REU in Safe and Sustainable Rural Transportation: Rural Matters
The fabric of the nation’s rural communities is woven together by its transportation network.
Students at the Safe and Sustainable Rural Transportation REU site will focus on the unique challenges of rural transportation systems with special attention paid to enhancing public safety, improving environmental stewardship and increasing overall utility. Students will be involved in cutting-edge research in three broad topic areas: 1) Safety and Human Factors; 2) Sustainable Infrastructure Materials and Practices; and 3) Mobility.
The REU site is hosted by the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) at Montana State University (MSU), a national transportation research center conducting cutting edge interdisciplinary research in these and other areas. Located in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, Bozeman and its surroundings provide an excellent test-bed for researching sustainable transportation solutions in rural communities. Experienced WTI research staff and faculty will mentor a diverse group of eight undergraduate students each summer from all fields of engineering, as well as from other disciplines such as chemistry, material science, psychology, human factors, math/statistics, political science, planning, etc. In addition to their project involvement, the students’ REU experience will be enriched by research seminars, training workshops, technical field trips, and related activities over the course of the ten week program.
June 3 – August 9, 2013
Ten - week summer program
Montana State University
$5,000 (paid in three installments)
Travel reimbursement up to $900 for travel costs to MSU
Program covers all on-campus housing expenses for participants and provides a $400 meal supplement.
Undergraduates from all fields of engineering, chemistry, material science, geography, planning, psychology/human factors, and related fields are invited to apply. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
Completed applications must be received no later than February 22, 2013
Completed applications must include:
- A 2013 REU Application form (download here)
- One page statement of interest (outlining your reasons for wanting to participate in the program, future academic and career goals, and relevant skills and experience)
- Academic transcript
- Two academic letters of recommendation
Application materials should be emailed (preferred) or mailed to:
Education Program Coordinator
Western Transportation Institute
Montana State University
PO Box 174250
Bozeman, Montana 59717-4250
Phone: (406) 994-6559
2013 REU Project Descriptions
An interdisciplinary team of two undergraduate students will be selected to work together on each of the four 2012 REU projects described below. Applications should indicate your preferred project.
1) Determining Hardened Concrete Air Content and Distribution Using Micro Computer Tomography Scanning
Hardened concrete is susceptible to deterioration due to continuous freeze-thaw cycling. This deterioration is primarily due to the expansion of water/ice within the concrete matrix during freezing. However, entraining microscopic air voids in the concrete mixture can mitigate this deterioration. These air voids provide an area in which the ice within the matrix can expand without constraint. This entrained air is added the concrete mixture in the plastic-state and is typically measured via one of several onsite methods (e.g., pressure method). These onsite procedures provide an efficient method for estimating the entrained air content in concrete mixtures; however, research has shown that the actual air content in the hardened concrete may vary from this preliminary measurement. Furthermore, the need may arise to evaluate the air content of an existing hardened concrete in which plastic air content readings are not available. A current procedure exists for measuring the air content in existing concretes, and is based on examining thinly sliced cores from the existing concrete with a microscope. However, this method can be tedious, subjective and costly, and requires a certified petrographer to conduct the test. Preliminary work has been performed at MSU to develop a more efficient/accurate method of determining air content in hardened concrete using a micro-computer tomography scanner (CT scanner). This project is focused on further investigating the use of micro-CT scanners to measure the amount and distribution of entrained air in hardened concrete. In particular the students will further develop/calibrate the method by comparing various air content measurements obtained from currently accepted methods to measurements obtained from the newly developed CT scanner method.
Preferred Background: Coursework on or knowledge of concrete; hands-on experience with concrete and sample preparation; self-motivated and creative; background and/or interest in structural/materials engineering; background in civil engineering; and background in petrography.
Research Mentor: Dr. Mike Berry
2) Quantifying the Effect of Cognitive Demand on Driver Behavior in a Virtual Environment
Driving is a common task performed by humans and also a task subject to a high degree of risk. Driving simulators provide a safe environment to observe human responses while driving. However, it has been debated whether or not the results obtained in simulator-based research can be reliably and consistently applied toward real world on-road applications. In particular, simulator scenarios in many studies lack the complexity of environments and distractions found in real world driving conditions. The objective of this study is to identify the effects that driving scenario complexity has on different aspects of driver behavior; specifically examining physiological responses, behavioral patterns, and subjective mental workload evaluation. If this study can show a reliable relationship between real and simulated driving with different simulator characteristics, environments, and individual driver differences, it will serve as a major step toward the validation of driving simulators as a suitable proxy for real-world driving situations in both research and commercial applications.
