Research > New Grants
The Water Research Foundation; PI-Krista Wigginton
Human viruses are linked to a number of important illnesses associated with contaminated water. Interestingly, despite their impact on public health, human viruses are only a small fraction of those found in wastewater and drinking water. The vast majority are viruses that infect bacteria, algae, plants, and other organisms. These “dark” viruses likely play significant roles in shaping microorganism functions in biological processes, in the formation of biofilms in distribution systems, and in the populations of opportunistic bacteria that sometimes flourish in household plumbing. Despite the impact they have on the water quality industry, we know much less about waterborne viruses than other groups of aquatic microorganisms. This is driven by the difficulty in detecting viruses. Virus particles are extremely small, measuring only 20-200 nm in diameter, which makes them difficult to capture from water samples and nearly impossible to visualize with common microscopy techniques. Furthermore, only select viruses can be grown in the lab and molecular methods require well-equipped labs.
The lack of methods to rapidly count virus particles makes it difficult to demonstrate the efficacy of water treatment processes at removing viruses in real-time. Wigginton will develop a new approach to tracking virus particle removal. Her team will develop empty virus particles that are noninfective and behave just like real viruses in water treatment processes. The empty particles will be tagged so that they can readily counted in pilot and full-scale systems with common flow cytometers.
Fast and accurate methods for detecting specific environmental pathogens are critical in outbreak events, but most available virus detection methods are not field deployable. Wigginton proposes to translate a new biotechnology called CRISPR-Cas into a fast and quantitative method for virus detection. Already demonstrated for virus detection in human samples, the method will transform environmental monitoring because it does not require expensive equipment, and is thus easily field-deployable. Ultimately, the method could be expanded to monitor bacteria and protozoa in the same samples.
The water quality field lacks a thorough understanding of how the overall virus community fluctuates in wastewater, through water treatment processes, and in drinking water distribution systems. Presently, methods that quantify viruses tend to detect only one or a few strains at a time. Alternative methods that screen for many viruses tend to provide qualitative results. To address this, her team will develop a sensitive virus sequencing method that measures the concentrations of all viruses in a sample, and thus can show how virus concentrations vary from plant to plant, how certain viruses are resistant to treatment, or how viruses that infect bacteria and other microorganisms are influencing biological unit processes. This method will ultimately help protect public health and also facilitate the development of virus-based methods for treating water.
National Science Foundation; PI-Roman Hryciw
The objective of this project is to advance the state of the knowledge and practice in evaluating the liquefaction response of challenging soil sites. The need for this research is highlighted by several recent liquefaction studies and identified as a high priority issue by participants in the 2016 US-New Zealand-Japan International Workshop on Liquefaction-Induced Ground Movement Effects. The proposed approached that will be used to develop the procedure fully integrates knowledge of the geologic and geomorphic constraints on liquefaction triggering and manifestations and novel in-situ tests (e.g., VisCPT and geo-slicing), which is directly aligned with recommendations made in the recently published National Research Council report on liquefaction and its consequences.
National Science Foundation; PI-Herek Clack
The objective of this proposed project is to obtain performance data on the effects of trace concentrations of H2S and NH3 on the inactivation of aerosolized MS2 phage when exposed to a non-thermal plasma (NTP). Comparing the results against previous results MS2 in activation without the presence of these trace gases will provide insight into how these reducing gases affect inactivation of airborne viruses during NTP treatment.
National Science Foundation; PI-Jerome Lynch
Lynch’s work explores how S&CC technologies can be adopted to empower new modes of community-based decision making to identify and implement transformative solutions to challenges. S&CC investments in these communities can lead to dramatic gains in the quality of city services, even under tight financial constraints. An existing engagement between the University of Michigan and the community of Benton Harbor, Michigan provides a strong foundation for the work. Benton Harbor is a transportation deprived community with a high rate of zero car ownership making large segments of the community reliant on public transit. The research plan is designed to provide the community with the capacity to define and deploy mobility solutions that give residents greater access to employment opportunities, education, and healthcare. The project will will define a cost-effective S&CC data collection strategy that can assess the performance of the Benton Harbor transit system, track the mobility patterns of residents, and acquire resident perceptions of their mobility. Mobility data will also be used to calibrate analytical methods that predict resident demand for mobility services and the performance of these services given changes in user demand. A community-based decision making framework is implemented based on scenario planning methods with S&CC data visualization and predictive analytics used in the process to predict outcomes of considered scenarios. Lastly, the project will iteratively implement consensus solutions and assess their impact. The proposal has on its leadership team the Twin Cities Area Transportation Authority who will lead implementation of the solutions developed.
