Civil engineering students work with the US Department of Defense – The Quadrangle


Through, Angelina Persaud & Lauren Raziano, Editor-in-Chief and Social Media Editor

Several civil engineering students at Manhattan College have received a $ 560,000 grant from the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) to conduct geotechnical and environmental research in partnership with the United States Department of Defense.

The Department of Defense (DOD) project aims to analyze soils from former military testing grounds and determine if they can be restored and sold as residential and commercial recreational properties.

Led by Mehdi Omidvar Ph.D., associate professor of civil engineering at Manhattan College, and a team of other researchers from New York University and the Southwest Research Institute, the research team received additional federal funding from $ 1.8 million for his project.

The project included adding ballistic testing facilities to the Engineering School, located at Leo Hall, in order to conduct experiments and stay up to date with modern testing technology.

“Our students have set up a vertical ballistic range in our lab, of which there are only a few others in the country. We have built instrumentation that allows us to use coherent laser light to track the speed of fast moving orders in ground targets, ”Omidvar wrote in an email to The Quadrangle.

The program improved the technical aspect of the civil engineering degree program through hands-on experience.

“This is a unique and multifaceted project that involves laboratory and field experiments, numerical simulations and mathematical modeling. Students working on the project have the opportunity to observe laboratory and field experiments and then simulate the problem numerically and analytically, ”Omidvar wrote.

The rigorous process of securing project funding was in large part due to the efforts of MC professors and their desire to expand research facilities for students.

“The Chairman of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Dr Anirban De, who is also a collaborator on the project, helped secure the space for our experiments, and the Dean of the School of Engineering, Dr Tim Ward , helped us acquire some of our experimental facilities. As a result, we are able to compete with top universities for federal funding and perform at a level that is typically only seen in top PhDs. granting institutions, ”Medhi wrote.

Dylan Grace, a graduate student in civil engineering, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 2020 and is one of the many students currently working on the project.

“It’s a great partnership and there are so many opportunities. It has greatly improved the soil lab and the project offers so much to other students, ”said Grace.

He also stressed the importance of research programs in helping students explore opportunities outside of the classroom.

“If I were to recommend all students to join the project, I would definitely have a lot of experience which would translate into field work, a lot of skills which translate into leadership skills and other skills to work on. independently, ”Grace said. . “And I think that’s great for someone who doesn’t know what they want to go straight to work or if they want to go to college.”

Brian Kenneally ’21 is interested in sanitation, which aims to remove toxins from the environment, and was able to gain hands-on research experience at Manhattan College.

“Because I was an environmental engineering student and getting my masters degree, the project we were working on was related to remediation, which I was looking to do,” Kenneally said. “We used to help predict the terminal penetration depth of projectiles and soil like ammunition, which is why we used to use defense sites for the Department of Defense before. “

Kenneally encourages students to contact their professors at Manhattan College and get involved in campus research projects.

“Talk to your teachers about what they’re doing and ask if they need help. They are all looking for brilliant students who can help them because there is a lot of work to be done, ”said Kenneally.

Rachel White ’20, a graduate student in civil engineering, also graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. His role on the project is to create numerical models and simulations that can account for different penetration properties of projectiles in soils.

“I always thought I was just going to graduate and find a job. I never really expected to do research, anytime in college, but I think it was a great opportunity to learn another side of academia that not many people have. opportunity to see, ”White said.

She also gave advice to other students who might be undecided about further research and the associated benefits.

“You learn a lot from research that you wouldn’t usually learn in undergraduate studies. We will have weekly meetings where you will have to take stock of your work, ”White said. “Thanks to these, I learned to defend my work and to present it in a clear and concise manner.

Students and faculty are grateful for the technical and professional skills they have acquired that can be applied both in the classroom and beyond.

“It is deeply rewarding to work on a research project that will have significant and impactful results for the whole country,” Omidvar wrote.

The team of student researchers has the potential to help solve complex problems that will benefit the nation in the long run.

“We built a strong team at Manhattan College and were able to produce unprecedented data and analytical models to solve a very complex problem with important national security implications,” Omidvar wrote. “We are very fortunate to be able to put our knowledge of physics and mathematics to work on such an interesting and important problem. “