Stanford University

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

2019 Summer Undergraduate Research Program


The Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering is pleased to invite applications for its 2019 undergraduate research program, through funding provided by Stanford’s Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and the School of Engineering. The program supports full-time research appointments over the 2019 summer session.  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 20, 2019 at 5:00 pm.  Decisions regarding awards will be announced by Feb 28, 2019 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 2019 summer program provides a full-time stipend of up to $7500 ($750 per week) for the 10 week summer session, plus $500 towards research project expenses. The stipend can be used in any way that the student chooses including room and board, or if the work is in a remote location, the stipend may be used to cover travel to that location and room and board there.


Requirements and Restrictions: 

·              Eligibility is limited to Stanford undergraduates who are working under the supervision of an academic council faculty member in 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.

·              This program is specifically for projects that are conducted under close supervision and collaboration with a member of Stanford’s academic council (tenure line faculty). Student-designed projects are funded by the VPUE via a different funding mechanism.

·              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. 

·              Students are prohibited from receiving both credit and stipend 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.

·              The program goals include connecting participants with each other through organized activities in the summer. Therefore, students must participate in organized program activities throughout the summer (provided research is on campus).

·              Students must provide final summary reports on their project, complete an on-line evaluation and present the results of their research in early fall quarter at a CEE VPUE conference. Further details on these requirements are provided upon request or at the time a student is accepted to the program.


Application:  Prior to submitting an application, students should identify and contact a CEE faculty member who is agreeable to supervise and collaborate 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. You may apply to work on more than one project, but please indicate your preference if you do so (i.e., provide your first and second choice, etc).


Applications should include the following in a single PDF document named YOURLASTNAME_VPUE_CEE2019.PDF:

[1] student applicant information (name, gender, ethnicity / race (not required,), major, current year at Stanford (freshman, sophomore, etc.) expected graduation date, local address, e-mail address, student ID number), and confirmation that you will NOT have received your BS or BA before or during summer 2019,

[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), and

[5] resume or summary of relevant experience. 


Applications should be submitted via email submitted to before 5 PM on Feb 20, 2019.   Applications received after this date may still be considered, pending availability of funding. In addition, students must also submit items [1] and [2] through the google form here:


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:


Sustainable Natural Environment - Environmental and Water Studies:         



Faculty: Alexandria Boehm



Removal of pathogens from stormwater using planted biofilters

This project will be focusing on the performance of natural treatment systems- specifically biofilters- in removing pathogens from urban stormwater. Over the course of the summer, the student will assist a graduate student with constructing lab-scale biofilters with vegetation, maintaining the biofilters, and collecting data on the removal of human pathogens through the biofilters. No specific coursework is required, but an interest in stormwater and natural treatment processes is essential.



Faculty: Alexandria Boehm



Quantification of microplastics in Bay area stormwater

We are looking for an undergraduate student to help us quantify microplastics in stormwater samples we have archived over the last rainy season. The student will need to develop methods and quantify the microplastics in the sample. Work with a microscope will likely be required, so patience is a key attribute in the student who will take this position.


Faculty: Oliver Fringer



Transport in San Francisco Bay

Field work and modeling work involving waves, currents, turbulence, and sediment transport in San Francisco Bay.


Faculty: Peter Kitanidis



Computational hydrology

Computational work on inverse problems and particularly river and nearshore bathymetry.  For example, in river bathymetry, one infers the river tomography from velocity observations at the water surface.  The student must have interest in computational methods and data sciences.  Some programming skills are required.



Faculty: Jenna Davis



Uganda Rural Water Maintenance Project

Interested in the intersection of engineering, international development, and social enterprise? Dismayed that 30 to 50% of drinking water supplies fail in low-income countries? Want to apply your engineering, economics, and/or social science skills to help solve this global problem? Our new applied research project is recruiting undergraduate and graduate students for multiple positions in 2019 and beyond.


Project description

Much of the drinking water infrastructure built in rural Africa fails, wasting investment and forcing people to use unsafe water. Our group has partnered with a nonprofit social enterprise in Uganda that is testing a market-based preventive maintenance service to keep rural water supplies running. We will evaluate community demand for the service among communities in the district of Apac, in northern Uganda. We will also measure the costs of the service and compare them to the benefits for families, communities, and local government in a randomized trial. The project will build evidence about this strategy to keep rural water supplies running long-term, contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of safe water for all by 2030.



