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CEE VPUE Summer Undergraduate Research Program

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The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering offers an undergraduate research program through funding provided by Stanford’s Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education. The summer program provides a full-time stipend for the 10-week summer session, plus money towards research project expenses (supplies, travel, etc.) The program is geared primarily to support full-time research appointments over the summer session, but alternative proposals will be considered, subject to funding availability. The research awards will be based on a competitive application process.

Please review our Application Instruction page for deadlines and requirements.

2023 Research Theme

The theme of this year's undergraduate research program is “Engineering for Sustainability” which can be broadly interpreted within all program areas of civil & environmental engineering and related fields (e.g., architecture, earth sciences, etc).

Projects & Professors

Students are encouraged to reference the CEE faculty web pages to learn more about the specific research interests and opportunities of the faculty. 
The following are some of the projects with internship availability this summer:

Wellbeing in the Built Environment

Professor Sarah Billington

Project Description: The built environment shapes our lives in numerous ways. Our design choices impact numerous well-being metrics such as stress, affect, sense of belonging, pro-environmental behavior, and physical activity. In this project, we aim to understand how urban scenery may be associated with different well-being outcomes by leveraging ubiquitous computing and passive sensing. We aim to understand the hidden ties between the urban environment and a resident’s well-being metrics to inform design and maintenance choices to better support human well-being over time.

Research Tasks: The research assistant on this project will participate in the following research activities: (1) contributing to a large literature review, (2) building and launching online surveys including incorporating eye-tracking technology, and (3) preparing visualizations and conducting analyses on resulting data of interest.

Hybrid Physical+Digital Spaces for Enhanced Sustainability & Wellbeing

Professor Sarah Billington

Project Description: In this project our multi-disciplinary team is focused on three areas of study where we seek to (1) understand how changes in the design of physical workspaces may impact an occupant's wellbeing metrics (e.g., stress, creativity, sense of belonging, and environmental behavior) using virtual reality and immersive online environments, (2) develop novel ways of emulating nature indoors using hybrid physical-digital interventions for promoting health equity and improving occupant wellbeing, and (3) measure occupant wellbeing metrics through a combination of experience sampling methods, passive inference through wearable devices, and environmental IoT sensors to inform adaptations in the built environment that can support occupant wellbeing over time.

Desired knowledge, skills, and abilities: Knowledge of or experience using Revit, Unity, R, or microcontrollers is a plus but not required.

Building Freedom: Identifying and Communicating Embodied Forced Labor of Building Materials 

Professor Sarah Billington

Project Description: Ethical labor criteria have received comparatively less attention than environmental sustainability criteria in building design. This research project seeks to understand how the knowledge or risk of embedded forced labor in a building’s materials and components be communicated to and experienced by members of the public in a way that improves their understanding and attitude toward the issue of modern slavery at large. This project will explore novel communication mediums as well as material fingerprinting approaches for tracing the sources of building materials. 

Skills/Interest/Background: Interest in engineering, field work, and knowledge of or experience using machine learning, R, Revit.

Understanding Damage due to Earthquake-Induced Liquefaction

Professor Jack Baker

Ground failure, or liquefaction, caused significant building damage during the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes in New Zealand. Many other locations worldwide are susceptible to this hazard, including the San Francisco Bay Area. However, limited processes exist to understand and simulate potential damages due to liquefaction in future earthquakes. The goal of this project is to study data collected after the Canterbury earthquakes, to relate metrics of soil susceptibility to the actual repair costs for houses damaged by liquefaction. This work will involve data exploration, working with spatial and temporal data, application of results, reading relevant literature, and presenting in a group meeting. No prerequisite skills but an eagerness to learn; coding experience may be useful but can be developed throughout the program.

Sea Level Rise Impacts on Regional Liquefaction Hazard

Professor Jack Baker

Climate-change driven sea level rise increases shallow coastal groundwater levels, causing more soil to be susceptible to liquefaction. Liquefaction is the phenomenon of ground failure during an earthquake, where saturated soil acts as a liquid and flows or settles. This can cause significant damage to buildings, pipes, and other infrastructure. The goal of this project is to analyze liquefaction hazard under sea level rise and quantify uncertainty in future hazards and impacts. Research tasks will include data exploration, running analyses, interpreting results, reading relevant literature, and presenting in a group meeting. There may also be an opportunity to participate in meetings with stakeholders. Candidates should be excited about the topic of natural hazards or climate change, be willing to learn, and have some experience coding. Ability to code in Python is preferred, but not required.

Working on a 100% Renewable Microgrid in Half Moon Bay or Helping with 100% Renewable Energy Plans

Professor Mark Z Jacobson

For this project, students may either (a) help improve the dissemination and content of 100% clean renewable energy plans for countries and states through creating/improving infographics, reaching out to policymakers and the public, or engaging stakeholders and other academics or (b) help to develop and test a 100% renewable energy microgrid in Half Moon Bay, California. For the former work, the research may be remote. For the latter, it must be onsite in Half Moon Bay much of the time.

Using Mirrors for Earth's Rebalancing

Professor Peter Kitanidis

Mirrors can be sustainably engineered to meet dual objectives:
1. On a local scale, to reduce the need for air-conditioning in houses, reduce evaporation from reservoirs or canals, and lower temperatures to improve growing conditions in agricultural areas in hot climates.
2. On a global scale, to improve the earth's heat balance and contribute to stopping temperatures from rising.
One can find information about the basic principles of the approach here:
The student's role will be to collaborate with volunteers, collect observations, and organize data from the projects of citizen scientists. I worked with a Harvard student last year to install mirrors over an apartment in Redwood City. My experience from last summer has been that a motivated undergraduate can be very productive and get excited about a career in engineering for a sustainable world.


Application Instructions