Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Fatigue Assessment of Prestressed Concrete Slab-Between-Girder Bridges

My colleagues and I recently published a paper in Applied Sciences, Special Issue Fatigue and Fracture of Non-metallic Materials and Structures titled "Fatigue Assessment of Prestressed Concrete Slab-Between-Girder Bridges".

You can download the open access paper here. If you're interested in it, the preprint is also publicly available.

This paper is the last journal paper in the suite of papers that deal with fatigue in slab-between-girder bridges. In this paper, we went one step further than in the previous ones, which dealt with the experiments only. Here, we developed a method to assess existing slab-between-girder bridges based on the experimental results. It's a rather practical and practice-oriented paper.

The abstract is:
In the Netherlands, the assessment of existing prestressed concrete slab-between-girder bridges has revealed that the thin, transversely prestressed slabs may be critical for static and fatigue punching when evaluated using the recently introduced Eurocodes. On the other hand, compressive membrane action increases the capacity of these slabs, and it changes the failure mode from bending to punching shear. To improve the assessment of the existing prestressed slab-between-girder bridges in the Netherlands, two 1:2 scale models of an existing bridge, i.e., the Van Brienenoord Bridge, were built in the laboratory and tested monotonically, as well as under cycles of loading. The result of these experiments revealed: (1) the static strength of the decks, which showed that compressive membrane action significantly enhanced the punching capacity, and (2) the Wöhler curve of the decks, showed that the compressive membrane action remains under fatigue loading. The experimental results could then be used in the assessment of the most critical existing slab-between-girder bridges. The outcome was that the bridge had sufficient punching capacity for static and fatigue loads and, therefore, the existing slab-between-girder bridges in the Netherlands fulfilled the code requirements for static and fatigue punching.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

When reviewers want you to cite their work

It has happened to me a number of times: (anonymous) reviewers who not-so-gently ask me to cite their work as part of a revision of my manuscript. I'm not talking about reviewers who suggest publications I may have missed, from various source (I too will add references to my review report where I think these are necessary to improve the manuscript). 'm talking here the reviewer who said I have missed Something Really Important and gives me 5 references by the same first author that necessarily should be included to represent the state of the art.

To see how common this malpractice is, I ran a poll on Twitter. Results and the followig discussion are below

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Two papers from the ACI Structural Journal

My collaborators and I recently published two papers related to the topic of fatigue in slab-between-girder bridges. These paper are published in the ACI Structural Journal, Vol 116 nr 4. The two papers deal with two series of experiments: the first series had transversely prestressed decks between prestressed T-girders, and the second series had transversely prestressed decks between inverted T-girders / bulb T-girders. I worked on part of the analysis of the test results, and reporting the results in journal papers during the summer of 2018.

The abstract of the first paper is:
In the Netherlands, slab-between-girder bridges with prestressed girders and transversely prestressed decks in between the girders require assessment. Static testing showed that compressive membrane action increases the capacity of these structures and that the decks fail in punching shear. The next question is if compressive membrane action also increases the capacity of these decks under repeated loads. Therefore, the same half-scale bridge structure as used for the static tests was subjected to repeated loads at different fractions of the maximum static load, different loading sequences, and for single and double concentrated loads. A relationship between the load level and number of cycles at failure (S-N curve) for the assessment of these bridges is proposed, but the influence of the loading sequence was not successfully quantified yet. The conclusion of the experiments is that compressive membrane action enhances the punching capacity of transversely prestressed thin decks subjected to repeated loads. 

The abstract of the second paper is:
Previous research showed that the capacity of existing slab-between-girder bridges is larger than expected based on the punching shear capacity prescribed by the governing codes, as a result of compressive membrane action. A first series of fatigue tests confirmed that compressive membrane action also acts under cycles of loading. However, a single experiment in which first a number of cycles with a higher load level and then with a lower load level were applied, seemed to indicate that this loading sequence shortens the fatigue life. This topic was further investigated in a second series of fatigue tests with three static tests and ten fatigue tests. The parameters that were varied are the sequence of loading and the effect of a single or a double wheel print. The results show that the sequence of load levels does not influence the fatigue life.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

PhD Talk for AcademicTransfer: Creative thinking for the 21st century

This post is part of the series PhD Talk for AcademicTransfer: posts written for the Dutch academic career network AcademicTransfer, your go-to resource for all research positions in the Netherlands.

