Category: Research

Ishi Keenum Wins DOC Gold Medal

Ishi Keenum
Ishi Keenum

Assistant Professor Ishi Keenum’s work at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was recently awarded a 2023 Gold Medal Award by the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) for the rapid development of a positive control reference material to ensure the validity of diagnostic testing for mpox, previously known as monkeypox.

The Gold Medal Award is the highest award given by the DOC. It honors “extraordinary, notable or prestigious contributions that impact the mission of the Department of Commerce and/or one operating unit, and which reflect favorably on the Department.”

By Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering.

ASCE 2024 Thomas Fitch Rowland Prize for Abdolmajid Erfani

Abdolmajid Erfani
Abdolmajid Erfani

Dr. Abdolmajid Erfani, assistant professor in Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering, in collaboration with Zihui Ma, Qingbin Cui, and Gregory B. Baecher, University of Maryland, has been selected by ASCE’s Construction Institute to receive the 2024 Thomas Fitch Rowland Prize for the paper “Ex Post Project Risk Assessment: Method and Empirical Study,” Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, December 2022.

The award, which consists of a plaque, will be presented during the Society’s CI & CRC Joint Conference in Des Moines, IA, March 20-23, 2024.

In the award of the prize, preference is given to papers whose author or authors describe in detail accomplished works of construction or which are valuable contributions to construction management and construction engineering.

Dr. Erfani’s research includes data-driven infrastructure management, project delivery and procurement, smart construction, and risk management.

From the Abstract

Project risk is an important part of managing large projects of any sort. This study contributes to the state of knowledge in project risk management by introducing a data-driven approach to measure risk identification performance using historical data. It investigated the quality of early risk registers and risk assessments on large transportation projects and compared them to how the identified risks evolved on historical projects. The investigation involved the use of textual analysis of archival risk register documents.

A project team with positive doer behavior (i.e., actively monitoring and identifying risks during project execution) performed better in delivering projects on time and within budget.

“Ex Post Project Risk Assessment: Method and Empirical Study”
Journal of Construction Engineering and Management
Volume 149, Issue 2
https://doi.org/10.1061/JCEMD4.COENG-12588

Related

ASCE 2023 Best Paper Award for Abdolmajid Erfani

Ribbon-Cutting the Resurfaced County Road 577 with Zhanping You

Zhanping You
Zhanping You

Zhanping You (CEGE) was pictured in the Iron Mountain Daily News alongside a story about the completion of road projects in 2023 in Dickinson County, with some roads resurfaced using a mix of recycled tire rubber and asphalt.

The Dickinson County Road Commission partnered with Michigan Tech and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) for the C.R. 577 projects.

Projects used different methods, such as the use of recycled tire rubber in hot mix asphalt as well as engineered crumb rubber as a stabilizer or the use of recycled tire rubber and recycled glass as an aggregate.

You is a Distinguished Professor in Transportation Engineering. His research interests include

  • Design, construction, and maintenance of pavements
  • Micromechanics for road materials
  • Discrete element modeling and finite element modeling techniques
  • Construction materials: asphalt, aggregate, asphalt concrete

as well as alternative and recycled materials for civil engineering.

Read more at Iron Mountain Daily News.

2023 Best Paper Award for Bo Xiao

Bo Xiao, assistant professor in Construction Management, was recognized by the ASCE Journal of Construction Engineering and Management for his journal article entitled “Deep Learning Image Captioning in Construction Management: A Feasibility Study.”

From the Editor-in-Chief:

“The authors present their systematic approach to automating deep learning for image captioning in a construction management context. This article is compelling for several reasons. The topic is one that has the potential to provide substantial benefits for construction engineering and management. The authors have clearly explained an involved methodology that produced results that were validated by comparison of eight metrics. The conclusions are presented in a nuanced manner that includes the strong points and limitations of the methods studied and useful suggestions for future development. This paper was selected from a field of 187 technical papers, 25 case studies, 2 technical notes, and 18 state-of-the-art reviews that were published from July 2022 through June 2023 in the Journal of Construction Engineering and Management.”

“This article is compelling for several reasons. The topic is one that has the potential to provide substantial benefits for construction engineering and management.”

Editor-in-Chief, ASCE Journal of Construction Engineering and Management

Authors: Bo Xiao, Aff.M.ASCE https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0798-8018 eric.xiao@polyu.edu.hk, Yiheng Wang yiheng6@ualberta.ca, and Shih-Chung Kang sckang@ualberta.caAUTHOR AFFILIATIONS
Publication: Journal of Construction Engineering and Management
Volume 148, Issue 7
https://doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)CO.1943-7862.0002297

Xiao’s research interests include construction informatics, AI applications in construction, and construction robotics.

