Please tell us about yourself

Vivek Samu is a postdoctoral research scholar in the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, where he also completed his Ph.D. He won the People’s Choice award at The Graduate School’s Three Minute Thesis competition in 2018. In his presentation, Vivek described using low-cost hammer testing to assess the condition of bridge foundations for which there are no extant records. In addition to his Ph.D. in structural engineering, Vivek completed a graduate minor in applied mathematics.

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What did you study?

I did my Bachelors in Civil Engineering (National Institute of Technology, Trichy) followed by a Masters and PhD in Civil-Structural Engineering from North Carolina State University.

Can you tell about your research/teaching experience?

I have had a very rich research experience and exposure at NC State. My research is related to testing of bridge foundations using wave propagation methods to assess its current condition. I have been involved in both theoretical and experimental research and this has helped me develop a unique skill set which will be the foundation for my future endeavors. I have been a teaching assistant for different courses and also had the opportunity to teach an undergraduate course. I have always had the fear of facing a big crowd and the extensive amount of teaching experience has helped me conquer my fears. I have been lucky to be mentored by several extraordinary professors in the Civil Engineering department over the years which has helped me become a better teacher.

How does your work benefit the society?

Of North Carolina’s approximately 13,000 bridges, an estimated 40 percent are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.  One of the main causes is scouring, the erosion of soil around the foundation. A critical step in assessing bridge condition is to estimate the depth of the embedded pilings that support the bridge.  However, there are often no accurate records of the original pile length and the current method used to assess pile length is unreliable. Dr. Murthy Guddati and PhD student Vivek Samu have developed a non-destructive testing method named Effective Dispersion Analysis of Reflections (EDAR).   EDAR combines innovative use of signal processing with mathematical manipulations rooted in guided wave propagation theory, an area that Guddati has been working in for over a decade. EDAR is more reliable than the current state of practice.

With funding from the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Alaska Department of Transportation,and in collaboration with Dr. Shamim RahmanDr. Mervyn Kowalsky, and PhD student Ali Vaziri, Guddati and Samu have built a portable testing system based on EDAR that includes a hammer, tablet, data acquisition system and accelerometers. Laboratory and preliminary field tests confirm that the device provides reliable and accurate estimates of the embedded pile depth, signaling significant potential for routine use across the nation.

What do you like the most about NC State? Or why did you choose to come to NC State?

My association with NC State started in fall 2012 when I decided to join for my Master of Science in Civil Engineering and quickly fell in love with NC State and Raleigh. I was amazed at the amount of resources available for the students and the constant encouragement by my advisor, professors and peers. I am particularly a fan of the NC State Libraries and their Tripsaver program which has been very helpful.

What is something that you have learned from The Graduate School’s Professional Development Programs that you are applying to your work or teaching?

Apart from research, NC State has provided me with several opportunities to learn essential personal and professional skills without which I could not have succeeded in my academic pursuit. I have participated in professional development programs such as Preparing the Professoriate (PTP), Three Minute Thesis (3MT) and Camp Completion. PTP was a unique program which has provided me with a lot of resources to prepare myself for an academic career through workshops, collaboration with experts and teaching experience. Often as researchers we focus a lot on details and forget the broader view and implications of the research. Participating in the Three Minute Thesis competition helped me take a step back in an effort to explain my research to a non-technical audience, at the same time improving my science communication skills.

Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?

I love sports and to stay active! Whenever I get time, I like to play cricket, tennis or table tennis. I have been playing in the Triangle Cricket League over the years and never miss an opportunity to get into a cricket ground.