Program Links

2008 Richard Barrett Scholarships

Andrew Cooper, Nathan Dagesse, Joseph S. Krupa, Joseph Marri Jr., Caroline McManus, Nathan Robinson and Josh Tyler were the summer 2008 Barrett Scholars.

See also "CEMS Undergraduate Students Receive 2008 Barrett Scholarships for Summer Research."

2008 Barrett Scholarship Recipients


Andrew Cooper
Multispectral Imaging to Detect Leaf Wetness

Advisors: Professor Gagan Mirchandani ( specializes in wavelets and signal processing.

Leaf Surface Wetness Duration (LSWD) is crucially important to agriculture and the environment because there is a strong correlation between the duration of leaf surface wetness and the onset of fungal infection.

LSWD data is obtained from dielectric sensors placed in the canopy of the crop. Drying time of sensors can differ by several hours, degrading disease prediction models. To avoid crop loss, farmers spray more often adding cost and increasing groundwater pollution. A large number of sensors are necessary to provide enough spatial sampling to give a good estimate of the wetness of the canopy as a whole (rather than just at the isolated sensor points).

"The multispectral imaging solution will use two video cameras mounted side-to-side, one color and one near-infrared (NIR)," says Cooper. "In the NIR spectrum, plants seem to glow brightly, making diseased regions appear darker. Water absorbs NIR light helping to discriminate between wet and dry leaf matter."

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Nathan Dagesse
Cob Project

Advisors: Professors Mandar Dewoolkar ( and Nancy Hayden ( will oversee this project.

This geotechnical engineering research project focuses on creating a documented recipe and formula for the optimal mixture of cob — a sustainable earth building material made of clay and sand from areas in northern Vermont. Cob blocks could be used for the building structure of houses, similarly to cinderblocks, because when mixed with water air dried, cob produces a clay substance that is very strong.

This study of cob will also document the compression and shear force from different recipes produced. Cob material will be mechanically excavated fifteen feet below the surface from a site in Derby, Vermont, and transported to the geotechnical lab on the UVM campus, where the soil will be classified, and used to make cob. The documented recipe and force table will be used to construct cob houses correctly and safely. Because cob is vulnerable to chemical and geological makeup, hundreds of soil tests will need to be performed on different methods, and statistical analysis done to select the optimal mix.

"The Barrett project is a very exciting opportunity to examine different types of building materials," says Dagesse.

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Joseph S. Krupa
Fish Health

Advisors: Professors Donna Rizzo ( and Donna Parrish ( will oversee this research.

Stress affects not only human health, but also fish health. Slight increases in the temperature of fish habitat can create stress in fish population growth levels. Using artificial neural networks, Joseph Krupa is linking local weather climate data with in-stream temperature metrics and developing a tool capable of predicting significant temperature events in Vermont.

"I'm incredibly excited about this opportunity!" says Krupa. "Barrett not only is allowing me to pursue something I find very interesting, but also is providing me the opportunity to gain real experience in research and program modeling with professionals already in the field."

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Joseph Marri, Jr.
Biodiesel: Measuring Performance and Consistency

Facing the problems of global warming, foreign oil dependence, and rising fuel costs, we are forced to seek alternative sources of energy. Biodiesel is a clean-burning, renewable fuel made from vegetable oil, and is currently being used as both a supplement to petroleum-based diesel fuel (petrodiesel) and as a direct replacement. As the production standards of this re-emerging technology are much less stringent than those of petrodiesel, there is room for performance and emissions inconsistencies, and therefore difficulty in quantifying long-term benefits. The intent of this research is to develop performance and emissions models, comparing the behaviors of biodiesel to petrodiesel over time and among successive batches.

"It has been my dream to combine my mechanical inclination with my concern for the natural environment," says Marri. "The Barrett Scholarship is offering me the opportunity to do just that — it's a real honor."

Marri's research project will benefit from his BA degree in liberal studies with concentrations in environmental studies and sociology from Green Mountain College.

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Caroline McManus
Putting the Brakes on Legionnaires Disease

Advisors: Professor Jane Hill ( will oversee this project.

A microorganism called Legionella pneumophila, found in numerous human-made water systems, is the primary cause of Legionnaires disease. This bacterium emits unique volatile organic compounds that, when determined, can provide a "fingerprint" for the bacterium that will aid in detection and species identification.

Caroline McManus is developing a technique that involves the use of a mass spectrometer and electro-spray ionization. L. pneumophila has been known to produce fatal effects, and utilizing this technique will help to reduce species identification time as well as costs for those infected with the bacterium.

"I am both thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to combine engineering and health for my Barrett research project," says McManus. "After struggling for over a year as to which career I wanted to pursue, I get to combine both career paths and hope to understand more about scientific research."

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Nathan Robinson
Computerized Assessment of Transportation

Advisors: Professors Donna Rizzo (, Margaret Eppstein (, and Jeff Marshall ( will oversee this research.

Nathan Robinson is working to develop a regional computer model of the transportation energy market. His model will take into account factors affecting the market shift to alternative energy sources for transportation. The results of the model will assist policy makers to make more informed policy decisions regarding public transportation.

"The Barrett program has given me a great opportunity to expand my education and pursue my interests in the future of transportation and renewable energy," says Robinson. "I'm psyched!"

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Joshua C. Tyler
Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain has excessive nutrients that increase the aquatic ecosystem's productivity of organic growth. Excessive nitrogen and phosphorous cause eutrophication which promotes algal blooms, favors weedy species over others, reduces the amount of oxygen in the water, and decreases the aesthetic and recreational value of rivers, lakes and estuaries.

The two main phosphorous compounds found in manure are the organic form phytate and the inorganic form orthophosphate. Phytate is the major phosphorous component in manure yet it is not directly bioavailable to most plants. Phytate becomes hydrolyzed to orthophosphate; the orthophosphate then becomes a major nutrient cause of eutrophication. Tyler's research will look at industrial agricultural practices that could improve the environmental quality of the lake.

Tyler's work for the last three years with SHN Consulting Engineers and Geologists in California led to his interest in environmental engineering.

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