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SD-RET Research Project Example 3:

Sustainable Infrastructure Materials 

Research mentor: Prof. Christopher Shearer, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering 

Lab Overview: This lab’s research focuses on developing innovative, but practical, cement-based and alternative materials for incorporation into a future sustainable infrastructure that reduces the global footprint of the construction materials industry.

SD-RET research project: The teachers will conduct a wide variety of experimental research on low-cracking concrete mixes for bridge decks and on alkali-activated geopolymer materials, which are sustainable structural binders that are less energy- and carbon-intensive than cement-based materials. The teachers will study the influence of different variables on the shrinkage and cracking potential of concrete mixes including changing water/cement ratio, adding chemicals, changing powder ratios, and changing curing conditions. They will also measure the early-age behavior and performance of geopolymers. Specifically, the teachers will vary the mix design (e.g., powder types, alkaline solution chemistry) and curing conditions (e.g., temperature, humidity) of the geopolymers and measure the influence of these parameters on the setting time, exothermic reactivity, and structure as well as compressive strength development. Research could also involve examining the influence of sulfate attack on cement-based materials.

The RET RA will:

  • Gain an understanding about fundamental chemistry, materials, physics, and sustainability concepts.
  • Develop research skills by learning how to set-up and conduct a systematic laboratory experiment, and to analyze and interpret data to draw justifiable conclusions.

Examples of alignment to the Next Generation Science/Common Core State Standards3, 22:

  • MS-ESS3-5:  Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
  • MS-PS1-4: Develop a model that predicts and describes changes in particle motion, temperature, and state of a pure substance when thermal energy is added or removed.
  • HS-PS1-2: Construct and revise an explanation for the outcome of a simple chemical reaction based on the outermost electron states of atoms, trends in the periodic table, and knowledge of the patterns of chemical properties.
  • 8.F: Use functions to model relationships between quantities.

Application Process

Research Experience Teacher 

1. Submit:
CV, Vitae, Resume, Biography

2. Submit: 
1 page brief of how you will utilize this experience in your classrooms/teaching

3. Project preference:
list your top two choices

4. Submit:
Send All items to Robb Winter via email: