Dr. Leslie McCarthy Awarded $110K from National Academy of Science for Two Research Projects

Dr. Leslie McCarthy, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) of the National Academy of Science has funded two transportation research projects helmed by Dr. Leslie McCarthy, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, with two separate grants totaling $110,000.

The NCHRP conducts research in problem areas that affect highway planning, design, construction, operations, and maintenance nationwide. “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the NCHRP on these two projects, both of which are of interest nationally,” says Dr. McCarthy. “It’s also great exposure for the graduate and undergraduate students who are assisting me. Together, we have the opportunity to improve the way asphalt pavements perform, even before they are built. This has far-reaching impacts on both transportation agencies and contractors across the country.”

The first research project, entitled “Field Validation of the Quality-Related Standard Specification (QRSS) Methodology” and funded by a $75,000 18-month grant, will result in software that can be used by contractors and state departments of transportation to predict future asphalt pavement damage based on fundamental material properties. Dr. McCarthy, a graduate research assistant, and an undergraduate student are collaborating with Fugro Consultants of Austin, Texas, and Arizona State University to complete a field data collection on asphalt pavements in the Northeast. The Villanova research team will be working with the Rhode Island Department of Transportation during the 2010 paving season. The paving materials collected from three paving jobs in parts of Rhode Island will be tested at Arizona State University, after which an analysis of the asphalt’s performance in dynamic modulus testing will be conducted at Villanova. While at Villanova, the data will also be beta-tested in the draft Performance Related Specifications (QRSS) software.

“The result of our research will provide validation coefficients that can be used for regional evaluation of this software and training material that will be presented to key stakeholders, such as state departments of transportation, local agencies, and asphalt industry groups,” says Dr. McCarthy.

For the second study, a synthesis project funded by a $35,000 12-month grant, an NCHRP expert panel unanimously selected Dr. McCarthy to serve as the consultant tasked with developing and compiling results from a national survey, conducting detailed case studies and interviews in 10 states, and writing a report based on a comprehensive international literature and information search. She is assisted by David Mensching CE ’10 and Drew Horgan CE ’11.

Dr. McCarthy’s project, “Efficient Delivery of Small-Scale Federal-Aid Projects,” explores how federal requirements can be met in a more streamlined fashion for small transportation projects administered by local governments. The project culminates with a presentation that Dr. McCarthy will make to detail the findings of her study to the NCHRP expert panel at the National Academies facility in Woods Hole, MA, on August 6, 2010. Following the presentation, the results will be captured in Synthesis Report 20-05 Topic 41-02 and circulated to a global audience of more than 4,000 transportation professionals.