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CEE VPUE Application Instructions & Projects

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Stanford University Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Summer 2022 Undergraduate Research Program 

The Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering is pleased to invite applications for its 2022 undergraduate research program, through funding provided by Stanford’s Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and the School of Engineering. The program supports full-time research appointments over the 2022 summer session.  The research awards will be based on a competitive application process.  Interested students should submit their application and statement of interest, following the guidelines given below, before Friday March 11, 2022 at 5:00 pm.  Decisions regarding awards will be announced by April 1, 2022 via e-mail. 

Research Theme:  The theme of the 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.). 

Support:  The 2022 summer program provides a stipend for the 10 week, full-time summer session. The amount of the stipend is determined by the School of Engineering and VPUE (Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education). The anticipated cost of living for the student during the summer period is considered. For summer 2022, the full-time summer program stipend will be $7,500. Eligible students may qualify for additional need-based supplements. 

Requirements and Restrictions: 

  • Eligibility is limited to Stanford undergraduates who are working under the supervision of an academic council faculty member in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.
  • Co-terminal master's degree students are eligible only if the bachelor's degree will not be conferred before the end of the research appointment and if they are still paying undergraduate (not graduate) tuition.
  • This program is specifically for projects that are conducted under close supervision and collaboration with a member of Stanford’s academic council (tenure line faculty). Student-designed projects are funded by the VPUE via a different funding mechanism.
  • Students receiving full summer stipends may not register for more than 5 credits of coursework, nor may they work for more than 10 hours per week in addition to their research appointment. 
  • Students are prohibited from receiving both credit and stipend for any single research activity.  This does not, however, preclude students from working on a research project during the summer and then expanding it into a senior thesis during the following academic year.
  • The program goals include connecting participants with each other through organized activities in the summer. Therefore, students must participate in organized program activities throughout the summer (provided research is on campus).
  • Students must provide final summary reports on their project, complete an on-line evaluation and present the results of their research in early fall quarter at a CEE VPUE conference. Further details on these requirements are provided upon request or at the time a student is accepted to the program.

Application:  Prior to submitting an application, students should identify and contact a CEE faculty member who is agreeable to supervise and collaborate a summer research project.  Students are encouraged to reference the CEE faculty web pages to learn more about the specific research interests and opportunities of the faculty.  Faculty who have indicated an interest in advising summer projects are listed below. You may also apply for projects with faculty that are not listed here. You may apply to work on more than one project, but please indicate your preference if you do so (i.e., provide your first and second choice, etc).

Applications should include the following in a single PDF document named YOURLASTNAME_VPUE_CEE2022.PDF:

[1] student applicant information (name, pronoun preference, ethnicity / race (not required), major, current year at Stanford (freshman, sophomore, etc.), expected graduation date, current address where you live, e-mail address, student ID number), and confirmation that you will NOT have received your BS or BA before or during summer 2022,

[2] faculty research supervisor name and e-mail address,

[3] brief (500 word max.) statement of your research topic and plans,

[4] copy of your transcript (an unofficial transcript is fine), and

[5] resume or summary of relevant experience. 

Applications should be submitted through the Stanford Solo platform ( before 5 PM on March 11, 2022.   Applications received after this date may still be considered, pending availability of funding. 

Questions about the program should be directed to Professor Ram Rajagopal (ram.rajagopal at



Faculty: Jack Baker 

Atmospheric river flood risk modeling

Catastrophic flooding from atmospheric rivers can be broken down into a series of interconnected, sequential physical processes. First the storm forms in the atmosphere and produces rain, which then flows into rivers. The rivers overtop their banks, leading to inundation of buildings, which causes losses and disruption for the affected communities. Accurate flood modeling from sources to impacts is an area of active research because each of these physical processes has its own challenges and uncertainties.

We have created a framework for capturing these various uncertainties and demonstrated a proof-of-concept case study in Sonoma County, California. We are now looking to expand upon the framework to new locations and applications. As the undergraduate researcher, you will be collecting and analyzing hazard, exposure, and loss datasets related to California flood risk. Basic coding and data analysis experience are desirable, and some knowledge of hydrology is a plus.


