MDOT Employee Wins Award for Highway Design and Construction Approach
JACKSON, MS A Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) employee recently received an award for a design and construction approach to help build better highways. W. Griffin Sullivan, an Engineer working in MDOT's Central Materials Lab, co-authored a paper that won the 2015 Best Practice Ready Paper Award from the Transportation Research Board (TRB).
"This prestigious award acknowledges the outstanding talent and skill of our employees working at MDOT," said MDOT Executive Director Melinda McGrath. "I am very proud of Griffin and his colleagues for their work to improve infrastructure design and construction practices to create safer roads for the traveling public in Mississippi."
Each year, the Transportation Research Board (TRB), an international transportation research organization, reviews research papers to be presented at their annual meeting, attended by around 12,000 people. The presented papers are peer reviewed by subject matter experts worldwide and few are selected to receive awards.
This year, the Design and Construction Group of TRB awarded a paper written by Sullivan, Brennan Anderson, and Dr. Isaac L. Howard. The paper details a better method to design and control construction of base layers of highways. TRB's peer review and paper selection process is highly competitive, and award-winning papers are subjected to even higher standards.
Sullivan, the Lead Author on the awarded paper, is a master's graduate of the civil and environmental engineering (CEE) department at Mississippi State University (MSU) and is currently working part-time on his PhD in civil engineering at MSU remotely while working full-time at MDOT. During his time at MSU, he was a Research Assistant in the materials lab working on an MDOT funded study that ultimately became part of his thesis and the paper that won the award.
"The high value research from Griffin's paper provides MDOT with tools we can actually implement and use," said MDOT Assistant Chief Engineer of Operations James Williams. "This research will have a huge impact on the transportation industry moving forward and the recognition from TRB is a reflection of that."
Working in the MSU CEE materials laboratories on MDOT studies is something that many students have the opportunity to do. The partnership between MDOT and MSU creates simultaneous benefits for students by providing education and exposure to transportation related fields, while helping to solve industry problems that have practical applications.
Over the last decade, several dozen MSU undergraduate students in the Construction Materials Research Center (CMRC) in the CEE Department at MSU have worked over 40,000 paid hours on projects. In addition, there have been dozens of graduate students working on the same types of projects in conjunction with undergraduate students. Many of these students ultimately went to work for MDOT or contractors employed by MDOT in materials, engineering, design and construction after graduation.
Howard is an Associate Professor in the CEE Department at MSU, is the CMRC Director and is Sullivan's major professor and advisor.
"I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a large number of high quality students on projects sponsored by agencies like MDOT that have a meaningful impact on Mississippi and the surrounding states," Howard said. "This paper award is a testament to the quality of our students and the support MDOT provides for projects with an opportunity for a major impact."
Sullivan, Anderson and Howard will receive the 2015 Best Practice Ready Paper Award in January 2016, at the TRB Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.