REU: Sustainability of Civil Infrastructure in Rural Environments

Contribute to the framework of how engineers address the challenges facing rural environments.
Pending funding approval

For information contact

Prof. Shannon Bartelt-Hunt
Associate Professor in Civil Engineering
2015 Sustainability of Civil Infrastructures summer scholars
2015 Sustainability of Civil Infrastructures summer scholars

Application Dates

Nov 15 2015 App opens
February 1 Priority deadline
March 1 App closes
April 1 Decisions complete

Program Dates

June 5 2016 Arrival day
June 6 Program begins
August 10 Program ends
August 11 Departure day

Who should apply

Related fields

  • Civil Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Physics
  • Mathematics

This program encourages applications from students at all undergraduate levels including freshman and sophomores.


Participation in the Nebraska Summer Research Program is limited to students who meet the following criteria:
  • U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident
  • Current undergraduate with at least one semester of coursework remaining before obtaining a bachelor's degree

See Eligibility for more information.

How to apply

Follow the application steps to submit the following materials.

About the Program

Rural areas, which contain approximately 20% of the US population (49 million people) and 80% of the land area in the United States are fundamental to human well-being in both rural and urban areas.  Within the United States, rural areas provide unique resources such as the infrastructure for food and bioenergy production as well as the transportation infrastructure from inland urban centers to ports. Despite this, little attention is paid to the unique challenges and opportunities these areas face with respect to building and maintaining civil infrastructure.

In this ten-week summer research program, students will work with faculty and graduate students in the Department of Civil Engineering to conduct research and contribute new knowledge to improve our understanding of how best to address the challenges facing rural environments.  Through collaboration with industry partners, students will also be given opportunities to learn how infrastructure challenges are currently being addressed by the civil engineering industry.

Structural engineering students collaborate with industry partners.
Structural engineering students collaborate with industry partners.


  • Competitive stipend: $4,500
  • Double-occupancy room and meal plan
  • Travel expenses to and from Lincoln
  • Campus parking and/or bus pass
  • Full access to the Campus Recreation Center and campus library system
  • Wireless internet access

Learn more about academic and financial benefits.


  • Department seminars and presentations
  • Professional development workshops (e.g., applying to graduate school, taking the GRE)
  • Welcome picnic
  • Day trip to Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo
  • Canoe and camping trip
  • Research symposium

Mentors and Projects

Dr. Shannon L. Bartelt-Hunt Environmental Engineering

Contaminant Behavior in Groundwater under Climate Change

In rural areas, groundwater is an important resource for drinking water and irrigation. In the future, changing climates may have significant impacts on land use and soil conditions in agricultural areas. In this project, we will investigate how agricultural contaminants including steroid hormones, antibiotics and pesticides behave in soil under scenarios of climate change. The REU student will assist a graduate student with column experiments to investigate the influence of variables such as temperature, organic carbon, and soil texture on contaminant movement through soil.

Dr. Elizabeth Jones Transportation Engineering

Connecting Refuse Truck Fuel Consumption and Tailpipe Emissions to Vehicle and Trip Characteristics

Fuel consumption and emissions are known to be correlated. Fuel consumption is also correlated with characteristics of traffic and roadways. For this project, fuel consumption, emissions, traffic, and roadway data were collected with various on-board sensors for refuse trucks with varying vehicle characteristics. These data will be analyzed through use of multivariate analysis. Results from this analysis should better define the relationship between emissions and fuel consumption in terms of vehicle trip characteristics.

Dr. Yong-Rak Kim Geotechnical and Materials Engineering

Multiscale Experiment-Simulation to Identify Key Material Properties for Sustainable Rural Infrastructure Systems

This project will enhance fundamental understanding of the material properties and fracture characteristics of individual phases in heterogeneous mixtures that are often used in transportation infrastructure such as roadways, rails, and airfields. In this project, the REU participants will be primarily involved in performing multiscale experiments necessary to characterize material properties and fracture characteristics of the mixture components (or phases) and interfaces between components.

Dr. Xu Li Environmental Engineering

Development of best management practices to limit transport of antimicrobials and antimicrobial resistance genes

The goal of this research project is to understand the fate and transport of AMs and AMR genes in the agricultural environment and develop best management practices (BMPs) to control their proliferation.  In the proposed project, the student will work with faculty and graduate students in analyzing the AMR genes in runoff and soil samples.  The student will learn how to use molecular techniques to measure AMR genes in environmental samples as well as discover how different management practices may influence the fate and transport of AMs and AMR genes in the environment.

Dr. Yusong Li Water Resources Engineering

Green storm water management system for rural communities

For rural community sustainability, it is important to understand how EIS will promote the removal of contaminants. The research questions of this project include (1) how different porous media will promote contaminant removal in EIS, (2) how the intermittent nature of the storm events will influence contaminant removal in EIS.

Dr. Daniel Linzell Structural Engineering

Revisiting Reliability for Rural Bridges

This project represents a transformative shift in the methodology used to manage bridge infrastructure and rationally extend service life by transitioning toward a performance-based paradigm. The specific research tasks for the REU student could include data collection and processing (mining) from disparate sources; collaboration with faculty in computer, social, and economic sciences to characterize loads and correlate available data to representative loading representations; modeling and parametric sensitivity studies of bridge structures using finite element analysis; assisting with deployment, data collection, and post-processing of sensor output from bridge tests; developing models to correlate sensor data to physical performance, and performing sensitivity studies to investigate optimum reliability and proposed metrics for asset management and decision-making.

Dr. John Sangster Transportation Engineering

Road Diets for Low Volume Roadways

In this project, the REU participant will work with faculty and graduate students to conduct a case study analysis, including both safety and mobility elements, for a location within Nebraska.  Safety analysis will be conducted obtaining crash history data for the selected corridors, with potential impacts of road diet geometrics determined based on Highway Safety Manual procedures.  Mobility analysis will focus on traffic microsimulation of the selected areas in question, examining the impacts to travel time that the proposed changes may be expected to impart.  The take-away for the REU participant will be experience with both safety and mobility research applications within transportation, as well as expertise with both drafting and traffic simulation software applications.

Dr. Joshua Steelman Structural Engineering

Better Rural Bridges Using Big Data

This project involves the development of “smart infrastructure” system(s) that capitalize on past health monitoring successes (e.g. bridges, buildings, pavements, intelligent transportation systems) to effectively interpret and manipulate Big Data to eliminate bridge failures, increase structure durability and save lives.  In this project, the REU participant will assist with sensor development and deployment and will work with graduate students on the development of models using laboratory and field data.  REU participants will be integrated into all aspects of the work, from understanding how models used to predict response under varying loads over varying timeframes are developed and updated to reflect changes in bridge “health” to being actively involved with laboratory and field investigations of the response of single bridges and groups of bridges to simulated and actual demands.