This project will quantify the levels of cognitive demand associated with driving through scenarios and road segments characterized by different levels of complexity. By assessing the cognitive demand, this project will enable the comparison of the “spare” cognitive capacity available while driving through different conditions between the real world and its simulated counterpart. The study will contribute to transportation safety by providing an objective background to quantify how simulator driver cognitive demands are different from real-world demands.
Preferred Background: Coursework on or knowledge of cognitive ergonomics; coursework on or knowledge of basic statistical concepts; ability to use statistical computing software (MINITAB, SAS, or R); background in Industrial Engineering or Human Factors; experience with basic programming skills, including coding logic and structure (specific programming language skills are not required).
Research Mentor: Jessica Mueller
3) Assessment of Administration, Capital and Operational Costs of Montana Transit Systems & Determining Customer Reasons for Riding Transit in Frontier and Rural Montana
With an increase in funding through the latest Surface Transportation Bills, public transportation has grown in Montana from nine rural systems to thirty-four. Rural transit systems help to achieve many mobility objectives, including increasing transportation options, providing access to life line services such as health, market places, education institutions and jobs, improving transportation affordability and travel time, and improving rural community livability and environmental features. However, despite the growth in rural transit systems in Montana, the state receives the lowest federal transit funding allotment in the nation. Moreover, it has remained the same for the past few years, even though the number of transit systems has increased. As a result, a majority of transit systems are implementing operations reductions, such as a smaller vehicle fleet or limited service areas (i.e. route reductions/eliminations).
REU students will work in concert on two interrelated transit projects. The first project will assess administrative, operational and capital costs for rural area transit systems, in order to promote operational and financial efficiency. In addition, student researchers will identify and recommend new strategies to leverage tax dollars in order to enhance and expand transit services available in Montana cities, towns, and rural areas. The second project will focus on determining why people ride public transportation in Montana, in urban, rural and frontier areas to determine if gains in efficiency (cost effectiveness) can be made in these systems.
Preferred Background: Academic background in planning, architecture, landscape architecture, environmental science, geography or civil engineering. Strong interest in public transportation is required. Proficiency with database management, graphic design software, and statistical analysis is desired. Preferred abilities include knowledge of basic research methods, survey design, and ability to interpret data using appropriate planning methods and statistical techniques.
Research Mentor: Jaydeep Chaudhari
4) Exploring Multi-scale Modification of Warm Mix Asphalt to Greatly Enhance Its Performance, Durability, and Sustainability
As costs of petroleum-derived asphalt materials and recycling processes increase, there is an urgent need to develop new technologies to extend the service life of asphalt pavement, which can decrease the amount of waste materials and reduce maintenance effort or recycling cost. In recent years, as an emerging technology in the United States, warm mix asphalt (WMA) has attracted the attention of the asphalt industry. WMA is a collective term that describes a range of technologies employed to reduce viscosity of asphalt mixtures and thus make it possible to place and compact asphalt mixtures at temperatures 30o to 100oF lower than that of typical hot mix asphalt (HMA). Reduced viscosity by the use of WMA technologies could bring several cost, environmental, and construction benefits.
The proposed project aims to investigate approaches to drastically enhance the performance, durability, and sustainability of WMA, through improved understanding and modification of its microstructure and chemistry at the nanometer and micron scales. This REU project will preliminarily investigate the combined use of nano-sized materials (e.g., polymer-modified nanoclay), micro-sized materials (e.g., carbon microfiber, micro-silica, and ultrafine fly ash), and recycled waste products (waste engine oil, plastic bags) in WMA binder and concrete pucks. When adding binder modifiers to enhance the properties of asphalt concrete, we aim to achieve performance improvements in multiple aspects, such as resistance to thermal cracking, aging, rutting, and moisture induced damage. There are also multiple variables to be investigated, including the type and dosage of binder modifiers to be added in the asphalt. As such, we will use tools such as statistical design of experiments (DoE) and multi-objective optimization to limit the number of experiments needed to explore a large domain of unknown factors and their complex interactions. The experimental data will then be used to establish reliable predictive models that simulate the nonlinear, complex cause-and-effects relationships between pavement mix design and the multiple asphalt pavement performance attributes.
Preferred Background: Academic background in chemistry, civil engineering, materials science, chemical engineering, or equivalent; self-motivated, professional, and detail-oriented; hands-on experience or coursework related to asphalt pavement or construction materials; knowledge or coursework related to polymers, DSC, or nano-materials; hands-on experience with asphalt sample preparation or materials property testing.
Research Mentor: Dr. Xianming Shi and Michelle Akin