We seek students with skills and/or interests in one or more of the following areas:

* Sensors and IoT, develop software platforms, analytics, hardware, and field-test sensors to measure flows of water supplies (computer science, electrical, and mechanical engineering backgrounds).

* Mapping and GIS ‚ map water supplies and social data in Uganda

* Field data collection ‚ develop, test, manage data for, and apply surveys of water committees and households.

Students must be willing and able to travel to Uganda for a portion of the summer quarter. The duration of travel will depend on the particular aspect of the project on which the student is working.


Faculty: Jenna Davis



Evaluating the impacts of piped water supply in southern Zambia


The research assistant will be helping to collect endline data collection for an existing project in southern Zambia. The goal of the project is to quantify the impacts of constructing piped water supplies in communities that previously used shared boreholes with hand pumps on the time and money costs of water, as well as water use, water quality, and other outcomes of interest. The evidence generated by this project will inform current debates about the costs and benefits of meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6, universal access to piped water supply at home.


The student research assistant will be working directly with the lead graduate student.


Responsibilities are expected to include: collecting samples from water sources and homes (stored water), processing microbiological samples in a field laboratory, supporting interview training with enumerators, helping to manage field teams (both remotely and in the field), reviewing survey data daily, and analyzing data in Excel or R. The Stanford students will live and work with a team of 6 to 8 Zambian enumerators for the duration of the project.


Previous experience working in low-income countries is an advantage but not essential. Preference will be given to applicants with experience working in flexible environments without many of the comforts of Stanford (e.g., consistent access to A/C, hot water, wifi, and diverse food options). 

This work requires a minimum of 6 weeks in Zambia. If the assistant chooses to do so, this position can be extended for several additional weeks to facilitate future collaborations in Zambia with the non-profit partner. This work will include identifying appropriate future study sites and working with senior leadership on future student programs between World Vision and Stanford University. 

Prior to leaving for Zambia, the student is also expected to complete 4-8 hours of on-campus training led by grad student mentor James Winter and/or Prof. Davis.


Faculty: Jenna Davis



The effects of piped water investments on health, wealth, and well-being in western Uganda


Our team is carrying out a prospective study of piped water infrastructure investments in Kamwenge District, Uganda. Perhaps surprisingly, there is little quantitative evidence about the impacts of obtaining a household water connection on health, income, and other measures of well-being. Our team will follow communities with and without water infrastructure investments and evaluate impacts at the individual (child, mother), household, and community scale over the course of several years. This work will contribute some of the only  empirical evidence generated through a before-after, case-control research design toward the efforts of low- and middle-income country governments to expand access to sustainable water supply services in a cost-effective manner.


We are looking for student research assistants to support all aspects of this project, which is launching in Q1 of 2019. We will be establishing a sample frame, developing data-collection instruments and sampling protocols, and identifying an existing lab or setting up a field lab for microbiological analysis over the next several months. Students on the project will learn how applied research is organized and executed in a resource-constrained setting with international partners.


The student research assistants will be working directly with the lead graduate student on this project, as well as with the PI Prof. Jenna Davis. Responsibilities may include literature searching/review/synthesis; GIS/mapping; coding and pilot testing surveys; developing and testing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for sample collection and processing; supporting the training of enumerators in the use of tablets, collection of samples, and interviewing techniques; processing microbiological samples in a field laboratory; helping to manage field teams; reviewing survey data daily, and conducting basic data analyses.


Qualifications: Previous experience working in low-income countries is an advantage but not essential. We will give preference to applicants with experience working in environments that demand flexibility and do not have many of the creature comforts typical of Stanford. We are also particularly interested in students who have skills that are relevant to the responsibilities described above (e.g., statistics, microbiology, GIS, survey development).


Most positions will be field based, although it may be possible to create a US-based position for some project tasks. Field based positions require a minimum of 6 weeks in Uganda; preference will be given to applicants who are willing and able to stay longer. All Stanford personnel will live and work with a team of up to 30 Ugandan enumerators for the duration of the project.


Prior to leaving for Uganda, each student research assistant is also expected to complete up to 12 hours of on-campus training led by his/her grad student mentor and/or Prof. Davis. We also have opportunities for students who would like to get involved with the project during winter and/or spring quarter. 


