Although the ICT research sponsored by IDOT provides numerous benefits to the agency and the citizens of Illinois, a less obvious advantage of these projects is the opportunity they give to students who assist in the research. Students can gain experience preparing literature reviews, conducting experiments, gathering and analyzing data, and writing research reports. They also get to work closely with top researchers in their field of study.
Two students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Kexuan Wang and Reshmina William, are assisting Art Schmidt, research assistant professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Illinois, on a short-term special project (R27-SP23) to update the 1986 and 1997 Illinois drainage law manuals. The manuals are used by public agencies, including IDOT, to address drainage issues related to construction.
Kexuan is a first-year master’s student studying hydrology and hydraulics, with a focus on urban hydrology—specifically, how urban catchments and green infrastructure react to variability in climate and topology, as well as the resilience of urban stormwater systems. Her immediate plans are to complete her M.S. degree; longer term, she wants to become a faculty member in the field of urban hydrology.
Reshmina is an undergraduate who is completing her senior year in civil engineering. She’s concentrating on hydrosystems engineering. She will be returning to the university this fall to begin her master’s studies, which will focus on the intersection of water, energy, and public policy. Her career goal is to work for a private consulting firm initially, followed by work in the public sector.
Kexuan says that her work on the drainage manual project has taught her much about how state and federal legislation has changed in the face of a growing number of municipal separate storm sewer systems, the promotion of green infrastructure, and an increasing concern about the effects of nonpoint source pollution. She adds: “It’s been interesting and educational working with IDOT and the senior engineers. Their experience and insight are of great value.”
Like Kexuan, Reshmina says that one of the most important things she’s learned on this project is the complementary roles of the judicial, legislative, and scientific communities. “Before working on this project, I had never fully appreciated the feedback loop that forms such an extensive part of the design process in drainage law.”