National Science Foundation; PI-Carol Menassa
In the U.S. and worldwide, HVAC systems represent the biggest energy end use, accounting for approximately 50 percent of the total energy required to operate residential and commercial buildings. Despite the significant energy footprint of HVAC systems, occupants in the built environment are usually dissatisfied with their thermal comfort. Current human-in-the-loop approaches provide opportunities for occupants to vote on thermal comfort and preferences, thus allowing for HVAC system adjustment based on human feedback. However, these methods have two key limitations: 1) lack of actionable human bio-signal data for robust thermal comfort evaluation; and 2) inability to determine a comfortable set-point using only intermittent, non-continuous human feedback. This research has two primary remedial objectives. First, Menessa will explore the feasibility of using infrared thermography as a truly non-intrusive method of predicting human thermal comfort preferences in single and multi-occupancy spaces. Second, Menassa will design and validate a robust HVAC control framework for buildings that will synchronously use the analyzed thermography data to adjust its set-point to improve thermal comfort in indoor spaces and reduce overall dissatisfaction among occupants in multi-occupancy spaces.
National Science Foundation; PI-SangHyun Lee
A temporary organization, which is defined as a “set of organizational actors working together on a complex task over a limited period of time” (Goodman and Goodman 1976), has been increasingly employed across diverse industries including construction, film making, shipbuilding, software development, advertising, biotechnology, and fashion as the world becomes more dynamic and fast-changing (Bakker 2010). Temporary organizations, as opposed to traditional, long term organizations, are not favorable to fostering and maintaining coherent social norms because most members and different levels of management possess different organizational backgrounds and their tenure is relatively short. However, no existing study has paid much attention to the fundamental characteristics of temporary organizations (i.e., coexistence of heterogeneous organizational backgrounds and social norms) in the social influence process.
The proposed study aims to investigate how employees’ behaviors can be better aligned with desirable social norms with the help of the negotiation of multiple foci of organizational identifications in temporary organizations. Lee will employ construction workers’ safety behavior as a case of an
employee’s behavior in a temporary organization because construction plays a very important role for
our economy and construction projects are one of the widely used form of the temporary organization.
Also, the construction industry is one of the most dangerous industries (Melia et al. 2008) and workers’ unsafe behaviors are the leading cause of accidents in the construction industry (Lingard and Rowlinson 2005). The proposed research will provide an in-depth understanding of how social norms and organizational identification will affect employees’ behaviors in temporary organizations. To achieve the research objectives, Lee will incorporate diverse empirical data collection methods (e.g., survey, behavioral economic experiment, and behavior sampling) and analyses to investigate the role of multiple organizational backgrounds and social norm in shaping employee’s behavior in a temporary organization. In addition, Lee will conduct quasi-field experiments to develop and test a series of one-time, short-term managerial interventions that can promote employee’s social identification with the umbrella organization and ultimately to elicit desired changes in improving employees’ behavior.
Department of the Interior (Department of Defense – Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency); PI-Evgueni Filipov
Filipov’s work will use origami principles to fold micro-scale piezoelectric actuators that are placed on
thermally active polymer sheets to create three dimensional functional actuator systems. The folded assemblages will allow for greater maneuverability, mechanical amplification, redundancy, and morphing abilities for the interconnected actuating system.
Small scale mechanical manipulators are needed in applications ranging from surgical instruments to flying reconnaissance robots. Thin piezoelectric films have revolutionized the field of small actuator systems because they can generate a high force output for a relatively modest voltage and power requirement. However, the stroke lengths of the piezoelectric actuators is limited making it is difficult to use them directly into functional robotic systems. Thus, there is a growing demand for systems that integrate the micro-actuators into functional three dimensional geometries that can achieve large motions, generate high forces, and morph and adapt to accomplish a variety of different tasks.
If successful, Filipov’s research will introduce a versatile set of three dimensional actuator assemblages that amplify the mechanical properties and allow for global morphing. The work will address the challenge of micro-fabrication that combines efficient and brittle piezoelectric actuators with flexible thermally active polymers. Filipov will introduce new geometric designs that allow for three dimensional self- assembly, and optimize the systems to achieve variable actuator properties and greater versatility. This research could make a paradigm shift in creating power efficient, mechanically amplified, and functional micro-mechanical systems.
National Science Foundation; PI–Neda Masoud, Co-PI–Yafeng Yin
Masoud and Yin’s work focuses on connected vehicle (CV) technology and achieving optimal and behaviorally stable vehicle platooning. A platoon is
defined as a single-file line of vehicles travelling with small gaps between them. A stable platoon structure does not contain any coalition of vehicles who could increase their individual utilities by trading their platoon memberships. This project integrates stable platoon formation into trajectory planning models, enabling them to incorporate both local and network-level information to form behaviorally compatible platoon structures that stay stable in a dynamic traffic stream.
