SURF 2018: Research Topics

Clean Water

  • Antibiotic Resistance from Wastewater to Agricultural Soils and Food Crops | Tala Navab-Daneshmand
    • To determine the impact of wastewater irrigation and biosolids land application on the prevalence and persistence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in agricultural soils and food crops. 
  • Enabling the use of Cellulosic Nanomaterials as a Biopolymer to Remove Turbidity from Water Prior to Treatment | Stacey Harper
    • Cellulose nanocrystals and cellulose nanofibers offer a cheap and renewable resource for water filtration and remediation. Both will be investigated and optimized for applications in the removal of particulates and their potential for simultaneous water contaminant remediation. 
  • Encapsulation of Bacteria for the Bioremediation of Groundwater Contaminated with the Emerging Contaminant 1,4-Dioxane | Lewis Semprini
    • The student will work on a project where pure cultures of bacteria will be encapsulated in hydrogels to promote the bioremediation of 1,4-dioxane and mixtures of chlorinated solvents that are common groundwater contaminants.  The bioremediation is promoted by a process called cometabolism, where the bacteria grow on a substrate to produce specific enzymes that initiate the oxidation of the contaminants of interest.   During the summer internship, the student will work with graduate students that investigating the encapsulation method and are testing the hydrogels in batch microcosms with aquifer sediments and groundwater from a contaminated site.
  • Evaluating Commercial Sorbents for Stormwater Treatment | Mentors: Tyler Radniecki and Meghna Babbar-Sebens
    • Stormwater is the biggest source of near shore contamination in the United States and is a significant source of heavy metal (e.g. zinc and copper), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination. The use of best management practices (BMPs), such as bioswales and rain gardens, are gaining in popularity to remove contaminants from stormwater, although their effectiveness remains unclear. Sorbents, including activated carbon and biochar, are also gaining in popularity for stormwater treatment serving as a stand-alone treatment system or in combination with other BMPs. Working closely with a team of OSU researchers, the student will examine the effectiveness of a variety of soils and commercially available sorbents to remove heavy metals, PCBs and PFAS from stormwater. The student will develop sorption isotherms to generate modeling parameters and will identify what compounds within the stormwater have the greatest effect on contaminant removal.
  • Evaluation of the Ability of Nitrifying Bacteria to Transform Methane to Methanol using Anaerobic Digester Supernatant as an Ammonia Source | Mark Dolan
    • In this research, student will help conduct batch experiments designed to determine the ability of nitrifying microbial populations to use the excess ammonia and methane streams produced in typical wastewater treatment plants to produce methanol. The process would make use of waste ammonia that would otherwise need to be treated before discharge and would convert methane produced from the anaerobic treatment of settled solids to a useful product with sufficient energy density to store and transport. The work would involve preparing growth media, culturing nitrifying bacteria and conducting analyses such as measuring dissolved oxygen, pH, nitrate, and methanol. Student must have basic laboratory skills.
  • Examining the Role of Natural Organic Matter in Controlling the Environmental Fate and Behavior of Metals and Engineered Nanoparticles in Aquatic Systems | Jeffrey Nason
    • Natural organic matter (NOM) is a term used to describe a complex mixture of macromolecules present in natural systems. These compounds, formed through the decay of plant matter or produced by microorganisms, are extremely important in many aspects of water quality control. This project will focus on the collection and characterization of NOM from different sources as well as examinations of its interactions (e.g., chemical complexation, adsorption) with contaminants of interest including heavy metals and engineered nanoparticles. 
  • Generation of a Contaminant “Heat Map” in a Stormwater Rain Garden | Mentors: Meghna Babbar-Sebens and Tyler Radniecki
    • Stormwater is the biggest source of near shore contamination in the United States and is a significant source of heavy metal (e.g. zinc and copper), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination. The use of best management practices (BMPs), such as bioswales and rain gardens, are gaining in popularity to remove contaminants from stormwater, although their effectiveness remains unclear. The OSU-Benton County Green Stormwater Infrastructure Research (OGSIR) Facility – an Oregon BEST Lab was constructed in 2014 to serve as a long-term research facility to determine the effectiveness of traditional rain gardens to remove stormwater contaminants. Over the past three years, numerous studies have been conducted in the OGSIR Facility examining the removal of stormwater contaminants. However, to date, there has not been a detailed spatial examination of where those contaminants have accumulated within the system. Working closely with a team of OSU researchers, the student will create a 3-dimensional contaminant “heat map” by quantify nitrogen, phosphorus, heavy metals, PCBs and PFAS over the width, length and depth of the OGSIR Facility. Additionally, the student will dissect OGSIR Facility plants to quantify contaminant build up in the roots, stems and leaves of various plant species.

Infastructure Renewal

  • Applied Video Gaming: Infrastructure Asset Management with Mobile Lidar | Mentors: Michael Olsen and Ben Leshchinsky
    • The student will work on extracting features from mobile lidar point clouds for asset management purposes. They will also test several data processing algorithms to evaluate their capabilities and limitations. They will organize these datasets into a database. 
  • Utilizing Embedded Sensors to Predict the Service Life of the Concrete Infrastructure | Mentor: Jason Weiss
    • This project will develop a methodology to utilize data from embedded sensors to predict the service life performance of concrete pavement and bridge deck elements. Specifically, this work will gather data and utilize data from construction projects across the country to develop modeling inputs. These inputs will be used in a service like prediction model that has recently been developed and adopted by the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials. It anticipated that the results from this study will help to shape the national standards currently being developed as a part of the performance engineered mixtures program. 


