Research Team

PhD Students

arayaFelipe Araya is a Civil Engineer from Chile. He obtained his bachelors and masters degrees in Civil Engineering from Federico Santa Maria University in 2014. In 2015, he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to pursue his PhD in Civil Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. Felipe’s research interests span construction engineering and management, infrastructure management, and human- infrastructure interactions. He is currently working on statistical modeling of public perceptions of the impact of mass migration arising from the refugee crisis on civil infrastructure systems in Germany.

Amal Bakchan is a PhD student at the Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering department. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from Beirut Arab University as well as a master’s degree in Engineering Management from the American University of Beirut (AUB), the top university in Beirut and the leading institute in the Middle East. Before joining the Sustainable Systems program at UT Austin, Amal got involved in research projects at AUB, as a Research Associate, in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, where she gained research experience on the application of sustainability in all stages of construction. Amal’s research interests include applying Information Technology within the construction and infrastructure projects to provide better services to communities. Her current work focuses on leveraging Building Information Modeling to develop a software tool for estimating waste generated from construction projects and planning for proper disposal. The second project aims at modeling various factors that influence the access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene services in urban slums. Her objective is to assess the impact of water and sanitation systems on the individual, household, and community levels in such slums and to propose technological innovations at the built environment to achieve quality access.

img_3308Julie Charlotte Faure is a PhD student in Environmental and Water Resources Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. Before working as a graduate research assistant, Julie earned a dual bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics at the Ecole Centrale de Lille. The multi-disciplinary engineering program is consistently recognized as one of France’s top ten Grandes Ecoles. Julie’s research interests include learning about environmental problems in conjunction with their scientific and social impacts. Pursuant to her research interests, Julie is studying the impact of gentrification on drinking water and wastewater networks, utilizing the city of Austin as a case study. The second project she is pursuing is a study on the cultural-cognitive and normative effect of sudden and large population influxes on water and sanitation utilities. Julie is analyzing German cities welcoming numerous refugees and asylum seekers to support her thesis.

headshot_ejEuijin (EJ) Yang is a PhD Student in Construction Engineering and Project Management. His research interest is public perceptions toward infrastructures and human-infrastructure interactions. His master’s thesis, Temporal Dynamics of Public Perceptions toward Water Infrastructure in US Shrinking Cities Before and After the Flint Water Crisis, was completed in December 2016. Currently, he is conducting quantitative and qualitative analysis on bottled and filtered water uses of residents in shrinking cities due to water-related events.

Masters Students

picKelsey Abel  is a dual masters student studying Environmental and Water Resources Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering, and Public Affairs in the Lyndon B. Johnson school of Public Affairs. Previously, Kelsey obtained a bachelor’s degree in physics from Southwestern University. It was here that she took a class exploring global agriculture systems and became fascinated by food insecurity and sustainability. Kelsey’s current work focuses on modeling food deserts in the United States. She hopes to use these models to obtain a better understanding of why food deserts exist and how these complex systems can be addressed through policy making, changes in the built environment, and social outreach.

img_4034Jorden Castaneda is an Air Force Civil Engineering Officer pursuing a MS in Civil Engineering in the Department of Construction Engineering and Project Management at the University of Texas at Austin. He holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the United States Air Force Academy. Jorden served as a Project Manager at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan for 2 years before graduate school. Jorden is interested in the management of Air Force assets through their lifecycle. He is working to improve the way the Air Force collects and manages maintenance, repair, and construction requirements based on risk.

headshotMonica Guerra Uribe is a masters student in Environmental and Water Resources Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. Before coming to UT, Monica received her bachelors degree in Innovation and Design Engineering and a specialization degree in Engineering and Project Management in the Universidad Panamericana in Mexico City. Her research interest is in the Energy and Water Nexus. Currently, she is researching the creation of interdependencies between water and electricity connections through policy in the Colonias of Texas.

Rachel Piner (co-advised by Dr. Lina Sela- is a masters student in Environmental and Water Resources Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. Originally from LA, she finished her BS in Civil Engineering at UT in May 2017. She is primarily interested in urban water infrastructure and its impact on society and lower income communities.



osmanKhalid Osman is a masters student in Construction Engineering and Project Management. In high school, he became fascinated with infrastructure, and infrastructure systems- especially in places around the world that lack necessities. This drove him to pursue a Bachelors in Civil Engineering with a minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management from University of Portland. Khalid is a Gates Millennium Scholar (class of 2011). His passion for Civil Engineering derives from his “obsession with helping people, [as] the world faces clear challenges in dealing with crumbling or nonexistent infrastructures and our nation is in dire need of someone to take charge and rebuild those infrastructures.” Khalid is currently working with analyzing public perceptions of water infrastructure and the management of existing infrastructure systems to meet the current and future needs of those being served by the systems.

Undergraduate Students

Tioheadshotlina Pistilli is pursuing a BS in Architectural Engineering and holds a BA in English from the University of Delaware.  She is interested in the ways rapidly growing and rapidly shrinking communities adapt their infrastructure to accommodate changes in population and demographics.  She is working on understanding the effects of large, sudden influxes of displaced persons on water and housing infrastructure of host communities in Germany.

Anna Wittenmyer is a fourth year undergraduate engineering student studying Civil Engineering and Plan II Honors. She is interested in using public space to build connected communities and is currently exploring the relationship between of socio-demographics and placemaking.