REU: Sustainability of Horizontal Civil Networks in Rural Areas

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

For information contact

Prof. Shannon Bartelt-Hunt
Associate Professor in Civil Engineering

2016 Sustainability of Civil Infrastructures summer scholars.
2016 Sustainability of Civil Infrastructures summer scholars.

Application Dates

Nov 15 2016 App opens
February 1 Priority deadline
March 1 App closes
April 1 Decisions complete

Program Dates

June 4 2017 Arrival day
June 5 Program begins
August 9 Program ends
August 10 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.


  • Competitive stipend: $4,500
  • Suite-style 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 Civil Engineering

Managed Aquifer Recharge for Wastewater Management and Irrigation Supply.

Managed aquifer recharge (MAR) is a means of storing excess water in the subsurface for future use. In addition to storage benefits, managed recharge may also contribute to improved groundwater quality through in situ treatment of nutrients and organic contaminants during recharge.  It can also provide a means for storage, treatment and use of agricultural wastewater for irrigation water supply.  While large-scale engineered artificial recharge structures have been constructed in urban areas, little information is available on small farm-scale managed recharge systems.  This project will quantify water quality benefits of farm-scale MAR basins, evaluate the potential for broad-scale adoption of low-cost farm-scale recharge, and compare management strategies to maximize recharge and contaminant treatment efficiency. 

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.

Yong Rak Kim Geotechnical and Materials Engineering

Innovative Design for Sustainable Roadway Mixtures Using Crop Residue Bio-Fibers Based on Multiscale Experiment-Simulation Approaches

New materials and mixture systems for civil engineering infrastructure must be developed to improve economics, performance and environmental sustainability. This project will investigate innovative additives for more sustainable bituminous roadways in rural areas. Among several potential additives, we will investigate physical and mechanical properties of bituminous mixtures that are transformed with biofibers.

Dr. Xu Li Environmental Engineering

Constructed Wetlands for Agricultural Wastewater Reuse

Significant amounts of water are used in livestock production to cool and wash down animal facilities and remove animal wastes.  Alternative water sources, such as storm water runoff from livestock facilities, have the potential to replace fresh water for use in livestock or crop production. Constructed wetlands (CWs) offer a potential means to treat these contaminated runoffs for reuse. Although CWs have been explored to treat urban runoff, a clear understanding of their applications in treating runoff from livestock facilities is lacking, particularly their efficiencies in removing contaminants beyond solids and nutrients (e.g., veterinary antibiotics and antibiotic resistant bacteria).

Dr. Yusong Li Civil Engineering

Green storm water management system for rural communities

Although storm water management has traditionally focused only in urban area, increased attention is necessary for rural communities during agricultural development and urbanization. Urbanization results in a significant rise in the volume of storm water runoff due of the increase in impervious surfaces in cities which prevent the storm water from infiltrating the subsurface and reaching the water table. The runoff can also pick up contaminants, such as manure wastes and fertilizers, from the surfaces and eventually enter natural aquatic systems, hence polluting the impacting the ecosystems. 

Daniel Linzell Civil Engineering

Revisiting Reliability for Rural Bridges

:   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.

Dr. John Sangster Civil Engineering

Road Diets for Low Volume Roads

A road diet is the process of reducing capacity along a corridor, usually in the form of reducing the number of lanes, to prioritize secondary modes of travel or increase safety.  The ongoing project, funded by the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR), includes case study analysis of three locations within NE where two-lane rural highways expand to four lanes as they pass through a town (population less than 12,000).

Dr. John Sangster Civil Engineering

Behavior of Drivers Newly Encountering Roundabouts.

Description: Single-lane roundabouts provide significant safety benefits over signalized intersections, and in low volume conditions, also provide significant travel time improvements.  However, there is a hesitation to embrace this type of facility as a default option, especially by rural communities who do not yet have them.  By understanding more about the ways in which driver behavior change as a population becomes more experienced with roundabouts, policy and decision makers can better prepare these communities with expectations on what will happen, and will be more successful at broadening the reach of this safe and efficient design.  

Dr. John Sangster Civil Engineering

Safety Versus Access on Rural Highways

Median-divided rural highways have intersections with minor roads that are two-way stop controlled throughout the less populated areas of Nebraska.  These crossings of a high-speed road with a low-volume crossing street pose severe safety concerns, as drivers pulling out sometimes misjudge the time available for their maneuver, leading to the types of automobile accidents with the worst outcomes.

Dr. Joshua Steelman Civil Engineering

Revisiting Reliability for Rural Bridges

Service life is a prominent contemporary topic in US bridge management (TRB 2015).  Rural settings present distinct service life challenges from those typically addressed at a national scale.  Rural bridges are not as susceptible as urban bridges to corrosive deterioration accelerated by de-icing chemicals, but many rural bridges were designed and constructed to support loads of lower magnitude and different configuration than are currently required.  Fundamental questions arise regarding whether rural bridges can safely carry vehicles and implements outside the scope of the original design assumptions, and further, what is “safe.