These posts are sponsored by AcademicTransfer, and tailored to those of you interested in pursuing a research position in the Netherlands.

If these posts raise your interest in working as a researcher in the Netherlands, even better - and feel free to fire away any questions you might have on this topic!

One look at any news website will teach you this: we are facing major challenges over the next decades of the 21st century. Global warming research shows a bleak and unstable future ahead. Nonrenewable resources will be depleted. Increasing human population on this planet will place even a larger demand on the resources of the planet...

While some countries are taking the lead to move towards a circular economy in the low-carbon and most likely degrowth era, the global community and political leaders are hesitant to flip the switch and change the status quo.

Now, you may wonder if Auntie Eva is on a political rant today. Don't worry - I am here to raise awareness on how you as a researcher can use your creative skills to make a small contribution to what the 21st century will look like. Regardless of your field of study, you can contribute. If you are a full professor, not shackled by tenure restraints, I would like to invite you to set aside part of your time to work on tackling these big challenges. Climate scientist, political scientist, engineer, psychologist - your point of view is necessary, and I firmly believe that we will need interdisciplinary solutions to solve the challenges ahead.

It's unlikely that you will wake up tomorrow with The Idea that will solve one of the major issues. But with deliberate practice, and setting aside time frequently to think about how you can contribute, we may all inch forward to solutions. Here is what you can do on a regular basis to use your creative thinking for the greater good:

1. Look at the bigger picture
Place your research in the bigger picture. Besides your field, where else could your methods be applied? Can your research results be turned into policy recommendations? Which greater good does your research serve, and how can you make sure the outcome of your research will actually be set to work?

2. Serve locally
Be active in your community. Don't try to be Professor-Messiah, but see how you can gain the trust of a larger group of people around you. Can you help them understand popular science claims in the news, or debunk a fake science article that is going viral on social media? See how you can put your knowledge to work at the local level, and inspire those around you.

3. Serve in committees and working groups
At a professional level, see if you can join interdisciplinary working groups or committees, where you brainstorm together on how to tackle bigger problems. You can work together with colleagues at your institution to see how to reduce the footprint of your institution as a whole. You can work in local groups, to see how you as a team can come up with solutions for pressing issues at a local and/or national level.

4. Read broadly
Be informed about the state of the world. Read broadly about topics related only tangentially to your research. Remember that reading sparks creativity - you may get a good idea to combine your work with something from another discipline. Use smaller side projects to explore different possibilities for interdisciplinary solutions.

5. Educate
Serve those around you and your students by educating them and, if necessary, help them trust science and scientists again. See if you can educate at different levels - by visiting schools, writing blog posts about topics related to science, or by giving a well-funded perspective at a speaking opportunity.

6. Link your research to the sustainable development goals

If you want to better frame your research in the recommended pathways for the future, check how your work can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN. Read about the goals, and think about how you can frame your work within these goals, and how you can contribute to sustainable development through your research.

7. Question the status quo
Things don't have to remain the same forever. Question the choices we make because "everybody else does this" or because "I've always done things like this". You don't need to work on the same research topic your entire life. You can explore more interdisciplinary collaborations to see if you find that this work gives you more satisfaction and leads to more actionable items. You can question the way your institution uses natural resources. You can prod politicians about the decisions they have made in the past and continue to support. Keep a fresh mind and stay creative - at all levels.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Life as a Dissertation Committee Member

Today, I am hosting Dr. Steve Tippins from Beyond PhD Coaching to share his thoughts on being a committee member. You may also remember that I recently interviewed Dr. Tippins for the "How I Work" series.

The reason that most of us serve on dissertation committees is for the V.I.P. flights to exotic locations, passes to all Hollywood premiers, and unlimited free dry cleaning. Actually, none of that has ever happened for me or anyone that I know. We serve on dissertation committees because we like to help people and the job is interesting. That said, there can be challenges.

Every committee member that I know goes into a committee assignment hoping that things will go smoothly and the student will finish quickly. Sometimes that happens and other times hopes are not met. I will share here some things that help and hinder the relationship.

It's important to start the relationship off properly. At many institutions, students get to ask faculty members to serve on their committee. If you get the opportunity to choose committee members please take this responsibility seriously. As a faculty member, it is frustrating when a student who has not done their homework about me asks me to serve on a committee that my background and publication history do not match in any way.

