Civil Engineering Research

The Department of Civil Engineering is a research intensive department.  All faculty members are internationally known for their research.  The Department of Civil Engineering has the largest research expenditure in the Herff College of Engineering, and has the largest graduate program supporting both M.S. and Ph.D. students.  The department is well known for research in the area of Transportation, Earthquake Engineering, Ground Water and Water Resources, and Environmental Engineering.

All graduate programs are flexible and can be adjusted to fit personal needs and interests. The curriculum is designed to assist individuals who seek professional careers as advanced engineers, researchers, faculty members, or teachers. 

Research Centers and Institutes

Center for Innovative Research in Bridge Engineering (CIRBE)

Center for Transportation Innovations in Education and Research (C-TIER)

Intermodal Freight Transportation Institute (IFTI)

Southeast Transportation Workforce Center (SETWC)

Center for Applied Earth Science and Engineering Research (CAESER)

Please see individual faculty members' research websites.

Video Highlights of Faculty Research Activities

Click HERE to watch Dr. Maryam Salehi present her research titled "Investigating the Contaminant Fate and Transport Within the Environment."

Click HERE to watch an overview Dr. Fahad Jazaei's research areas including water resources and environmental engineering. 

Click HERE to watch Dr. Sabya Mishra, Director of the Center for Transportation Innovations in Education  (C-TIER), present a program overivew to a recent Research Advisory Board Meeting.

Click HERE to watch Dr. Stephanie Ivey present an update on the Greater Memphis Apprenticeship Pathway (GMAP), a grant program funded by the US Department of Labor.

Example of Faculty Directed Research

Listed below are examples of some ongoing projects. Please contact the faculty directly if interested in these projects. 

Laboratoary and field-scale investigations in the area of groundwater flow and contaminant transport, surface-water and groundwater interactions, and soil-water dynamics (Dr. Farhad Jazei, fjazaei@memphis.edu)

Dr. Farhad Jazaei is a recently affiliated faculty member of the Water Resources group at the Civil Engineering Department. He collaborates with several undergraduates, master's, Ph.D. students, and postdocs on hydraulics and hydrology projects. His undergraduate students are working on an on-campus project to reduce the water, sewer, and stormwater costs of the University of Memphis by about 10% using water-smart techniques. His master's student team is working on different topics such as investigating evaporation and infiltration rate of different soils and groundwater numerical simulation and field investigations. Ph.D. students are working on various projects, including the laboratory analyses of back-diffusion processes in clay lenses, laboratory investigation of the stream and groundwater interactions, advanced groundwater simulation models, and heat transport within the groundwater system. He collaborates with two postdocs and local farmers on deep groundwater recharge estimation projects in west Tennessee. If you are interested in these researching topics or want to learn more about the new collaboration opportunities, please contact Dr. Jazaei at: fjazaei@memphis.edu.

Community Livability, Transportation Operations, and Transportation Planning and Policy (Dr. Stephanie Ivey, ssalyers@memphis.edu)

Dr. Stephanie Ivey's research includes focus on community livability, transportation operations, and transportation planning and policy.  Ivey also has a lengthy and nationally recognized research record focused on STEM and transportation education and workforce.  She and her students have recently completed research leveraging social media data to inform transportation planning decisions and developing a capability maturity model for assessing public agency readiness for Complete Streets program deployment.  She is currently leading funded projects focused on understanding how students develop an engineering identity and its impact on persistence in engineering majors, developing national resources to increase awareness of and interest in Intelligent Transportation Systems and related career pathways, and identifying training needs to improve traffic signal operations capabilities within Tennessee.

Lightweight Fill to Improve Ground Conditions and Natural Hazard Mitigation (Dr. David Arellano, darellan@memphis.edu)

Dr. Arellano’s research focus areas are use of lightweight fill to improve ground conditions and natural hazard mitigation. The lightweight fill focus area involves characterizing materials, including recycled lightweight fills, and developing design guidelines for the use of lightweight fill for various functions such as conventional lightweight fill, thermal insulation, compressible inclusion, damping, low earth pressure fill for retaining structures, and structural support.

