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Duke CEE 2021 Digital Magazine

2020-2021 Research Awards

December 9, 2021

Eight significant new awards for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering will support research in sustainability, resilience and human health

illustration of solar panel1. Mike Bergin: Building Air Quality Infrastructure in South Asia

Professor Mike Bergin will lead a three-year, $2 million grant from the United States Department of State to create air quality sensor networks and research programs in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The project’s goal is to improve air quality and human health throughout the region by partnering with local governmental and private sector partners to improve air quality monitoring and public awareness. The project will build on a network of longtime collaborators from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur, and bring together many new collaborations with industry, governmental and non-governmental organizations and universities across South Asia.

2. Mark Borsuk: Building Community Resilience to Natural Disaster-driven Contaminant Exposures 
illustration of a thundercloud and lightning bolt

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illustration of turbulent air flow3. Andrew Bragg: Sheared Stratified Turbulence

A five-year, $500,000 award from the NSF will support Andrew Bragg’s research into the basic physics of stratified turbulent flows, including the role played by internal waves in generating and distorting turbulence, the mechanisms governing the exchange of kinetic and potential energy between different scales in the flow, and the processes that lead to extreme fluctuations.


illustration of a brain superimposed on computer screen4. Carlson, David and Kafui Dzirasa (Psychiatry and Neurobiology): Multiregional Electrical Encoding of Social Aggression

The National Institutes of Mental Health has awarded $3M to Duke researchers whose goal is to leverage machine learning to discover and validate an explainable model for neuropsychiatric disorders. Carlson and Dzirasa have previously used these technologies to better describe how environmental pollution impacts the developing brain—including the effects of poor air quality in an animal model of autism.


Illustration of beaker 5. Marc Deshusses: Supercritical Water Oxidation for PFAS Destruction

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6. Andrew Jones: Co-existing with Bacteria in Biofilms illustration of hand holding a petri dish

The National Institutes of Health has awarded Andrew Jones $2M over five years to better understand how bacteria are fixed to surfaces including food processing equipment (and food itself) and how they react to antibiotics and antiseptics in changing environmental conditions. Bacterial infections cause more than 80,000 deaths in the U.S. every year, and Jones is seeking to translate his research into practical knowledge for clinicians and food and beverage manufacturers.

illustration of cracked earth7. Manolis Veveakis: Modeling Geohazards

A five-year, $580,000 NSF award will support Veveakis’s ambitious goal of developing an entirely new framework for modeling large-scale geological hazards. By developing a deep understanding of how various small-scale phenomena such as micro-fracturing, chemical alterations and phase transitions dissipate energy, Veveakis aims to be able to understand large-scale disasters such as sinkholes, landslides and earthquakes. 

8. Mark Wiesner: Advancing International Efforts to Develop Sustainable Materials
illustration of molecule

Building on global research collaborations developed over a decade by the Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology (CEINT), Mark Wiesner will now lead an NSF program called the International Network for Researching, Advancing, and Assessing Materials for Environmental Sustainability, or INFRAMES. The new five-year, $1.6 million program teams the leaders of CEINT with other US and international partners to create a “network of networks” to address questions about the environmental impacts of novel materials.