Author: Fall 2017 Semester Begins

The Fall 2017 begins on August 28th, 2017! We are excited that we will be announcing soon seminars, society, club and school events. We expect the Fall 2017 to be an exciting time, we look forward to hearing our students stories on how they spent their summers, and we look forward to the exciting contributions to our program, and to the School of Engineering as a whole.

Please note, that on September 4th, 2017, there will be no classes as the university will be celebrating Labor Day.



Author: PIRE graduates recruitment in full swing

Active recruitment of graduate students this fall is in full swing in all PIRE Project participating institutions. Berihun and Meijian joined University of Connecticut (UConn), Sarah, University of Wisconsin (UW) and Dejene Ethiopian Institute of Water Resources (EIWR-AAU).

 berihunMr Berihun Tefera is a PhD candidate in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics in the University of Connecticut. He has a MA degree in Regional and Local Development Studies from Addis Ababa University and BSc degree in Agricultural economics from Haromaya (the former Alemaya) University. He has a very good experience in Agricultural and Socioeconomic research while he has been working in different agricultural research centers and Bahir Dar University.  He has a number of published journals and other articles related to agricultural marketing and value chain, water and forest resource management and adoption of technologies. Mr Berihun Tefera has been working as head of Environmental Research Directorate of Blue Nile Water Institute since 2014. His current research focus is on decision analysis of households and institutions based on hydro climatic forecast in the farming system with special emphasis to irrigation.

professional-head-shot-meijian-yangMeijian Yang holds a BS in Hydroelectricity Engineering from North China Electric Power University and a MS in Hydrology and Water Resources from China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research. His MS research includes two main parts: 1. climate change and extreme weather in China, 2. filed experiment of maize growth and crop-groundwater coupling model development. His current research interests include crop modeling, irrigation management, climate change, and groundwater.


yingSarah Alexander holds a B.A. in Geology from Carleton College (Northfield, MN) and is a M.S. Candidate in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. At Carleton, she was a co-founder, coordinator, and teacher for a summer geoscience camp that aimed to spark girls’ interest in STEM, and had the opportunity to present her senior thesis research at the Geological Society of America conference in 2014. Most recently, she served as Project Coordinator for an educational non-profit in Minnesota, directing the development of K-12 curriculum on water resources that became recognized statewide. Sarah is passionate about helping address critical environmental issues in communities through research, education, communication, and outreach. Her current research interests center around sustainable water resource management at the local and regional level.

dejeneDejene Sahlu Mekuria works in the Abbay Basin (Blue Nile) Authority as the department of head of Basin Information Management since 2011. Currently he is a PhD candidate in Addis Ababa University Ethiopian Institute of Water Resources (AAU-EiWR). He holds a BSc in Physics from Addis Ababa University, Postgraduate Diploma in Meteorology from University of Nairobi (Kenya) and MSc in Physics specialized in Radar Science from Bahir Dar University. His MSc. thesis was in titled on “Simulation on a weather radar measurement”. In addition to this, he has been taking online MSc courses in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) from Lund University. He has engaged in various research activities on water availability and contributing journal articles. His current research interests and activities are on water resource availability and modeling.

PIRE Management welcomes these young researchers and congratulate them for joining the project team–  a golden opportunity to realize their obvious research potential.

Author: Eversource Energy Center Celebrates First Year

The Eversource Energy Center, a unique university-energy company partnership, marked a significant milestone with its one-year anniversary celebrated October 24, 2016, at the University of Connecticut. Over 90 guests participated in the event, including the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), Connecticut’s newly appointed Chief Cybersecurity Risk Officer, the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, ISO New England, with utility, legislative and business leaders, and UConn and Eversource representatives. The event showcased the Center’s research including 11 featured projects in storm outage forecasting, tree and forest management and electric grid hardening.

A panel discussion at the Eversource Energy Center celebration. From left are ISO New England Vice President of Systems Operations Peter Brandien; Eversource Connecticut Vice President of Engineering Ken Bowes, Eversource Energy Center Director Manos Anagnostou, Connecticut Chief Cybersecurity Risk Officer Arthur House, and Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Klee. (Photo Credit: Gerald Desimas)

Connecticut DEEP Deputy Commissioner Katie Dykes described the Center’s research as transformational. “Today is an impressive milestone as in the past year you’ve quickly jumped into big projects to ensure reliable power in extreme weather and security events,” said Dykes. “Transformational information is being developed here at the Center. The insights from your research can be a template for the rest of the country and the world. Many thanks for the remarkable work so many of you do at Eversource to maintain the high standard of reliability every day.”

Ken Bowes, Eversource Vice President of Engineering, and Eversource Energy Center Executive Committee Member, highlighted the year’s success. “Our vision of a scientific, research, and operational hub is a reality,” said Bowes. “The grid of the future will be unlike anything we’ve encountered, with smart homes, smart cities, and an intelligent, interactive, automated grid. Our Center is ready to lead these important conversations, driving the innovations and advances that will create the grid of the future.”

Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives Lawrence Silbart commended the Eversource Energy Center as an example of an effective on-campus partnership and center. “The partnership with Eversource has been fantastic. It’s been great in the way it blew up in the very beginning, when Manos (Anagnostou) and others began engaging with Eversource. […] It’s fantastic to see projects that are able to support additional people, to bring them into the fold. This is one of the centers that we’re standing up to say ‘hey, as you go to form your center or institute, take a look at this one, look at how well it’s done’” Silbart said.

