Northeastern University Awarded $3 Million to Train "Diagnostic Engineers" for Aging Civil Infrastructures

September 5, 2007

National Science Foundation Grant will Fund Multidisciplinary, Multi-institutional Ph.D. Program

Northeastern University has received a $3 million Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop the first interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in Intelligent Diagnostics for Aging Civil Infrastructure Systems (ID-ACI). Funded over five years, the project will include a partnership with the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez (UPRM) to create a joint education and research site to produce diagnostic engineers who can successfully apply multidisciplinary skills to address technical, societal and political challenges associated with aging infrastructure and damage due to natural and man-made disasters.

“Our vision is a sustainable, multidisciplinary degree program that takes advantage of the synergy between computing, sensing technology, domain specific knowledge, economics and public policy,” says Sara Wadia-Fascetti, Professor of Civil Engineering and Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement and Principal Investigator on the grant. “Graduates of this program will be Diagnostic Engineers, prepared for careers as academics, infrastructure management leaders, and entrepreneurial developers of novel diagnostic technologies and systems.”

Starting in September 2008, the program will welcome 7 new IGERT Fellows each year (6 recruited by Northeastern and 1 by UPRM). Students will hold IGERT Fellowships for two years each before moving to funded research in the area of structural health monitoring and sensing of infrastructure systems.

“We are proud to be on the cutting edge of science and translational research that is closely linked to industry needs and will help solve pressing societal and economical issues,” said Joseph E. Aoun, President of Northeastern University. “The solution to problems associated with aging civil infrastructures is a complex one that crosses several disciplines and relies on academic and industrial collaborations on the national and global levels. We will produce leading engineers whose expertise encompasses an unparalleled combination of knowledge in Intelligent Diagnostics, management and economics, and the ability to successfully connect stakeholders.”

IGERT Fellows will be trained in the policy aspects of infrastructure management, as well as in the technological challenges involved in the health of physical infrastructure. The program expects to graduate between 25 and 30 doctoral graduates who are U.S. Citizens or permanent residents through the five-year award. Additional students will be recruited to the program through alternate funding.

Fellows will learn how to provide advance detection and diagnostics methods; to understand economic and management issues in civil and environmental engineering; to systematically monitor the health of the nation’s civil infrastructure; to prescribe cost-effective procedures for the remediation of problems to prevent catastrophic collapse. Their coursework and activities will integrate social, economic and political policy into technology solutions. Curriculum and training will include research experiments at various local, national and international testing sites.

The ID-ACI IGERT site will benefit from Northeastern University’s two NSF- and one NASA-funded research centers, namely the Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging (CenSISS), the Center for High Rate Manufacturing, and the NASA Materials Research Center. University-based collaborators also include the Center for Urban and Regional Policy and the Law, Policy and Society Program and the Center for Digital and Signal Processing. Faculty of the five centers, as well as of other areas at the university contributed significantly to winning the ID-ACI IGERT grant, with a number of them serving as co-principal investigators. 

Students who wish to apply for the doctoral program should contact Professor Sara Wadia-Fascetti at swf@neu.edu or at 617-373-4248. For more information on the Intelligent Diagnostics for Aging Civil Infrastructure Systems IGERT program, please contact Renata Nyul at 617-373-7424 or at r.nyul@neu.edu.

About Northeastern

Founded in 1898, Northeastern University is a private research university located in the heart of Boston.  Northeastern is a leader in interdisciplinary research, urban engagement, and the integration of classroom learning with real-world experience. The university’s distinctive cooperative education program, where students alternate semesters of full-time study with semesters of paid work in fields relevant to their professional interests and major, is one of the largest and most innovative in the world.  The University offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate programs leading to degrees through the doctorate in six undergraduate colleges, eight graduate schools, and two part-time divisions.  For more information, please visit www.neu.edu. 

For more information, please contact Renata Nyul at 617-373-7424 or at r.nyul@neu.edu.

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