Nation's Highways and Environment Will Benefit from ,000 Grant to WPI

Contact: WPI Media & Community Relations

WORCESTER, Mass. - Repairing America's ailing infrastructure and improving the quality of its rivers, streams and reservoirs are the goals of two research centers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute that recently received an award of $500,000 from the W.M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles. The grant will provide the facilities the centers need to become nationally recognized leaders in the vital task of rehabilitating highway and environmental infrastructure, including roads, bridges, mass transit systems, and systems that supply and manage drinking water, wastewater, solid waste and hazardous waste.

The grant benefits WPI's civil and environmental engineering program. "This leadership gift will bring WPI to a new level in our ability to provide civil and environmental engineering education and research," said WPI President Edward Alton Parrish.

The funds will support two teaching and research centers in WPI's Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, part of a $1.64 million project to equip and update the laboratories that house the Highway Infrastructure Program (HIP) and the Environmental Infrastructure Program (EIP).

HIP involves the development of materials for highway construction and restoration and roadside safety technology. Some of the most pressing problems for state and local departments of transportation involve maintaining and rebuilding deteriorated pavement and bridges and replacing obsolete roadside equipment such as guardrails and lampposts. WPI's program addresses problems faced by every town, city and state in the nation. WPI professors involved in HIP research include:

  • Professor Tahar El-Korchi, a specialist in concrete materials. His research into the durability of concrete pavement includes studies of fiber-reinforced concrete, cement composites, recycled materials and hazardous-waste containment.
  • Malcolm H. Ray, an expert on highway safety. He designs and analyzes impact-resistant roadside structures and studies the crashworthiness of vehicles.
  • Rajib Mallick, an authority on asphalt technology. He works on highway design and developing asphalt pavement materials including a high-performance asphalt especially suited for hot climates, heavy traffic and busy intersections. EIP focuses on water protection, pollution prevention and the development of systems for safe delivery of domestic and industrial water. Among other problems, it tackles those caused by development due to population and industrial growth. The EIP works to ensure the safety of the nation's water supply. EIP researchers are:
  • Frederick L. Hart, a pioneer in water distribution systems. His computer simulations show the distribution and decay of impurities in water networks.
  • James O'Shaughnessy, a specialist in industrial and hazardous waste. He works on pollution prevention with a focus on remediation technologies for contaminated soils.
  • Paul Mathisen, an expert on groundwater and contaminant transport. His research involves protecting water resources.
  • John Bergendahl, an authority on surface and colloid chemistry, and physicochemical treatment processes.
  • Jeanine Plummer, an expert on Cryptosporidium control in water supplies, control of algae in water supplies, and physical and chemical treatment processes.

"These new facilities represent many opportunities that we have not seen before, and will place both HIP and EIP at the cutting edge of research and teaching capabilities," said Frederick L. Hart, professor and head of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. "With this award we are now even more strongly focused in achieving our mission of becoming a nationally recognized research and education leader in the fields of engineering, science and management."

Renovations to WPI's Kaven Hall, which houses the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, will include a distance-learning facility. This project is part of a larger goal, The Campaign for WPI, a $150 million strategic plan intended to anchor WPI's position at the forefront of America's top-ranked universities.

Founded in 1865, WPI is renowned for its unique curriculum in which students integrate classroom studies with research projects conducted on campus and around the world.