Ishi Keenum on the National Microbiome Data Collaborative Ambassador Program

Ishi Keenum
Ishi Keenum

Ishi Keenum (CEGE) was quoted by EurekAlert! in a story about the National Microbiome Data Collaborative (NMDC) Ambassador Program. Keenum is a member of the program’s 2023 cohort of early career scientists  with diverse research interests who will receive training in best practices for biological data standardization.

Keenum researches how genes that give microbes antibiotic resistance are shared in human-built systems like wastewater treatment streams.

In her research, Keenum turned to datasets available in the published literature, hoping to perform some meta-analyses. She was stymied by the use of different data repositories.

“Can we like look at a million studies all at once? And we’re now at the point where, technologically, you really can do that, if the data is set up for it.”

Ishi Keenum, assistant professor in Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering

As an NMDC Ambassador, she is excited to help build the scientific culture of the future, where FAIR data is the norm.

Her research interests include developing and manipulating the microbiology of wastewater, water reuse, agricultural systems, developing comparable metagenomic measurements, and developing bioinformatic methods and analysis tools for environmental systems.

Read more at EurekAlert!, by DOE/LAWRENCE BERKELEY NATIONAL LABORATORY.

ASCE 2023 Best Paper Award for Abdolmajid Erfani

Group of two presenters and three award recipients on the ASCE stage.
Pictured from left to right: President of ASCE Maria C. Lehman, Dr. Hickey, Assistant Professor Abdolmajid Erfani, Dr. Cui, and Executive Director of ASCE Thomas W. Smith III.

Dr. Abdolmajid Erfani, assistant professor in Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering, in collaboration with Dr. Hickey and Dr. Cui, University of Maryland, has been honored with the 2023 Best Paper Award for their article published in the ASCE Journal of Management in Engineering.

The Journal of Management in Engineering has achieved the highest impact factor among all the journals published by the American Society of Civil Engineers in recent years. The awarded article is titled “Use of LinkedIn Data and Machine Learning to Analyze Gender Differences in Construction Career Paths.” The study analyzed female representation in leadership roles within the top 400 engineering contractors.

Successful women leaders have more diverse career paths, working at 56% more companies, holding 19% more job titles, and being 73% more likely to have a graduate degree compared to men. However, as women’s perceived competence rises, their perceived likeability diminishes, according to language analysis on LinkedIn recommendations. These challenges are why many female engineering college graduates don’t pursue careers in the field. Although women earn about 22% of civil and environmental engineering degrees, they make up only 10.9% of the AEC workforce and 3.9% of engineering executives.

The award ceremony was held during the ASCE Annual Convention in Chicago, Illinois, on October 18–21, 2023.

“Use of LinkedIn Data and Machine Learning to Analyze Gender Differences in Construction Career Paths”
Paul J. Hickey, Abdolmajid Erfani, and Qingbin Cui, A.M.
Journal of Management in Engineering, Volume 38, Issue 6
https://doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)ME.1943-5479.0001087

New Faculty Spotlight: Quang Tran

Dr. Quang Tran on campus at Michigan Tech

Quang Tran is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering. He comes to Michigan Tech from Harvard Medical School, Harvard affiliated hospitals, and the UIUC Bioacoustics Research Lab, where he dedicated three years to postdoctoral research.

Dr. Tran earned his PhD in Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, his MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering at California State University, Fullerton; and his BS in Industrial and System Engineering at Ho Chi Minh University of Technology, Vietnam.

Dr. Quang Tran presents some of his collaborative postdoctoral research: “Acoustic response of ph responsive self-eliminating microbubbles for dynamic pressure sensing”

What drew you to Michigan Tech?

I have a passion for technology, teaching, and outdoor pursuits. Michigan Tech embodies everything I cherish. Ever since I became a part of MTU, my daily life in Houghton has been a joy, and my feeling of connection deepens with each passing day.

What is your primary area of research and what led you to it?

I develop non-invasive techniques for material characterization applied to civil engineering and biomedical fields. My goal is to assist in diagnosing and monitoring the health of both infrastructures and humans, aiming to prevent structural failures and cancer in individuals.

Can you share a little more about your research and what you like about it?

I’ve been working on research that employs non-contact technologies using ultrasound and computer vision to determine the phase change timing of concrete material – in real-time and on-site, in order to quantify the damage caused by construction activities. These methods offer rapid, precise, and quantitative data that enhances the decision-making of field engineers and contractors who are engaged in construction activities and material usage. It ultimately leads to savings of time and cost, and a reduction of material waste.

I’ve also developed non-invasive ultrasonic techniques to measure dynamic pressure, laying the groundwork for long-term measurements of pressure within human heart chambers. This pressure sensing could allow doctors to monitor patient heart health over extended periods. This would aid in the prevention of heart diseases and heart failure, enhancing patient well-being and even surgical outcomes.

