Carnegie Mellon University

CEE Graduate Seminar Series

Spring 2022

Seminars will be held remotely between 10:10am to 11:30am. 

Our seminars are open to the public, please contact Randi Senchur for information. Students registered for seminars will receive details via email.

Title: Water, Food, Energy and Power in the Eastern Nile Basin

Ben Zaitchik

Ben Zaitchik
Earth & Planetary Sciences
Johns Hopkins University


The Eastern Nile Basin has been a source of geopolitical tension for more than a century. This tension currently runs extremely high, as Ethiopia continues to fill the reservoir for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the largest hydropower facility in Africa and Ethiopia's first major infrastructure project on the main stem Blue Nile River. The work described in this presentation is motivated by the understanding that transboundary water calculations are only one element of multiscale, multisector resource dynamics at play within the basin, and that these dynamics are sensitive to climatic and economic shocks. In this context, analysis that is meaningful for enhanced climate resilience needs to take multiscale networked systems into account. I will present several case studies in which these dynamics are considered to different extents and at different scales, with a focus on the potential to integrate climate science and systems modeling for policy relevant analysis.


Ben Zaitchik is a Professor in the JHU Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. He studies hydroclimatic variability across a range of spatial and temporal scales. This includes work on fundamental atmospheric and hydrological processes as well as application to problems of water resources, agriculture, and human health. Prior to joining Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Zaitchik was a Research Associate at NASA and a Fellow at the U.S. Department of State. He holds a PhD in Geology & Geophysics from Yale University, an MS in Soil Sciences from Cornell University, and an AB in Biology from Harvard College. He is currently the President of the GeoHealth Section of the American Geophysical Union.

Title: Transitioning to a Smarter and More Sustainable Transportation System


Corey Harper
Assistant Professor 
Carnegie Mellon
Civil & Environmental Engineering


Transitioning to more livable and sustainable smart cities requires improving today’s transportation system to be smarter, safer, and more resilient. In this talk, Dr. Harper will discuss how emerging trends in transportation could change the way we envision our cities and communities and the importance of putting people’s needs at the forefront, as we begin to transition to more technologically advanced smart cities. In the first part of his talk, he will discuss how connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) could impact parking economics and energy use in our downtown urban cores using an agent-based simulation model. This analysis will provide an illustration of the first-order effects of CAVs on the built environment and could help inform near- and long-term policy and infrastructure decisions during the transition to automation. In the second part, Dr. Harper will discuss how micromobility modes could impact transportation congestion, emissions, and energy use. Finally, he will discuss future research opportunities and directions in, equity, hazards modeling, and food delivery.


Dr. Corey Harper is an Assistant Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering and Heinz School of Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. In his role as the director of the Future Mobility Systems Lab he leads a team of researchers who explore the infrastructure, policy, and equity implications of emerging transportation technologies (e.g., autonomous vehicles and micromobility). The equity analysis side of his team applies equity metrics to assess how policy and regulation could affect distributional equality of transportation resources. The modeling and simulation side of his group is focused on incorporating new mobility modes (e.g., micromobility and e-commerce) into regional traffic demand models to promote better long-range planning of the transportation system.

Dr. Harper is a recipient of multiple Mobility 21 Research awards and a National Science Foundation Grant and is a Young Member of the Vehicle Highway Automation Committee. Before becoming a professor, Dr. Harper was a consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton, helping USDOT and DOD with the integration of connected and automated vehicles.

Title: A Journey from CMU to Engineering and Property Insurance


Rebecca Tien (BS '17)
Assistant Vice-President, Risk Engineer
Swiss Re Corporate Solutions

Making the leap from graduate school to the working market was difficult enough in conventional times, the pandemic and recent cultural emphasis on work-life balance has made these journeys even more difficult. Making decisions about how to apply the hard earned knowledge you've gained into tangible rewards involve making a series of sequential choices that affect what becomes available in the future. Knowing when to pivot from one option to the next is daunting but can be the key to a successful career and personal happiness.

