University of Vermont

Engineering Students Report on Summer Research

Barrett with studentsSix 2011 Barrett Scholarship recipients met with Richard Barrett, ’66 UVM alumnus and founder of the Barrett Foundation at a Scholarship Luncheon at UVM on October 14 to discuss their summer research discoveries and accomplishments.  Richard Barrett was among many scholarship donors honored and invited to UVM to meet with students who had received scholarship funds from The Barrett Foundation created to support undergraduate student research activities.

Barrett created The Barrett Foundation as a family nonprofit because his own career was boosted by his early internship experience.  His vision for research for undergraduate students is in its seventh year.  Each project is approved and designed to fit within a general research area of an engineering faculty advisor.   Through CEMS faculty matching research funds, six student research projects were funded in 2011.

“These undergraduate engineering students have the unique opportunity to pursue independent research and work with leading faculty scholars in their fields,” says Dr. Donna Rizzo, faculty advisor and P.I. for the Barrett Foundation scholarship grant.

Each research project sought answers to intriguing questions:  Can algae be used as a renewable energy source? Can recycled concrete be used to reduce the mining of virgin aggregate? Can log jam structures in rivers prevent erosion? Can mint plants be used to disinfect drinking water? Can building materials be improved to prevent structural water damage? 

´╗┐To view video of interview with Richard Barrett visit:

Overviews of the 2011 student research projects (in alphabetic order) are below:

Recycled Concrete Aggregate for Pervious Concrete Pavements

Bradford Berry (Advisor: Dr. Mandar Dewoolkar)

Concrete recycling has gained importance because it eliminates the need for disposal into landfills and protects the natural environment by reducing gravel mining of virgin aggregate. The challenge is that recycled concrete aggregate (RCA) cannot replace virgin aggregate unless minimum compressive strength criteria are met.

Berry’s research helps to determine the optimal percentage of RCA replacement that can be substituted for virgin aggregate in pervious concrete and still meet the minimum specifications for compressive strength.  Most paving surfaces prevent water from entering the subsoil underneath them. Pervious concrete allows stormwater to percolate into the ground and reduce the amount of runoff. For these reasons, the use of pervious concrete is among the Best Management Practices recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency. Berry will use the VTrans lab in Berlin, VT to cast the RCA cylinders and the UVM labs to test and observe the effects on compressive strength, durability, and permeability compared to virgin aggregate used in pervious concrete mixes.

     Relating Surface Gas Permeability to Liquid Transport in Man-made and Natural Porous Building Materials

Laura Galiher (Advisors: Drs. Mandar Dewoolkar and Donna Rizzo)

This work builds on research by Master's student Cabot Savidge. Approximately 25 building materials - half natural and half man-made will be tested to determine how liquids (water) and gases (nitrogen and air) transport into and through the porous building materials. Galiher’s research centers on determining if there is a significant difference in permeability characteristics between man-made vs. natural materials. For example, understanding how quickly water can seep into sandstone vs. concrete can help improve remediation techniques and prevent structural damage.  Recent Lake Champlain flooding impacted businesses and homes along the waterfront – a better understanding of the permeability of water in materials helps to identify better building materials to prevent structural water damage. Galiher is using, among several devices, the AutoScan II machine (from New England Research, Inc.) and statistical optimization analysis to test and compare results.

Characterizing Tuff Deterioration Processes at Bandelier National Monument

Kristina Miele (Advisor: Dr. Douglas Porter)

Over 300,000 tourists visit the Bandelier National Monument in Santa Fe, New Mexico yearly. Bandelier is known for unique cave dwellings (cavates) dug into the face of the Frijoles Canyon. These structures are currently deteriorating. Kristina’s research involves analyzing the fragile makeup of the rock known as 'tuff' that makes up the cavates using modified versions of the American Standard of Testing Materials.  Her research has identified a ’rind’ that forms on the tuff thought to play a role in protecting the rock and preventing erosion.  Kristina used three testing methodologies: erosion, permeability, and water uptake.  Her findings enabled her to categorize the rind formation and provide better understanding of the role that rind formation plays in protecting the tuff from deterioration processes.  

Turbulent Diffusion Model Application to Algae Growth and Alleopathic Toxin Production

Kyle Sala (Advisor: Dr. Jeff Marshall)

Algae is a renewable energy source, occurring naturally in the form of algae blooms. ‘This research through computer simulated modeling will examine algae forms to assess how algae can grow uncontrolled and release alleopathic toxins that kill local competitors,” says Sala.  His research will provide predictive algae growth simulations that could be used for analyzing possible food production as well as negative aspects related to uncontrolled algae blooms.  He also plans to examine aspects of fluid mixing that can cause 2-3% increases in algae growth. 

Using Aquatic Mint to Disinfect Drinking Water in Conjunction with Biosand Filtration                               

Joanie Stultz (Advisors: Rebecca Tharp and Dr. Donna Rizzo)

Stultz is working with Master’s student Rebecca Tharp, from the UVM Rubenstein School of Natural Resources, to examine the ability of aquatic mint to disinfect drinking water in conjunction with bio-sand filtration. Literature supports that Mentha aquatica plants exude anti-microbial compounds, making it a potential species for use as a disinfectant in ecological filtration.  Stultz’s work focuses on setting up Mentha aquatica plants, typically found in wetlands around the world, in water and adding E. coli to investigate if there is a reduction in bacterial growth.   If successful, Mentha aquatica plants could be used as ecological filters, before and/or after a biosand filter, making water drinkable (particularly in the developing world where bio-sand filters are most prominent).  Chlorine is used widely for this purpose; but is expensive and not always accessible. Stultz hopes to assist Tharp in proving that Mentha aquatica can be used in conjunction with biosand filters and possibly act as a residual disinfectant in the place of chlorine, to provide drinkable water around the world.

Engineered Log Jams and River Erosion
Megan Thompson (Advisor: Dr. Maeve McBride)

In the past, it was believed that log jams in rivers hindered the health of the river and managers would, therefore, remove them.  Jams also interfered with vehicle transportation in waterways.  However, new research reveals that log jams are not only important for fish habitat, they also create diversity in water flow patterns that help reduce river bank erosion.  Log jams are now being designed and put back into rivers where erosion is problematic.  Thomspon will model log jams processes using a flume in the UVM hydraulics lab to observe the changing shape of the structure and its influence on erosion.  Her research will provide better designs for log jams to help reduce bank erosion, as well as increase the integrity of the structure itself.


Bradford Berry will be a junior in the School of Engineering, majoring in civil engineering.  Originally from Williston, Vermont, and he attended Champlain Valley Union High School.  Contact information:  Cell phone:  802-881-3799

Laura E. Galiher will be a senior in civil engineering. Contact:  650-619-4923

 Kristina Miele will be a senior majoring in civil engineering.  Originally from Valley Cottage, New York and attended Nyack HS. Contact information: 845-323-2251

 Kyle Sala is a senior in the School of Engineering majoring in mechanical engineering.  Originally from South Burlington, Vermont and attended So. Burlington High School.  Sala is enrolled in the Accelerated Masters Program at UVM.  Cell Phone: 802-578-1015 email:

 Joanie Stultz is a junior in the School of Engineering majoring in civil engineering.  Originally from Kent, Washington, she attended Thomas Jefferson HS. Cell Phone 206-499-8282

 Megan Thompson is a junior in the School of Engineering majoring in civil engineering. Originally from Lincoln, Vermont and attended Mount Abraham Union HS.  Cell phone: 802-989-9871