ASCE President Kristina Swallow presents distinguished lecture

From L to R: Philip Taylor, Badr Husini, Caroline Clevenger, Kristina Swallow, Moatassem Abdallah, Aaron Leopold

On Wednesday, February 28, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) President Kristina Swallow visited CU Denver and presented a lecture, “Engineering the Future” to more than 100 engineering students, faculty, and industry partners. The message: how to best prepare future civil engineers to meet the challenges in our aging infrastructure, innovation of new technologies and capabilities that will enable us to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Ms. Swallow also encouraged the attendees to have the necessary “courageous conversations” to promote sustainability and resiliency in our infrastructure and civil engineering. The visit was coordinated by the CU Denver ASCE student chapter and faculty in the Construction Engineering and Management (CEM) program.

While here, Ms. Swallow also spoke with the CEM advisory board, toured the campus and attended a dinner with campus and college leadership hosted by Chancellor Dorothy Horrell and Paul Boulos, president-elect of the Academy of Coastal, Ocean, Port & Navigation Engineers.

Read the ASCE story.

Mays links groundwater, biogeochemistry and chaos through supercomputing

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Associate Professor David Mays

With several colleagues and students, civil engineering associate professor David Mays is pioneering a new approach to clean up contaminated groundwater. According to the National Ground Water Association, groundwater—the water occupying the space between soil grains and fractured rocks in the Earth’s crust—provides drinking water to 44% of Americans plus more than 50 billion gallons per day for agricultural irrigation. When groundwater becomes contaminated, however, cleanup is no easy task.

“Groundwater remediation is a challenge for several reasons,” Mays notes, “For one thing, it is hard to manage subsurface resources, simply because they are out of sight. We share this challenge with geotechnical and petroleum engineers. Second, groundwater remediation works through a complex system of linked hydrological, microbiological, and geochemical processes that we call hydrobiogeochemistry. And third, because groundwater moves slowly, there is essentially no turbulence, which is really frustrating for anyone wanting to mix treatment chemicals into subsurface contaminants. So the cleanup problem is important, invisible, complex, and slow.”

Over the last several decades, researchers from the Environmental and Molecular Sciences Laboratory at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed cutting-edge, sophisticated computer model simulations to understand the hydrobiogeochemistry of groundwater remediation.

Mays explains, “These models account for groundwater flow, geochemical reactions, and microbiological processes, which boils down to solving staggeringly large systems of equations on their Cascade supercomputer. And then, what is really impressive, the team from PNNL can validate the simulations with gene expression data taken from a field site. It’s great stuff.”

While PNNL has been working to address the complexity of groundwater remediation, Mays and colleagues have been working to improve mixing in groundwater aquifers by applying new ideas from chaos theory. According to the fluid mechanics research literature, chaotic advection—where flows have sensitive dependence on initial conditions—provide the best possible mixing in the absence of turbulence. “It sounds like rocket science,” Mays comments, “but actually chaos theory can be quite simple. For us, it boils down to stretching and folding the plume of injected treatment chemical, kind of like a saltwater taffy machine.” This work has been supported by NSF grants awarded in 2011 and 2014, and is illustrated in a short animation.

The goal now is to incorporate chaotic advection into PNNL’s existing computer simulation of hydrobiogeochemistry. Mays explains, “Fortunately, this can be done by a fairly straightforward modification of the hydraulic boundary conditions that does not require changing the overall model architecture. And this has been fun. When I started at CU Denver in 2005, I never imagined that I would ever be doing research with a supercomputer.” Work is in progress, but preliminary results have been presented at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana in December 2017, and most recently at the Hydrologic Sciences and Water Resources Engineering Seminar at CU Boulder in January 2018.

Mays Hosts Indigenous STEM Affinity Group

Civil engineering associate professor David Mays has formed an affinity group within the National Science Foundation’s INCLUDES program, where INCLUDES stands for Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers of Engineering and Science. This affinity group brings together principal investigators (PIs), evaluators, and NSF program officers interested in Indigenous science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), where the term Indigenous comprises the terms Native American, American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Hawaiian Native.

