Graduation with Departmental Distinction

Students who want to graduate with Departmental Distinction (GwDD) within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering conduct supervised research through independent study courses and present the results of their research and study in both written and oral forms to the department's Awards and Honors Committee.


To be eligible for graduation with departmental distinction, a candidate needs to have a 3.500 or higher GPA and complete at least one (1) unit of independent study, supervised by at least one of the CEE faculty, culminating in a written report. In addition, students must present their research project orally to an audience of faculty and students.

Students interested in the Graduation with Department Distinction honor are encouraged to approach faculty members to discuss independent study opportunities. For ideas, review the department's faculty research interests as many independent study projects come from faculty's already funded research and interests.

Independent study courses:

  • CEE 491(197)/492(198). Projects in Civil Engineering. These courses may be taken by junior and senior engineering students who have demonstrated aptitude for independent work. Consent of instructor and director of undergraduate studies required. Half course or one course each. Instructor: Staff.
  • CEE 394(172)/493(173)/494(174). Engineering Undergraduate Fellows Projects. Intensive research project in Civil and Environmental Engineering by students selected as Engineering Undergraduate Fellows.  Consent of instructor and program director required. Instructor: Staff. One course.

The latter set of independent study courses are for students in the Pratt Fellows Program, which is an intensive research program consisting of three (3) units of independent study as well as 8 weeks of research during the summer between the junior and senior years. Applications for selection to the program are due in the fall of the Junior year.


The Awards and Honors Committee, through its Graduation with Departmental Distinction coordinator, will send each student enrolled in the Graduation with Departmental Distinction Program a letter at the beginning of the Fall term to include:

  • a copy of the GwDD Protocol
  • advisability of conducting the research in two terms, with a minimum ½ course load per term,
  • the standards for the presentations and the written-works, and the importance of the initial course description prepared by the student and the course instructor (submitted to the Director of Undergraduate Studies).

Students enrolled in the GwDD program should provide a one-page progress report in early March to the GwDD Coordinator with a note from their Advisor that the project is advanced enough to yield a work deserving of Distinction.

The Committee meets immediately after the oral presentations and assesses each of the written reports and oral presentations. The Committee reports to the Director of Undergraduate Students the names of the students eligible for Graduation with Departmental Distinction based on the Committee's judgment of their written and orally presented work. The Committee also identifies the name of the student deemed to have demonstrated the highest excellence in independent study as demonstrated by the professionalism of their written or orally presented work; this student is awarded the Eric Pas Award.


The GwDD coordinator must receive the following materials two days prior to the oral presentation, by 5pm---with presentation generally on a Friday this would mean that the materials noted below would be due by 5pm of the previous Wednesday. If a student desires the Committee to preview their paper and receive comments in return then the paper should be submitted to the GwDD coordinator at least one week in advance of the oral presentation.

  • an electronic copy of the final written-work (in either .docx or .pdf format),
  • digital photo(s) of the student working in the lab, at a field site, working at the computer, etc. which is(are) suitable to publishing to a website (optional)

The written report needs to be prepared according to the Protocol and following ASCE journal publication requirements. In general, the written-work may not be less than 8 nor more than 12 pages of single spaced 10- or 12-pitch typed text including nomenclatures, figures, tables, appendices, and references, and it should be prepared as a photograph-ready manuscript for conference proceedings. However, in experimental, architectural, and other similar works the length and format may be as defined by the course instructor.

Each report is evaluated by the Committee on the basis of correctness, neatness, conciseness, clarity, rigor, and depth.


Each student will have 15 minutes for his/her presentation followed by 5 minutes of questions. The speakers are expected to prepare their slides according to professional standards. The length of the presentation should be strictly observed.

The Committee evaluates the presentation on the basis of clarity, conciseness, and effectiveness.

Historically, oral presentations are scheduled on the last Friday of the Spring term. The presentations are advertised to the department, and typically ordered alphabetically by the family names.

Eric Pas Award

The most outstanding independent study project, as judged by the Awards and Honors Committee, is bestowed the Eric I. Pas Award.

Students and Their Research

Recent graduates of our program who have earned the honor of Graduation with Departmental Distinction are listed below together with the title of their independent study project.