National Science Foundation; PI–Seymour Spence
The technological revolution is changing the landscape of computational discovery by enabling the use of evermore sophisticated and high-fidelity simulation models. This is enabling the better prediction of complex phenomena such as the non-linear response of structural systems subject to severe earthquakes or the wind response of structures equipped with distributed arrays of non-linear devices for vibration control. From the perspective of risk/resiliency, the use high-fidelity structural models is paramount if credible results are to be obtained. However, the probabilistic foundation of state-of-the-art risk/resiliency metrics creates a roadblock to high-fidelity computational models. This becomes exasperated in risk-based decision making where multiple solutions must be evaluated and compared. To overcome this fundamental hurdle, it is here proposed to explore a new simulation paradigm based on metamodeling. The idea is to create a layered simulation environment consisting of multiple metamodels of varying fidelity and computational complexity. Multi-fidelity approaches will then optimally fuse samples from the layered model space, enabling rapid estimation of high-fidelity risk/resiliency metrics. By creating models through non-domain specific approaches, multi-hazard simulation will be naturally encompassed. These advances will enable new approaches to be proposed for rapidly identifying optimal solution sets to multihazrd decision problems.
The focus of this project on risk-based engineering provides a unique opportunity to reinforce the direct connect between engineering solutions and societal benefit. Special attention is placed on using this connect to increase the number of underrepresented students – with particular focus on women – that enter into engineering and more in general STEM disciplines. The program is anchored around the development, implementation and assessment of three project-based learning modules that bring to life the fundamental link between basic science and state-of-the-art structural engineering solutions within the context of risk reduction. An implantation plan is proposed that involves Ann Arbor area high schools and the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP). In parallel, a teacher training workshop is proposed around the learning modules. This will provide teachers with not only opportunities to learn about the latest engineering technologies, but also material for implanting these technologies into their respective curricula.
National Science Foundation; PI–Branko Kerkez
The PI’s career goal is to use distributed sensor networks to improve the fundamental understanding of the complex interactions between water quality, hydrology, meteorology, and infrastructure. Toward that goal, the research hypothesis of this proposal is that real-time control of stormwater infrastructure, enabled by low-cost sensors and actuators, will significantly improve water quality benefits when compared to traditional solutions. This hypothesis will be tested through two objectives, which will study the performance of real-time control at the small-scale (<500m2) and the watershed-scale (>10km2). At the small scale, the first objective will quantify the benefits of controlling outflows from stormwater ponds and basins, as measured by their retention of TSS and Phosphorous. This will be accomplished by conducting a comprehensive uncertainty analysis on the performance of various real-time control algorithms, followed by a set of unprecedented field experiments during which real-world ponds will be controlled. The second objective will then evaluate the scalability of these results by studying how a large network of over 20 controlled stormwater basins affects water quality at the watershed scale. The PI’s educational goal is to empower students, nonprofit organizations, and citizen scientists to use novel, fun and open-source sensors and electronics to improve how they learn about and manage water systems. To that end, this career proposal will carry out two tasks to create a sensor-driven water quality curriculum for middle school and high school students. The first task will leverage the PI’s existing partnership with a local watershed council to help high school students study urban runoff quality using open-source sensor networks. The second task will teach underrepresented middle and high school students in Detroit about hypoxia by allowing them to control a robotic boat and collect distributed measurements of water quality.
Ford Motor Company; PI–Yafeng Yin
The proposed technology developed in this proposal would add to Ford’s competitiveness in the ride-hauling business. With a hybrid assignment system, the latency to receive ride offers would decrease dramatically while matching riders with the most suitable ride offers; therefore provide customers with fast and reliable service. It could make Ford AV and mobility services more attractive to travelers who demand a more instant service. While the ride-hauling business is on track to reach $285 billion by 2030, by offering a better service; Ford could become to preferred choice customers, therefore taking a controlling share of the mobility market. From the operation’s perspective, this system would decrease fuel consumption and wear to the vehicle by avoiding driving longer distance.