Mays writes, “Under the leadership of NSF director France Córdova, INCLUDES has been designated as one of NSF’s Ten Big Ideas. I am happy to be involved with this effort, because it builds on my prior experience with Teach for America and with my interest in sharing quality engineering education with anyone and everyone. Forming the Indigenous STEM affinity group made a lot of sense, because we can learn a lot from colleagues at other institutions who are united by a common awareness of the value of Indigenous STEM.”

Mays is co-PI on an INCLUDES design and development grant, active from 2018-2019, to build a network of tribal and government partners for Environmental Stewardship of Indigenous Lands. Mays continues, “This undergraduate certificate program, spearheaded by PI and biology associate professor Timberley Roane, is a first-of-its kind program designed to provide students with training in STEM, plus additional training in cross-cultural communication, historical awareness, and facilitation designed to prepare graduates for careers as tribal liaisons. It’s a unique program designed to fill a known gap in our educational system.” Other co-PIs include Grace RedShirt Tyon, director of CU Denver’s American Indian Student Services; Brenda Allen, Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion; and Rafael Moreno-Sanchez, environmental science associate professor.

Mays Edits Special Issue of Open-Access Journal Water

David-Mays- (10-2014)-webCivil engineering associate professor David Mays has been appointed co-editor for a special issue of Water, focused on groundwater contamination and remediation:

Mays will be co-editing this special issue with Tim Scheibe of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Mays writes, “We hope to solicit a nice group of papers within the broad field of groundwater contamination and remediation, including (but not limited to) processes controlling contaminant sources, transport, and fate in the subsurface; methods to identify the concentration and extent of contaminant plumes; and novel approaches to predict and enhance the performance of remediation techniques.”

Water is a peer-reviewed journal published by Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI) of Basel, Switzerland and indexed on the Web of Science. Water will be accepting manuscript submissions this special issue through Wednesday 6/20/2018.

Kim inaugurated president of the Bridge Engineering Institute

jimmy kim2015Jimmy Kim, professor of civil engineering has been inaugurated as president of the Bridge Engineering Institute (BEI), an international technical society. BEI is a non-profit, non-political and non-biased organization consisting of the executive committee and the international advisory committee, including world-class researchers and engineers in the area of bridge engineering and related fields. The objectives of BEI are to advance the knowledge of bridge engineering and related fields, to promote the state of the art, to foster young professionals who will lead tomorrow’s technology, and to provide a forum for international cooperation.

Kim’s research interests encompass advanced composite materials for rehabilitation, structural informatics, complex systems, and science-based structural engineering, including statistical, interfacial, and quantum physics. He is the chair of two national technical committees and participates in developing several design specifications and guidelines to transfer research into practice. Kim is an elected Fellow of American Concrete Institute (ACI) and elected Council Member of the International Institute for FRP in Construction (IIFC), and serves as an Associate Editor/Editorial Board Member for two international journals.

Rens and team featured in CU Today


How does one become the engineer of record on dozens of Denver’s infrastructure rehabilitation projects?

For Civil Engineering Professor Kevin Rens, PhD, PE – and the many students he’s mentored in both the classroom and the field – it’s quite simple. It comes down to loving the minutiae of the craft – identifying each crack in the pavement, rating the structural integrity of every component, and planning in precise detail the path to a longer life for bridges, streets, sidewalks, curbs and just about anything else that makes up Denver’s road system.

Read the entire CU Today story here.

Fall 2017 Senior Design Recap and Slideshow

The fall senior design event was a smashing success with 29 teams, nearly 100 students and almost 20 judges participating. Below is the list of winners:

Read the recap from University Communications.

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Mays Teaches Hydrology to 2nd Graders in Denver

On Friday 10/6/2017, civil engineering associate professor David Mays led a hydrology field trip for Ms. Sara Goodwin’s 2nd grade class at Park Hill Elementary School here in Denver. The field trip reinforced the students’ prior learning about maps, directions, and scales while introducing the basics of urban hydrology: storm water flows downhill, enters a storm drain, and then flows through storm sewers that are accessible by manholes. The field trip to Ferguson Park culminated in a flood when Mays, outfitted for safety in a CU Denver hard hat, dumped 35 gallons of water from a pre-loaded garbage can graciously loaned by STEM-supporting neighbors Amy, Dennis, and Tomá.

