WMU News

MDOT and WMU collaborate on new lab

Aug. 27, 2004

KALAMAZOO--A laboratory being dedicated Wednesday, Sept. 1, at Western Michigan University signals the launch of a new collaboration between the Michigan Department of Transportation and the University that will focus on teaching and professional practice as well as research on the materials used to build Michigan roadways.

The Construction Materials Laboratory, which will be dedicated during a 1:30 p.m. ceremony, is located in Room C112 of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences building on the University's Parkview Campus. The laboratory is the result of a partnership between WMU and MDOT formed to establish a state-of-the art construction materials laboratory, which will be used to expose undergraduate and graduate students to construction and pavement design material and will serve as the material certification laboratory for MDOT. Materials testing and research that can be conducted in the laboratory includes work on structural reinforced concrete, reinforced concrete pavements, bituminous pavements and foundation materials.

According to Dr. James Nelson, professor and chairperson of WMU's Department of Civil and Construction Engineering, the collaborative laboratory offers many advantages to students at WMU, to MDOT and to citizens of Michigan. Students will have the benefit of being educated in a working laboratory with modern equipment, and they will have increased opportunities for internships and part-time employment that can be combined with their academic study. The citizens of Michigan benefit, he says, because a single laboratory serving the needs of both organizations was developed instead of two separate laboratories.

MDOT's Southwest Region Engineer Bobbi Welke says the new laboratory will significantly help MDOT provide the best roadways for users. When problems with pavements occur, rarely are they caused by a single factor, she notes. Because of the different disciplines housed in the laboratory and the presence of experts in the field, she says, the best solutions for pavement design will be found. Also, by working more closely with students, MDOT can help develop better-qualified highway engineers more quickly.

"This is really a win-win situation for everyone," she says.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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