After serving on over 80 dissertation committees several things stick out as practices for students to follow.

1. If a committee member makes a comment, make sure you address the comment in the next draft - it is frustrating to take the time to comment on a student's work and then not have the comment addressed. It can feel like a lack of respect.

2. Do not ask a comment member to just tell you what they want you to write - your dissertation is just that, your dissertation. Committee members are there to guide you, not tell you exactly what to do. Part of earning a doctorate is learning how to work with others who have opinions about various topics.

3. Do not assume that you know everything about the topic or school procedures - it is frustrating when you tell a student that, for example, their literature review needs to be 15 pages longer and the student says that the length is sufficient. A committee member only asks for things like this if there is a school requirement or if the literature has not been thoroughly explored.

4. Follow all school requirements - I once served on a committee as the second committee member where the student never got approval for his proposal and went out and did the actual study (no IRB approval either). The committee was presented with a completed dissertation. It was hard to tell the student but his original idea was flawed and the research was not acceptable. He wasted time and thousands of dollars by not following requirements.

5. Back statements up with references and don't write to impress - academic writing is a skill and must be learned. Write like they write in the articles that you read. And, don't use big words just to sound impressive. You want the reader to understand what you are saying.

6. Don't get tired in Chapter 5 - Chapter 5 is where you get to tell the reader what your research means. It is frustrating to see a Chapter 5 where, after a year of hard work, a student writes two paragraphs about the implications of the work. Take some time and really explain what you study means.

7. It is OK to hire people like statisticians to help you but it is your work - but when asked a question at your defense you can't say "my statistician did that, I'm not sure". If you hire people to help you, make sure they also teach you so that you can talk about your work.

My best advice regarding your defense is to be prepared, treat your committee members with respect, and do not read your slides during the presentation. Take time to have practiced your presentation and, if possible, have people stand in as committee members and ask questions. Breathing is good too. Your presentation should not be one long sentence.

It is frustrating as a committee member to see slides filled with words and then have the student read the slides. We can read so keep us engaged.

Finally, answer all questions honestly. If you do not understand what is being asked ask for clarification. Do not make up answers, we will know. It is OK to say you don't know and engage in a conversation with committee members.

You should never be allowed to schedule your oral defense if the committee is not ready to accept and pass your work. Keep that in mind as you prepare your slides and your talk. This is the last hurdle to earning the title Dr.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

I am Munirah Al Ajlan, and This is How I Work

Today, I am interviewing Munirah Al Ajlan for the "How I Work" series. Munirah is an English Language Instructor in the College of Engineering and Petroleum in Kuwait University. She holds an MA in Applied Linguistics from University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and recently finished her PhD in Sociolinguistics from King’s College London. Her research interest falls into linguistics, sociolinguistic, and STEM, specifically engineering. Munirah has presented and published in both local and international conferences/ and proceedings.

General: I am an English Language Instructor at Kuwait University. I have just finished my PhD in Sociolinguistics from King’s College London. I am currently working on few research projects and studies concerning engineering, education, linguistics, and culture.
Current Job: English Language Instructor, College of Engineering and Petroleum, Kuwait University
Current Location: Kuwait
Current mobile device: IPhone
Current computer: Mac

Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us?

I have just moved back to Kuwait after spending five years working on my PhD in London. I am currently teaching English for Specific Purposes to Engineering students in Kuwait. My PhD research investigates women studying engineering, their stories, their gender, and how they navigate their identities in a taken for granted male dominated field.

What tools, apps and software are essential to your workflow?
I enjoy working on researches, specially the ones that are directly related to my workplace and interests. For researching purposes for example, I have used SPSS in my Master research. However, this tool deals with quantitative analysis. I tried, for my PhD research, to focus on qualitative data rather than quantitative as it yields fruitful results. I mainly used Nvivo as main software for my research.
For teaching purposes, I definitely use my laptop in classroom. I believe that technology in teaching language, and teaching in general is essential. I prepare my material on slides using pictures, videos, audios and sometimes links to programs that students will enjoy. I believe that teaching should not follow the traditional conventional way. Nowadays, and I see that teachers still depend mainly on the books, strict curriculum, and tests. Teaching can always be creative, and we as educators should be using these innovative tools for teaching. These tools will facilitate learning and integrate fun in classroom activities.
I also use an App called MyU. This App is invented to be used for educators and students. Teachers can use this application to communicate with their students, take attendance (either manually or automatically using a barcode for attendance). I have used my own social media account; Twitter to communicate with my students before. However, MyU is a medium, which is completely dedicated for student- teacher communication. I would totally recommend this App to be used.

