News Release 

Grants support UTA research into workforce development for paving experts, rail systems

Improving transportation in Texas

University of Texas at Arlington

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IMAGE: Sherri Kermanshachi view more 

Credit: UT Arlington

A civil engineer at The University of Texas at Arlington has earned two new grants worth more than $105,000 to study third rail insulator failures and develop a workforce development framework for concrete paving experts.

Sharareh "Sherri" Kermanshachi, assistant professor in civil engineering, received the two grants from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and the Texas Department of Transportation.

Her first grant is from TxDOT and will enhance knowledge dissemination in concrete durability and pavement materials among subject matter experts and engineers. One of the aims of this project is to develop a strategic approach in concrete knowledge transferring and management platforms.

Kermanshachi and her team will establish a workforce development framework for concrete paving experts and reduce project failures through enhancement of project participants' skills and knowledge.

"Every organization needs to create and maintain an effective channel to ensure its knowledge, skills and expertise will not be lost in workforce transitions." Kermanshachi said.

In the second grant, the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) provided competitive federal funding to Kermanshachi to study and investigate causes of third rail insulator failures in national rail systems. The TCRP, which is sponsored by National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, develops near-term, practical solutions to problems facing public transportation.

Metro rail systems use an electrified third rail to obtain traction power for rail cars. The third rail is installed on insulators that get covered with steel dust, rust particles and other debris from operating trains. That debris accumulates over time and can cause insulators to fail.

Kermanshachi and her team will gather data from federal and international sources about best practices for detecting and fixing these failures. The researchers also will investigate their impacts on transit agencies and daily commuters. The goal of this project is to develop strategies that reduce failures of metro rail systems and prevent delays in transit networks.

"We will establish a model that any rail system can use to increase the efficiency of their operational activities," Kermanshachi said. "We will study operation and performance of all national transit rail systems, their types and causes of failures, their rates of failures, the impact to their operations and maintenance of those failures, and strategies to prevent distributive failures in rail transit mode. Malfunctions in transit systems can result in direct and indirect economic losses for both public and transit agencies."

The projects represent applications of UTA's work in sustainable urban communities and data-driven discovery, two of the four pillars of the University's Strategic Plan 2020, said Ali Abolmaali, chair of the Civil Engineering Department.

"Dr. Kermanshachi is accumulating quite the research portfolio here," Abolmaali said. "The findings of her research projects are very valuable and can be used immediately in shaping how efficient rail transportation becomes and how the workforce is molded to industry needs."

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