transport of Contaminants in the Environment
Measurement, analysis and mathematical modeling of the chemistry, mechanisms and pathways impacting the fate and transport of contaminants (organic, inorganic, particulate, biological) in the environment, including surface waters, subsurface, biosphere, atmosphere, and indoor systems; Emergency releases of hazard agents and terrorism response; Contaminant bioavailability.
Physical, chemical and biological processes (e.g., catalysis, surfactants and cosolvents, reductive dehalogenation) for the remediation of contaminated soils, sediments and groundwater and the treatment of agricultural, municipal and industrial wastes; Waste-to-energy conversion processes; Landfill leachate treatment; Landfill bioreactor; Brownfield redevelopment.
Surface Water Hydrology and Hydraulics
Hydrologic, hydraulic and water quality modeling; Lake and estuary water quality management; Estuary & tidal inlet sediment dynamics; Coastal hydraulic processes; Stormwater modeling and management; Geographical information system and remote sensing applications; Watershed processes and management; Integration of advanced theoretical and computational models with remotely-sensed data and field measurements to facilitate management of sustainable water resources in the context of the complete water cycle.
Computational Fluid Mechanics. Finite element methods for fluids, Subgrid-scale parameterizations for large-eddy simulation (LES) of turbulent flows, Novel LES methodologies, Numerical simulations of turbulence in the ocean and integration with field observations.
Groundwater engineering; Groundwater/surface water interactions; Aquifer storage recharge; Vadose zone and ecosystem hydrology; Stochastic applications in hydrology; Stream-aquifer interaction and conjunctive use of surface/ground water systems; Flow in porous media.
Sustainable Design and Ecological Engineering
Green engineering; Pollution prevention; embodied energy in water systems, Sustainable growth of urbanizing coastal environments; Sustainable technologies and infrastructures for developing nations; Natural systems (e.g., constructed wetlands) for the treatment of wastewater and stormwater; Phytoremediation.
Environmental Biotechnology and Nanotechnology
Expanding and integrating the knowledge frontiers of biotechnology and nanotechnology for the development of new tools and processes for environmental engineering; Smart nanoparticle-polymer composites for environmental remediation; Nanotechniques for elucidating microbe-surface interactions and facilitating membrane characterization and autopsy; Development and use of molecular biology-based tools for the design of advanced biological treatment systems.
Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Systems
Protecting the earth’s subsurface resources presents formidable challenges to the geotechnical and geoenvironmental community today. In recent years, the need has grown for the development of technologies centered around prevention. By teaming up with local, state, and federal agencies, the Geoenvironmental group at USF is spearheading technological advances aimed toward prevention, resource conservation, and reuse of recycled waste and industrial by-products for soil treatment. Among the main thrusts of the group is the development of a new generation of engineered bentonite clay-polymer materials through manipulation by nano-scale processes. Such materials are customized to meet and exceed current standards for waste containment in terms of hydraulic and chemical compatibility. The experimental component of the research is supported by a state-of-the-art geoenvironmental laboratory, which houses a broad range of equipment such as controlled flow permeability pumps, diffusion cells, low conductivity permometers, and instruments for chemical and mineralogical characterization of soils.
The Discrete Element Method (DEM) is emerging as the new paradigm for numerical modeling of discrete geo-materials, thereby replacing the need to simulate granular media as continua. The contributions of the GGE Group at USF have been at the forefront of the ongoing developments and implementation of DEM in practice. Over the past few years, the Group has introduced a new quantitative method for characterizing the morphology of granular materials, and has undertaken studies on flow behavior of powders and grains, and liquefaction of granular soils under earthquake loading. In 2002, USF researchers were the first to model irregular soil particles using DEM. Through strategic collaborations with other research institutions, the USF team is leading a new initiative for three-dimensional characterization and modeling of angular geo-materials. The research, which is supported by the National Science Foundation and number of national and international partners, integrates elements of particle morphology analysis, pattern recognition, and computer vision. The research involves a significant component of cross-disciplinary interactions with other faculty across the College of Engineering.
