civil engineering

Aerospace and Civil Engineering Students Selected as Goldwater Scholars

Cody VanNostrand and Jose Arturo Venegas

Two students from the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) have been selected for the 2023 Goldwater Scholarship, the preeminent undergraduate scholarship awarded in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics in the United States. Cody VanNostrand, a junior aerospace engineering major, and Jose Arturo Venegas, a sophomore civil engineering major, were the students selected from ECS. Matthew Snyder, a psychology major from the College of Arts and Sciences, was also selected for a Goldwater Scholarship. This is the second consecutive year that Syracuse University has had three scholars selected in one year.

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, the five-term senator from Arizona. The purpose of the program is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers by awarding scholarships to students who intend to pursue research careers in these fields.

The Goldwater Foundation received 1,267 nominations this year from around the country and 413 students were selected for the scholarship.

Each of the Syracuse University Goldwater Scholarship nominees worked with the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising (CFSA) to prepare their application. A faculty committee, headed by James Spencer, professor of chemistry, selected Syracuse’s nominees for the national competition.

Cody VanNostrand

VanNostrand’s drive to study aerospace engineering comes from his desire to benefit society, specifically through improving transportation and aerospace vehicle capabilities. “Whether it be the upcoming urban air mobility industry, fluid-traversing robots or new types of space propulsion, a more mobile society will be able to better collect information and respond to the challenges it will face,” he says. “The aerospace field is one that is forward-looking, always with new ideas, technologies and challenges just around the corner, and I am excited to help create new ideas and solve such challenges.”

His study abroad experience in Florence, Italy, confirmed his intended path of study. “I was able to visit museums in my free time featuring the original instruments of scientists and engineers such as Galilei, DaVinci and even Bernoulli. Seeing the original instruments and how they directly related to the fundamental concepts of my coursework was both humbling and inspiring,” he says.

VanNostrand has seized opportunities for research since his first year in college. In Spring 2021, he joined the Aerospace Computational Methods Lab (ACML) of John Dannenhoffer, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. That summer, he participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program in which he and a partner remotely coded and developed two models of balsa planes. In Summer 2022, as part of an REU program, he joined the Combustion and Energy Research Lab (COMER) of Jeongmin Ahn, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, where he learned how to design and make a testing procedure for solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs). He is second author on a paper published in the Proceedings of the Nineteenth International Conference on Flow Dynamics. Last year, he was selected to participate in the L’SPACE NASA workforce development program. The experience he has gained in writing proposals, using quad charts, science traceability matrices, solicitation reviews and team-based research has helped to prepare him for a career in the space industry.

VanNostrand is currently working on his Honors thesis project investigating the fin oscillations of the manta ray via a model of his design, under the mentorship of Kasey Laurent, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. He plans to obtain a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering and pursue research and development in aerospace robotics at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory or in the private space industry.

“The Goldwater Scholarship is an amazing opportunity that will not only financially support the beginning of my career, but will also open me up to a network of scholar alumni that offer mentoring and advice; this will be immensely useful as I begin looking at graduate school,” he says. “I am incredibly honored to have been selected for this scholarship, and I am thankful for all the guidance I’ve received from the mechanical and aerospace engineering department and CFSA, and especially for continuous support from my friends and family.”

Jose Arturo Venegas

Venegas’ long-term goal is to aid as many people as possible while improving the conditions of the natural environment. “Civil engineering provides me with an avenue to improve the natural integration of infrastructure and utilities we use on a daily basis, while incorporating my passion for sciences, math and sustainability. I appreciate the career flexibility and hands-on field work that civil engineering allows,” he says.

Even before getting to the Syracuse University campus, Venegas began conducting research in the multiscale material modeling lab of Zhao Qin, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. He developed an independent research project focused on verifying whether a structurally complex fiber-reinforced composite expressed a real-world negative Poisson’s ratio during compression. Through this research, Venegas has used classical lamination theory to identify a baseline of mechanics for composite structure variations. He has also utilized computer-aided modeling and finite element analysis to support the elastic data predicted in in-situ imaging experiments.

