Ph.D. candidate wins prestigious award

By Sheila Maltos

University Ph.D. candidate, Zachary Grasley, has been named this year’s Federal Aviation Administration’s “Outstanding Student of the Year.” The award was given to Grasley for his contributions to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s research in the prevention of concrete curling and shrinkage.

Engineering students from approximately 60 participating university transportation centers in the country are eligible for nomination for the award. Grasley is the fourth student in the University’s history to receive the award.

“It’s the most prestigious [award] given by the Department of Transportation to students within their university centers,” said Patricia Watts, the FAA Centers of Excellence Program director. “It was a combination between the work he’s done and his accomplishments in the aviation community . all the right things coming together at the right time.”

Grasley’s innovative research involves enhancing the design of concrete mixture to prevent pavements and structures from cracking because of drying.

A longer lasting concrete for airport pavements is important in ensuring safety, Grasley said.

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“When you have uncontrolled cracking it can cause pavement damage to occur and pieces of concrete may then [break] off and damage the aircraft during take-off or landing,” Grasley said, adding that concrete cracking costs lots of money to repair.

Those who have worked with Grasley said his ability as a student and as an engineer is beyond others in the field.

“Most students obviously do what you expect of them, but he’s the type of student who goes beyond expectations and brings extra insight into a problem that you may have not even thought of,” said Jeff Roesler, assistant professor of civil & environmental engineering.

Grasley’s research has already been implemented at O’Hare International Airport and is expected to save the airport long-term repair expenses, Roesler said.

Grasley earned a B.S. in civil engineering at Michigan Technological University, graduating with highest honors, before coming to the University in 2001. He completed his Masters in civil engineering at the University, and is now working on his Ph.D. in civil engineering.

“I think he’s a very productive and prolific student, one of the most prolific students in the department . he has a knack for innovation and solutions in his research,” said David Lange, professor of civil & environmental engineering, who has been Grasley’s academic adviser for the past five years.

Throughout his academic career, Grasley has kept a near perfect G.P.A. and has been awarded numerous honors.

He has also been involved in multiple research and consulting projects and his research has been published in various book chapters, magazine articles and reports. Grasley has accepted a faculty position with Texas A&M; University this fall.

“Texas A&M; is a great watch for him, I know he’s really excited,” Lange said.