  • Agent-based Tsunami Evacuation Modeling (ABTEM): Agents’ Probabilistic Decision-Making and Interactive Behaviors | Mentor: Haizhong Wang
    • The goal of this project is to build on the existing agent-based tsunami evacuation modeling (ABTEM) platforms by enabling the agent-to-agent interactions. The agent-to-agent interactions are at levels: psychologically and physically. At the psychological level, one agent’s decision is socially influenced by the agent’s family, friends, and networks in probabilistic manner. At the physical level, an agent’s movement follows a modified social force model. The resulting agents behavior in the ABTEM will be stochastic in nature with validation from evacuation drill data. 
  • Evaluating the Impact of Post Disaster Public Behavior on Emergency Management | Mentors: Erica Fischer and Sal Hernandez
    • Emergency response to disasters requires complex multi-organizational networks at different levels of government to work together and assist the public. This emergency response assumes a certain behavior of the public in response to the disaster; however, communication to the public on their response to the disaster is a missing link to ensure efficiency and maximum functionality of the emergency response network. The goals of this study are to test three hypotheses with the aim of identifying vulnerabilities at the interface of the public and emergency response networks, and identify methods to address these vulnerabilities to decrease the cost and time of recovery for an area after a disaster. We expect that the methodology developed for this study will be applicable to cities of different size classifications in the United States.
  • Evaluation of Beam-Column Plasticity Models for the Seismic Response of Buildings | Michael Scott
    • Assessing the collapse potential of buildings after a severe earthquake relies heavily on simulation models of the building response. There are several finite element formulations for simulating the response of beam and column members in frame structures. This project will evaluate distributed and concentrated plasticity formulations for material yielding and damage in frame structures, including both established and recently developed numerical formulations.
  • Improving the Understanding of the Mechanical Response of Transitional Soils | Mentors: T. Matt Evans and Armin Stuedlein
    • Geotechnical engineering education and practice has traditionally been simplified by considering two main soil types: drained sands and undrained clays. Design methodologies for nearly all geotechnical systems have developed along these two distinct lines. However, many natural soil deposits do not fit neatly into these simple categories, and the engineering behavior of these transitional soils is far less understood. This study aims to answer pertinent, outstanding questions concerning the response of transitional soils, including their monotonic and cyclic behavior in the field and laboratory.
  • Post-Earthquake and Tsunami Recovery Modeling for a Coastal Community | Dan Cox and Andre Barbosa
    • Several earthquakes and tsunamis have occurred in Japan, Chile, and the Indian Ocean in the past decade. These produced catastrophic damage and losses to coastal communities, creating challenges towards recovery of the communities following these events. In this research, a methodology for modeling the recovery of a given community following an extreme event is presented, combining both earthquake and tsunami hazards. Given the hazards, which have been computed by the group in previous SURF programs, the first step in this methodology is known as the damage assessment. The damage assessment makes use of fragility functions to estimate damage to the community based on consistently generated intensity measures of ground shaking and tsunami hazards. The second step includes the estimation of direct and indirect losses, including deaths, downtime, and dollars. Lastly, the recovery modeling allows for the prediction of the recovery path and for the sensitivity study of the main contributors to a faster recovery of the community. A coastal community in the Pacific Northwest of the United States will be selected as a case study.
  • Probabilistic Seismic and Tsunami Hazard and Damage Assessment: Focusing on Lifeline Infrastructure on the Oregon Coast | Dan Cox
    • For this project, the SURF student will investigate the interdependencies of the lifeline infrastructure — roads and bridges; water networks, electric power networks, and communication systems — and how these systems perform during a M9 Cascadia Subduction Zone event. The project will be conducted using the Clatsop county and will integrate hazards from seismic ground motion, landslides, and tsunami.
  • Resilient Seismic Design of Cross-Laminated Timber Buildings | Andre Barbosa 
    • A series of shake table tests on a full-scale two-story mass timber building was conducted at the NHERI@UC San Diego outdoor shake table in 2017. The test program included two phases of testing with different rocking wall systems, namely a post-tensioned rocking wall system that was designed to sustain minimum damage during large earthquakes, and a non-post-tensioned rocking wall with replaceable components for easy repair. A total of 27 seismic tests were conducted, with the intensities of the input ground motions ranging from service level earthquakes to maximum considered earthquake events. The results from the shake table tests indicated that the rocking wall systems tested were able to achieve the performance expectations consistent with a resilient design as there was minimal damage after a series of high intensity excitations. Following these tests, several small component tests are being performed to develop an understanding of the component modeling. The student involved in this research will aid in laboratory testing and modeling of component testing performed.
  • Splish Splash, Slide: Quantifying Ocean Wave Impacts on Coastal Bluffs Using Geophones | Mentors: Michael Olsen and Ben Leshchinsky
    • This project will entail setting up geo-phones at instrumented field sites along the Oregon Coast to record high frequency data on incoming ocean waves. The SURF student will explore and analyze this data to look for signals of wave impacts on the bluff and test different techniques to remove noise from other sources such as passing vehicles. They will also correlate it with observed wave information recorded by offshore buoys. They will also help collect ground-based lidar surveys at these coastal sites. 

SURF: Past Projects

Learn more about clean water engineering at Oregon State and view videos on research in resilience and infrastructure renewal. 

2018 SURF Program