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Every research project is a story and the UAA College of Engineering is full of storytellers. We have professors, graduate students, and undergrads who are engaged in cutting edge research that has the potential to improve the lives and livelihoods of people in Alaska, the US, and even the world. Here are some of our stories.
Computer Science Major
One strength of computer science is its versatility, allowing computer scientists to partner with researchers from other fields. Putting this to his advantage, Dr. Frank Witmer has used spatial statistics, remote sensing, and simulation to study how human activity (like war or urbanization) affects the environment. Most recently, Dr. Witmer and his undergraduate research assistant, Kris Carrol, have partnered with biologists to study how climate change is affecting the habitat of invasive ticks.
Mechanical Engineering Major
Dr. Raghu Srinivasan and his undergraduate research assistant, Toomas Kollo, study the complex process of metal slowly being destroyed by chemical or electrochemical reactions with the environment—a process known as corrosion. With funding from NASA and the National Association of Corrosion Engineers, Dr. Srinivasan wants to develop a “corrosivity map” of Alaska so that the state’s industrial and civil engineers can choose construction materials that are best fit to resist this destructive process.
Civil Engineering Major
A structural insulated panel, or SIP, is an unassuming piece of pre-fabricated construction material. Looking somewhat like an ice cream sandwich, a SIP is composed of two exterior boards and a foam core. But this simple design belies the SIPs’ growing importance in the construction industry. Dr. Scott Hamel and his graduate research assistant, David Tatarenko, study the structural integrity of SIPs, demonstrating to state and national regulators that this inexpensive material can be a safe and cost-effective alternative to concrete foundations.
Dr. Caixia Wang and her undergraduate research assistant, Todd Burns, are using satellites to detect and predict the gradual caving in or sinking of land—a process called subsidence. In Alaska, subsidence is a big deal because of earthquakes, melting permafrost, and the abundance of difficult-to-access land. Dr. Wang believes that microwave imagery—which is unimpeded by obstacles such as clouds or darkness—could be a less expensive and safer alternative to flying survey crews out to remote locations.
At the UAA College of Engineering, we’re proud of these stories. All of our research projects—in fact, every single experiment, observation, and data point—require spirited efforts from our faculty and students. At UAA, research isn’t just a means to the accumulation of knowledge. Research is about the people involved at every step of the journey. If you can imagine yourself on that journey, as part of one of these stories, then we have a role for you at UAA.
At a lot of other universities, there are hordes of PhD and master’s students who are required to conduct research as part of their dissertation or thesis. By contrast, UAA’s graduate degree programs are relatively new and small. This gives many of our undergrads the unique opportunity to step up and participate in research in their junior and senior years. This experience sets up our undergrads to demonstrate critical skills to their future employers and grad schools.