Senol Utku Award

For the best pre-Ph.D. peer-reviewed journal papers

Senol Utku

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering invites current CEE graduate students to compete for the Professor Senol Utku Annual Award for best pre-Ph.D. peer-reviewed journal papers.

The competition rewards the graduate student/faculty adviser team for intellectual excellence, creativity and highest quality work. The award promotes early writing of research articles among graduate students.

This award is dedicated to Senol Utku for his exemplary academic achievements and service to this department between 1970 and 2002.

Award Program Details


Highest distinction: $300
High distinction: $150 and $150


The submission deadline is 5 p.m. ET, Feb. 2.

How to Submit

To be considered, please submit:

  • Four (4) copies of a pre-Ph.D. peer-reviewed journal paper that has been published or accepted for publication between Jan. 31 of the past year and Jan. 31 of the current year
  • A dated letter of acceptance from the journal
  • A recommendation letter from the student's faculty adviser assessing: the contribution of the student to the paper, the predicted impact of the paper, its originality, and the quality of the journal

The submission deadline is 5 p.m. ET, Feb. 2.

Send submissions to Director of Graduate Studies John Dolbow,, or Box 90287 in the CEE Department Office.

Review Process

  • The annual award budget is $600
  • The prizes are awarded by committee, which may decide on a different monetary award distribution yearly, or award none.
  • The committee will be an ad hoc Prof. Utku Award Committee of three faculty, selected each year at a faculty meeting after the submission of papers is known to avoid conflict of interest
  • The winners will present their papers in CEE Graduate Student Seminars



Highest Distinction

Sara Bonetti

Adviser: Amilcare Porporato
"On the Dynamic Smoothing of Mountains"
Geophys. Res. Lett., 44, DOI: 10.1002/2017GL073095

High Distinction

Malar Arulraj

Adviser: Ana Barros
"Shallow Precipitation Detection and Classification Using Multifrequency Radar Observations and Model Simulations"
J. Atmos. Ocean. Tech., DOI: 10.1175/JTECH-D-17-0060.1

Trisha Dupnock
Adviser: Marc Deshusses
"High-Performance Biogas Upgrading Using a Biotrickling Filter and Hydrogenotrophic Methanogens"
Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology, 183:488-502. DOI: 10.1007/s12010-017-2569-2



Highest Distinction

  • Lauren Lowman (adviser Ana Barros): "Interplay of Drought and Tropical Cyclone Activity in SE U.S. Gross Primary Productivity." Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
  • Andrew Stershic (adviser John Dolbow, with N. Moes): "The Thick Level-Set Model for Dynamic Fragmentation." Engineering Fracture Mechanics. 172, 39-60. (2017)
  • Ross Taggart (co-authors Ross K. Taggart, James C. Hower, Gary S. Dwyer, and Heileen Hsu-Kim): "Trends in the Rare Earth Element Content of U.S.-Based Coal Combustion Fly Ashes."


Highest Distinction

  • Osman Karatum (adviser Desiree Plata) "Flexible, Mechanically Durable Aerogel Composites for Oil Capture and Recovery." Applied Materials and Interfaces.
  • Norman Pelak (adviser Amilcare Porporato) "Bistable Plant-Soil Dynamics and Biogenic Controls on the Soil Production Function." Earth Surface Processes and Landforms.


Highest distinction

  • Curtis Lee (adviser John Dolbow, with Peter J. Mucha) (2014) “A narrow-band gradient-augmented level set method for multiphase incompressible flow.” Journal of Computation Physics. 273, 12-37.
  • Anna Wilson (adviser Ana P. Barros) (2014) “An Investigation of Warm Rainfall Microphysics in the Southern Appalachians: Orographic Enhancement via Low-Level Seeder–Feeder Interactions.” Journal of Atmospheric Sciences. 71, 1783-1805.


Highest distinction

  • Chandrasekhar Annavarapu (adviser John Dolbow, with M. Hautefeuille), for  “A Robust Nitsche’s Formulation for Interface Problems.”  Computational Methods Applied Mechanical Engineering. 225-228, 44-54. (2012)
  • Xue Feng (adviser Amilcare Porporato, with G. Vico), for “On the Effects of Seasonality on Water Balance and Plant Growth.”  Water Resources Research, 48, 1-12 (2012)


Highest Distinction

  • Ian Cassidy (adviser Henri Gavin)

High Distinction

  • Tong Zhang (adviser Helen Hsu-Kim)
  • Andreas Gondikas (adviser Helen Hsu-Kim)


Highest Distinction

  • Tong Zhang (with Helen Hsu-Kim) for “Photolytic degradation of Methylmercury Enhanced by Binding to Natural Organic Ligands”  Nature Geoscience, 3(7), 473-476

High Distinction

  • David Jassby (with Mark Wiesner), for “Characterization of ZnS Nanoparticle Aggregation Using Photoluminescence,” Langmuir, in press.


Highest Distinction

  • Jing Huang (adviser John Albertson) for “Analysis of Coherent Structures within the Atmospheric Boundary Layer”

High Distinction

  • Amrika Deonarine (adviser Helen Hsu-Kim) for “Precipitation of Mercuric Sulfide Nanoparticles in NOM-Containing Water:  Implications for the Natural  Environment”
  • Rawad Saleh (adviser Andrey Khlystov) for “Determination of Evaporation Coefficients of Semi-Volatile Organic Aerosols Using an Integrated Volume-Tandem Differential Mobility Analysis Method”


Highest Distinction2009 Utku Award Winners

  • James Rigby and A. Porporato: “Spring Frost Risk in a Changing Climate,” journal - Geophysical Research Letters (May 2, 2008) 

High Distinction

  • Zachary Hendren  J. Brant and M.Wiesner: “Surface Modification of Nanostructured Ceramic Membranes for Direct Contact Membrane Distillation”, Journal of Membrane Science (November 2008) JMS-081126R1
  • Jessica Sanders  J. Dolbow and T. Laursen: “On Methods for Stabilizing Constraints over Enriched Interfaces in Elasticity” International Journal for Numerical Methods in Engineering (2008) NME 2514


From left, Stefano Manzoni, Shuyi Wang and Liangbo HuHighest Distinction

  • Liangbo Hu and T. Hueckel: “Coupled Chemo-Mechanics- of Intergranular Contact: Towards a Three Scale Model,” Computers and Geotechnics (2007) 34, 4, 306-327

High Distinction

  • Stefano Manzoni A. Porporato and J.P. Schimel: “Soil Heterogeneity in Lumped Mineralization-Immobilization Models”, Soil Biology & Biochemistry (2008) 40, 5, 1137 - 1148
  • Shuyi Wang R.M. Holzem and C. Gunsch: “Effects of Pharmaceutically Active Compounds on a Mixed Microbial Community Originating from Wastewater Treatment Plant” Environmental Science and Technology (2008) 42(4); 1091-1095


  • 2007 Senol Utku Winners, Darren Drewry, Stefano Manzoni and Gil BohrerStefano Manzoni & Amilcare Porporato for "A theoretical analysis of nonlinearities and feedbacks in soil carbon and nitrogen cycles" in Journal of Soil Biology & Biochemistry
  • Gil Bohrer, M. Wolosin, R. Brady & R. Avissar for "A virtual canopy generator (V-CaGe) for modeling complex heterogeneous forest canopies at high resolution" in Tellus
  • Darren Drewry & J. Albertson for "Diagnosing model error in canopy-atmosphere exchange using empirical orthogonal function analysis" in Water Resources Research