Eversource Energy Center’s Executive Director, Professor Emmanouil Anagnostou, highlighted the Center’s strong research expertise, including over $17 million in submitted grant proposals to the United States Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, United States Geological Survey, and United States Agency for International Development, to further the Center’s research. Additionally, interest in our Center’s storm outage forecasting model that accelerates storm restoration and shortens outages is growing amongst national and international utilities.

The Center is leading the research and delivering results on a wide range of emerging topics. Our excellent research capabilities, from data collection to experimental test beds, are solving real-world challenges on energy resilience.

Author: Improving the Water Supply in a Drought-Stricken Village

This post originally appeared on UConn Today.

By Josh Garvey

Three UConn engineering students are working in partnership with a village in Ethiopia to help improve the water supply.

During winter break, the three students, who are all members of the UConn chapter of Engineers Without Borders, traveled to the village to begin surveying for a project to improve the community’s water infrastructure.

The end of Abba Samual River to the north side of the village. The cracking in the soil indicates that it’s almost pure clay, which makes agriculture and irrigation extremely difficult.

The village, called the Woreta Zuria Administrative Kebele, has an extensive dry season, lasting nine months of the year. The residents depend on agricultural production for their livelihood, and this year is particularly difficult for them, because of the drought that Ethiopia is experiencing.

“The community we’re working in is entirely relying on agriculture for sustenance,” says Kristin Burnham ’19 (ENG, CLAS), a double major in environmental engineering and molecular and cell biology.

Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is a student-led organization that designs and constructs sustainable engineering solutions for low income communities in the United States and abroad.

The team is at the start of a potential multi-year partnership with the village, with the town’s irrigation system being their first target for improvement. There is an irrigation system in place, says Burnham, but it is built partly with concrete and partly with dirt, and there is a lot of leakage.

This project is part of a larger partnership between UConn, the Ethiopian Institute of Water Resources, Addis Ababa University in the nation’s capital, and Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia’s Amhara National Regional State. A senior design team will work to implement the solutions that the UConn students help to design.

A makeshift aqueduct, constructed by the villagers using plastic tarps, sheet metal, and sticks. The inventive structure is subject to leakage.

Jon Mellor, professor of civil & environmental engineering, who accompanied the trio on their visit in January, explains that the senior design team is working on the technical aspects of the project, while the students are working on the diverse social, logistical, and fundraising challenges of conducting projects in the developing world.

The recent trip was intended to gather as much data as possible to determine how the UConn EWB chapter could help with the town’s water issues. The data gathered will aid in designing solutions that are both sound from an engineering standpoint and fit the cultural needs of the local people.

The trip was funded by a generous donation from United Technologies Research Center, as well as fundraising efforts by the EWB UConn Chapter.

The town’s existing irrigation system runs from the Abba Samual River to the north side of town. The original plan was to build a system to service the side of the town south of the river. When the EWB team realized that the current system wasn’t fully functioning, they looked into rehabilitating that structure as well.

“We’re trying to decide if that system is worth rehabilitating and making it fully functioning,” Mellor says.

To determine the most effective way to address the community’s needs, the team tested the water and soil, surveyed the land, and marked the current irrigation system using a GPS. The Ethiopian Institute of Water Resources also supplied the team with data.

Ryan Cordier ’18 (ENG), a double major in biomedical engineering and environmental engineering, says soil tests were necessary because the plan is to build a structure on top of the soil. “We want to get a look at how the soil is going to move when we put a load on it,” he says.

Adds Burnham, “We also need to know how fast the water is going to infiltrate or absorb into the soil, so we can have an idea of whether it would be feasible to have a liner for the system built with the soil that’s already there or if we need concrete.”

Mamo Kassegn Sisay, left, a researcher with the Ethiopian Institute of Water Resources, and Ryan Cordier ’18 (ENG) measure the permeability of the soil. The cylinders behind them measure how fast water travels through soil.

This year, the strong drought affecting Ethiopia has exacerbated the village’s water problems.

“The precipitation is so variable,” says Mellor. “They typically get irrigation starting in May, but sometimes it comes and sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t come, it is pretty bad news for the community.”

The EWB students aim to address the complex issues in a holistic manner, says Kelsey Reeves ’16 (ENG), an environmental engineering major. She says the work she’s done with the chapter has helped develop her critical thinking skills.

“We basically run the program like a small engineering firm,” she says. “We make sure that what we’re designing is economical, and that it works. What’s really cool about Engineers Without Borders is that we go a step beyond [just an engineering solution]. You have to understand all these cultural and societal factors.

“You may come up with a really great solution to a problem, but if it doesn’t work on the ground, in that society, then it doesn’t matter,” she adds.

Kristin Burnham ’19 (ENG, CLAS) measures soil samples to later test the soil’s water capacity in a soil lab at Bahir Dar University. The mechanical shaker behind her is used to determine how much rock and gravel are present in the soil.

Reeves has been working on this project from the beginning, and also traveled to the village for an initial assessment with Mellor and a doctoral student last summer. When she graduates this spring, the work will be taken over by Burnham and Cordier, who were voted team officers after their part in this trip.

Mellor says the student group hopes to organize a trip this summer to begin implementing repairs and improvements to the irrigation system. That work will depend on findings from the data that was gathered over winter break.

To support the UConn Engineers Without Borders chapter, contact Jon Mellor at