My research works includes two interdisciplinary projects: the adoption of green infrastructure for stormwater management, and the use of systems-thinking to enhance engineering education.
What is green infrastructure and why is it becoming popular?
Green infrastructure technologies are designed to protect or restore the natural hydrology of a site, capturing stormwater volume through the use of soils, vegetation, and engineered systems that mimic nature. These new approaches can replace many traditional stormwater control projects through the use of innovations such as green roofs, rain gardens, wetlands and permeable pavement. In addition to reduced stormwater runoff, these technologies often have several co-benefits, such increasing ecosystem diversity in cities.
Onondaga County is required to reduce pollution to Onondaga Lake and its tributaries due to combined sewer overflows, which occur during rainstorms when too much stormwater enters the sewer system. In 2009, Onondaga County introduced the “Save the Rain” program, a comprehensive stormwater management plan intended to reduce pollution to Onondaga Lake and its tributaries.
All areas of the U.S. are exploring green infrastructure technologies for a variety of reasons, from reducing combined sewer overflows to harvesting runoff for potable water use. I am researching the factors that influence cities in the U.S. to adopt green infrastructure, in particular those that are dealing with combined sewer overflows like Onondaga County.
What improvements can be made to undergraduate engineering education?
I am also exploring the use of systems-thinking to enhance undergraduate engineering education. My research investigates how engineering students make sense of complex problems that require coordinating knowledge from multiple disciplines. For instance, I have developed various case-based teaching modules to assess how students can most effectively learn about the integration of stakeholder engagement processes within sustainable civil infrastructure system design.
One impediment to learning complex problem solving methods is the fact that many college level engineering students have gaps in their conceptual understanding of fundamental scientific and mathematical principles. The primary objective of my research is to identify opportunities to improve student learning in introductory engineering courses by correcting these misconceptions.