Stanford University

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

2020 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 21, 2020 at 5:00 pm.  Decisions regarding awards will be announced by March 6, 2020 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 2020 summer program provides a full-time stipend of up to $7500 ($750 per week) for the 10 week summer session. 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_CEE2020.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 2020,

[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 21, 2020.   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



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: 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



Amplifying The Value Of Water Infrastructure Investments In Low- And Middle-Income Countries

This project features the first prospective quasi-experimental study of the impacts on health and well-being of the transition from shared point water sources to piped water networks. Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest rates of access to on-plot piped water of any world region‚Äî2% in 2015, up by just one percentage point compared to 1% in 2006. The UN Sustainable Development Goals for water supply were motivated in large part by applied research that documented the limited health benefits and time savings of providing shared water points at the community level. Notably, the new target is not supported by a parallel body of evidence indicating that piped water services on premises generates substantially greater benefits. Understanding the nature and magnitude of benefits of providing piped water on premises is particularly important because the costs of providing this level of service are typically at least two-fold higher than those of (well-maintained) off-plot sources.  Whether public, private, or philanthropic, funders want to know what sort of return is expected when deciding how to invest their limited resources.


The high-level goals of the project, which is being conducted in western Uganda, are to (1) measure stated preferences of rural households for piped water service from community water points (kiosks) and household/yard connections, as well as for individual service attributes (e.g., reliability, water quality); (2) assess the impact of transitioning from use of unimproved water sources (rivers, swamps) to piped water sources (kiosks and household taps) on outcomes at the individual, household and community level; and (3) identify the household, community, and water service characteristics associated with comparatively large (small) impacts. Activities include water point mapping and assessment; environmental sampling with micro- and molecular biological analysis; in-person interviewing; child anthropometric measurement.


Baseline data collection will begin in summer 2020 in the western region of Uganda. Our team is working in collaboration with regional public-sector institutions and international NGOs, including Innovations for Poverty Action. We are looking for 2 or 3 student researchers to support these field efforts, and potentially to continue working with the project over the next two years. The specific responsibilities for each student can be adjusted to his or her interests, but would be related to the project goals listed above. Fieldwork is anticipated for July-September. Students interested in the project who are unable to travel are invited to speak with the PI and senior grad student about possibilities for supporting the research while based at Stanford or another location.


Faculty: Jenna Davis



Advancing Generational Change In Water, Sanitation And Hygiene: The Wash Up! Collaboration

An estimated 1000 children‚ almost all of whom live in low- and middle-income countries‚ die from diarrheal disease every day. Most diarrheal disease is caused by environmental exposure to pathogens that are transmitted principally through fecal-oral pathways. School-based interventions are widely considered to be a cost-effective way of interrupting key transmission pathways and reducing exposure among this vulnerable population.

Several years ago the NGOs World Vision International and Sesame Workshop developed a school-based program with combined infrastructure and curricular interventions targeting water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). The 12-module multimedia program, called WASH UP!, targets 6- to 9-year old children. WASH UP! uses play-based instruction to deliver messages about good WASH behaviors that students are encouraged both to practice at school and to carry home to their families.
In 2020 the WASH UP! program will be rolled out in India, the second most populous country in the world. Sitapur District in Uttar Pradesh has been selected as the site for WASH UP!'s initial launch in India. In partnership with World Vision and Sesame workshop, our team will carry out a cluster randomized evaluation of the program's effects on the knowledge, behavior, and environmental exposures of students, their families, and their teachers. The four-arm design includes different combinations of the WASH UP! curriculum and infrastructural enhancements, including the test of a new maintenance program. In addition, the program will include the first known comparison of fecal environmental contamination in the school versus household environment of young children. Baseline data collection is scheduled for summer of 2020, with a midline planned for early 2021. Assuming impacts are documented, additional follow-up waves are envisioned n the subsequent 18 months in order to evaluate the sustainability of those impacts.

We would like 2 or 3 student researchers to join our team this summer; there is potential for the students to continue working with the project in future quarters as well. The specific responsibilities for each student can be adjusted to his or her interests. Activities include development, coding and testing of SOPs and survey instruments; environmental sampling and processing of water, hand rinses, soil, and surface swabs; training and support of Indian enumerators and laboratory technicians; data review and analysis; and development of communications assets about the project (e.g., videos, research briefs, presentations). Fieldwork is anticipated for July-August. Students interested in the project who are unable to travel are invited to speak with the PI and senior students/postdoc about possibilities for supporting the research while based at Stanford or another location.


