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Civil Engineering Wins Graduate Education Grant
Toby Weber

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering has won a grant to provide up to 12 one-year full scholarships for students pursuing a Ph.D.

The grant comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) program, which is designed to enhance teaching and research in fields of major importance to the United States. The grant provides the department with roughly $400,000 over three years, and is matched by the University of Houston at approximately 30 percent.

The civil and environmental engineering department will use the funds to support Ph.D. students conducting work related to infrastructure and clean water in the Cullen Colege of Engineering. Both areas were singled out by the National Academy of Engineering as “Grand Challenges” for engineers to tackle in the 21st century.

“In 2009 the American Society of Civil Engineers gave an average grade of ‘D’ to the nation’s infrastructure,” said civil and environmental engineering chairman Abdeldjelil “DJ” Belarbi. “The ASCE also estimated it will take $2.2 trillion and a new national public-private partnership to make the necessary infrastructure repairs and improvements.”

According to Belarbi, the department plans to award one-year GAANN fellowships to four doctoral students over each of the next three years. After this year of funding concludes, each student will be able to join a faculty member’s research team, which will help fund the remainder of his or her Ph.D. education.

“We’ll put them on the grant for the first year then roll them into funded research projects. That way we can reach out to a large number of potential GAANN Fellows,” he said.

The department will advertise the fellowships to colleges and universities around the country in the coming months, Belarbi said. Recipients must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. More information on the fellowship can be found on the civil and environmental engineering department website.

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