Professor cementing his status as pioneering civil engineering researcher

June 17, 2016

Narayanan Neithalath’s strides in research to improve the design and development of sustainable infrastructure and construction materials have been earning international attention in his field.

The latest recognition for the professor in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University comes from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), which has awarded him a Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize. ASU engineering professor Narayanan Neithalath in lab with students Professor Narayanan Neithalath (right) directs undergraduate engineering student Hannah Hansen and assistant research professor Sumanta Das in testing new techniques to heal cracks in concrete. Neithalath is being recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers for his research on advanced materials for civil engineering applications. Photo by Jessica Hochreiter/ASU Download Full Image

Neithalath is making particular progress with new materials and methods for producing more durable cement and concrete. But his efforts span across a wide range of the physical, chemical and mechanical aspects of these materials, as well as the environmental impacts of their production and use over their life spans.

He is “one of the rising stars in the emerging areas of new and novel civil engineering materials, contributing greatly to the body of knowledge in this area,” said professor G. Edward Gibson Jr., director of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment in the Fulton Schools.

Gibson and Fulton Schools' ASU Regents’ Professor Edward Kavazanjian point to Neithalath’s work to better understand the microstructures and properties of the materials as a fundamental step to developing stronger cement and more resilient concrete, and to designing more effective performance testing of the building materials.

Beyond that, they note Neithalath’s efforts to make cementless binding systems that could replace conventional Portland cement in many applications and thus significantly reduce the environmentally harmful greenhouse gas emissions produced by standard cement.

They also highlight Neithalath’s collaboration with industry to put his research findings into practice and his outstanding performance as a teacher of civil, environmental and sustainable engineering and as a mentor to students.

Other colleagues who nominated him for the Huber Prize described his work as creative, pioneering and potentially groundbreaking.

His research accomplishments have attracted funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation and the National Science Foundation (NSF), in addition to support from industry.

In 2008, he won an NSF CAREER Award, which is given to young scientists and engineers who demonstrate the potential to become research and education leaders in fields considered important to national interests.

Neithalath also won the Indian American Cultural Center award for outstanding accomplishments in sustainable engineering, developed and patented novel materials — including carbonated metallic binders, high-volume cement replacement systems and methods for crack control in concretes — and has more than 100 publications in peer-reviewed journals.

Last year, he led a multi-university research team whose proposal was one of 10 from among about 100 submissions selected for funding from the European Commission’s Infravation program, which aims to make breakthroughs in sustainable transportation technologies and infrastructure.

His team’s $1.6 million Infravation project involves developing long-lasting, fracture-resistant pavements for roads and bridges. Read more about the project.

Neithalath will be officially presented the Huber Prize in Portland, Oregon, in September as part of the ASCE’s annual conference. The organization represents more than 150,000 members of the civil engineering profession in 177 countries.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


How can teachers compete with cell phones, social media and other distractions?

ASU researchers look at engaging students with current events

June 17, 2016

Teachers at every level struggle at times with keeping students engaged. But starting a lesson with a current event and questions to consider might better engage both students and educators.

Consider Flint, Michigan’s water crisis. The contamination of Flint’s water supply can be explored from a variety of perspectives — interpreting data, exploring cause-and-effect relationships or even discussing the long-term impact of using bottled water to replace tap water. Questions on the issue that could be used in classrooms to teach many subjects include: Download Full Image

• How do we know the water is contaminated?

• How much fresh water is used in Flint schools each week?

• Is clean drinking water a right, or a privilege?

With funding from the Bezos Family Foundation, Annie Warren, director of research and development at ASU’s Biodesign Institute; Leanna Archambault, associate professor at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College; and Lee Hartwell, ASU-affiliated faculty, and Nobel Prize recipient (in physiology), are leading a team in developing an online tool kit for educators focused on sustainability education. The grant supports development of a Teaching Time Capsule, a tool for K–8 teachers to weave sustainability into existing course materials.

“Sustainability is something we hope teachers will work into every lesson so that it becomes a way of thinking for young people. It’s not a separate activity. Sustainability can be a part of all topics,” said Warren.

This Teaching Time Capsule will be an interactive website providing access to teaching tools related to current events and other appropriate topics. By aligning the content with current education standards, Archambault said, the team hopes to make topics transferable across the curriculum.

Hartwell, Warren and Archambault are working with 25 other professionals in ASU’s office of Sustainability Science Education to create and implement the Teaching Time Capsule. These colleagues make up the Sustainability Science Education Project Team, founded in 2011 and focused on sustainability science for the future through education of teachers.

“Sustainability is simply a way to look at an issue or a problem,” said Warren. “By discreetly putting sustainability into play while studying any social issue, teachers can creatively teach young people to consider implications of the many possible solutions to an issue and also to have a sense of wonder and curiosity about how problems came to be and what we can do, moving forward, to solve or prevent them.”

The time capsule will have two components. One will be free content, such as lesson plans, all tied to state and national standards. The other will be more enhanced materials for which users pay a nominal fee to download and modify.

Two online continuing education classes will also be available, so teachers can enroll and take advantage of the content without traveling or sacrificing classroom and personal time to grow and learn, Warren said. The team has hopes of expanding the online professional development opportunities over time.

Archambault emphasized that this project will include longitudinal research: “We’ve been wanting to track our results and see where we may have an impact because we never want to just assume that because we do something, we are making a difference. We want to find out what works and why.”

The website content will be developed in part by ASU alumni who are now teaching. They will share expertise and content they have already created and used with students.

“Teachers are passionate about making the world a better place and that is what sustainability is all about,” Archambault said. “You don’t have to be passionate about every issue, but just be aware and know how to think about sustainability alongside other topics,” she said. “Teachers can reach educators and policymakers of the future, so infusing sustainability into lessons will prepare children to be successful leaders one day. We enhance our shared future by creating and making available resources for sustainability education.”

Copy writer, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College