While surely all engineering schools seek to excel in the areas of teaching and research, the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science refuses to stop there. For the students and faculty of U.Va. Engineering, aptitude and scholarship are not enough. It is our promise — the social and global impact of our advancements and research — that distinguishes us from the rest. Our research discoveries and innovative programs are having an impact: on medicine and global health, on the environment, on education and on people's everyday lives. With your support, the School will continue to better the human experience and to solve the world's most difficult problems.
Eliah Shamir ('08)
Together with foreign affairs major Shi-Shi Wang, third-year biomedical engineering student Eliah Shamir traveled to Thailand to research HIV/AIDS education and prevention methods among the Thai female sex worker population after being inspired by a film documentary on the subject. Dr. Brian Helmke, Shamir's academic advisor in biomedical engineering, says Shamir's interest in applying her skills to a social problem of great magnitude is characteristic of a strong U.Va. Engineering student. "The Engineering School has equipped Eliah with a unique combination of skills — a breadth of knowledge for understanding human health and physiological problems and an engineer's problem-solving approach," Helmke says. "These skill sets enable Eliah to think through each problem logically, considering all risk factors as she addresses this critical health problem."
What you can't see can hurt you — especially if you're one of the millions of Americans who get their tap water from underground aquifers. As it can be difficult to see, identify, measure and trace underground pollutants in aquifers and watersheds effectively, Teresa Culver, professor of civil engineering at U.Va., is working to develop sound, cost-effective plans for groundwater remediation in a variety of environments. "My challenge is to teach computers to come up with a solution that incorporates what we don't know, as well as what we do know," Culver says. One of the techniques Culver uses to address these problems is the genetic algorithm, a mathematical approach that mimics evolution and reveals the fittest solutions over time and in a variety of situations, which she then provides to community leaders. Her research is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Department of Education.
U.S.-Brazil Cognitive Systems Engineering Exchange Program
As one of two American partners in the U.S.-Brazil Cognitive Systems Engineering Exchange Program, the Engineering School offers students a unique opportunity to understand cross-cultural issues while conducting hands-on research. Through this program, supported by the U.S. Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, students spend six months in Brazil — immersing themselves in the language, attending classes and researching issues related to the intersection of people and computers. Students complete their research projects — which have included creating an analysis toolkit to help Petrobas, the Brazilian state oil company, pull critical information from its incident-reporting system and identifying specific improvements for a training simulator used by Brazil's Nuclear Energy Institute — when they return to the U.S. Programs like the U.S-Brazil Exchange Program allow U.Va. Engineering students to challenge themselves in new and interesting ways. "I saw this as an opportunity to throw myself a curve ball," said participant Alex Rixey ('06) of the experience. "Challenges in the future will appear much more manageable to me."
Students and faculty at the U.Va. engineering and architecture schools have teamed up to create eco-friendly homes that cost less to live in and appreciate in value. Through ecoMOD, an innovative community outreach program, this interdisciplinary group is designing and building three 1,000- to 1,200-square-foot prototype modular homes. In partnership with the Piedmont Housing Alliance of Charlottesville, which will sell the homes to qualified buyers, the team is designing the houses, focusing on optimizing energy efficiency, integrating environmental site strategies and developing cost-effective prefabricated building techniques. The students will complete a detailed assessment of each of the prototypes, monitoring the thermal environment energy use, interviewing new owners and comparing the results with those of a traditional house of the same size and age. The completed project may lead to a system that could be adapted by modular home building manufacturers in the mid-Atlantic region.