Faculty: Jenna Davis



Sustaining rural water supply investments in Sub-saharan Africa

Much of the drinking water infrastructure built in rural Africa fails. In this project we have partnered with a Ugandan social enterprise that is testing a preventative maintenance service to keep rural water supplies running. We are evaluating demand for the service among communities; evaluating the impacts of the service by installing sensors in community water points; and collecting data on the costs of the service. The baseline for this randomized controlled trial was carried out in the summer of 2019 and the intervention began in the autumn. We will return for follow-up data collection in spring and summer 2020. Evidence from this study will be used to provide policy advice to Government of Uganda and its development partners regarding how to sustain investments in rural water infrastructure.

We seek one or more student researchers to support the project. The specific responsibilities can be adjusted to his or her interests, but will be related to one of several needs:
- Mapping water sources and how people use them (GIS)
- Management and analysis of data collected from communities and water point sensors
- Developing communications assets related to key themes of the project (sustainability, rural water supply)

Travel: Optional ‚ Spring Break 2020 trip to Uganda. Summer 2020 ‚ 8 to 10 weeks of fieldwork based in Lira and Apac, Uganda. If fieldwork is not feasible, research can be performed at Stanford.


Faculty: Mark Z. Jacobson



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


This project entails helping to develop 100% clean, renewable energy plans for cities around the world. A transition to 100% entails electrifying or using direct heat for all energy sectors (electricity, transportation, building heating/cooling, industry, etc.) and using wind, water, and solar energy to provide the electricity and heat. For this project, students will work with Excel spreadsheets, gather raw data, develop graphics, and contribute to a paper on transition plans. Previous research on this topic has led to numerous laws and policies worldwide, including the U.S. Green New Deal.


Faculty: Stephen Monismith



Waves and turbulence in coastal waters

This would involve field work at several possible sites: Monterey Bay, Baja California (currently funded NSF work), Palau (depending on an NSF proposal), and San Francisco Bay. The general possible topics would include looking at waves and turbulence and their interactions. Requirements include having taken an introductory fluid mechanics or physical oceanography class and experience with Matlab. A willingness to get in the water is also important!


Faculty: Alfred Spormann



Environmental Microbiology, Microbial Bioenergy Systems, Intestinal Microbiology


Faculty: Richard Luthy



Recycled water for irrigation

This project will focus on the demonstrating Title 22 irrigation reuse of wastewater at the Codiga Resource Recovery Center on campus (near the intersection of Serra St. and Campus Dr.). Field and lab work coordinated with a graduate student will be required to operate irrigation test beds and evaluate groundwater quality impacts of irrigation with recycled water from Stanford's campus. Water quality parameters of concern are organic compounds (both specific and aggregate), nutrients (specifically nitrate), and indicator bacteria for pathogens.


Sustainable Built Environment – Structures and Construction :                               

Faculty: Sarah Billington



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: Catherine Gorle



Air flow in the Y2E2 building


The Y2E2 building is cooled using a night-flush, a process in which buoyancy drives warm air out of the building at night through louvers at the top of the building, four atria, and cool air enters through windows on all floors. This type of passive cooling can significantly reduce energy consumption related to the use of air-conditioning. The objective of this research project is to perform full-scale measurements of the temperature and flow field in the Y2E2 building, and to analyze the measured data for validation of computational models. The development of validated computational models is imperative to the design of robust natural ventilations systems, and to promote the widespread use of this zero-energy cooling mechanism.




Faculty: Catherine Gorle



Effect of extreme winds on buildings


Extreme wind events such as thunderstorms or hurricanes can cause significant damage to both residential and commercial buildings. Accurate estimates of mean and peak pressure distributions on building envelopes (facades and roofs) are essential to assess these wind hazards. However, standard building codes for calculating wind loads do not account for the complicated effects that can occur when buildings are located in dense (sub-)urban areas.


The objective of this project is to analyze wind tunnel data for the pressure loads on a low-rise building in two different configurations: the isolated building, and the building in its actual urban environment. Comparison of the wind loads in both configurations will enable quantifying interference effects with surrounding buildings. In addition, the experimental results will be compared to results obtained using computational fluid dynamics.


Required coursework: mechanics of fluids.


Faculty: Hae Young Noh



Multiple human footstep localization using floor vibration

The goal of the project is to create a multiple-person localization system based on footstep-induced floor vibration. Localizing occupants is important for user-aware smart building applications, such as building energy management, security, healthcare, and customer tracking. The student will be responsible for collecting vibration data to localize multiple individuals' footsteps and building a visualization tool to display the persons‚ locations on the map in real time. The project will involve working with sensing hardware, constructing wooden structures for experimental setup, and analyzing data. Depending on the progress, the students will work on analyzing vibration data from patients with gait disorder. This position requires prior experience with MATLAB or equivalent software (e.g., CS106).



Faculty: Kincho Law



Evaluate best practices of promoting cross-sector collaboration for smart city projects.


The research involves literature reviews and data collection of smart city developments in Asian countries.  The project also attempts to look at international influence, such as smart city efforts in Europe, on smart city developments in Asia.   There will or will not be any traveling involved depending on the scope of the work.