Jack King
Optimizing the Leaching Step in Rare Earth Elements Recovery from Coal Combustion Residues
Advisor: H. Hsu-Kim

Eunice Leung
Improving Consolidation of Concrete with Large Aggregates in Columns Integrated with Masonry Wall for Structures in Developing Countries
Advisor: J. Nadeau


Mona Dai
Optimization of Ceramic Water Filters for Potable Water Purification in Rural Communities
Advisor: D. Schaad

Stephanie Laughton
Enhanced Biogas Production from Nanoscale Zero Valent Iron-Amended Anaerobic Bioreactors
Advisor: M. Wiesner

Mahkayla McKenzie
Pore-Scale Pollutant Transport
Advisor: Z. Kabala

Clay Sanders
Inverse Problem Optimization of One-Dimensional Viscoelastic Materials for Wave Absorption Properties
Advisor: W. Aquino


Natalie Cybriwsky
Evaluating the Benefits of Green Roofs for Stormwater Management in Durham, NC
Advisor: D. Schaad

Robert Plybon
Biogas Sweetening in Biotrickling Filters: Investigation of Unclogging Mechanisms and Oxygenation via Hydrogen Peroxide
Advisor: M. Deshusses


Grace Cambareri
Blue Devil's Basin: An Integrated Constructed Wetland Model to Enhance Water Quality and Campus Stormwater Knowledge
Advisors: D. Schaad, S. Schauman

Hunter Douglas
Effects of Rain Event Characteristics on Roof Runoff Quality
Advisor: J. Nadeau

Christine Larson
Design of Open Channel System for Stormwater Control in Tola, Nicaragua
Advisor: D. Schaad

Kathryn Lathan
The Use of Algae to Treat Greywater and as a Feedstock for Biofuels
Advisor: C. Gunsch

Kala Viswanathan
Optimization of the Waste to Energy System at the Loyd Ray Farms in Yadkinville, North Carolina
Advisor: D. Schaad


Amy Allen
Dynamics and Control of Deepwater Offshore Wind Turbines
Advisor: H. Gavin

Maria Gibbs
Vibration Mitigation in Structural Cables with Broad Band Energy Harvesting Potential
Advisor: B. Mann

William Mackebee
Speciation and Release of Selenium in Coal Ash from the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant
Advisor: H. Hsu-Kim

Tyler Rohr
Modeling Biomass Production and Carbon Cycling in Seasonally Dry Ecosystems
Advisor: A. Porporato

Aaron Schroeder
Simulation of Friction Effects on Base-Isolated Structures
Advisor: H. Gavin

Lauren Shwisberg
Laboratory Study of Circulation and Residence Time in Coral Colonies
Advisor: J. Hench

Billy Wang
Economization of Gravity Load Resisting System for Buildings
Advisor: J. Nadeau

Craig Wasilewsky
Engineering Design and Analysis of Tensegrity Structures
Advisor: J. Scruggs


Andrew Harris
Bridge Design Optimization Tool for Bridges to Prosperity
Advisor: J. Nadeau

Matthew Wander
Formulation, Structure, and Analysis of a Model to Optimize Staffing Levels at Border Checkpoints
Advisor: J. Peirce


Margaret Hoff
Chemical Cocktail and Density Driven Distribution: An Examination of the Groundwater Impacts and Remedial Effectiveness at the NCSU NPL Site
Advisor: D. Schaad

Jordan Woodson
Object Oriented Modeling for Urban Planning
Advisor: A. Barros


Samantha Beardsley
Water Conveyance and Treatment System Design for Medical Clinic in Las Mercedes, Honduras
Advisors: D. Schaad, M. Fleming

Alexander Brhem
Geoengineering Climate Change
Advisor: Z. Kabala

Scott Harvey
Mixed-Type Boundary Value Problems for Aquifer Characterization
Advisor: Z. Kabala

Aaron Lee
Photoheterotrophic and Mixotrophic Growth Characterization of Microalgae for Biodiesel Production
Advisor: C. Gunsch

Chloe Mawer
Transient Pumping Schemes for Efficient Remediation of Contaminated Porous Media
Advisor: Z. Kabala