The Water Research Foundation; PI–Lutgarde Raskin
Drinking water (DW), even in the presence of residual disinfectants, contains a wide variety of bacteria and protozoa that are usually not of health concern to healthy individuals. However, some of these microorganisms such as Acanthamoeba spp., Legionella pneumophila, nontuberculous mycobacteria, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa are known opportunistic pathogens (OPs) in premise plumbing that are a health risk to vulnerable populations, including young children, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals. As a result of recent health-care associated and community-acquired OP infections, their presence in DW distribution (DS) and premise plumbing (PP) is of growing public health concern. Unfortunately, since OPs can exist in many different forms, such as within protozoan hosts, in a viable but non-culturable state, and form cysts, their detection presents a major challenge for standard DW monitoring practices. Currently, culture-based methods are the “gold standard” approach used to assess the presence of live pathogens. These methods, however, have several well-known limitations. Therefore, there is a great need for the development of reliable, sensitive, rapid and quantitative detection methods to understand OP survival and proliferation in potable water systems. The proposed research aims to develop DNA based methods to accurately detect and quantify bacterial and protozoan OPs in DW systems. In particular, the four drinking water OPs representing the greatest health and economic burden and encompassing all physiological and ecological traits of known OPs in PP will be used (L. pneumophila, P. aeruginosa, NTM, and Acanthamoeba spp.). Using the established methods the effectiveness of pipe material and point-of-use filters, as mitigation strategies to reduce the risk of OP exposure in PP will be assessed.
Ford Motor Company; PI–Neda Masoud
This work will built on the experience of the PIs on optimizing the performance of shared-use mobility systems. The proposed methodology will focus on efficient operation of real-time shared mobility in large-scale networks by (i) shifting the highly intensive computations to an offline setting to ensure high real-time performance, (ii) using historical data to send out fleet pro-actively to ensure high quality of service for customers as well as high performance for the system, and (iii), making operational decisions on routing and scheduling of fleet and pricing decisions for customers concurrently to ensure a budget-balanced and individually rational system.
U.S. Department of Defense; PI–Evgueni Filipov
Folding sheets with curved creases into three dimensional structures can harness their intrinsic properties to make systems that are stiff, anisotropic, and mechanically adaptable. The objective of this proposal is to create computational tools and knowledge for evaluating the stiffness and the internal mechanics of curved crease origami. Analytical codes for both simplified and more detailed simulations will be developed to capture folding and structural deformations in the origami inspired systems. The codes will be tested, improved, and verified based on theoretical solutions and physical prototypes of curved sheets. The proposed work will use parametric studies to explore how single and multi-crease patterns, as well as the folded shapes affect the global stiffness characteristics. The geometry of the crease pattern would determine the initial mechanical properties of the system, and later, folding and deforming the structures could tune and adapt these properties. The work will give insight to how the global characteristics are affected by localized interplay between low stiffness bending deformations and high stiffness stretching/shearing of the thin sheets. The curved folded sheets will be used to create structures that are stiff and resist unwanted deformations, or are anisotropic and allow prescribed deformations while providing global strength and stiffness. Other potential advantages of curved folding include efficient manufacturing from flat sheets, stowability, deployability, energy dissipative characteristics, and adaptive multi-physical properties.
United States Geological Survey; PI–Dimitrios Zekkos
Landslides represent one of the most significant hazards during and in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake. On December 17th 2015 an Mw 6.5 event occurred in Lefkada island in Greece. During the earthquake, essentially the entire west coast of the island, extending many tens of km failed catastrophically. The research team deployed a fleet of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) just two days after the earthquake as well as five months after the earthquake mapping a plan view area of 6.5 km2. In addition to pre-earthquake topography, the team was provided access to pre- and post-event high-resolution satellite imagery. Both satellite and UAV imagery will be used to create a detailed polygon landslide inventory and more interestingly, create three-dimensional topography of the landslides. This study aims to: (a) Analyze a unique 2D and 3D depository of landslides and make comparisons between the landslide data generated from two different state-of-the-art technological mapping tools: the UAAV-enabled ultra-high definition imagery and high resolution satellite imagery. High resolution topography and imagery data will allow for careful documentation of the landslide areas, and also of the volume of the landslides thanks to the nearly immediate mapping of these landslides. (b) To examine the landsliding patterns caused by the 2015 earthquake and compare them to the landsliding inventory from the 2003 Lefkada earthquake with emphasis on the geomorphic evolution of the Lefkada slopes and the consequences in stability of rock masses. (c) Leverage the unique depository to derive rock mass strength estimates. The anticipated outcome of this research is a well-characterized landslide event with respect to regional landslide distribution, landslide 3D geometry and rock strength.