What does your workspace setup look like?

As an educator and a researcher, I try to look for the best workspace. As this is not always available, and since I got back to Kuwait, I managed to get my own personal space which I call reading/study station located in my house. I also spend quite long time in my own office in the university. I have a spacious office with large windows, good internet connection, desktop, and all my papers around. The only drawback of researching in my office is students going coming in and out. In general, I like to change spaces because this gives me positivity. Coffee shops and libraries are vibrant places for working.

What is your best advice for productive academic work?
Focus. Focus. And Focus. Point out what your academic targets are. Plan well and study the need of your students. I refuse being tethered to traditional books. I try my best to let my students think outside the box. Academics should learn what students really need.

How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks?

I mainly use a diary to record my appointments and meetings (sometimes, my phone calendar). I work better under pressure. Submission deadlines will always keep me working better. The less time I have, the better I work.

Besides phone and computer, do you use other technological tools in work and daily life?

For teaching purposes: Projectors. I integrate the use of the data show in the classroom. However, this is not always available in the university (or could be there but does not work at all), so I manage to use IPads or Tablets.
As my daily life, I only use my personal mobile device and my laptop.

Which skill makes you stand out as an academic?
Creativity. I always ask my students to ‘think’ ‘don’t only answer’ ‘think outside the box’. I have managed to get my students to watch a movie in class and visit the science museum. These activities are not counted in their marking scheme. These activities help them in the scientific and engineering knowledge in general. I have also asked them to write a narrative essay about their experiences: watching movie and museum visits). Although they were aware that there is no mark for these activities, they were enthusiastic about it and they wrote their essays beautifully. I believe if we as academic motivated our students in such fun activities, their love in learning new knowledge will increase.

What do you listen to when you work?
Music. Music has a powerful influence on the work I do. I cannot work without playing music: Jazz, classics, pop, and country. All genres are welcomed to make me productive.

What are you currently reading? How do you find time for reading?
End of March I have managed to get into a challenge, which I found through social media suggesting reading four books in April. I remember last April, I finished reading six books, and that was the biggest number I have ever read in a month. This April, I managed to read three books in the first nine days of April (Pistachio Seller, Tourist Guide, and Professor Hana all by Dr. Reem Basiouney). Currently, I am reading Angel by Elizabeth Tylor. Time is very difficult to find, specially, when I am a full time teaching and researching. I squeeze in few pages here and there, even sometimes, when I workout at the gym. The book is always carried in my purse.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert? How does this influence your working habits?

I always believed I was an extrovert. I love socialising with people, networking in conferences, I have even made friends through social media. However, I consider the workplace to be a very sensitive context. I try to be very careful with my colleagues. People think of me as an introvert, arrogant, or weird, but for me, drawing lines and limits will help me in my academic career and profession.
Don’t get me wrong, I love teamwork and I think working in a community of practice is essential for effective results. However, we cannot always guarantee people’s work and we see memes on social media making fun about one person work turns to be labeled as teamwork, which I consider not fair.

What's your sleep routine like?

I plan to sleep 7-8 hours per night. However, this is not always the case. Some days I pull an all night to work, mark exams, or prepare materials for the classroom.

What's your work routine like?
I go to work at 8:30 in the morning. Teaching three classes a day is very overwhelming. My friends know me as I am always the last to leave the office even during my student life in London. In Kuwait University, sometimes, even the security comes and asks me if I need to stay more and whether I’ll be okay working till 23:00 sometimes.

