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Marquis Scholar Russell Dinardi ’07 (Pleasantville, N.Y.) assessed various methods of environmental risk management through his study of Lehigh Valley sinkholes under the guidance of Sharon Jones, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.

An A.B. engineering major, Dinardi researched the occurrence of sinkholes in the Lehigh Valley, determined the probability that they will occur, and learned how risk management processes may be applied to the problem. The majority of the study focused on sinkhole-related property damage.

Dinardi and Jones collaborated as part of Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholars program, in which students conduct research with faculty while earning a stipend. The program has helped to make Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the more than 160 students who participate each year share their work through articles in academic journals and/or conference presentations.

“I don’t know of many other colleges that provide opportunities for research like this, so I think Lafayette provides a great setting,” says Dinardi.

Jones points out that the Lehigh Valley is susceptible to sinkholes. A 1991 report from the National Academy of Engineering revealed that sinkholes are likely to occur in approximately 18 percent of the United States, and they are often caused by cavernous limestone, gypsum, salt, and marble. Sinkholes caused over $125 million in damages throughout the U.S. in 1991.

Mary Roth ’83, professor and head of civil and environmental engineering, began a similar project nine years ago. She wanted to create methods of site investigation to evaluate sinkholes in the Lehigh Valley. Roth and Lafayette students conducted a second study to evaluate sinkhole policies in the Lehigh Valley and Northampton County.

Dinardi’s study was an extension of Roth’s project. He compared the advantages and disadvantages of the best risk management programs to determine which option is best for the Lehigh Valley.

“Hopefully, this project will lead to a further study of sinkholes and actual applications of these risk management techniques,” says Dinardi, a member of Leonardo Society for A.B. engineering majors.

Dinardi’s research experience has helped him create a meaningful academic connection with Jones.

“That is one of the strongest parts of the EXCEL program,” he says.

“It is always a particular pleasure to work with students in a one-on-one setting, where both parties are intent on gaining a better understanding of a particular issue,” Jones says. “Russell’s job was very tough because he was being asked to evaluate whether an area of inquiry is worthy of further research. He was in control of the project, and that is a lot for a junior.”

A recipient of many grants and awards, Jones used a NASA Summer Faculty Fellowship to conduct research at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., where she developed and used web-based, state-of-the-art GIS technologies for infrastructure management. She developed GIS structures for the Tohono O’odham Nation and was recognized for her work with the Indian Health Service’s Tribal/Urban Recognition Award. She regularly involves Lafayette students in her research, which she publishes in scientific journals and presents at academic conferences.

Because he has actually seen and researched numerous sinkholes in the area, Dinardi believes he has a better understanding of the need for sinkhole risk management policy.

“It is a definite problem in the Lehigh Valley that there are few mitigation efforts being made for sinkholes,” he says.

Dinardi is a member of Newman Association, Kappa Delta Rho fraternity, and Volleyball Club. He plans to study abroad in Ireland during the spring semester. He is a graduate of Iona Preparatory School.

Chosen from among Lafayette’s most promising applicants, Marquis Scholars like Dinardi receive special financial aid and distinctive educational experiences and benefits, including a three-week, Lafayette-funded study-abroad course during January’s interim session between semesters. Marquis Scholars also participate in cultural activities in major cities and on campus, and mentoring programs with Lafayette faculty.

As a national leader in undergraduate research, Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year. Thirty-nine students were accepted to present their research at this year’s conference.

Categorized in: Academic News