Stanford University

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

2014 Summer Undergraduate Research Program


The Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering is pleased to invite applications for its 2014 undergraduate research program, through funding provided by Stanford’s Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education. The program is geared primarily to support full-time research appointments over the 2014 summer session; however, alternative proposals will be considered, subject to funding availability.  The research awards will be based on a competitive application process.  Interested students should submit their application and statement of interest, following the guidelines given below, before Feb 28, 2014 at 5:00 pm.  Decisions regarding awards will be announced by March 15th via e-mail. 


Research Theme:  The theme of the undergraduate research program is “Engineering for Sustainability”, which can be broadly interpreted within all program areas of civil & environmental engineering and related fields (e.g., architecture, earth sciences, etc.). 


Support:  The 2014 summer program provides a full-time stipend of up to $5,600 ($560 per week) for the 10 week summer session, plus $500 towards research project expenses (supplies, travel, etc.).  If the Vice Provost adjusts the stipend upwards for the summer, then that stipend will be awarded.


Requirements and Restrictions: 

Š      Eligibility is limited to Stanford undergraduates who are working under the supervision of an academic council faculty member affiliated with the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. Co-terminal master's degree students are eligible only if the bachelor's degree will not be conferred before the end of the research appointment.

Š      Students receiving full summer stipends may not register for more than 5 credits of coursework, nor may they work for more than 10 hours per week in addition to their research appointment. 

Š      Students are prohibited from receiving both credit and salary for any single research activity.  This does not, however, preclude students from working on a research project during the summer and then expanding it into a senior thesis during the following academic year.

Š      Students are expected to participate in organized program activities throughout the summer (provided research is on campus), provide a final 3-page summary report on their project, complete an on-line evaluation, present the results of their research orally in early fall quarter at a CEE VPUE conference, and fill out a CEE evaluation form.


Application:  Prior to submitting an application, students should identify and contact a CEE faculty member who is agreeable to supervise a summer research project.  Students are encouraged to reference the CEE faculty web pages to learn more about the specific research interests and opportunities of the faculty.  Faculty who have indicated an interest in advising summer projects are listed below. You may also apply for projects with faculty that are not listed here.


Applications should include the following:

[1] student applicant information (name, gender, ethnicity (not required, but requested), major, current year at Stanford (freshman, sophomore, etc) expected graduation date, local address, e-mail address, student ID number),

[2] faculty research supervisor name and e-mail address,

[3] brief (500 word max.) statement of your research topic and plans,

[4] copy of your transcript (an unofficial transcript is fine),

[5] resume or summary of relevant experience. 

If your application requests financial support for other than a full-time stipend during the 2014 summer session, your plans should be clearly stated, including proposed dates of appointment and level of support. 


Applications should be submitted either in hardcopy to Regina Lowery (Yang & Yamazaki Environment & Energy Bldg. Room 154 or before 5 PM on Feb 28 2014.   Applications received after this date may still be considered, pending availability of funding. In addition, students must submit items [1] and [2] through the google form here: LINK


Questions about the program should be directed to Professor Alexandria Boehm <>.


CEE Summer Undergraduate Research Projects:  Students are encouraged to reference the CEE faculty web pages to learn more about the specific research interests and opportunities of the faculty.  The following are some examples of faculty who have indicated project topics that they may have available this summer:


Please see these links for some examples of previous year’s student presentations:


The Road to Sustainability in the Developing World

App'solutely Amazing - Stanford Campus Architectural History

Exposure to Air Pollutants: Living near Highways



Sustainable Natural Environment - Environmental and Water Studies:               



Faculty: Jenna Davis


Low-cost chlorination in Dhaka, Bangladesh


In Dhaka, Bangladesh, residents of urban slums receive drinking water at community water points connected to the municipal network. However, this water is often contaminated as it travels through a piped system that is leaky and often unpressurized, and consuming this water places individuals at high risk for diarrheal illness. Stanford researchers are using 3D printing technology to develop a low-cost automatic chlorination technology that can disinfect drinking water at these community points without requiring any action by residents.


An undergraduate student is sought to travel to Dhaka, Bangladesh for a minimum of 10 weeks during the summer to participate in the field-testing of the device and to assist with a study to evaluate product demand and willingness to pay for automatically chlorinated water. S/he would gain skills in technology design for the developing world, 3D printing, data management and analysis, technical report preparation, and water quality analysis methods.


The successful student would also ideally be able to spend time working with the technology development team in the lab at Stanford during winter and spring quarters. Familiarity with Autodesk Inventor and product design, as well as introductory chemistry, fluid mechanics coursework and international travel experience is desired. More information about the project can be found at


This position will be mentored by Prof. Jenna Davis, Dr. Amy Pickering, and Prof. Steve Luby."



Faculty: Alexandria Boehm



Coastal Water Quality: Microbial Source Tracking At the California Coast

Miles of Californian coastline is declared impaired due to high levels of fecal indicator bacteria. These organisms do not cause illness in humans, but correlate to elevated illness rates in swimmers. The State of California has funded a large multi-university study to develop source tracking methods to determine the source of fecal pollution along the State’s shorelines. A student interested in both field and lab work and strong interests in water quality in natural systems is encouraged to apply for a position to assist with this project. Student will work with Prof. Boehm as well as a post doc on this project. A laboratory class (chemistry or biology) is required for this position.


The Role of Exogenous Sensitizers in the Photoinactivation of Pathogenic Bacteria

Harmful bacteria are ubiquitous in nature, and can be present in environmental waters such as ponds, rivers, and lakes. Most environmental waters also contain natural organic matter (NOM), which originates from the remains of once-living organisms and their waste products (for example, decomposing leaves). NOM is able to absorb light and transfer the energy/electrons gained from light absorption onto other molecules, leading to the generation of reactive radicals that could disinfect bacteria also in the water. The purpose of this study is to elucidate the contribution of NOM and other photosensitizers (water constituents that absorb light and form radicals) to the disinfection of selected pathogenic bacteria. The student will work closely with PhD student Peter Maraccini.


Microbial Source Tracking in Bangladesh

The Bangladesh project uses molecular analysis to determine the origin of fecal contamination (microbial source tracking) in water, soil and hand rinse samples collected from local households. This information will guide the remediation and management of the pollution and protect public health. The undergraduate assistant is expected to participate in the sample processing for molecular analysis, such as bacteria/virus elution and DNA/RNA extraction/purification. The undergraduate assistant will also learn about microbial source tracking. Patience and steady hands are most important for this type of laboratory work. Prior knowledge on microbiology and molecular biology is preferred but not required.


Evaluating the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) to monitor marine life along the California coast


Traditional monitoring of marine invertebrates and vertebrates has relied on visual observation or capture which can be time consuming, expensive and destructive.  Researchers are now investigating whether next generation sequencing could be used as an alternative monitoring method, particular in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Marine organisms constantly shed tissue cells and waste with a unique DNA signature into the environment. By sequencing the DNA that has been shed into the environment (eDNA), researchers hope to obtain a census of the marine life present in that water.


Before sequencing of eDNA can be tested as a monitoring tool, we need to better understand the how eDNA persists in the environment as well as how eDNA sequences relate to the number of organisms present. The ideal undergraduate student for this project would be interested in marine ecosystems and learning how to carefully do molecular work in the laboratory.  Prior knowledge about invertebrates or vertebrates found along the California coast or experience doing molecular work is preferred.


Faculty: Jim Leckie



Solutions for innovation driven sustainable development for China’s leading aluminum alloy casting companies.

This research is focused on studying how to optimize the productivity of these companies together with taking care of the natural environment and the development of the social responsibilities for these companies. In addition, we would like to study how to design better processes of sustainable development for these companies using information technologies, knowledge management tools, and systematic management frameworks.


Computational intelligence for smart physical and social infrastructure

This research will use the latest computational learning and optimization tools to (1) better design smart physical infrastructure such as transportation systems, urban water systems, and (2) facilitate a class of social services such as knowledge management for social innovations, etc. to integrate social functionality into urban communities.


Faculty: Bill Mitch



Identifying the Precursors for Carcinogenic Byproducts of Disinfection in Drinking Water

As a result of population growth, drinking water suppliers are increasingly relying on source waters impacted by upstream wastewater discharges. Unfortunately, the application of certain common drinking water disinfectants (chloramines and ozone) to these impacted waters has been associated with the formation of potentially carcinogenic byproducts of disinfection, called nitrosamines. The US EPA is currently considering regulation of nitrosamine concentrations in treated drinking waters.


The purpose of this study is to determine the source of the nitrosamine precursors contributed by wastewater discharges. Options include natural human waste products (e.g., urine and feces), or man-made chemicals in consumer products (e.g., shampoos, dish-washing detergents). Additionally, certain man-made chemicals may appear within natural human waste streams. For example, pharmaceuticals are excreted in urine and feces. The over-the-counter antacid, Zantac, has been hypothesized to be a particularly important precursor of nitrosamines. Defining the precursors in wastewater effluents may help drinking water utilities prevent their emission to drinking water supplies. The student would work with Prof. Mitch and a graduate student on this project.




Faculty: Richard Luthy



Integrated Stormwater Management Employing a Groundwater Recharge Treatment Train. To minimize adverse impacts of stormwater on aquatic systems (e.g., hydromodification, chemical and biological contamination) practitioners including engineers, city planners and architects have embraced various approaches for capturing and infiltrating stormwater runoff using low impact development (LID). The use of rain gardens and permeable pavements is increasing rapidly around US urban centers. However, little effort has focused on improving stormwater quality during infiltration and storage, and the subsequent harvesting of the water for potable and non-potable applications. Stormwater is a complex matrix with myriad chemical and biological constituents. Thus, it is imperative to conduct research to understand if and how contaminants are mitigated during aquifer recharge and storage. This project will examine ways in which urban stormwater can be captured and treated before it is infiltrated into the ground for storage for future use as part of the urban water supply.