Venegas gained additional research experience participating in a National Science Foundation REU program in materials science research at the University of California-Irvine in Summer 2022. He worked on two projects–one in an all-solid-state battery lab and another in a grain boundary (GB) characterization lab. “Each project provided me with insights into electrochemistry and materials science,” he says. Venegas was a part of the Strasbourg Center: Engineering program in fall 2022.

Venegas plans to earn a Ph.D. in civil engineering and pursue research on ecologically sound building material composites, with the goal of revolutionizing sustainable infrastructure in the U.S.

“The Goldwater Scholarship supports my commitment to materials research to expand energy infrastructure globally. I’m also excited to get involved in the Goldwater Ambassadors program to provide STEM mentorship to other students. I am honored to be recognized and could not have done it without the support of my research mentor, Dr. Zhao Qin, the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising, my family and friends and many more,” says Venegas.

CFSA seeks applicants for the Goldwater Scholarship each fall; the campus deadline is mid-November each year. Interested students should contact CFSA at

Sophomore Emma Liptrap Named a 2022 NOAA-Hollings Scholar

Emma Liptrap

Emma Liptrap’s passion for environmental engineering began in a parking lot.

In her junior year of high school, she set up a shadowing experience with a local engineering firm in her hometown of Salem, New Hampshire. Engineers brought her to a parking lot they were redesigning to mitigate stormwater runoff. They explained how water from large storms can become polluted from deposits on the ground and then flow directly into the nearby river.

“I had never thought much about parking lots or impervious surfaces before my shadowing experience, but after learning about their relationship to pollution and flooding I became fascinated—and committed—to learning more about stormwater management,” Liptrap says

Liptrap, a sophomore civil engineering major in the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) and member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program, is a recipient of a 2022 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship, which will help support her studies.

Named for Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings of South Carolina, the prestigious award provides tuition support ($9,500 per year) and paid summer internships with NOAA to recipients. The award is designed to support students working in areas related to NOAA’s programs and mission. Students apply as sophomores, do an internship in their junior year, and receive support and mentorship throughout their undergraduate career.

In high school, Liptrap began her environmental and stormwater work by creating a sustainability club. In the first year, she gave presentations about water conservation to elementary school students, organized trash pickups at local parks, distributed water barrels to town residents and led a project planting a garden at a local park to promote wildlife.

She also worked as an intern with an architect who prioritized reusing materials and building for the future. “I loved learning about LEED certification and analyzing how we could make each build more sustainable,” she says. In her senior year, she won the New Hampshire Department of Education’s Work-Based Learning Award for her work in the internship.

Liptrap enrolled at Syracuse because of the University’s civil and environmental engineering program, SOURCE undergraduate research funding program and research focus on the smart management of water systems. “I had also read about how Onondaga Lake used to be one of the most polluted lakes in the country, and the opportunity to learn more about how it is being restored excited me,” she says.

Her coursework involves technical engineering classes along with classes in social sciences to broaden her understanding of climate change. “Through my classes, it has been made clear to me that the work I will do in the future will require cooperation with many stakeholders, including scientists, policymakers and the public. I understand how crucial effective communication will be throughout my career and am developing those skills by learning how to give presentations and engaging in team projects,” she says.

Liptrap is working in the research lab of Cliff Davidson, Thomas and Colleen Wilmot Professor of Engineering in ECS. She is engaged in research using HYDRUS, a computer program that models the movement of water at different levels of saturation. The research is done on the 60,000-square-foot green roof of the Onondaga County Convention Center (ONCenter) in Syracuse, studying its capacity to prevent stormwater from overflowing Syracuse’s combined sewer system.

“Having a reliable program like HYDRUS to model stormwater runoff will help engineers designing green roofs in the future so that they can be built to fit an area’s specific needs,” Liptrap says.

Liptrap also joined the University’s Water Chemistry lab last summer, focusing on determining the rate at which pollutants in the air settle on surfaces in Syracuse. “This project will help provide a blueprint for how to measure dry deposition in urban environments so that these pollutants can be better studied in cities,” she says.

She currently serves as outreach chair for the University’s student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. She is also a member of Engineering Ambassadors, a club that facilitates engineering projects for middle school students to introduce them to key engineering concepts.

