Academic Year 2021-22 Highlights

Making Waves has Never Been More Important

The National Science Foundation has awarded Oregon State University nearly $5 million to continue natural hazards engineering research at its renowned O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory.

“With this renewal, we’re looking forward to hosting more projects from researchers across the world,” said Dan Cox, professor of coastal and ocean engineering and the CH2M Hill Professor in Civil Engineering.

The wave lab is the largest near-shore experimental facility at an academic institution in the U.S. It features a large wave flume and a directional wave basin, both of which simulate waves from hurricanes and tsunamis, permitting a wide range of wave-impact testing on built and natural environments. The additional funding will enable the acquisition of advanced sensing technologies to assess stress, strain, load, and sediment transport resulting from various wave conditions.

“The renewal will help us take our game to an even higher level,” Cox said, “We’ll continue to have a big impact on graduate, undergraduate, and K-12 education, and we’re proud to be at the center of the coastal engineering universe.”

wave lab
osu faculty member

Turning Submarine Fiber-Optic Cables into Early Warning Systems

Funded by a $510,000 award from the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program, Meagan Wengrove, assistant professor of coastal and ocean engineering, is examining the possibility that a nascent technology called distributed acoustic sensing can serve as an early warning system for events such as tsunamis, sneaker waves, and internal waves — each one potentially powerful enough to threaten coastal communities and marine traffic.

To test the idea, Wengrove plans to send laser pulses down fiberoptic cables resting on the seabed and stretching up to 20 kilometers from shore.

“The light propagates quickly down each one because the cables are made of glass,” Wengrove said. “Any disturbance that deforms the fibers even the tiniest amount — such as a wave or movement of the sea floor — will change the characteristics of the way the laser returns to its source. We can then detect precisely in time and space where that change occurred and how large it was.”

In theory, real-time alerts could be automatically sent out to warn communities or seagoing vessels about the potential hazard.

Testing will be conducted at two locations. One is the 20-kilometer Oregon State PacWave cable used for wave energy research, which will be deployed off Newport, Oregon. The second will be a shorter fiber installed at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Field Research Facility near Duck, North Carolina.

“There’s no other type of sensor out there that can sample as quickly and at so many locations simultaneously, and the technology is improving every day,” Wengrove said.

Mass Timber for Modular Construction

Erica Fischer, assistant professor of structural engineering and the John & Jean Loosley Faculty Fellow, was awarded a Faculty Early Career Development, or CAREER, award from the National Science Foundation for her proposal to create new technologies for the mass timber modular construction of buildings. The building construction industry is primed for a major change to improve efficiency, she said, noting that construction has been done the same way for more than 100 years.

Woman posing smiling for a photo

LIDAR-Based Building Information Models

Oregon State researchers, led by Yelda Turkan, assistant professor of construction engineering and geomatics, are using deep learning algorithms to develop building information models, or BIMs, from lidar data.

Lidar, short for light detection and ranging, is a remote sensing method that collects detailed 3D measurements of objects and environments. But it is prohibitively expensive to manually convert those data into useful, digital information models. The team’s AI-based algorithms will enable modelers who convert the lidar data into BIMs to complete their work in hours instead of weeks, as it automatically segments, classifies, and extracts real-world features to create intelligent models for building design, energy management, renovation, and emergency planning.

The work, performed by construction, geomatics, and computer science researchers, is being funded by the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator program.

driving simulation

Passion for Public Service

Amy Wyman, a second-year doctoral student in civil engineering, was recently awarded a prestigious Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Transportation. “I love that civil engineering is dedicated to public service, and that I share that desire to be a public servant with many of my classmates,” Wyman said. Her current research focuses on human factors in transportation, with an emphasis on improving safety for pedestrians and bicycles on shared roadways.

New School Head

Robert L. Bertini recently took over as the head of the School of Civil and Construction Engineering.

