PI Spotlight: Rabin Bhattarai

bhattaraiRabin Bhattarai, who has been a researcher on three ICT/IDOT projects, is an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He received his BS in civil engineering from Tribhuvan University (Nepal) and his MS in water engineering from the Asian Institute of Engineering (Thailand). He came Illinois to pursue his PhD in agricultural and biological engineering, which he was awarded in 2011. He served a postdoctoral research fellow at North Carolina State University and returned to Illinois in 2012 as a visiting assistant professor. He became a tenure-track assistant professor in soil and water resource engineering at Illinois in 2014.

Bhattarai was born and raised in Nepal, a country rich in water resources thanks to the snows of the Himalayas. “Yet a large portion of the country lives under water scarcity, which motivated me to look for possible solutions to our water problems. That was the reason I decided to attend graduate school in water engineering and management.”

The ICT/IDOT projects on which Bhattarai served as a co-investigator or student researcher are as follows:

R27-054: Storm Water Pollution, Erosion and Sediment Control Products Demonstration and Training Center. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IDOT, and the U.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratory joined in a partnership to develop a facility where research and training are conducted on best management practices for stormwater management, soil erosion control, and sediment control. The site features a large earthen berm, a pump house, a detention pond, and three channels of varying configurations, as well as a classroom.

The Erosion Control Research and Training Center in southeast Urbana.

The Erosion Control Research and Training Center in southeast Urbana.

R27-102: Installation of Performance Testing of Ditch Checks and Inlet Protection Structures. The objective of this study was to evaluate the performance of different types of ditch checks and inlet protection structures. A ditch check is a small, temporary or permanent dam constructed across a drainage ditch, swale, or channel to lower the speed of concentrated water flows for a certain design range of storm events. An inlet protection device is installed to prevent sediment from entering a storm sewer. Results of the evaluations were published in four white papers and are being incorporated into IDOT policy.

R27-148: Development of Low-Water Crossing Design Guidelines for Very Low Average Daily Traffic (ADT) Routes in Illinois. The focus of this research project, which is currently in progress, is to develop safe and cost-effective guidelines that IDOT and local agencies can use to determine the best design for low-water crossings to meet traffic needs; maintain the natural channel function; and permit free passage of water, sediment, debris, and wildlife.

The ditch check/inlet protection structures project (R27-102) was a considerable undertaking over the course of five years. Bhattarai was involved in almost every aspect of the project from the beginning until the submission of the white papers. He also worked closely with grad and undergrad students in designing and conducting the field experiments and providing regular progress updates to IDOT. The research team also had papers about the project published in two peer-reviewed journals.

In addition to the current low-water crossing project for ICT/IDOT, Bhattarai and his group at the Water Quality Lab (part of the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering) are working to compare LiDAR evaluations and onsite survey elevation works by USDA-NRCS, and they are evaluating the impact of conservation practices on water quality in several watersheds throughout Illinois.