22 August 2009

"I'm published! (in a way)" My Summer as an Undergraduate Research Assistant ~ August 22nd


If I haven't already mentioned it, for those of you who do not know, I spent my summer in the soils lab of Gellersen (Valpo's engineering building; the math department only thinks they share it with us), working as an undergraduate research assistant for Dr. Carmine Polito. He is an amazing professor. He has a BS, MS, and PhD in Civil Engineering, specifically in geotechnical engineering, but he also recently got another MS, this time in transportation engineering. His specialty is in earthquake engineering, though. His research this summer is a part of the continued investigation of liquefaction of soils, in this case sands and silts (liquefaction = when a saturated soil under a load loses all its strength and acts as a fluid). The one of the primary lab tests used in this research is called a triaxial test.

As his research assistant, before I could really begin working this summer, I had to start off by reading alot of technical papers and learning about the triaxial equipment, the data acquisition program, and how the apparatus was to be set up. The scariest time was the day Dr. P told me to run a test, and then left for the afternoon. I was on my own. Eeeek! But it prepared me well for when he left to travel for two and a half weeks in July and again in August. By then, I was comfortable enough with the equipment and the testing procedure that I had to remind myself to think about what I was doing! That isn't to say I didn't have problems to solve with the testing. Ahh, there were plenty of frustrated calls to Polito, as I gazed *yet* again at "useless" data and couldn't figure out what to do. It gets old fast, when it's the 4th test of the day to end up like that.....All in all, I think I must have done at least a hundred of those triaxial tests. Probably not, but it surely feels like it!!!

The end result: my name listed as third author at the top of two papers published in the ASTM Geotechnical journal. The final copies of those papers are being sent in here soon, if they haven't already. Title of Paper #1 - "Validation of the GMP Pore Pressure Generation Model for Non-Sinusoidal Loadings" Fascinating, eh?? Ha. It's okay if it isn't for you, dear reader. For me, it is, and it makes me consider graduate school even more than I was before.

Ha - There's a picture Mom showed me in an old photo album with me as a little tot, standing in a muddy puddle, covered with dirt, with this happy grin all over my messy face. Who knew, over 16 years later, that that would still be me!? Ah, but this is much more "sophisticated" dirt.....! ;-)

In the words of the venerable Dr. P, "Way more fun than humans should possibly be allowed to have."



  1. What? No picture of the pink shoes??? CP and LP

  2. Ha. Wouldn't want to shock you too much :-)


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