Faculty: Mark Z. Jacobson



Roadmaps to Convert 139 Countries of the World to Wind, Water, and Sunlight (WWS) for all purposes

Help develop 100% clean, renewable energy roadmaps for cities and towns worldwide for use by policymakers, including in the Green New Deal and city and town planners.


Faculty: Stephen Monismith



Study of reef environments of Palau

This would be field work measuring currents and temperatures etc. to by conducted in Palau and would be initiated during the 2019 BOSP Palau seminar (late June/early July). Exposure to fluid mechanics and Matlab would be helpful. Participation in the Palau seminar would be required.





Sustainable Built Environment – Structures and Construction :                        


Faculty: Rishee Jain



Smart Cities

This project aims to design, analyze, and test a cyber-physical and human-in-the-loop enabled control system that can drive sustained energy savings in commercial buildings. It brings together expertise in computational building science, eco-feedback, network theory, data science, and control systems to integrate physical building information and inhabitants with cyber (building-human) interaction models to enable intelligent control of commercial building systems.


As a UG research summer intern, you will have the opportunity to help deploy sensing devices in our test-bed buildings on campus and in San Francisco (you may need to travel to San Francisco via Caltrain on occasion).  Additionally, you will also have the opportunity to assist a PhD student in basic data analytic procedures of the data (including but not limited to cleansing, checking, visualization).  No coursework is required but a basic understanding of a scripting language (Matlab, Python, R) will help you hit the ground running.


Faculty: Sarah Billington



Sustainable cement-based materials for improved building performance

We are exploring the use biochar, a plentiful, waste product from industrial processes as an additive in cement-based materials. The materials can be used as a building facade material to provide thermal insulation, moisture regulation, pollution filtration and vegetative growth. The scope of work for the research student would mainly constitute work in the lab, assisting with preparing specimens, carrying out tests and analyzing the results.


Improving the ductility and sustainability of damage-tolerant concrete

In this project, we are evaluating the flexural behavior of steel reinforced damage-tolerant concrete members. The damage-tolerant concrete is ideal for long-span bridges and structures that need earthquake resistance as well as resistance to cracking and reinforcement corrosion. We are also exploring the effect of replacing one of the constituents of the material, fly ash with recycled glass powder as a "greener"" option. Students will fabricate specimens and perform testing of flexural behavior, bond of steel reinforced ductile/damage-tolerant concrete, and material property testing. Expected work may include lab work, advanced 3D micro-CT scanning,  data analysis, and numerical simulation.


Hybrid Physical+Digital Spaces for Enhanced Human Wellbeing

We may not often think about it, but we are constantly influenced by the built environment that surrounds us in our daily lives. And as engineers, we get the chance to shape the buildings and infrastructures around us! Our interdisciplinary research team is developing methods to quantify the impact of various design decisions on wellbeing first in controlled lab conditions and, second, in the real offices of our corporate partners, through beta design implementations. Summer research responsibilities will include collecting and analyzing data from various experiments in our office and lab set-ups. Additional responsibilities may include assisting with planning future lab experiments and designing deployable design implementations for field testing.


Faculty: Michael Lepech



Biopolymer-bound Soils Composites for Space Construction


Biopolymer-bound Soil Composites (BSC) are a novel material developed by NASA and Stanford for the construction of critical infrastructure in extraterrestrial environments like the Moon and Mars. At the moment we are studying the impact of manufacturing variables in the mechanical properties of the material aided by computational modeling. The student can expect to take part in experimental work at the Blume Earthquake Center supplemented by data analysis and computational modeling using new and previous data. No prior coursework is required but courses in solid mechanics and engineering materials will be helpful in data analysis.


Faculty: Jack Baker



Disaster resilience - earthquake damage mapping


After an earthquake, a city's resilience partly depends on the level of physical damage caused by the event. Decision makers, therefore, require information on the locations and severity of building damage in order to make response and recovery plans. This project will support the development of a novel method to rapidly create maps of post-earthquake building damage using multiple forms of geospatial data (remote sensing, field surveys, etc). We have tested this method with the 2015 Nepal earthquake as a proof of concept but would like to apply it to other countries that have also been recently affected by an earthquake. By examining the applicability of this method in various locations, we can demonstrate its usability for estimating building damage sooner after future earthquakes.


As the undergraduate researcher, you can expect to compile emerging data sources and perform exploratory analysis on building damage from other earthquakes. Basic coding and data analysis experience are desirable, and a background in GIS is a plus.