The natural hazard mitigation focus area involves liquefaction analysis procedures and liquefaction hazard map development as well as landslide stabilization using lightweight fills.

Bump at the End of the Bridge: Enhanced Remediation Decision Making via 3D Measurement and Advanced 3D Dynamic Analysis (Dr. Charles Camp, cvcamp@memphis.edu; and and Dr. Shahram Pezeshk spezeshk@memphis.edu)

Dr. Charles Camp and Dr. Shahram Pezeshk are currently utilizing an innovative strategy to combine data from multi-frequency ground penetrating radar (GPR) and multi-channel analysis of surface waves (MASW) to develop 3D subsurface maps of bridge approach slabs and foundations. From these 3D soil maps, advanced finite element (FE) models subjected to dynamic moving truckloads are being developed for the bridge approach. This research combines the 3D subsurface maps and FE model to provide a general framework for evaluation issues ranging from structural rehabilitation, maintenance options, and repair strategies.

Microplastics Fate and Transport in Agricultural Soil System: Interrelation of Hydrodynamics, Chemistry, and Material Sciences, Funded by USDA-NIFA  (Dr. Maryam Salehi Esfandarani, mssfndrn@memphis.edu)

Application of agricultural plastic products is increasing due to their economic benefits in providing an early and better-quality harvests. Despite the short-term benefits provided by plastic products, their long-term sustainability issues and negative impacts on soil health are not well understood. Although several studies investigated the microplastics (MPs) biodegradation and transport by terrestrial organisms, little is known regarding the influence of photo and mechanical degradations on MPs surface characteristics, attachment to the soil particles, and eventual transport through the soil. In this project the MPs degradation and fragmentation will be studied through bench-scale and field studies. Furthermore, the long-term migration of plastic residuals to the deep soil will be evaluated by applying analytical chemistry, polymer science, engineering, and hydrodynamic techniques.  

Exploring Coupled Physical, Biological and Chemical Processes that Control Lead Fate and Transport through Plastic Plumbing Materials, Funded by NSF-CBET (Dr. Maryam Salehi Esfandarani, mssfndrn@memphis.edu)

Lead (Pb) in tap water remains an ongoing serious threat to public health, with recent large scale lead exposures occurring in Washington, DC (2001-04), Flint, MI (2014-16), and Newark, NJ (2016-19) in the United States. With rapid movement toward sustainability, plastic pipes are increasingly being used to rehabilitate aging water infrastructure and construct new potable water systems, which reduces cost and ameliorates drinking water quality concerns associated with metal pipe corrosion. With increased demand and installation of plastic piping materials for potable water systems, immediate research is essential to understand drivers of contaminant fate and transfer within these materials. Thus, this interdisciplinary research aimed at elucidating the roles of water chemistry and biofilms on Lead fate within new high density polyethylene (HDPE) and crosslinked polyethylene (PEX) pipes.  

CAREER, An Investigation of Microplastics Fate and Contaminant Transport in Storm Runoff, The Nexus of Environmental Engineering and Material Sciences, Funded by NSF-CBET (Dr. Maryam Salehi Esfandarani, mssfndrn@memphis.edu)

Plastics are persistent pollutants that will take hundreds of years to decompose completely. Thus, the rapidly growing plastic production created plastic pollution as a long-lasting threat to public health and environmental safety. The small plastic fragments released to the environment by disintegration of plastic litters are called “microplastics”, which could be ingested by animals and organisms and consequently end up in the food web. This CAREER project aims to investigate the microplastics’ environmental degradation to better understand their heavy metals transport behavior through urban stormwater. This project will enhance the regulators’ awareness to fully assess the fate and contaminant transport of microplastics to develop effective stormwater management strategies. The educational materials developed within this project will provide K-12 teachers with the appropriate resources to educate their students on plastic pollution. Underrepresented K-12 students will be inspired to pursue a future career in environmental engineering. 

