2008 Senol Utku Award Winners

April 28, 2008

2008 Senol Utku Award winners.To encourage pre-PhD students to publish early their research results, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) evaluates peer-reviewed journal articles written by pre-PhD students and selects those of distinction for the Professor Senol Utku Award. This year, the winners are, from left, Stefano Manzoni, Shuyi Wang and Liangbo Hu.

The award is named after Utku, a professor emeritus in the CEE department who is known for his contributions if the dynamics of structures, structural optimization and adaptive structures. He served on the Duke faculty from 1970 to 2002.

Hu’s paper received highest distinction, while high distinction was bestowed on the papers of Manzoni and Wang.

Hu, a native of China, worked in the laboratory of Tomasz Hueckel studying the mechanical properties of soils and rocks. Specifically, he studied an interaction between mechanical damage and chemical reaction at the point of contact between two mineral grains. Such interactions affect subsidence of undersea sediments undergoing pumping of water, oil or gas. The results of his study would appear to indicate that there may be less subsidence than previously appreciated, and that pumping could be more efficient, yet in an environmentally friendly manner.

His paper, entitled “Coupled Chemo-Mechanics of Intergranular Contact: Towards a Three Scale Model,” was published in 2007 in the journal Computers and Geotechnics.

Manzoni, a native of Italy, is interested in the role of nitrogen in the environment and how it responds to such climatic variables as rain and temperature. Working with faculty member Amilcare Porporato, Manzoni developed a mathematical model describing how nitrogen moves throughout soil. The model can be used to estimate how much inorganic nitrogen is produced during decomposition in agricultural soil in order to determine optimum fertilizer needs.

His paper, entitled “Soil Heterogeneity in Lumped Mineralization-Immobilization Models,” was published this year in the journal Soil Biology & Biochemistry. He also received an Utku Award in 2007.

Wang, a native of China, has been working in the laboratory of Claudia Gunsch assessing the levels of certain pharmaceutical agents in the water supply. Using a bioreactor system that mimicked current conventional water treatment facilities, she measured the levels of four agents – ketoprofen, naproxen, carbamazepine and clofibric acid – and found that considerable levels of these agents remained even after treatment.

The journal Environmental Science and Technology published her paper, entitled “Effects of Pharmaceutically Active Compounds on a Mixed Microbial Community Originating from Wastewater Treatment Plant,” this year.