Welcome from the DEO

Dear CEE Friends,

As I reflect on this past year in CEE, I am struck by the energy, creativity, and adventurousness of our CEE students and faculty. This past year I have watched both students and faculty venture beyond their comfort zones to try new things and it has inspired me and convinced me that we are all going to come out of this significant transition in higher education OK. I am confident that institutions such as ours where young people, educators, and scholars work side by side to take on new challenges and, in the process, inspire each other to learn more and learn better will continue to thrive.

This year our faculty took on the challenge of implementing our new student seminar series. Last year we decided we wanted a venue to provide more explicit instruction to our students on Leadership, Communication, and Design. Bill Eichinger stepped up to the plate and took on the challenge of developing and teaching both the Leadership and Design seminars. Bill worked closely with faculty teaching our Senior Projects Design class (Jacob Odgaard and Paul Hanley) to develop what has turned out to be a high-level preparatory class for our Project Design class. Bill administered mini-FE exams as a way to give students a heads up on what the FE was like and to “license” students in different technical areas so that the Project Design class could work in multidisciplinary teams. As part of the Leadership seminar, Bill had all the students participate in the ASCE Mead Competition. The Mead competition is a yearly event where ASCE poses an ethics question that student’s respond to with essays and a presentation. This year’s question asked students to consider the role of civil engineers in natural disasters. One of our students, Isaac Shrock, wrote a creative, thoughtful essay and received 3rd place in the ASCE presentation competition. Be sure to read (and be proud) of Isaac’s essay (reproduced on page 4). He makes an inspiring call to all civil engineers to take seriously the responsibility of “if you build it, he will come”.

Our students also continue to challenge themselves at both the local level and the global scale.  As part of the Continental Crossings, students traveled to Nicaragua to build a pedestrian bridge over the Jicaro canyon. The bridge will serve approximately 1,000 residents who are currently isolated from the health care clinics, markets, schools and other essential services. Closer to home, students have launched a new student organization on campus called the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) with the goal to make the University of Iowa and its surrounding community more sustainable and
environmentally friendly through student led projects. Our ASCE student chapter has stepped up to host the 2014 Midwest Regional Concrete Canoe Competition.

Our faculty and students have also made some exciting discoveries and advances this year. David Cwiertny’s group discovered that a steroid commonly used in beef cattle breaks down during the day and then reverts back to it’s original form at night. This “vampire” like behavior of this steroid raises questions about how to monitor and assess the potential threat of this emerging contaminant. Gabriele Villarini’s group made a compelling case for how and why we can, and should, do better on predicting hurricanes. Both group’s findings were published in recent issues of the journal Science. George Constantinescu won the top international award in the area of hydraulics for researchers under 45 years of age (the 2013 Arthur Ippen Award), and in his spare time he co-authored a book titled Large-Eddy Simulation in Hydraulics.  Finally, we just got word a few weeks ago that two CEE faculty members received the inaugural UI Distinguished Research Awards (sponsored by the UI Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development). David Cwiertny received the Early Career Scholar of the Year Award, in part for his discovery of the “vampire steroid”, and Witold Krajewski received the Leadership in Research Award for his extraordinary leadership of the Iowa Flood Center.

With CEE students and faculty doing such remarkable things day in and day out, I am confident that our department and our discipline are well situated to not only weather this higher-ed transition but to engage in it and take advantage of both the challenges and opportunities presented by it. Be sure to stay tuned next year to hear how it proceeds!

Regards,

Michelle Scherer
Professor and DEO
Civil and Environmental Engineering