Evaluating the Adoption and Impact of Autonomous Delivery Modern Technologies (Sabya Mishra, and Mihalis Golias)

Sponsored by: Freight Mobility Research Institute, and US Department of Transportation

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the need for contactless deliveries that avoid the risk of person-to-person infection has made it clear that autonomous delivery robots 
(ADRs) have many advantages. Consumers, businesses, and governments have switched from cautious beta testers into eager early adopters. Despite this unprecedented requirement necessitated by the pandemic, sidewalk autonomous delivery robots (SADRs) and road autonomous delivery robots (RADRs) need to be deployed by logistics service providers and Government agencies in a way that is generally accepted by the public. In fact, if not widely accepted by the public, the development and introduction of autonomous delivery vehicles can be a substantial waste of resources for logistics service providers and vehicle developers alike. Therefore, it is imperative to conduct micro-level behavioral research on user acceptance early in the deployment roadmap of delivery robots to be able to design, develop and promote them as an accepted alternative to its conventional delivery practices (i.e., van-based human delivery). One of the contributions of the proposed project is to address this urgent research gap by investigating the psychological factors that determine public acceptance of ADRs from an end-consumer perspective.

 The Impacts and Adoption of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (Sabya Mishra, and Mihalis Golias)

Sponsored by: Tennessee Department of Transportation, City of Memphis, FedEx Institute of Technology, Freight Mobility Research Institute, and US Department of Transportation

Connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) have a potential to revolutionize the daily travel modes, in terms of personal, public, or shared mobility, because of their potential of technology-assisted driving and hence minimizing errors caused by human In addition to safety, CAVs will provide additional benefits in terms of ability to multitask during travel, flexibility in travel (relocating the house to farther and more convenient location), reduced parking and running costs, travel time savings due to the reduction in congestion and accessibility to elder and non-license holder individuals. However, such benefits will also come at the cost of numerous anticipated barriers like accident liabilities, data safety concerns, the addition of new infrastructure, and increased emissions because of an increase in vehicle miles traveled. In the US, 22 states including Tennessee have already passed legislation for operating CAVs on public roads. However, until the CAVs meet the perceptions, demands, beliefs, and needs of end-users at a justified cost, their adoption is uncertain. Adoption research from non-transportation related innovation suggests that social network plays a pivotal role in deciding whether to adopt, defer, or not to adopt. The objective of this research is to understand, model, and predict CAV market penetration in Tennessee over time based on the residential social network.

 Truck Parking Needs (Mihalis Golias and Sabya Mishra)

Sponsored by: Tennessee Department of Transportation, Freight Mobility Research Institute, and US Department of Transportation

Whether needed for staging, pick-ups & deliveries or hours-of-service compliance, truck parking is a critical component of supply chain operations. However, there is a huge gap between the demand and supply of truck parking facilities in many states. The purpose of this project is to provide TDOT with guidance on truck parking issues and opportunities, by identifying parking needs (i.e., addition of capacity and/or construction of new facilities); developing truck parking violation rates (i.e., truck parking on on- and off- ramps) and developing/applying a methodology to identify candidate locations for new truck parking facilities in the State of TN.

Identifying Critical and Vulnerable Freight Routes in Roadway Networks (Mihalis Golias and Sabya Mishra)

Sponsored by: Freight Mobility Research Institute, and US Department of Transportation

Transportation networks are by nature vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters or incidents. Vulnerabilities of transportation networks have been widely studied in recent years and are gaining even more attention with the growing number of threats (e.g., climate change, man-made attacks). In the US the transportation network is one of the largest and oldest in the world, making also one of the most vulnerable. As traffic demand increases, despite the decrease in vehicle miles traveled, decision-makers are faced with the important task of identifying the vulnerable and critical links and routes in the transportation network. This also includes make decisions on investments that will protect and fortify the network against attacks. Addressing network vulnerabilities of transportation assets, in general, will minimize impacts of disruption, reduce recovery time and improve on the region’s resilience.