Please tell us about yourself

Sushobhan Sen is a doctoral student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research focuses on urban energetics, especially the impact of pavements on Urban Heat Islands (UHI).

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What did you study?

Sushobhan holds a bachelor’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, India, in civil engineering and a master of science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Transportation and Highway Engineering . Outside of his studies and research, he enjoys running and reading about American history.

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?

I’m from a military family, so we moved around a lot. One of the cities where we lived when I was maybe 10 years old, the summers were not that bad then. I came back when I was around 15, and it was super-hot, we used to get highs of around 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the summers. In five years it went from a nice and pleasant summer to unbearably hot.

This all happened because the population doubled in those five years, and the city expanded accordingly.

Tell us about your work

“Pavements and buildings make a city warmer by absorbing and storing more heat than natural vegetation,” Sushobhan says. “My research involves understanding how our choice of pavement materials and their placement in a city affect the local microclimate of the city and the well-being of its people.”

Sushobhan has assisted on ICT project “Multi-Functional Concrete Inlays”, where he demonstrated how thin concrete inlays with certain properties could be used to mitigate UHIs and vehicular pollution, while also improving the functional characteristics of existing pavements. He is now working on developing a tool to quantify the sustainability of various pavement preservation techniques, with special focus on UHIs.

How does your research benefit the community?

The inter-disciplinary nature of Sushobhan’s work, which involves pavement engineering, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, atmospheric science, and computations, has helped him “keep his intellectual horizon as broad as possible.” According to him, the most important thing that he has learned from his research work is to look at a pavement beyond its most basic function, i.e., moving people and things around conveniently, and to consider it as part of a larger system that interacts with its environment.

Jeffrey Roesler, CEE professor and associate head for graduate affairs, is Sushobhan’s advisor. “Sushobhan is a superb PhD student with a passion for learning and discovery especially how engineers can make meaningful changes to the urban climate by studying how materials, building form, and the weather impacts building energy, near surface air temperature, and human health. With Sushobhan’s doctoral work, we will have the first measurement tools and models to assist civil engineers in making choices to positively alter the microscale urban heat island on an individual project level.”