University of Vermont

College of
Engineering and Mathematical Sciences

Five new Barrett scholarships awarded

Release Date: 08-10-2006

Author: Dawn Marie Densmore
Phone: Array Fax: 802-656-8802

What connects Italy to Missisquoi Bay and Lake Champlain? Five new Barrett Scholarships! Richard Barrett, a 1966 UVM graduate and successful entrepreneur whose career was boosted by his own UVM experiences, has funded undergraduate research for students in the UVM College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (CEMS). The scholarships allow students to find answers to questions that impact those of us who swim in Lake Champlain, fish in Missisquoi Bay, and enjoy visiting caves now and then.

"From local watersheds to international cave systems," says Professor Donna Rizzo, a key overseer of the grant, "the Barrett scholarships are providing UVM students the opportunity to help better understand, manage, and preserve our community and natural systems."

Watch the video of a WCAX News report on streambed erosion featuring students Chris Palombini and Ryan Foster.

The five students will complete their 2006 internships under the direction of professors Jeff Frolik, Greg Druschel, Mandar Dewoolkar, Paul Beirman and Donna Rizzo.

Missisquoi Bay

Chris Palombini is focused on wireless sensor networks for environmental monitoring. "My goal is to build a wireless sensor that can monitor stream bank erosion along with other soil parameters including: soil, suction, water level and flow." Palombini explains that having a wireless sensor system means that researchers only have to visit a site twice — once to set up the equipment and once to disassemble it. "The system provides long-term monitoring, he says, "real-time data from remote sites and real-time data essential for rapid response."

Aaron Hartmann is also working on a project at Mississquoi Bay. He is trying to find a solution to the toxic algae blooms that threaten recreational use, human health and the local economy surrounding the bay.

Lake Champlain

Ryan Foster is investigating stream bank stability with regard to Lake Champlain. "Stream bank instability is believed to be one of the key sources of phosphorus in Lake Champlain, which allows algae to flourish," Foster explains. When spring run-off or heavy rain occurs, the soil on banks can become saturated, reducing the strength of those banks which then collapse. "My goal," Foster says, "is to predict stream bank collapses with minimum expense so that phosphorus is kept out of the lake."


Located in the Apennine Mountains of the Marches Region of Central Italy is the Frasassi cave system. Danielle Eastman is exploring the relationship between the microbial ecosystem and the corrosion of limestone. "Microbes drive corrosion of limestone in caves," says Eastman. "If we can better understand the pathways through which sulfur is oxidized, we can determine how fast the corrosion of limestone will occur in cave formations."

Vermont dams

Nathan Schaffer became fascinated with embankment dam failure because of the New Orleans levee break. "Embankment dam failures are rarely witnessed," he says, "and lack of field data makes it necessary to model conditions of embankment dams to predict and prevent future failures." Schaffer has obtained samples of soils from dam sites in Vermont and is testing these soils for grain size analysis, consistency indices, and density. Through the use of electronic transducers, he hopes to be able to measure water pressures more accurately.

For more information

For more information on the Barrett Scholarships, contact Donna Rizzo, Assistant Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering or Jeff Frolik, Assistant Professor, Electrical & Computer Engineering.