Research Thrust in Pavement Engineering
The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at USF has a relatively small but active program in pavement engineering. Currently this study area is manned by a single full-time professor devoting 50% of the teaching duties and 100% of his research efforts. In view of the well established pavement materials program at the University of Florida, USF’s main focus has been primarily on pavement management aspect. Furthermore, in keeping with the areas of research thrust identified by the USF College of Engineering, pavement management research has incorporated advanced technology in particular. Examples of doctoral studies are focused on the following specific areas:
1. Evaluation and possible standardization of the techniques used to collect digital images of highway features using fundamental principles of optics and image processing as well as innovative mathematical techniques.
2. Formulation of effective and accurate techniques to collect geometric data and assimilating them into GIS/GPS highway databases used in pavement management.
3. Exploring innovative techniques to forecast future pavement condition based on readily available historical condition data.
Structural engineering places a strong emphasis on analyzing and solving engineering problems associated with man-made structures. Research areas include: durability, structural repair and rehabilitation, composite structural systems, behavior of composite plates and fiber composites, high strength materials, bridge rating, structural safety and reliability, large deformations and stability, and computational methods.
Infrastructure Diagnostics and Monitoring
Reliable diagnostic and monitoring methods are essential to the durability and security of the national infrastructure. Modern construction practices create challenging monitoring needs as critical components are hidden, and yet adequate performance must be verified during construction, or over many decades. CEE researchers respond to this challenge with notable contributions, including devising novel thermal sensors to ensure concrete integrity in drilled shaft constructions, and refinement of testing methods such as Statnamic to verify load carrying capacity. Further, design and construction methods involving post grouted drilled shafts have been developed that enhance the end bearing performance while providing a mechanism of monitoring their quality. As thousands of highway bridges along Florida's coasts are susceptible to severe saltwater corrosion, CEE investigators have developed advanced analysis methods for assessing the penetration of concrete by aggressive ions, and electrochemical techniques to determine the performance of corrosion resistant materials for future construction. Corrosion can also attack critical high strength steel tendons in advanced design bridges, and CEE research has developed vibrational methods and spectral analysis techniques for condition assessment. This innovation provides a means by which once invisible damage can now be detected prior to catastrophic failure, and is being now applied to major bridges nationwide.
The University of South Florida is heavily involved in the design, construction, and quality assurance of subsurface infrastructure in the State as well as the country. As this area of continuing research often involves highway bridges, it can be linked to each of the four groups within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE). However, those researchers within CEE involving structures, materials, geotechnics, and water resources are most regularly requested to provide assistance in solving a wide range of problems with structural elements rarely seen by the public. To this end, cost-saving design approaches have been developed and field implemented that were subsequently adopted into the State Construction Specifications. Further, new methods of assuring foundation integrity, monitoring the performance, verifying the capacity as well as analyzing the respective data have been developed and disseminated to the engineering society. With regard to existing deteriorating infrastructures, CEE researchers have paved pioneering inroads into new methods of rehabilitating damaged concrete foundations using fiber-reinforced plastics that show great promise with dramatic potential cost savings.
Advanced Structural Materials
The propensity of traditional construction materials to deteriorate in aggressive environments has led to worldwide interest in alternative materials. Among these, fiber reinforced polymers (FRP) show particular promise because of their inherent corrosion resistance, light weight, and high strength to weight ratio. For well over a decade, USF has pioneered research to evaluate their long-term performance in a marine environment. Other studies have examined new FRP applications such as settlement repair of masonry walls or strengthening steel girders. Current studies include investigations to evaluate the application of FRP in repairing corrosion-damaged piles driven in tidal waters. Both laboratory testing and full-scale field demonstration are part of the on-going study. Investigations are also being undertaken to examine other new materials such as high performance steel and concrete. The goal of these studies is to ensure safe and reliable use of these new materials. Due to continuous modifications of EPA regulations, state and national codes have to be re-examined and re-assessed for protecting durability of the structural concrete.
