Inside Rensselaer
* Army Corps of Engineers Honors Rensselaer Researchers for Work on New Orleans Levee Modeling
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Tarek Abdoun (right) accepts the award from IPET’s Mike Sharp.
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Army Corps of Engineers Honors Rensselaer Researchers for Work on New Orleans Levee Modeling
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers bestowed high honors upon a team of Rensselaer faculty and staff for their critical contributions to the rebuilding of New Orleans levees ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

The group, led by professors Tarek Abdoun, Thomas Zimmie, and Ricardo Dobry of Rensselaer’s Center for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (CEES) in the School of Engineering, received an assortment of awards, including the coveted Commander’s Award for Public Service, and certificates from the Corps and its Hurricane Katrina Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force (IPET). The awards were presented in a Nov. 28 ceremony in Rensselaer’s Jonsson Engineering Center.

“The independent centrifuge modeling experiments conducted by the experts at Rensselaer greatly assisted with the repairs and improvements of the New Orleans hurricane protection system following Hurricane Katrina,” said Mike Sharp, co-leader of the IPET Geotechnical Structure Performance Analysis Team, who presented the awards at the ceremony. “The Rensselaer centrifuge experiments, coupled with those conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, discovered and validated floodwall failure mechanisms. These ‘lessons learned’ were factored into the system improvements to provide much better protection for the citizens of New Orleans.”

“These prestigious awards from the Army Corps of Engineers are well deserved and well received,” said Alan Cramb, dean of engineering. “The persistent and careful research conducted by Professors Abdoun, Zimmie, Dobry, and their team demonstrates the very best Rensselaer has to offer. They are problem solvers, creative thinkers, and their efforts in this project will inform engineers for generations to come.”

To provide essential data for the rebuilding of the devastated levees in New Orleans, Abdoun, Zimmie, Dobry and their group studied small-scale models of sections of the flood-protection system. The researchers built models of typical levee sections from several locations in New Orleans, including the 17th Street Canal and the London Avenue Canal, and tested these models using Rensselaer’s 150 g-ton centrifuge. The group replicated conditions during Hurricane Katrina and subjected the models to flood loads, supplying important information to help the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepare the city for the next hurricane season and beyond.

“It’s a great honor to be awarded the prestigious Commander’s Medal for my effort on studying New Orleans levees,” said Abdoun, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. “More important is the fact that our findings led to significant improvements of the New Orleans hurricane protection system following Hurricane Katrina.”

Preliminary findings of the study show that in the 17th Street model, the wall in the middle of the earthen structure started to move before the water reached the top. The weak clay directly underneath the peat layer sheared first, causing the whole levee to slide. Abdoun presented the findings to peer review groups from the American Society of Civil Engineers and the National Academy of Engineering. Zimmie, a professor in the same department, also spent a week in New Orleans as part of a National Science Foundation investigation team and presented his findings to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

“Hopefully our work has led to a clearer understanding of what happened in Katrina, and results in improved protection against future disasters in New Orleans and around the globe,” Zimmie said. “The emphasis over the past two years has been New Orleans, but there are thousands of miles of levees throughout the United States that can benefit from our research.”

The complete list of award recipients is as follows:

Tarek Abdoun, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, received the Commander’s Award for Public Service with an accompanying medal from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This medal is one of the highest awards given by the Army to civilians and is reserved for individuals who provided outstanding services to the Army. Abdoun also received a Certificate of Recognition from IPET for his leadership and dedication provided to the organization’s post-Katrina projects.

Tom Zimmie, professor of civil and environmental engineering, received a Certificate of Appreciation for Patriotic Civilian Service from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. From IPET, Zimmie also received a Certificate of Recognition, recognizing his leadership and dedication applied to the IPET effort.

Ricardo Dobry, Institute Professor of Engineering, received a Certificate of Recognition for leadership and dedication provided to the IPET effort.

Inthuorn Sasanakul, operations manager of the CEES, received the Commander’s Award for Public Service with an accompanying medal from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This medal is one of the highest awards given by the Army to civilians and is reserved for individuals who provided outstanding services to the Army. He received a Certificate of Recognition from IPET, recognizing his leadership and dedication in the organization’s post-Katrina projects.

Javier Ubilla, research engineer at the CEES, received the Commander’s Award for Public Service with an accompanying medal from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This medal is one of the highest awards given by the Army to civilians and is reserved for individuals who provided outstanding services to the Army. He also received a Certificate of Recognition from IPET, recognizing his leadership and dedication provided to the organization’s post-Katrina projects.

Hassan Radwan, IT manager of CEES, and Marcelo Gonzales, a doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering, each received a Certificate of Appreciation for Patriotic Civilian Service from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. From IPET, Radwan and Gonzales also received a Certificate of Recognition, recognizing their leadership and dedication applied to the IPET effort.

To learn more about Rensselaer’s efforts after Hurricane Katrina, go to www.eng.rpi.edu/magazine/sp06/ sp06news_katrina.cfma

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 1, Number 9, December 13, 2007
©2007 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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