Nicholas Millar
A Sensitivity Analysis of GEOTOP in Modeling the Effects of Climate Change on Dripsey, an Irish Watershed
Advisor: J. Albertson

Lindsay Rawot
Preparing for WATERS: Engaging Middle School Science Students in Environmental Engineering
Advisor: J. Peirce

Jessica Toy
Water Transfer Optimization in the North Carolina Research Triangle
Advisor: J. Peirce

Lauren Wessel
Comparative Toxicity of C60 Aggregates
Advisor: M. Wiesner


Ian Cassidy
Implementation of Controllable Electromagnetic Friction Damping in an Equipment Isolation System
Advisor: H. Gavin

Elizabeth Crabtree
Investigating Flaw Evolution in Stimulus Responsive Hydrogels
Advisors: J. Dolbow, D. Stepp

Steven Lattanzio
WEAVE: Web-Based Educational Framework for Analysis, Visualization, and Experimentation
Advisor: H. Gavin

Lee Pearson
Towards a Life Cycle Assessment of Algal Biodiesel as a US Transportation Fuel Stock
Advisor: C. Gunsch

Cleland Robertson
Magnetorheological Squeeze-Film Damper Design and Testing
Advisor: H. Gavin


Nicole Axelrod
Performance Limits of Passively-Damped Ball-in-Cone Isolation Systems
Advisor: H. Gavin

Bibek Joshi
Solar Water Disinfection Using Lead Extracts and Lemon Juice
Advisor: K. Linden


Jean Foster
Investigation of Plasmids in Biological Wastewater Treatment
Advisor: A. Schuler

Sara Oliver
Experimental and Theoretical Analysis of Microslip
Advisor: T. Laursen

Serdar Selamet
Design of Intrinsic Mechanisms in Structures Absorbing a Thermal Shock to Deal with Structural Implications of the September 11 Collapse of WTC Towers
Advisor: T. Hueckel

Robert Tipton
Biomass Allocation in Crown Structures of Southern Pine Species
Advisor: J. Nadeau

Siu Chung Yau
Higher Order Limit State Functions in the Response Surface Method of Structural Reliability Analysis
Advisor: H. Gavin


Deirdre McShane
Pre-buckled Struts as a Vibration Isolator
Advisor: L. Virgin

Justin M. Shapiro
Nitric Oxide Emissions as an Indicator of Hydrocarbon Contamination in Soils
Advisor: J. Peirce

Daniel Stepner
Wetlands Hydrologic and Water Quality Modeling
Advisor: M. Medina

Victor K. Victorsson
Structural Reliability Analysis
Advisor: H. Gavin


Noor N. Atari
WEAVE: Web-based Educational Framework for Analysis, Visualization, and Experimentation
Advisor: H. Gavin

Jennifer M. Axtell
Cable Vibrations in Cable-Stayed Bridges
Advisor: H. Petroski

Lauren D. Kickham
Dynamics of a Bouncing Ball
Advisor: L. Virgin

Trevor B. Yates
Detecting Landmines of Different Materials in Varying Soil Types using Non-Invasive Geophysical Electrical Methods
Advisor: F. Boadu


Alissa J. Jones
An Optimization and Comparison of Internally- and Externally-Valved Magnetorheological Dampers
Advisor: H. Gavin

Deborah A. Seibold
UV Degradation of Atrazine
Advisor: K. Linden


Kimberly A. Novick
Assessing the Effects of Elevated Atmospheric CO2 and LAI Perturbations on Southeastern Grassland Water Vapor and CO2 Fluxes
Advisor: G. Katul

Jesse B. Hoagg
Semiactive Vibration Control Using a Magnetorheological Damper
Advisor: H. Gavin


Mark E. Dobossy
Design Optimization of MR Damper
Advisor: H. Gavin


Alissa Kendall
Analysis of the Spectral Response of Contaminated Soils with Varied Engineering Soil Properties
Advisor: F. Boadu

Lauren K. MacWilliams
Evolution and Evaluation of the Coliform Drinking Water Standard
Advisor: R. Rumer

Adam G. Steward
Analysis of the Frequency-Dependent Spectral Electrical Response of Contaminated Soils
Advisor: F. Boadu