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Rensselaer Research Review Spring 2007 * Feature Articles Awards & Grants Recent Patents Accolades
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Accolades
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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:

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

Professors Toh-Ming Lu and Wilfredo Colón Elected as 2007 AAAS Fellows

Toh-Ming Lu, the R.P. Baker Distinguished Professor of Physics, and Wilfredo Colón, associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology, have been elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The Rensselaer researchers are two of 471 newly elected follows recognized for their distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

Lu is cited for “seminal contributions to the fundamental understanding of thin film morphological evolution.”

Colón is cited for “distinguished contribution to the understanding of protein folding and misfolding, and for his encouragement of underrepresented minority students into careers in science.”

Rensselaer has had eight faculty members elected fellows of the AAAS in the past five years. Last year, Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson and Gwo-Ching Wang, department chair and professor of physics, were elected fellows. Jackson is past president of the association (2004) and past chairman of the AAAS Board of Directors (2005).

The 2007 fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin on Feb. 16 at the Fellows Forum during the 2008 AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston.

Lu’s research strives to develop new, high-performing nanostructures that can be used in integrated electronics, semiconductors, and energy storage devices. His lab uses novel approaches to develop unique nanostructures and analyze those structures as they grow. His imaging and analysis techniques allow researchers to fully understand how and why different growth techniques grow nanomaterials in the very specific ways.

Lu joined Rensselaer in 1982. He formerly served as director of the Center for Advanced Interconnect Science and Technology and chairman of the physics department. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Vacuum Society. He has earned numerous other honors, including Rensselaer’s Early Career Award in 1986, the SRC Invention Award in 1988, the Rensselaer Center for Integrated Electronics Faculty Award in 1993, the William Wiley Distinguished Faculty Award in 2002, the Materials Research Society Medal Award in 2004, and the SRC Faculty Leadership Award in 2005. Lu earned a bachelor’s in physics from Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, a master’s in physics from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Colón’s research focuses on proteins and the chemical and physical principles that cause them to acquire and retain their functional three-dimensional structure, a process known as folding. Colón’s lab is studying the structural mechanisms of protein folding and working to understand the molecular basis for why certain proteins misfold. His ultimate goal is to facilitate the rational design of therapeutics for protein misfolding diseases such as Lou Gehrig’s disease (FALS), type II diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Colón is also an active educator who works to encourage and mentor students from underrepresented minorities to pursue successful careers in science.

Colón joined Rensselaer in 1997 after serving as a postdoctoral associate at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. He was a National Science Foundation (NSF) postdoctoral fellow. He received a Research Corporation Innovation Award in 1999, an NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award in 2000, the prestigious NSF Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 2001, and the Rensselaer Early Career Award in 2002. He also has earned the American Heart Association’s Scientist Development Award and a New Faculty Award from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation. Colón earned a bachelor’s in chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez and a doctorate in chemistry from Texas A&M University.

To learn more about AAAS, go to www.aaas.org.

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