National Science Foundation; PI–Adda Athanasopoulos-Zekkos
One of the leading causes of damage during earthquakes is soil liquefaction. Liquefaction causes loose soil to behave more like a heavy liquid than a solid which can result in settlement of buildings as well as landslides and dam failures. Recently, extensive gravel liquefaction and damage was observed in the 2008 Wenchuan, China, earthquake and the 2014 Cephalonia, Greece, earthquake sequences, and the evidence indicates that gravelly soils that were considered non-liquefiable using existing liquefaction susceptibility methods, did liquefy. This study will provide a fundamental understanding, as well as practical guidance on assessing whether a gravel deposit will liquefy. Such deposits are encountered widely and their potential liquefaction is commonly a critical consideration in the stability of our nation’s ports, dams, levees and in general, civil infrastructure. The improved procedures that will be developed will enhance the resiliency of these facilities, and will help in avoiding unnecessary expenses when gravel liquefaction is not really an issue, or more importantly, highlight the need for stabilization when gravel liquefaction is indeed expected. The research team will establish a web-site with a gravel liquefaction database, and document all available case histories of gravel liquefaction. Videos on the mechanism of liquefaction that can be used for outreach purposes will be developed, as well as a recorded webinar and other educational resources on the outcomes of this study with emphasis on the recommended procedures for liquefaction assessment of gravelly soils. Characterization of gravelly soils in a reliable, cost-effective manner for routine engineering projects remains a challenge and methods such as the Cone Penetration Test and Standard Penetration Test are not considered appropriate. Even for large projects, such as dams and energy projects, characterization is expensive (if Becker testing is used) and problematic. Nevertheless, because liquefaction is known to have occurred in gravelly soils in a significant number of earthquakes, dam engineers are frequently called upon to assess the potential for liquefaction in gravels and liquefaction mitigation costs often run into millions of dollars. With the majority of research in soil liquefaction engineering focused on the assessment of the likelihood of “triggering” of liquefaction in sands and silty soils, new approaches, and transformative methods for characterizing gravels are needed. In this collaborative project, there is a coordinated plan that combines unique large scale laboratory testing and innovative field testing at key gravel liquefaction sites to develop liquefaction triggering charts and post-liquefaction shear strength recommendations for gravelly soils. A prototype 300-mm diameter cyclic simple shear (CSS) device has been developed at the University of Michigan and will be used to evaluate the cyclic (and monotonic) undrained shear response of gravelly soils in the laboratory. A next-generation dynamic cone penetration test (DPT) that was originally developed in China will be modernized with key instrumentation and will be used for field testing along with in-situ shear wave velocity (Vs) measurements. Field testing will be conducted in the USA, China, and Greece, leveraging resources from international partners, in-situ testing firms and organizations. The PIs will leverage well-documented case studies of gravel liquefaction in the recent Cephalonia earthquake to validate the new methods and augment the field performance record of gravel liquefaction.
Magnusson Klemencic Associates Foundation; PI–Seymour Spence
This research project is focused on developing a framework for the efficient and practical non-linear system-level response analysis of wind excited high-rise buildings. To this end, two avenues will be explored: 1) enhancement of the recently developed Dynamic Shakedown approach; 2) Development of a wind record selection strategy that will enable estimations of system performance using limited suites (10 to 20 records) of wind tunnel records and direct “seismic style” non-linear dynamic finite element models.
National Science Foundation; PI–Branko Kerkez
In the age of the self-driving car, what role can autonomous technologies play in improving water systems? Floods are the leading cause of severe weather fatalities across the United States. Furthermore, large quantities of metals, nutrients, and other pollutants are washed off during storm events, making their way via streams and rivers to lakes and costal zones. To contend with these concerns, most communities across the United States maintain dedicated infrastructure (pipes, ponds, basins, wetlands, etc.) to convey and treat water during storm events. Much of this stormwater infrastructure is approaching the end of its design life, which results in more flooding and degraded water quality. Instead of building new and bigger stormwater infrastructure, which is cost prohibitive for many communities, it is possible to use existing infrastructure more effectively. The goal of this proposal is to enable the next generation of smart and connected stormwater systems, which use sensors to anticipate changes in weather and the urban landscape, and adapt their operation using active flow controls (e.g., gates, valves, pumps). This will drastically improve community resilience to floods and water quality. Equipping stormwater systems with low-cost sensors and controllers will provide a cost-effective solution to transform infrastructure from static to adaptive, permitting it to be automated and instantly reconfigured to respond to changing community needs and preferences. This research will address a truly national-scale infrastructure challenge and will lay the foundation upon which to empower and educate communities to adopt smart and autonomous stormwater solutions. The research to enable “smart” stormwater systems will be conducted by a team of engineers, social scientists, computer scientist and environmental experts in tight collaboration with decision makers and citizens across four communities in the United States. The team will close fundamental knowledge gaps to explain (1) to what extent real-time control can improve the hydraulic and water quality performance of individual stormwater sites, (2) how to identify and overcome the barriers that public perception poses to the adoption of smart stormwater systems, and (3) how system-level interoperability can be achieved to guarantee safe and effective performance at the scale of entire communities (100s to 1000s of controlled sites). This will be achieved through three closely coupled scientific objectives, which will include testing of laboratory models of control sites, field-scale water quality studies, the formation of community advisory groups, the analysis of residential surveys in each community, and the stability analysis of system-level control algorithms under various sources of uncertainty. The approach is thus fundamentally motivated around the goal of scalability, as the results will be relevant to many communities across the United States, regardless of their size. By open-sourcing the efforts on Open-Storm.org and other public forums, the project will also support research capacity-building by reducing the overhead required by others to deploy smart and connected stormwater systems.
