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The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) may learn a thing or two from Christine Moore ’08 (Fredericksburg, Va.). The civil engineering major conducted research on the use of agent-based modeling as a tool for asset management.

She collaborated with Kristen Sanford Bernhardt, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, through 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.

Moore’s research focused on the resources the state uses to maintain and update civil infrastructures including roads and bridges. She already has researched several projects and theories set forth by experts in the fields of multi-modal modeling and complex systems.

“For this project, we can look at PennDOT and see how [it] manages [its] resources,” says Sanford Bernhardt. “There are many [PennDOT] projects going on at the same time and many people involved in different projects.”

Problems often arise during PennDOT projects, such as rebuilding bridges washed out in floods, because of ineffective communications. Since people ultimately are the source of how a resource is used, the best way to complete a project successfully is for those involved to have access to the best communication possible. Moore’s research centered on methods that help those in charge perform their jobs more efficiently.

“The project is a way to better manage agents, in this case people involved in a [PennDOT] project, and how they can better communicate,” Sanford Bernhardt says.

The outcome will be a computer-based model that will pinpoint potential problems in the chain of communication.

At first, Moore was unsure about taking on the project.

“I was never initially interested in infrastructure management, but I always wanted to try and do some sort of research in order to learn about something different,” she says. “After meeting and talking with Professor Sanford Bernhardt, I became intrigued by the topic and wanted to explore it further.”

Moore says Sanford Bernhardt was an ideal collaborator and mentor.

“She not only guides me in each of my tasks, but she also discusses various ideas and concepts in the project,” says Moore, who plans to attend graduate school after Lafayette.

She credits Lafayette’s nurturing environment for undergraduate research with enabling her to undertake challenging research such as the EXCEL project.

“When it comes to academics, Lafayette sets a certain standard for all students,” she says. “The Lafayette [civil and environmental] engineering program is no exception. The demanding work loads and professionalism of the programs here have not only helped me to learn copious amounts, but also have helped me to set my personal goals.”

Moore is a recipient of the William G. McLean Tau Beta Pi Prize, awarded annually to a sophomore engineering student based on academic performance, citizenship, and professional orientation. This spring, she was part of a student team that competed in the Environmental Protection Agency’s P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability in Washington, D.C. Moore is a member of Society of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, the student chapter of American Society of Civil Engineers, and Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection. She also is a member of the swim team and a tutor for the Boys and Girls Club. She is a graduate of Stafford High School.

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

Categorized in: Academic News