In the future, Liptrap wants to design and implement green infrastructure in cities as a civil engineer with a private consulting firm. “Many cities across the United States have plans to become more sustainable, and water management through green infrastructure will be crucial to this work,” she says. “The Hollings Scholarship’s mentorship and internship opportunities will be invaluable in helping me better understand the state of the field and explore career paths.”

Liptrap worked with the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising (CFSA) to apply for the NOAA scholarship. CFSA offers candidates advising and assistance with applications and interview preparation for nationally competitive scholarships. “Emma’s sustained focus on environmental issues, and her specific interest in managing stormwater runoff, made her a terrific candidate for the NOAA-Hollings Scholarship. Her interests and goals are clearly aligned with NOAA’s mission,” says Jolynn Parker, director of CFSA. “We’re thrilled she’s won this award and will benefit from mentorship and internship opportunities through NOAA.”

The 2023 NOAA-Hollings Scholarship application will open in September Interested students should contact CFSA for more information: 315.443.2759 or

Civil and Environmental Engineering Alumni Profile: JB Ahmad ’15, G’16

JB Ahmad '15, G'16

Stepping outside of your comfort zone in order to achieve your goals may be a cliché, but it is also a simple truth. Civil and environmental engineering alumna J.B. Ahmad ’15, G’16, started her career journey with a choice to leave her familiar confines of southern California and head to the northeast.

“When I toured Syracuse University, I fell in love with the bright picturesque nature that surround upstate New York. For me, it supplied a feel, an experience, and a look that I didn’t think I would be able to get anywhere else,” said Ahmad. “To be able to experience seasons was something very new to me.”

In addition to being charmed by campus, Ahmad received a research fellowship that enabled her to pursue the degree and type of research she was interested in. Ahmad immediately found Syracuse University had a palpable sense of community, and the College of Engineering and Computer Science offered the right environment for her to develop her skillset.

“It felt like you had this whole extended family that’s rooting for your success,” said Ahmad. “At Syracuse I always felt a push within the department to look ahead and think bigger. I was taught how to learn, the importance of thought diversity, and innovation. My research taught me the value of examining ideas and being at the forefront of my field.”

Most of all it was the one-on-one attention from professors that had the greatest impact. Ahmad is grateful to have had the opportunity to establish deeper relationships with most of her engineering professors, but one connection stands out the most.

“My absolute favorite thing about Syracuse University is Dr. Svetoslava Todorova. I cannot put into words the depth of imprint she has left on my heart and in my life,” said Ahmad. “Her dedication to experiential learning and innovative instruction is unparalleled. She uses simulations and mock trials to promote learning on many levels. She is unbelievably patient and somehow always finds the time to give each student the attention and respect necessary to advance their ideas and knowledge. She serves as a constant reminder for me to appreciate the support and guidance I receive throughout my career, and to be a support for others whenever I can.”

“As a teacher, I remember the students who were different, who stood out from their peers by their personalities and abilities. JB was one of those students. During her studies at Syracuse University, JB distinguished herself with her innate curiosity, systematic problem-solving, and ability to interact with people from diverse backgrounds,” said Todorova. “These skills have helped her excel in her practice as a geotechnical engineer. She currently manages comprehensive billion-dollar projects, both domestic and international. She is a great example of what our students grow to become – leaders in the engineering field.”

In the short time since graduating, Ahmad returned to the west coast, currently serving as a geotechnical earthquake engineer and deputy project manager at AECOM. She has worked on several large, signature consulting assignments, including the multi-billion-dollar high-speed rail project aimed at connecting northern and southern California. Ahmad says her time at Syracuse University equipped her with agility and adaptability mindset necessary to consult on a wide-range of projects—providing innovative solutions for the world’s toughest challenges—and bring that leadership to clients. Her collective experience has helped her lead effectively in ambiguity, consistently execute on goals and priorities, and build long-term, collaborative growth partnerships with clients.

“How you think will affect what you are able to achieve,” said Ahmad. “Instead of thinking I can’t do this, try developing the belief I can’t do it yet. Setbacks can provide a way forward and through effort, learning, and persistence your skills can improve over time.”