Critical Infrastructure Rehabilitation
Florida’s sub-tropical climate and long coastline make marine structures vulnerable to corrosion damage. The problem is particularly severe in jacketed piles where the extent of corrosion is hidden and cannot be detected during routine maintenance inspection. The structural adequacy of such piles was a great concern to highway authorities. USF researchers conducted several laboratory studies to investigate this problem. Observed damage was carefully reproduced in scale model tests to allow systematic investigation of the relationship between corrosion, residual capacity and repair. These investigations led to new methods for accelerating corrosion, the development of user-friendly software and innovative testing procedures to allow simulation of sustained loads. On-going studies are evaluating panel deck bridges that have experienced unexpected local failures. Investigations include field assessment, non-destructive testing and numerical modeling. The goal is to develop a rational method for prioritizing replacement of over 100 panel deck bridges.
Engineering Materials Durability
The Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department has an active program for assessing and improving the durability of engineering materials for our national infrastructure. A major component of this work investigates the mechanism of corrosion of traditional and advanced metallic materials in reinforced concrete, post tensioned assemblies, and soil and water systems under the aggressive service environments encountered in Florida. The work encompasses understanding of fundamental electrochemical aspects of corrosion, determining the performance of modern concrete formulations in actual service conditions, and forecasting the economic impact of engineering alternatives. Advanced electrochemical and structural diagnostic methods are developed as well. A combination of extensive field surveys, experimental research and sophisticated computer models is regularly applied to improve design and corrosion protection methods for enhanced durability. Special focus is placed on studying cementitious systems and their role in extending the life span of structural concrete under different service conditions. This area of research examines the significance of different cementitious/pozzolanic systems, their microstructural characterization and their impact on the physical, mechanical and chemical properties of concrete. Mechanisms of failure are studied using advanced phase transformation techniques. Research also addresses microstructure-property relationships in high performance concrete with chemical admixtures to retard chloride ingress and environmental degradation in the substructure of marine bridges.
Innovative Structural Design Concepts
Potential gains from new materials and technologies can be best realized through innovative design and testing. Over the past decade, USF has conducted several studies to advance the practice of engineering. For example, full-scale tests were conducted to evaluate the interface bond in seal slabs used in cofferdam construction. Resulting changes in design specifications have led to more economical construction. New concepts, such as double composite construction have been developed that help lower costs and enhance the competitiveness of steel bridges. A new modular FRP section was proposed that eliminates the need for connections. This system allows rapid assembly of emergency shelters in disaster-struck regions since it only requires hand tools and unskilled labor. On-going studies are evaluating the application of cold bending to fabricate curved steel girders, currently disallowed in bridge construction. The goal of the research is to establish the necessary framework that will allow its eventual acceptance by the bridge community.
The Transportation Systems program in the CEE department covers a wide spectrum of activities related to the analysis, planning, modeling, design, operation, and safety of transportation systems. Specific research areas in each of these aspects are identified below.
Traffic engineering and operations, traffic flow modeling and analysis, traffic simulation, intelligent transportation systems, computerized data collection and instrumentation techniques and electrical engineering applications such as image and signal processing.
Transportation Systems Planning, Modeling, and Analysis
Multimodal transportation planning, transportation economics, travel demand modeling and forecasting, tour-based and activity-based approaches to travel demandmodeling, micro-simulation of travel demand, time-use and travel behavior analysis, evaluation of transportation policies (congestion pricing, etc.), transportation network modeling and analysis, freight movement modeling and analysis, air transportation systems, public transit systems, travel data collection, land-use and transportation interactions, urban form travel behavior and physical health relationships, econometric modeling of travel choices, discrete choice and discrete-continuous modeling methods.
Highway safety, traffic crash occurrence, analysis of driver and occupant injury severity, bicyclist and pedestrian injury severity, design and operational solutions for roadway safety, analysis of safety policy measures.
Optimization of Pavement Surface Properties
Pavement surface properties have critical impact on drivers' comfort, safety, economy, and traffic noise. Various performance requirements, however, are sometimes conflicting. For example, vehicle safety during wet weather requires the pavement to be porous and permeable, while a durable pavement needs to be dense and watertight. USF research teams have been heavily involved in the effort to optimize pavement surface structural and mix design to accommodate various performance needs. In particular, research has focused on asphalt surface mix design for a quiet (low tire/pavement noise), safe, smooth, and durable pavement.