In this talk, Tien will discuss her personal career path from CMU to her current position as a Risk Engineer at Swiss Re Corporate Solutions in the property insurance industry. The discussion will cover knowing when and how to pivot careers and how it is okay to leave the career path you always assumed you'd be on. In addition, the talk will include discussions on nonconventional career options for recent engineering graduates. In particular, the discussion will include an overview of the Risk Engineering industry. An industry that will soon be hitting a demand for new engineers and market that is not traditionally thought of for recent graduates.


Rebecca Tien is a Risk Engineer at Swiss Re Corporate Solutions where she provides risk management services to clients, provide essential opinions of risk to underwriters for global property accounts, and conducts in depth risk analysis on various types of building occupations – from New York City Skyscrapers to large automobile factories and everything in between. Her background is in forensic civil and structural engineering and building enclosure systems. In addition, she has experience in academic research, primarily on alternative building materials. Rebecca graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology in early 2019 with a master's in civil engineering where she completed her thesis on the experimental analysis of concrete repaired via epoxy. Prior to this, Rebecca graduated from CMU with a BS in Civil Engineering in 2017.


Title: An Unconventional but Rewarding Career Path of a PhD Graduate: Founding a Start-up to Accelerate Adaptation of Liquid Metal Embedded Elastomers (LMEEs) as a Thermal Interface Material in the Semiconductor Industry

 Navid Kazem

Navid Kazem (PhD '18)
Co-founder and CEO


Thermal management issues in the semiconductor industry are driven by a sharp increase in power densities, and have created ever-growing concerns over the last decade. To resolve this concern, many attempts are being investigated in device packaging to extract the heat generated away and maintain the functionality of the device. Inside the package thermal interface materials (TIM1) play an important role in transferring the heat efficiently. Design of an optimum material for TIM1 has been an ongoing challenge due to problems associated with interfacial contact thermal resistance, optimised distribution of TIM over the die surface, pump-out and delamination. To accommodate some of these concerns, we introduce a TIM that has liquid metal embedded in elastomeric matrix (LMEE). This material has stretchable and adhesive properties to accommodate large deformation in the semiconductor packages and has shown superior reliability performance.

During this talk Navid will discuss an unconventional career path for a PhD graduate student from the initiation point of a basic research idea to identification of a product market fit for an advanced material technology. He will touch base on what to expect when considering spinning out a start-up company, from taking advantage of the local entrepreneurial resources to a global fund raising and manufacturing effort planning. At the end he will discuss what start-ups are looking for when searching to hire and build a team to deliver on high demanding high rewarding start-up milestones.


Navid Kazem is CEO and co-founder of Arieca, which is an advanced material technology startup that was formed, after him completing his PhD in computational mechanics at Carnegie Mellon, where he developed the core technology behind Liquid Metal Embedded Elastomers (LMEE). He is a former Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship Fellow at Tepper School of Business at CMU, with multiple high-impact publications and patents. His background combines a deep technical expertise with the capacity to convert cutting-edge scientific advancement into commercial products. Navid leads product development of LMEEs, commercial strategic partnerships, as well as fund raising.


Title: An Overview of Regional Risk and Resilience Analysis


Paolo Gardoni
Alfredo H. Ang Family Professor and Excellence Faculty Scholar
Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign


Civil structures and infrastructure provide vital services that support and enable societal functions.  Therefore, ensuring their reliability and prompt recovery is critical for the public’s well-being and economic prosperity. 

The consequences of past disasters around the world have raised concerns about the vulnerability of civil structures and infrastructure and have highlighted the significance of risk mitigation and management.  The maintenance, repair, or replacement of existing vulnerable, deficient, and deteriorating structures and infrastructure represents a significant investment.  To wisely invest the limited funding, it is crucial to use advanced risk analysis tools in the decision-making process.  This presentation discusses a general formulation for regional risk and resilience analysis. 

The presentation explains how to conduct a regional risk and resilience analysis considering multiple hazards and different infrastructure, as well as the effects of deterioration and interdependencies among infrastructure.  Finally, the presentation concludes with the modeling of business interruption due to a hypothetical earthquake in the New Madrid seismic zone.


Paolo Gardoni is the Alfredo H. Ang Family Professor and an Excellence Faculty Scholar in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He is also a Professor in the Department of Biomedical and Translational Sciences in the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, and a Fellow of the Office of Risk Management & Insurance Research in the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Prof. Gardoni is also the Director of the MAE Center an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center that focuses on creating a Multi-hazard Approach to Engineering. 