Faculty: Craig Criddle



Mobile wastewater treatment systems. Stanford is a now developing a facility for pilot-scale testing of technologies to recover clean water, energy, and valuable materials from wastewater. The goal is to accelerate commercial development of resource recovery technologies by testing under field conditions at a scale that is credible for investment and optimization of monitoring, control, and performance.  Novel treatment technologies mounted in mobile trailer units will be tested at Stanford then deployed at utilities throughout the region.  This project will initiate design, fabrication, and testing of the first trailers at Stanford.  





Faculty: Mark Z. Jacobson



The Solutions Project

Work on The Solutions Project development of plans for changing the energy infrastructure for all purposes of individual states and countries.



Faculty: Christian Linder



Flow in microbial microfluidic fuel cells. This project is concerned with the computational modeling of flow in microbial microfluidic fuel cells. The VPUE student will help us understand the characteristics of the laminar flow and the electrochemical interactions observed in those devices based on to be performed experimental studies and simulations using commercial finite element packages.


Biofilm growth in fuel cells. This project is concerned with the computational modeling of biofilm growth in microbial microfluidic fuel cells. The VPUE student will help us understand the biofilm properties and growth conditions in aquatic environments through experiments and numerical simulations.



Sustainable Built Environment – Structures and Construction :                     


Faculty: Sarah Billington



Ductile Reinforced Concrete Materials for Earthquake-resistant Design (Civil-Structures)

High-performance fiber-reinforced cement based composites (HPFRCC) are ductile cement based materials that are under investigation for structural design and retrofit applications to reduce damage, increase ductility, and improve performance under severe loading (e.g., seismic resistant construction).  Students will assist with the design, fabrication, and testing of steel reinforced HPFRCC specimens under cyclic loads, analysis of results, and modeling of components to predict structural performance.


Interactive Visualization of Climate Change Risk to Highway Infrastructure

The summer student on this project would design and create an interactive website to help communicate how climate change might affect highway and in particular bridge safety in the southwest U.S.  Changes in precipitation patterns are likely to lead to changes in flash floods, which affect bridges through a mechanism called scour. The website would allow a visitor to adjust assumptions of climate risks, watershed, and bridge type and location to see how assumptions alter the risk of bridge failure, replacement costs, and human impacts in terms of travel delay. Expertise in web design, and JavaScript, D3.js, Tableau, or other visualization packages is desired but not required.


Novel Approaches to Engineering Education

We are studying how variation in the substance and style of web-based exercises during an introductory course in mechanics impacts student self-efficacy and achievement.  This project aims to expand the research literature as tied to engineering education and online learning as well as identify best practices in alternate pedagogical approaches to increase self-efficacy, motivation, and confidence in pursuing a major in engineering.  Undergraduate students will gain experience in methodologies and techniques used in engineering education research including assisting with data collection management, JavaScript coding and performing statistical analyses.


Faculty:  Michael Lepech



Title: Developing and Implementing Quality of Life Indicators for Sustainable Community Development

The planning, decision-making, financing, construction, and operation of sustainable communities requires a new paradigm for evaluating the costs and benefits of all facets of community planning and realization.  This paradigm is focused less on individual metrics of economic wealth, personal health, population literacy, or access to clean water and more on holistic measures of a community’s or society’s goals for sustainability and their progress toward reaching them.  This holistic measure is called a “Quality of Life” indicator.  This project will focus on the refinement and expansion of an existing quality of life indicator framework and apply it to on a regional and national level.


This work on the Quality of Life Project will proceed in three phases:

   1.      Building the Database:  First, we will build a 2001 – 2020 database of the known standards, gaps and funding required for economic, energy, environment, infrastructure, public health, social and other elements of regional quality of life used by industry and government to validate safe, lawful and socially-responsible operations, products, and services.

   2.      Visualizing the Data:  Second, the database for the Project will be visualized in the form of a Periodic Table.  The proposed layout for the Periodic Table will use the past ten years of federal budgets, and the federal labels and OMB program budget codes for spending.

   3.      Each cell of the Periodic Table will be divided into four quadrants:  the top half will reflect 2001 – 2010 and the bottom half 2010 – 2020, the left quadrants will reflect known gaps in the Quality of Life element (e.g., health measured by the identified standards), and the right quadrants will be the federal budgets spent to reduce those gaps (e.g., federal expenditures for health).

   4.      Analyzing Relationships in the Data:  With the Periodic Table and the relational database supporting it, the relationships and interdependencies between (i) spending on one or a subset of Quality of Life elements and (ii) the gaps in the same or other Quality of Life elements and the costs incurred for them.


The work for the Project can be performed via computer and will be based on publically-accessible information from federal, state, and local governmental budget records.  The students would be at Stanford to complete this project.


Development and Characterization of Biological-based Construction Systems for Extraterrestrial Applications

Human habitation of Lunar and Martian surfaces has been a long-term goal for NASA since our first visits to the Moon in the late 1960s.  An essential part of that effort continues to be the creation of construction materials that are viable to build shelters in extraterrestrial environments.  Given the cost of sending payloads out from Earth’s gravitational pull (currently over $1 million per kilogram) NASA has adopted an in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) approach for these applications.  By using Lunar and Martian regolith (soil) as the primary material component of building materials, significant cost advantages are achieved.

As such, a set of biological-based binders or glues are envisioned to cement the regolith particles together in-situ.  These glues would be produced by microorganisms that can be easily and cheaply transported extraterrestrially.  The perceived viability of such microorganisms has been recently bolstered by NASA’s discovery of water on both the Moon and Mars.  Major areas of interest in this project are identification and characterization of bacteria that can precipitate mineral-based adhesives, identification and characterization of protein strains and enzymatic catalysts that serve as naturally occurring adhesives in biological mucus and fluids, and study of potential production and processing methods in extraterrestrial environments.  Ultimately, synthetic biology tools will be applied to engineer biological organisms to produce these biological binders at scale.


This summer research project would entail a summer undergraduate student(s):

   (1)    Engaging in laboratory production, testing, and characterization of biobased concretes incorporating Lunar simulant materials

   (2)    Interacting with Stanford CEE faculty, Stanford Medical School and Hospital faculty, NASA Ames Research Center scientists, and Stanford graduate students to develop the framework for the envisioned systems

   (3)    Together with the project team, interacting with local industry on the development of processing techniques for construction materials and structures on extraterrestrial surfaces



Faculty: Ray Levitt



Stanford Global Projects

The Stanford Global Projects Center is conducting research to develop a comprehensive governance model for privately financed transportation infrastructure in the United States. Students participating in this project will assist in researching and drafting detailed case studies on 1-2 transportation infrastructure projects, to include the financial structure, industry participants, project organization, and performance. Please contact Michael Brennon for more details:



Faculty: Greg Deierlein and Eduardo Miranda



Modeling and Shake Table Testing of Seismically-Isolated Unibody Light-Frame Residential Construction


The objective of this project is to develop and validate new seismic design concepts for light-frame residential construction that will dramatically reduce earthquake damage and improve life-cycle seismic performance. This overall objective is supported by four research thrusts to develop: (1) new strength-enhanced unibody light-frame construction methods, whereby efficient resistance to earthquake effects is achieved by integrating structural and architectural building walls, floor and ceiling systems, (2) economical seismic base isolation systems for light-frame residential construction which, when combined with the enhanced light-frame construction, provides superior damage protection in regions of severe ground shaking hazards, (3) computational models for the comprehensive seismic assessment of light-frame residential construction, including models for seismic isolation and the strength-enhanced limited-ductility unibody seismic resisting systems, and (4) seismic design criteria for light-frame residential construction that meets appropriate collapse safety targets and incorporates life-cycle concepts to create more sustainable communities.


In summer 2014, the research team will construct and test a full-scale two-story house to validate the proposed seismically isolated unibody light-frame system at an earthquake shake table facility at the University of California at San Diego (  Undergraduate research interns (one or two) will work with the research team to document the construction, install and calibrate instrumentation, and conduct and document the tests.  This will require that the undergraduate interns spend the summer with the research team in San Diego, CA.  Preference will be given to interns with the following skills and experience: (1) familiarity and experience with laboratory instrumentation and light construction, (2) computer database and web-authoring skills, (3) photography and video documentation and editing.


This position will be mentored by Professors Deierlein and Miranda and graduate students Scott Swensen, Ezra Jampole, and Cristian Acevedo.




Faculty: Prof. Jack Baker



Ground motions and damage prediction from Oklahoma Earthquakes.

Oklahoma has experienced an unusually large number of earthquakes in recent years, likely to some extent trigged by fluid injection in the region. The student working on this project will aid in collecting and processing ground motions associated with these earthquakes, and performing calculations to evaluate their damage potential. The student will also be able to participate in activities associated with the Stanford Center for Induced and Triggered Seismicity (


Infrastructure network disruption during earthquakes

The student working on this project will aid in building and running high-fidelity models for Bay Area water distribution and transportation systems, after they have been damaged by earthquake shaking. Aims of the analyses are to identify critical components for ensuring system performance, and developing strategies for targeted retrofitting of the networks.