Faculty: Sarah Billington

The Impact of Building Design on Human Health and Well-Being

Human well-being is closely tied to the environment we evolve in, which includes the built environment. Our research focuses on studying the role of building design in impacting human health and well-being from several angles. The following are some of our projects: 1. Trauma-informed design: In this project we are analyzing buildings used for permanent supportive housing to explore linkages between built features and resident outcomes. A goal is to identify design metrics to incorporate in the design of permanent supportive housing as well as other types of affordable housing. Students will participate in building information gathering as well as qualitative research through interviews. Data analysis will be conducted using various tools such as BIM and space syntax analysis. Experience working with R and Revit is preferred but not required. 2. Exploring VR for Design Intervention Studies: This project aims to facilitate time- and cost-effective testing of design interventions to promote wellbeing to identify the promising variables to explore more deeply through lab experiments. Work scope would range from building models using BIM, coding in Unity, testing the VR environment with human subjects as well as analyzing the data collected. Experience working with R, Revit and Unity software is preferred but not necessary. 3. Biophilic Illusions: This project aims to use physical-digital representations of nature to augment building interiors using elements from ambient nature in order to promote occupant connectedness to nature and well-being. Work scope would include building physical and/or digital prototypes of biophilic illusions as well as carrying out testing with human subjects. Prior experience working with microcontrollers (Arduino, ESP 32) and R is preferred but not required.


Faculty: Alexandria Boehm

Stinson Beach Microbiome: diversity and function of bacteria and archaea in a subterranean estuary

At the land-sea interface, sandy beaches are among the most vulnerable ecosystems to the effects of global climate change. Sea level is projected to rise between 0.5 and 1 meter by 2100, critically endangering their very existence. Sandy beaches provide essential ecosystem services, including habitat for sensitive biota, protection of land from storm events and flooding, and water filtration and purification. Forced by tides and waves, large volumes of seawater are flushed through the beach daily. In addition, meteoric groundwater can percolate through the beach and discharge to the sea. In the subsurface of the beach is a subterranean estuary with steep chemical (salinity, oxygen, nutrient) and physical (temperature, moisture content) gradients. The beach can be viewed as a “biogeochemical reactor” where microorganisms mediate the transformation of nutrients, trace metals, and carbon within the subterranean estuary.

Our research group is interested in characterizing the chemical and physical drivers of microbial diversity and metabolism within the subterranean estuary at Stinson Beach in Marin County, CA. As a student working on this project, you will hopefully have the opportunity to assist with field research and community outreach at Stinson Beach. You will gain fundamental skills in sample collection, laboratory techniques (e.g. DNA extraction and sequencing), and data analysis (e.g. bioinformatics and multivariate statistics). Based on your interests and experience, we will help you define an exciting and manageable summer project. Prior laboratory experience is helpful, but not required. If remote, your project could focus on learning to synthesize scientific literature; analysis of microbial and physicochemical datasets from the field site; generating publication-quality figures and data visualizations; and/or developing educational tools for science communication. If you have a general interest and enthusiasm for environmental science, water quality, microbial ecology, biogeochemistry, or molecular biology, please consider applying. We look forward to meeting you.


Faculty: Jenna Davis 

WASH UP: Evaluating the effectiveness of a combined infrastructure/curriculum intervention within primary schools of Uttar Pradesh, India

The WASH UP project features a combined education and infrastructure sustainability program with two objectives: (1) to improve the knowledge and practice of safe WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) behaviors among primary school students and (2) to improve the sustainability of WASH service delivery at schools. The education portion of the program consists of a curriculum centered on Raya, an empowered female Muppet who promotes messages about using the latrine, drinking clean water, and handwashing with soap. Our team will conduct a cluster randomized controlled trial with four study arms in 200 Indian elementary schools, testing the efficacy of the WASH UP! curricular program, an infrastructure maintenance intervention, and a combination of these two interventions. Data collection will involve structured observations, microbiological sampling (e.g., hand rinse samples), and interviews with students and teachers associated with each school. Research assistants will assist data management, cleaning, analysis, and visualization. They will also assist with editing, coding and testing data collection tools to be used in the study. Research assistants should have strong written communication skills, and experience organizing and cleaning datasets in R. They will also need to become facile with ODK. An interest in water and sanitation, along with prior experience in India, is desirable but not required. Pending the lifting of travel restrictions, research assistants may also participate in planned fieldwork in India.

