For the second time in three years, a Cullen College graduate student has won the O.H. Ammann Research Fellowship from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Rachel Howser, a graduate student in the college's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, was honored with the award, which is presented by the ASCE’s Structral Engineering Institute. Established in 1963, the Ammann Fellowship is intended to foster the creation of new knowledge in the field of structural design and construction.
Pursuing her Ph.D. under the guidance of civil engineering professors Thomas Hsu and Yi-Lung Mo, Howser’s research focuses on utilizing nanotechnology to determine the amount of damage sustained by concrete. “Carbon nanofibers have electrical properties and when you add them to concrete, it gives the concrete electrical properties. Since there is a relationship between the strain of concrete and its electrical resistance, you can look at its electrical properties to see how badly it has been damaged by an earthquake or some other sort of disaster,” she said.
Howser’s work in the lab has led her to publish roughly a dozen journal and conference papers and even serve as a conference presenter. In addition to her research activities, she participates in the college’s GK-12 program, through which she teaches science to sixth grade students for at least 10 hours a week. She also serves as a graduate advisor for the UH chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers and as EWeek coordinator for the group.
Howser’s win follows that of fellow civil engineering graduate student Taraka Ravi Shankar Mullapudi, who received the Ammann Fellowship in 2009. Mullapudi is studying under Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Ashraf Ayoub.