He is the Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Reliability Engineering and System Safety published by Elsevier, and the founder and former Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure published by Taylor and Francis Group.  Prof. Gardoni is a member of the Board of Governors of the Engineering Mechanics Institute (EMI) of the American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE), the Board of Directors of the International Civil Engineering Risk and Reliability Association (CERRA), and a number of national and international committees and associations that focus on risk, reliability, and resilience analysis. 

His research interests include probabilistic mechanics; sustainable and resilient infrastructure; reliability, risk and life cycle analysis; decision-making under uncertainty; performance assessment of deteriorating systems; modeling of natural hazards and societal impact; ethical, social and legal dimensions of risk; optimal strategies for natural hazard mitigation and disaster recovery; impact of climate change; and engineering ethics.  Prof. Gardoni is the author of over 190 refereed journal papers, 28 book chapters and 8 edited volumes, and has delivered over 60 invited, plenary or keynote lectures. He has received over $50 million in research funding from multiple national and international agencies including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Qatar National Research Funds (QNRF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. 

Prof. Gardoni is the 2021 recipient of the prestigious Alfredo Ang Award on Risk Analysis and Management of Civil Infrastructure from the American Society of Civil Engineers. The award was given for his contributions to risk, reliability, and resilience analysis, and his leadership in these fields.

Functionality Through Multistability: From Soft Robots to Deployable Structures


Katia Bertoldi
William and Ami Kuan Danoff Professor of Applied Mechanics
Materials Science & Mechanical Engineering
Harvard University


Inflating a rubber balloon leads to a dramatic shape change: a property that is exploited in the
design of soft robots and deployable structures. On the one hand, fluid-driven actuators capable
of complex motion can power highly adaptive and inherently safe soft robots. On the other hand,
inflation can be used to transform seemingly flat shapes into shelters, field hospitals, and space
modules. In both cases, just like the simple balloon, only one input is required to achieve the
desired deformation.

This simplicity, however, brings strict limitations: soft actuators are often
restricted to unimodal and slow deformation and deployable structures need a continuous supply
of pressure to remain upright. Here, we embrace multistability as a paradigm to improve the
functionality of inflatable systems.

In the first part of this seminar, I exploit snapping instabilities
in spherical shells to decouple the input signal from the output deformation in soft actuators–a
functionality that can be utilized to design a soft machine capable of jumping. In the second part
of the seminar, I draw inspiration from origami to design multistable and inflatable structures at
the meter scale. Because these deployable systems are multistable, pressure can be disconnected
when they are fully expanded, making them ideal candidates for applications such as emergency
sheltering and deep space exploration. Together, these two projects highlight the potential of
multistability in enabling the design and fabrication across various scales of multi-form, multi-
functional, and multi-purpose materials and structures


Katia Bertoldi is the William and Ami Kuan Danoff Professor of Applied Mechanics at the Harvard John A.Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. She earned master degrees from Trento University (Italy) in 2002 and from Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden) in 2003, majoring in Structural Engineering Mechanics. Upon earning a Ph.D. degree in Mechanics of Materials and Structures from Trento University, in 2006, Bertoldi joined as a PostDoc the group of Mary Boyce at MIT.  In 2008 she moved to the University of Twente (the Netherlands) where she was an Assistant Professor in the faculty of Engineering Technology. In January 2010 Bertoldi joined the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University and established a group studying the mechanics of materials and structures. She is the recipient of the NSF Career Award 2011 and of the ASME's 2014 Hughes Young Investigator Award. She serves as Editor for the journals Extreme Mechanics Letters and New Journal of Physics. She published over 150 peer-reviewed papers and several patents. Complete list of publication and research information.

Dr Bertoldi’s research contributes to the design of materials with a carefully designed meso-structure that leads to novel effective behavior at the macroscale. She investigates both mechanical and acoustic properties of such structured materials, with a particular focus on harnessing instabilities and strong geometric non-linearities to generate new modes of functionality. Since the properties of the designed architected materials are primarily governed by the geometry of the structure (as opposed to constitutive ingredients at the material level), the principles she discovers are universal and can be applied to systems over a wide range of length scales.