Paving the way for the next generation of industry professionals
Local industry support helps establish new graduate and postdoctoral researcher positions
Roadways are gateways to far off places. They provide reliable routes to the corner grocery store or to destinations across the country. But did you know that every aspect of building a road is engineered, including the types and amounts of the aggregates that get mixed with a binder to form the surfaces we drive on?
The School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of the seven schools in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, houses one of the most diverse pavements research laboratories in the country; and now, with the support of local industry, the Pavement Analysis and Design group has expanded, enabling its efforts to produce better engineered roadways.
“I have been trying to build up my research experience, and this position is the first step toward that,” says Morshed Washif Hasan, a graduate student studying civil, sustainable and environmental engineering who recently joined the Pavement Analysis and Design group as a paid graduate research assistant.
Hasan’s position and a postdoctoral fellowship were established with the support of Valley pavement company ViaSun Corporation. Along with providing funding to support research, the positions include mentorship from company representatives who want to enable ASU graduates to build the skills they need to contribute to the industry for years to come.
ViaSun technical director Keith Ritter and research engineer Hossien Noorvand have championed the collaboration with ASU over many years. Both have both spent time conducting research as students in the pavement lab they are now supporting.
ASU faculty members who collaborated with Ritter and Noorvand say they’re looking forward to a continued working relationship with them.
“We are fortunate to have professionals and ASU graduates like Keith and Hossein who give back valuable time and experience to our researchers and students,” says Kamil Kaloush, a professor of civil engineering and a member of the Pavement Analysis and Design group. “We are proud of their accomplishments, success and continued support to advance innovative project ideas in the industry.”
That sentiment is echoed by ViaSun’s leaders.
“We have the desire to advance the industry through research and innovation,” says Rolando Perez, chief executive officer of ViaSun Corporation. “As an organization, we look for opportunities to impact our key stakeholders including our employees, our community and our industry, and we felt like this was an impactful way to do so. Partnering with a group of researchers with likeminded intentions and goals is a great step toward our initiatives.”
For Hasan, the collaboration with ViaSun Corporation has meant a change in direction in his career and is the spark he needed to achieve goals he once thought to be out of reach.
“It can be an expensive burden to get a postgraduate education in the United States, especially when you are an international student and come from a developing country like I do,” he says. “It would have been impossible for me to continue my education without financial assistance, so this position allows me to ease the burden on my family.”
Hasan will be spending the next year working on research projects, including in his focus areas of asphalt concrete, balanced mix design, and fiber reinforced asphalt concrete, or FRAC. The goal of his research is to expand the number of sustainable material options available to construct roadways.
In addition to his own research projects, Hasan is currently assisting other graduate students and postdoctoral researchers including Carlos Obando, who holds a doctorate in civil, sustainable and environmental engineering from ASU. Obando was also recently awarded a postdoctoral fellowship sponsored by ViaSun.
“They are contributing to the development of creativity, which could generate new products, create new jobs and new industries, cut costs of production, and in some cases offer the possibility to build a more sustainable world,” Obando says.
He is focusing his research on pavement’s thermal properties and behavior, new pavement materials development, life cycle assessment, and pavement’s durability and performance evaluation.
“This position provides me a wonderful opportunity to gain further training as a researcher and boost skills and knowledge that will prepare me for a career in academia,” Obando says. “This opportunity allows me to expand on my creativity and transform some of my PhD work beyond what it currently is with further laboratory work, new publications and the implementation of some previous findings.”
Both Obando and Hasan say working as lab researchers gives them the opportunity to take what they have learned in the classroom and work with materials in a hands-on environment and see concepts in action.
“In the short period I have been here, I have learned that ASU does not compromise when it comes to equipping the research facility and managing it,” Hasan says. “It also has all encompassing research teams, great experts and very helpful facility managers who are so knowledgeable that working with them is easy.”
The two say they are grateful to have mentors who advocate for them to have opportunities like working alongside industry professionals at ViaSun, which has employed a number of ASU and Pavement Analysis and Design group alumni.
“Professor Kamil Kaloush has supported me from the beginning of my academic career at ASU,” Obando says. “I have learned to admire his mentorship, knowledge and positivism. I am deeply grateful to him and professor Hasan Ozer for all their guidance and inspiration to take my career to a higher level.”
“ViaSun Corporation and Rolando’s vision to continuously develop and improve services to local governments in Arizona has been evident by their support of educational and research programs at ASU,” says Hasan Ozer, an associate professor of civil engineering and a member of the Pavement Analysis and Design group. “Our group values their recent support of the research personnel, and we are also grateful for their other contributions over the past year that helped upgrade our laboratory facilities.”