City of Ann Arbor; PI–Lutgarde Raskin
Non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM), some of which are opportunistic human pathogens that can cause disease in immunocompromised individuals, are frequently detected in drinking water. There is growing evidence that drinking water disinfectants select for NTM. An important, but mostly unexplored area is the selection for NTM during biofiltration, which has become a popular technology in centralized drinking water treatment plants (DWTPs) in North America. Few if any studies have evaluated the impact of disinfectant exposure during backwashing on the selection for NTM in biologically active filters. We hypothesize that reducing disinfectant exposure of the microbial communities in BAC filters promotes more diverse biofilm communities with microbial populations that effectively outcompete pathogens, while achieving the same or better filtration performance. We will evaluate this hypothesis using a combination of full-scale and pilot-scale investigations at the Ann Arbor DWTP, with culture-independent, high-throughput microbiology. Specifically, we propose to test the impact of dechlorinating the backwash supply on filter microbial communities, focusing on whether this strategy reduces NTM levels. This research will result in strategies for utilities to reduce the levels of disinfectant-resistant, opportunistic pathogens in filters and thereby lower the likelihood of seeding the distribution networks with these microbes. While our work will focus on the Ann Arbor DWTP, it will be applicable to other utilities that practice biofiltration, especially those that pre-ozonate and use disinfectants in their backwash water.
National Science Foundation; PI–Nancy Love
This project addresses an enormous global challenge, the management and improvement of decentralized water systems, including treatment and delivery of fresh water as well as removal and treatment of wastewater. The project will provide an in-depth research and training opportunity for twelve graduate students in decentralized water systems in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Outside of the United States, most urban water systems are decentralized, meaning they are built after housing is established. In many locations, these systems serve only a segment of an urban area. This project will provide US students a clear understanding of the specific challenges of decentralized water systems through hands-on experiences. Students will develop sensor systems, connected through cellular networks, to form data acquisition networks that can significantly improve the understanding and operation of decentralized water systems. The U.S. students and faculty team will work with five mentors from Addis Ababa University (AAU) who bring significant expertise in context-appropriate, decentralized water infrastructure and expertise. The U.S. students will be paired directly with AAU graduate students, using a peer-to-peer learning model likely to increase the technical impact and cultural exchange impacts of the project. Addis Ababa is excellent site for the proposed research. It is rapidly growing, with a strong existing decentralized water system and strong cellular networks to support the cyber-systems research. In addition, the city has need for more efficiency and further development of the water infrastructure. Strong dissemination efforts are planned that should increase the impact of this project beyond the cohort of participating students. The international team is developing a course on decentralized water systems that will address a significant lack of educational materials on decentralized water systems. In addition, each US student will submit abstracts to a national conference and an on-campus research symposia, and the team proposes to publish on the peer-to-peer learning model as well as papers on the specific research projects.
National Science Foundation; PI–Jeremy Semrau
Methylmercury is a very potent neurotoxin produced by some microbes. Once formed, methylmercury can easily bio-magnify, that is, the concentrations of methylmercury in organisms increase as one goes up the food chain. Other microbes have the ability to degrade methylmercury, thus limiting this process of bio-magnification. These known systems of methylmercury degradation, however, do not appear to be significant in most environments. Recent work, however, has found that different microbes, through a process yet to be full elucidated, degrade methylmercury under more environmentally relevant conditions. This process may thus be very important in controlling methylmercury bioaccumulation, and its toxicity. In this project we will delineate this process and determine how wide-spread it may be in the environment. Methane-oxidizing bacteria, i.e., methanotrophs, are widespread in the environment, but their impact on biogeochemical cycling of mercury, has only just been investigated. The investigators have recently found that methanotrophs bind and demethylate substantial amounts of methylmercury (MeHg), a neurotoxic form of mercury that is generated via anaerobic microbial activity. What is remarkable is that methanotrophs do not have merB, encoding for the well-characterized organomercurial lyase, indicating that methanotrophs use an as yet unknown mechanism to demethylate MeHg. Further, methanotrophic-mediated MeHg degradation was observed under environmentally relevant conditions (i.e., nanomolar concentrations of mercury and circumneutral pH), unlike the organomercurial lyase, which is operative only under conditions rarely seen in the environment. As such, it appears that the methanotrophic-mediated MeHg degradation is much more environmentally significant than the canonical merB-mediated pathway. The objectives of this proposal are thus to determine how methanotrophs take up and degrade MeHg. Investigators will examine a suite of methanotrophs that span the phylogenetic and physiological diversity of these microbes as well as several mutants of one of these species to determine how these microorganisms take up and demethylate MeHg, and the impact of MeHg uptake and degradation on growth, activity and transcriptome.