Bertini comes to Oregon State’s College of Engineering from the University of South Florida, where he was the executive director of the Florida Center for Urban Transportation Research and professor of civil and environmental engineering.

His primary research interests are sustainable transportation solutions, traffic flow theory, intelligent transportation systems, multimodal transportation, and proactive traffic management and operations. Bertini’s research has generated more than $25 million in external funding over his 20-year academic career.

Bertini succeeds Jason Weiss, who will remain on the faculty as a professor and the Miles Lowell and Margaret Watt Edwards Distinguished Chair in Engineering

robert bertini

First Architectural Engineering Majors Earn Degrees

In June, the College of Engineering’s inaugural class of architectural engineering majors earned their bachelor’s degrees five students, plus one who received his diploma last fall. Another 75 students -- 40% of whom are women -- are enrolled in the popular program. The curriculum is the first of its kind in the Pacific Northwest and the second west of the Rockies. 

“I’m not surprised by the high number of students,” said Kevin Houser, professor of architectural engineering. “It’s a versatile, interdisciplinary major that offers many interesting career opportunities.

Its popularity is also due to its graduates’ understanding of the interactions between all of a building’s major systems, and having the ability to speak the languages of many constituents, including building owners and various subcontractors a skill set highly prized by engineering and construction firms.

kearney hall

Here Comes the Rain - and an Engineer with Solutions

Meghna Babbar-Sebens, associate professor of water resources engineering, and her team have built and tested a new field-scale prototype of stormwater treatment technologies. These systems, which may fundamentally change the way communities tackle stormwater runoff, are designed to treat the “soup” of contaminants in stormwater runoff, including nutrients, heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls, and other hazardous compounds that threaten drinking water quality and aquatic life.

“We’re innovating new, green stormwater technologies that leverage natural systems such as soil, microbes, and plants to improve the capacity and efficiency of stormwater infrastructure in urban areas,” Babbar-Sebens said.

Climate change and the ever-increasing intensity of human activities in urban spaces have created stormwater problems worldwide, including more flooding and deteriorating water quality, she explained.

At the OSU-Benton County Green Stormwater Infrastructure Research Facility in Corvallis, Babbar-Sebens assisted at every step by engineering graduate students Alisha Saduova and Jacqueline Wells, and research scientist Sammy Rivera constructed a hybrid treatment “train” that combines natural and engineered sorbents to reduce threats from multiple stormwater-borne toxicants.

Preliminary findings are encouraging, according to Babbar-Sebens, who expects the research to help urban municipalities implement stormwater control measures that are capable of simultaneously treating several contaminants.

Babbar-Sebens’ work also took her to India during her 2019-2020 sabbatical. She and colleagues from Oregon State and India investigated how hydroinformatics technologies can assist rural farmers to better monitor and manage the impacts of drought caused by climate change. Her team intends to enable farmers and rural communities to use low-cost, data-driven technologies that empower them to better manage water infrastructure, improve long-term water resource management, and decrease their vulnerability to droughts.

New Hires

Pavan Akula

Pavan Akula


Infrastructure Materials


Pavan Akula joins the faculty this fall as assistant professor of infrastructure materials. He received his doctorate from Texas A&M University. His research interests center on characterization and modeling of infrastructure materials, with a focus on developing computational geochemistry models to evaluate the durability materials such as stabilized soils and sustainable cement. Prior to Oregon State, he was a postdoctoral research associate in the Texas Engineering Experiment Station at Texas A&M, working in the Advanced Characterization of Infrastructure Materials lab.


parichehr salimifard

Parichehr Salimifard


Architectural Engineering


Parichehr Salimifard joins the faculty this fall as assistant professor of architectural engineering. She received her doctorate from Penn State. She focuses on investigating the energy savings, emissions reductions, and health and climate co-benefits of improving the sustainability of built environments. Prior to Oregon State, she was a postdoctoral research associate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, working in the Healthy Buildings Program.