Extreme Poverty, Infrastructure, and Climate (EPIC) Initiative

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is home to 15% of the global population yet accounts for more than half of those living in extreme poverty. By 2030 the World Bank projects that 80% of those living in extreme poverty worldwide will be members of rural households practicing smallholder farming in SSA. To what extent might strategic investments in engineered infrastructure help to mitigate rising poverty rates in the region? The association between stocks of economic infrastructure, such as roads and irrigation systems, and development indicators such as per-capita GDP is well established. The causal pathways that link infrastructure to poverty alleviation are often implied rather than interrogated directly, however. Understanding such linkages is important for developing sound investment strategies.

The Extreme Poverty, Infrastructure, and Climate Change (EPIC) initiative, which is supported by the Stanford King Center for Global Development, is focused on these questions in Eastern Uganda. The goals of EPIC are to elucidate the extent to which, the conditions under which, and the pathways by which access to irrigation and road infrastructure impact the wealth and well-being of households living in this area. The initiative also seeks to consider the effects that a changing climate is likely to have on the relationship between infrastructure and poverty in SSA.

We are looking for one or more research assistants who have skills in geospatial and/or survey data management and analysis. As our collaborators in Ghana, Uganda and Ethiopia generate and send datasets from the field, our assistants will help process the files and conduct analyses that quantify the contribution of water and road infrastructure to poverty alleviation and enhanced well-being of rural households. Applicants should have strong GIS and R skills, good communication skills, and be able to work both independently and as part of a team.

This is a multi-year project. Contingent upon improved conditions for travel, students who are interested in fieldwork may have an opportunity to continue working with the team on the ground in Uganda next year.


Faculty: Mark Z. Jacobson

Educating the public and policymakers about plans to transition states and countries to 100% clean, renewable energy and storage

Summer research will involve developing graphics and easily-understandable text to engage the public and policymakers about 100% clean, renewable energy and storage transition plans for U.S. states and most countries of the world. New plans have recently been developed for states and countries, and the next step is to educate the public and policymakers about them. This involves creating simplified graphs, documents, and videos and reaching out to key stakeholders in countries around the world.


Faculty: Rishee Jain

Evaluating the impact of urban design and constructability on multi-scale city energy usage

Intelligent urban planning and integrated energy systems have the potential to lower urban energy use and resulting emissions, for example by increasing density, fostering mix-used zoning, and managing the integration of electric mobility and distributed energy resources. However, the links between urban form and city energy consumption across the building and mobility sectors are not yet fully understood, usually studied as part of separate domains, and have not made full use of newly available data sources.

To gain fundamental and practical insights into how urban design affects city energy consumption across the building and mobility sector and how these links can be modeled effectively. Are there trade-offs between the two sectors and can we avoid them? What is the impact of changes in urban form on energy consumption across different scales, from the block to the city? What do these findings mean for ‘ideal’ urban design patterns? How do things change with an increase of vehicle electrification and autonomous or shared mobility?

Some knowledge and background in Python and statistical analysis (linear regression, discrete choice modeling) is not required but would help students hit the ground running.


Faculty: Jeffrey Koseff

Wave-current interactions over rough morphology: a laboratory study

The extent to which coral reefs can function effectively is, in part, dictated by ambient flow conditions. The main objective of the summer research project is to create a method for translating a structure-from-motion model of a coral reef into a scaled down, 3D-printed model. The student will also learn how to run experiments in a wave-current flume and will assist in flow experiments on 3D printed corals. If allowable, the work will take place at Y2E2. Experience with 3D modeling is required, and some experience with fluid mechanics is recommended.


Faculty: Stephen Monismith

Field study of coral reef hydrodynamics in Palau

This project would involve participation in NSF sponsored field work studying flows and some biogeochemistry on shallow reefs in the Pacific Island nation of Palau. The field work will take place in July following a Bing seminar that will also take place in Palau. The student would be involved in planning for the field work (likely in spring - this could be done as a 1 unit independent study), conduct of the field work, and some data analysis. We will identify a portion of the field project for which the student will have primary responsibility. The student should be able to swim (!), have had an exposure to and an interest in fluid mechanics, physical oceanography, etc. They should know Matlab or Python, or be prepared to learn how to use one of these software tools. Ideally, the student will participate in the Palau Bing seminar taught by myself and Rob Dunbar. The student will be responsible for travel to and from Palau, but all living expenses in Palau would be covered by the faculty sponsor.