National Science Foundation; PI–SangHyun Lee
Household fossil fuel consumption in the U.S. is responsible for approximately 22% of primary energy consumption and CO2 equivalent emissions. Consequently, it is an objective of this project to identify widely applicable intervention methods potentially capable of promoting environmentally responsible behaviors. The goal of this research is to advance understanding of how personalized normative comparison groups influence the effectiveness of normative feedback interventions through the development and validation of a non-invasive data mining-based behavior intervention framework, with field experiments conducted in homes in Holland, Michigan. Successful implementation of the research would significantly contribute to reducing harmful emissions from the built environment through the enhancement of pro-environmental feedback intervention design by providing a detailed first look into personalized normative feedback. Specific research objectives are: 1) to classify households into several meaningful groups sharing similar consumption patterns on the basis of hourly energy usage data, using non-invasive techniques; and 2) to generate and then empirically evaluate the effectiveness of personalized normative energy use feedback created with the use of readily available consumption data. The research is targeted to provide an in-depth understanding of both the reliability of personalized normative messages, and how and where energy use behavior changes. Further, it seeks to discover long-term effects of personalized normative feedback on household energy consumption and identify the effect of descriptive norm reference groups on energy consumption norm adherence and energy use. All of these could contribute to residential energy use reduction by advancing the theories for normative energy feedback. The findings on how and where personalized normative messaging changes occupant behavior in both the short and long term have important implications for energy reporting, policy making, and meeting of state and national energy reduction goals. In addition, lessons learned on personalized normative messaging on energy use can be readily applied to other pro-environmental behaviors (e.g., water consumption). Particularly, the proposed non-intrusive personalized feedback messaging framework may be capable of wide-scale deployment in advanced utility networks.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration; PI–SangHyun Lee
The construction industry has the highest number of fatalities and injuries due to hazardous working conditions. The introduction of robots on construction sites has the potential to relieve human workers from dangerous and repetitive tasks by making machines intelligent and autonomous. However, robotic solutions for construction face significant challenges. This project will develop technologies of automated monitoring and intervention through computer vision to provide a means to dramatically improve the perception of construction safety in the presence of co-robots. The new methods developed in this project will impact computer vision, machine learning, and effective human-robot collaboration in unstructured environments, while significantly contributing to safety. Further, the developed methodologies can be broadly applicable in situations where robots are deployed in human-centered environments (hospitals, airports, shipyards, etc.) and have other priorities such as productivity and efficiency as their objective. This project will engage a diverse group of individuals by training graduate and undergraduate students (including women and underrepresented minorities), reaching out to K-12 students, and interacting with industry professionals for broad dissemination of the research results. This research will investigate new computer vision based methods that can be coupled with other sensing modalities for holistic understanding and predictive analysis of jobsite safety on co-robotic construction sites. The project will consist of two main research thrusts. First, holistic scene understanding will be pursued on construction sites using graphical models to enable joint reasoning of various scene components. This holistic understanding in turn will help evaluate compliance with established safety rules expressed as formal statements. Second, predictive analysis will be investigated by exploiting the fact that, for safety intervention, the complex dynamics of a construction scene make it necessary to simulate what will happen next. In particular, Recurrent Neural Networks will be leveraged to predict future events and prevent impending accidents. Finally, an integrated demonstration system will be built and tested on real construction sites.
National Science Foundation; PI–Yafeng Yin
The proliferation of smart mobile devices has given rise to on-demand economy, which aims to effectively bring together consumers and suppliers with very low transaction costs. As a typical example of on-demand economy, ride-sourcing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, are transforming the taxi industry and the way we travel in cities. The companies provide ride-hailing applications that intelligently source private car owners who drive their own vehicles to provide taxi services for profit to riders. These companies have been successful, but have created controversy. This controversy arises due to regulations in terms of price, entry and service quality that are imposed on the taxis while comparatively fewer regulatory requirements have been imposed on ride-sourcing companies. Unfair competition is argued particularly by cab drivers and their employers. The success of ride-sourcing services has thus created doubt about the efficacy of regulating the taxi industry; it challenges the very premise behind regulation in this industry. This grant will develop methodologies and tools for analyzing the structure and competition of taxi markets with ride-sourcing services and deriving insights on their regulation. The grant will provide timely support for the government agencies of many cities to better understand the impacts and implications of ride-sourcing companies and develop policies to guide their deployment. The research results can also shed light on the analysis and management of other types of on-demand economy and other emerging urban mobility services such as car sharing and ridesharing. This grant will involve students at all levels and traditionally underrepresented students, creating interactive, virtual environments for in-class use. Additionally, materials related to an on-demand economy and innovative urban mobility services will be developed to enhance existing courses.