“I believe every student has potential for success. My role here is simply to pave their way to their success.”

Quang Tran

What do you consider an important long-term goal for your research, teaching, or outreach?

I want to understand the interaction between ultrasound and gas bubbles. This understanding will pave the way for me to develop advanced methods for material characterization and pressure sensing applications.

What do you hope to accomplish, as an educator and as a researcher, over the next few years?

My ambition is to establish a translational lab focused on fundamental research, bridging this research to practical and clinical applications. The lab will educate students about the profound link between foundational science and engineering practice.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love outdoor activities, including running along the lake and playing soccer. I enjoy exploring local eateries and attending community events, such as the Parade of Nations. I’m eagerly anticipating the upcoming Winter Carnival.

What’s your favorite book, movie, or piece of art?

My favorite book is “Da Vinci Code,” by Dan Brown. I love science and history, so I love watching Marvel and other sci-fi movies. I also like watching movies from true stories, like Chernobyl and Oppenheimer

“Identify your desires and passions and then chase them.”

Advice for incoming students, from Assistant Professor Quang Tran

Any favorite spots on campus, in Houghton, or in the UP?

My favorite spot in Houghton is the running trail behind the M&M building. I run along the lake quite often.

Any advice for incoming students?

Work hard, play hard. Identify your desires and passions and then chase them. I spent three years after getting my BS to truly discover my life’s passion. Now I feel energetic and happy because I’m immersed in what I love. I believe every student has potential for success. My role here is simply to pave their way to their success.

New Faculty Spotlight: Ishi Keenum

Ishi Keenum is a bioinformatician, an engineer, and an environmental microbiologist.

Assistant Professor Ishi Keenum comes to Michigan Tech from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), where she completed her postdoctoral research. She earned a BS in at the University of Michigan, and an MS and PhD at Virginia Tech, all in Environmental Engineering. She serves as the lead of the bioinformatic working group for the International Microbiome and Multi’omics Standards Alliance (IMMSA). 

What drew you to Michigan Tech?

My hometown is Knoxville, Tennessee but with lots of family in Houghton. I grew up coming here for the summers! When I visited the CEGE faculty were incredibly welcoming and I was really drawn by the people who would be my colleagues. I also love the accessibility to the outdoors and the water!

What is your primary area of research and what led you to it?

My focus is on the dissemination and treatment of antibiotic resistance through our wastewater and water systems. More broadly, I examine the microbiology of water systems. I got involved in environmental biotechnology as an undergraduate researcher at the University of Michigan. I was drawn to this type of work because I like to think of how a better understanding of environmental microbiology in engineered systems can help prevent exposures to things like opportunistic pathogens and antibiotic resistance. I really like that my work has a close public health benefit. 

“I am passionate about creating safe water for human consumption.”

Dr. Ishi Keenum

Can you share a little more about your research and what you like about it?

I examine how our wastewater treatment systems and agricultural systems currently address antibiotic resistance throughout the treatment process. I also work on generating standards for how we make measurements of microbial communities. I get to use a variety of different microbial methods to try to answer these questions. I like the diversity of methods I use in my work. It means we can answer a variety of different questions about our engineered systems.
I also love that I get to work on some of the most pressing world problems facing our society. For instance, waterborne disease and antibiotic resistance cost millions of dollars in the US to treat at healthcare facilities, and we need to better understand where people are exposed.

What do you consider an important long-term goal for your research, teaching, or outreach?

I am looking forward to building and joining a strong environmental microbiology program at Michigan Tech. I am looking forward to understanding the microbiology and challenges in our surrounding community and am hoping to get involved in both outreach and research.

What do you hope to accomplish, as an educator, over the next few years?

I am looking forward to connecting with Michigan Tech students as a teacher and faculty member. I hope we can have fun and engaging classroom discussions around issues we all currently face working in the field of environmental engineering.

“Try getting involved in student organizations that do what you’re interested in doing.”

Advice to incoming students, from Dr. Ishi Keenum

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love running and hiking and I’m excited to get into cross country skiing! You can also find me with my dog, Monty!

Any advice for incoming students?

I am here to help. I want to work with you to be successful!

Dr. Keenum did her postdoc at NIST. Michigan Tech recently entered into an agreement with NIST, as a NIST PREP University.

New Faculty Spotlight: Bo Xiao

Bo Xiao

Assistant Professor Bo Xiao comes to Michigan Tech from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where he worked as a research assistant professor. He earned his BEng in Civil Engineering, at Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology in China, his master’s degree from Concordia University in Canada, and his PhD at the University of Alberta, Canada. Dr. Xiao and his team conduct research in his Computing and Construction Robotics Lab (CaRC) at Michigan Tech.