By Robert Lawton – Robert Lawton, CC BY-SA 2.5,



Urban Street Design class tours the city with Bike Denver

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On Thursday, September 14, Bike Denver took the CVEN 5800 Urban Street Design class around Denver on a City Spin tour. They toured several bike lanes, including the new Broadway two-way cycle track and the Cherry Creek bike trail. Part of the tour included a light rail transit stop and how the bike-train connection works at that location.

The class is currently studying bicycle transportation and design, and this “first-hand view” along with bicycle advocates will hopefully influence their future designs.

The class was also joined by Steve Smith of RTD (former CU-Denver student) and Emily Cushman of the City/County of Denver (also a former CU-Denver student). Regular Bike Denver participants and other CU-Denver students joined the tour as well.

Mays, Roane receive NSF INCLUDES award

David Mays, associate professor of civil engineering, and Timberley Roane, associate professor of integrated biology, received one of 27 National Science Foundation INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) award for their project “Building a Network for Education and Employment in Environmental Stewardship of Indigenous Lands.” NSF INCLUDES awards aim to enhance U.S. leadership in STEM discoveries and innovations through a commitment to diversity and inclusion. This is the second year of awards for INCLUDES, one of NSF’s “10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investments.”


For the United States to maintain its leading role on the world economic stage, it is essential to strengthen the American workforce in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Our current prosperity and our future success hinge on recruiting, training, and employing the creative and industrious STEM professionals who drive the innovation economy. Strengthening the American STEM workforce depends, in part, on broadening participation to students from demographics that have traditionally been underrepresented in STEM. This NSF INCLUDES Launch Pilot project will foster recruitment, training, and employment for indigenous STEM students, where the term “indigenous” comprises the terms Native American, American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Hawaiian Native. Specifically, this project will support the design and development of a first-of-its-kind network focused on environmental stewardship of indigenous lands. The network will comprise both tribal and government partners and will be organized by three faculty at the University of Colorado-Denver. Student recruitment, training, and employment will be organized around the unifying principle of land stewardship. The focus on land stewardship has been selected not only because it demands the expertise of STEM professionals, but also because land stewardship is among the top motivations for indigenous students considering STEM careers. Accordingly, this work is important on several fronts: It addresses the recognized need for STEM professionals; it broadens participation to students from underrepresented groups; and it provides a test bed for collective action by a first-of-its-kind network of tribal, government, and university partners.

The proposed network will work together to design, deploy, and debug a unique educational program giving students an opportunity to train for employment as tribal liaisons in the environmental field. In particular, this program will address the need for culturally-sensitive, scientifically-trained individuals who can serve as tribal liaisons between tribal and non-tribal organizations, which will allow them to prevent, minimize, or manage environmental incidents through their understanding of STEM principles and organizational dynamics. All students in this educational program will earn a regular four-year STEM degree, but a key feature of the program is that they will also participate in training and internships designed to provide background with nontechnical matters such as cultural awareness, environmental regulations, and organizational dynamics. Additionally, this educational program is designed to support recruitment of indigenous students by (1) providing a clear vision of a high-impact, culturally-relevant professional career and by (2) providing a cultural connection with obtaining a college degree. Taken together, the network aims to increase enrollment, retention, graduation, and alumni activity by indigenous students. Best practices and strategies for collective impact will be used to document achievement of the network in increasing the enrollment, retention, graduation, and alumni activity of indigenous students in higher education and in STEM careers. Continuous feedback will be collected to assess partner engagement and durability, and student satisfaction, performance, and progress. The network is expected to be sustainable because it addresses a demonstrated need; it is expected to be scalable because scientifically aware, culturally-sensitive individuals who can serve as tribal liaisons are needed not only regionally, but nationally.

Read more about NSF INCLUDES.

Congratulations David and Timberley.