National Science Foundation; PI–Yafeng Yin
Parking is a growing problem in dense urban areas. To many, finding a parking space in these areas is an unpleasant experience of uncertainty and frustration. Cruising for parking makes traffic on already-congested urban streets even worse and leads to significant waste in time and fuel. In transportation, smartphone-based parking management applications have emerged. These applications help drivers find parking spaces by allowing them to use smartphones to view real-time availability and prices of parking spaces and guide them to open parking spaces, reserved or otherwise. This award develops theoretical foundations and methodologies for analyzing these emerging parking management services. Results from this research provide a better understanding of the impacts of advanced parking management services on parking competition and travel patterns. The research develops policies to reduce traffic congestion and emissions in dense urban areas. This award positively impacts engineering education by offering new materials and case studies and engaging underrepresented student groups in research. Using game-theoretic, dynamic and stochastic programming approaches to investigate both temporal and spatial travel patterns with advanced parking management, this project generates a set of analytical tools that explain the underlying working mechanisms of advanced parking management services and gauge their potential for reducing traffic congestion. The theoretical efforts in this research are complemented by an agent-based simulation, which tests the validity and applicability of the theories, and unveils complex outcomes of parking competition under realistic parking search behaviors. This work advances the knowledge and analysis of parking management and enriches the literature of modeling morning commute and vehicle routing.
The University of Florida; PI–Yafeng Yin
This project will develop tools for analyzing and optimizing system reliability on freeways. These tools include analytical and simulation frameworks for the optimization and near real-time performance forecast of active traffic management (ATM) systems. The proposed traffic congestion mitigation toolbox will include local and/or system-wide adaptive ramp metering, integrated ramp-metering and variable speed limit control, hard shoulder running, speed harmonization, dynamic pricing of express lanes, optimized traffic diversions and efficient incident response and management. ATM deployment is a means to meet specific reliability goals below a desirable agency specified threshold. In this project, we will develop a methodological framework to select and optimize appropriate strategies from the ATM toolbox to meet reliability goals. We will also test the validity of the proposed approach using data from a minimum of three freeway facilities in the Southeast region at both rural and urban locations.
Didi Chuxing; PI–Yafeng Yin
Ride-sourcing service has become increasingly important in meeting travel needs in metropolitan areas. Even though some previous studies have been conducted to advance our understanding of various aspects of such an emerging service, few of them paid attention to the issues of labor supply, let alone developing behavioral models to uncover its fundamental mechanisms. This project is to fill this gap, which resides in the research area of Behavioral Economics recognized by Didi Chuxing to be central to the company’s long-term vision and strategy. The overarching goal of the project is to better understand drivers’ decision making of labor supply and provide insights for ride-sourcing companies to better manage drivers’ labor supply. In the project, we will firstly model drivers’ work scheduling and zonal choices respectively, and investigate how these decisions interact with the wage rates that drivers receive. Leveraging empirical data and evidences from Didi Chuxing, we then apply our models to design and evaluate mechanisms and strategies that aim to guide or incentivize drivers to make better decisions and improve the performance of the ride-sourcing market.
Michigan State University; PI–Herek Clack
A lab-scale non-thermal plasma device has been proven to achieve greater than 99% inactivation of an airborne viral surrogate in in vitro testing. The objective of the present proposal is to design and construct a larger, pilot-scale unit whose size, capacity, and design flexibility will allow it to be used for in vivo testing with live animals in either an actual farm environment (e.g. pork or poultry production facilities) or the more controlled conditions of an animal testing laboratory. Following in vitro testing of the lab-scale device (both the successful ongoing tests using a viral surrogate and scheduled tests using a live swine virus), the development of a larger unit of flexible design is critical to obtaining the live-animal test results needed to begin product commercialization.
Water Environment & Reuse Foundation; PI–Krista Wigginton
The project will address key gaps in pathogen monitoring methods by incorporating a number of innovative approaches, particularly focusing on norovirus.
Department of-National Institute of Standards & Technology Commerce; PI–Jason McCormick
For a study of the performance during seismic events of deep slender column sections within a steel special moment frame structure (where beams, columns and beam-column connections are designed to be more earthquake resilient).