What drew you to Michigan Tech?

Michigan Tech’s Tech Forward Initiative attracted me. My long-term career goal is to build autonomous and intelligent systems in the construction industry. I believe Michigan Tech is the place where I can achieve my dream. Houghton is also a place of four-season recreation, with picturesque scenery—all the numerous lakes, forests, and rolling hills. As an outdoor enthusiast, I look forward to trying it all—hiking, fishing, boating, and skiing.

What is your primary area of research and what led you to it?

My primary research goal is to advance the digital transformation of the construction industry by adopting automated technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and digital twinning. Automation, digitalization, and robotics technologies are the key success factor for the fourth construction industry revolution (aka Construction 4.0). I believe it has the potential to enhance the efficiency, productivity, accuracy, and safety of the construction industry, and help solve some of the complex problems surrounding our cities, environment, and the planet. 

“Learn outside the classroom.”

Dr. Bo Xiao’s advice for incoming students.

Can you share a little more about your research and what you like about it?

Specifically, my research focus is divided among two fields. The first involves using robots to build modular homes. Modular construction offers significant time savings compared to traditional on-site construction methods. Since the building components are fabricated in a controlled factory environment concurrently with site preparation, construction timelines can be significantly reduced. This faster construction process allows for quicker project completion, reduced financing costs, and faster occupancy or utilization of the building. I am developing robots that can build modular components automatically. Robotics allows for the precise and accurate assembly of these components, leading to higher quality and consistency in the final product and better fitting and alignment of modular elements. My second research focus involves vision-based monitoring of construction sites. Construction video footage contains important information about safety, productivity, and site planning. By using computer vision and generative AI to analyze construction sites, efficiency and safety can be improved.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

My favorite pastimes are playing basketball and downhill skiing.

Any favorite spots on campus, in Houghton, or in the UP?

Copper Harbor is my favorite!

Copper Harbor is just about an hour’s drive from the Michigan Tech campus.

Any advice for incoming students?

Learn outside the classroom. Classroom learning provides a foundation of knowledge, but real-world experiences will allow you to apply that knowledge in a practical context. You’ll see how concepts and theories translate into real-life situations. This will enhance both your understanding and your problem-solving skills.

New Faculty Spotlight: Mazi Erfani

Mazi Erfani

Assistant Professor Abdolmajid “Mazi” Erfani comes to Michigan Tech from the University of Maryland, College Park, where he earned his PhD in Civil Engineering. He earned his BS in Civil Engineering and his MSc, in Construction Engineering and Management at the University of Tehran in Iran. Welcome, Dr. Erfani!

What drew you to Michigan Tech?

I spent my formative years in Iran, where I was the middle child among three siblings. Being raised in a family where both my parents were educators greatly influenced my decision to pursue a career as a teacher and researcher. Michigan Tech’s exceptional reputation in engineering, hands-on learning opportunities, cutting-edge research facilities, collaborative environment, and appealing campus setting all make this an ideal place for me to pursue my academic and research interests in civil engineering.

What is your primary area of research and what led you to it?

Contributing to the development of sustainable and equitable infrastructure is my primary goal. This spans smart construction, data analytics, and the application of artificial intelligence in construction management, and data-driven infrastructure management. My recent work with the USDOT Build America Center involved assisting public and local agencies in securing federal funding and successfully implementing substantial, equitable infrastructure projects. My research extends to equitable workforce development, too, including workforce and diversity equity in the airport and construction industries.

What do you consider an important long-term goal for your research, teaching, or outreach?

I want to build a dynamic bridge between academia and industry, fostering a flow of innovative ideas and practical solutions back and forth. Many of my current research topics are directly related to industry needs. And I want to equip students for success both academically and professionally—with an emphasis on adaptability and innovation.

“Immerse yourself in Michigan Tech’s vibrant campus life. Seize every chance to get involved in campus activities.”

Advice for incoming students, from Dr. Mazi Erfani

What do you like to do in your spare time?

My family activities include hiking, shopping, and watching movies and television series together. I also have a passion for music, particularly rock music. Another is travel. I’ve been able to discover and explore 26 different states within a mere four-year period here in the US!

Any advice for incoming students?

My primary advice is this: I firmly believe that with dedicated hard work, you have the potential to achieve anything you set your mind to. Beyond academics, I encourage you to immerse yourself in MTU’s vibrant campus life. Building a robust network of professors and fellow students can open doors to collaborations, mentorships, and friendships. While you are here, seize every chance to get involved in campus activities. Expand your horizons, and relish your rewarding journey at Michigan Tech!