Undergraduate Research

Sarah Kurtzer, Civil Engineering

“This experience has made me feel more passionate about civil engineering.”

“For my summer co-op I am working with Ibrahim Cagatay Solak, a civil engineering graduate student, on a question that was raised during his thesis defense: Does the dielectric constant of sand change depending on how finely the sand is ground? The dielectric constant is how much energy a material is able to hold. Because sand has pebbles of different sizes, they do not fit perfectly together and there is air in the sample. If there is air in the sample, it might change the dielectric constant because it’s not just the sand being measured. This study would help with predicting the dielectric constant of cement mortar and concrete, which both contain sand. I will be preparing 16 samples of sand with different gradation. Using the sieve analysis method with then different levels of sieves, the sand will be separated by grain size and then separated into separate samples. Each will have a different level of grading and compaction to see if the grain size really does matter and if it allows the sand to be compacted more tightly. After the samples are prepared, the network analyzer will determine the dielectric constant of each sample, and it will show what changes are present or if there are none at all. This experience has not only made me feel more passionate about civil engineering, but it allowed to feel like I am involved with something more important than three hours of homework every night.”