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Justin Hoffmann ’02 of Hawley, Pa., a graduate of Wallenpaupack Area High School, hopes to contribute to scientists’ understanding of aquifers, something he says is most useful to them during times of drought.

In an independent study this spring with David Brandes, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, the award-winning student examined 15 watersheds in five regions of Pennsylvania to determine what factors influence the flow of a stream.

“In periods of little or no precipitation, groundwater is the sole contributor to baseflow in streams,” explains Hoffmann, a civil engineering major. “Different watersheds, however, exhibit different geomorphic characteristics that directly affect baseflow in streams. I was working to see how the characteristics of drainage basins, including slope, landfill, and vegetation affect them.”

Hoffmann used records from the U.S. Geologic Survey to examine the time-flow relationship of the streams when it’s not raining. He laid the groundwork for more in-depth research next year as he sought trends relating to different regions.

“This is related to my major and interests in civil engineering, specifically water resources,” says Hoffmann. “Hydraulics and hydrology encompass a broad range of topics and can be multidisciplinary in nature. This project is dealing with geologic issues as well as engineering issues, and this made it particularly interesting.”

Hoffmann received this year’s Russell C. Brinker Prize, awarded annually by the department of civil and environmental engineering to the junior deemed most deserving on the basis of self-reliance, scholarship, and student activities.

Brandes has mentored several students in research projects since joining the Lafayette faculty in 1999. His areas of expertise are hydrology and environmental engineering, and he teaches courses in environmental engineering, fluid mechanics, engineering hydrology, and groundwater hydrology. His current research interests include modeling the dynamics of hillslope and watershed runoff response, stormwater runoff quality dynamics, and remediation of non-aqueous phase contaminants in shallow aquifers. He holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering from Penn State and an M.S. in environmental systems engineering from Clemson.

In April Brandes and Dru Germanoski, professor and head of geology and environmental geosciences, received a $15,403 grant from the National Science Foundation for a joint project, “A Comprehensive Watershed Instrumentation Program for Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Education at Lafayette College.”

Hoffmann says Brandes has been a good adviser and he hopes he will guide him next year in a senior thesis on the subject for departmental honors.

“Most professors here are eager to work with students, most have ongoing research and very interesting projects,” Hoffmann says. “Lafayette has all the facilities necessary to do outstanding research. All it takes is initiative on the part of the student.”

Hoffmann is a member of the Lafayette chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He is also a member of the student organization LEAP, Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection.

Categorized in: Academic News