What's the best advice you ever received?
I remember when I was applying to start my PhD, my professor in Kuwait University, told me to not sink under the books during my study. I remember him very well saying, enjoy Britain, and always make time to have fun. My friend also told me to let go of the things that put you down. Life moves on whether we are sad or happy. Never take things seriously and personal.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

I am Dominique Maciejewski, and This is How I Work

Dominique Maciejewski did her bachelors in psychology in Wuppertal, Germany. In 2011, she came to the Netherlands for an internship at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. It was supposed to be a 3-month internship, but Dominique really liked the Netherlands and so she stayed to write her thesis there. She graduated in 2014 from her research masters “Clinical and Developmental Psychopathology”, after which she started her PhD research. In 2016, she received her PhD Degree for her thesis about the development of mood variability during adolescence. In 2016, she went to the United States (Virginia Tech) for a postdoc on neurobiological determinants of adolescent psychopathology. After 6 months, she got offered a job as a postdoc and project coordinator for a large project – the Mood and Resilience in Offspring Project (MARIO; www.mario-project.nl). In 2017, Dominique and her colleagues received 1.4 million euros to set up the MARIO project, a project in children of parents with mood disorders to better understand, detect and prevent depression in those children. Dominique lives with her boyfriend in Amsterdam and enjoys yoga, playing guitar, meeting her friends, and drinking beers on her sunny balcony.

Current Job: Postdoctoral researcher and project coordinator at VUmc and Erasmus MC
Current Location: Amsterdam (VUmc) and Rotterdam (Erasmus MC)
Current mobile device: Samsung Galaxy A5
Current computer: HP at work, at home lenovo laptop

Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us?

I am a postdoctoral researcher and project coordinator for a large project called MARIO – Mood and Resilience in Offspring (www.mario-project.nl). Children of parents with mood disorder have a higher chance to also develop a mood disorder, although there is a large percentage that stays resilient. This is a project in which we want to better understand, detect, and prevent depression in children of parents with mood disorders. As a project coordinator, I am doing everything that is needed to supervise the project, for instance our data management, fieldwork and two PhD students, who all do an amazing job. I have weekly meetings with them to discuss the progress, but also with other working groups and the principal investigators. In the past months, I have for instance prepared the application for the medical ethical committee, selected instruments, wrote a codebook, discussed contracts for an app that we want to use, and had a lot of meetings and e-mails. We are now planning to start data collection next month, which is super exciting.

What tools, apps and software are essential to your workflow?

R and Mplus (statistical software), ToDoist, Google Calendar, Outlook/Gmail, Mendeley, Dropbox/Drive (for sharing papers)

What does your workspace setup look like?

Usually, it is full with papers. My most important thing is my little green notepad. I am still quite old fashioned. I need to take notes on paper. All my meetings and thoughts are in there. Of course I also type them in documents and save them later. I cleaned my desk a bit for the picture.
I work 2 days in Amsterdam and 2 days in Rotterdam. In Amsterdam I share a room with another postdoc and in Rotterdam I work at a flex place. I usually work from home 1 day. I have an own office room, where both my boyfriend and me can work from home if we want to (he is also a researcher). When I work from home, then this is my dedicated research day, because the other days I am so busy with coordinating the project, that I do not find a lot of time anymore for writing my own papers.

What is your best advice for productive academic work?

Use to do lists and make realistic goals for yourself. ALSO: Do not plan in anything 1-2 hours per day, because there is always something coming up you did not anticipate.

How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks?

I use ToDoist and Google Calendar, which really helps me, because all tasks I put into ToDoist, automatically appear in Google calendar and I can easily plan things. Moreover, it is also on my phone, so if I quickly think of something that needs to be done, I can just add it to my list. I can also assign it a specific project (but I do not do that anymore, because it costs me too much time).

Besides phone and computer, do you use other technological tools in work and daily life?


Which skill makes you stand out as an academic?

That I am truly enthusiastic about research and that I love to learn new things. And I can do that quite efficiently (must be my German roots).

What do you listen to when you work?

Usually nothing. If I do tasks that do not require a lot of thinking, I listen to music (currently I am into Hop Along and Florence and the Machine). Sometimes I also listen to audiobooks.

What are you currently reading? How do you find time for reading?
Currently I am reading Harry Potter (again). It is my favorite book as I read it for the first time when I was a kid. So it is a nice memory. I usually read before bed, but fall asleep after 5 minutes already.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert? How does this influence your working habits?

Depends. I think more an extrovert. But I usually need some time to get used to people. Once, I do that, I never shut up and am very energetic and engaging.
I definitely became more extrovert since I am project coordinator. This is because I often have to call completely random people that I do not know. And if people do not meet their deadlines I have to remind them of them and sometimes I have to be pushy. SO, being extrovert helps.

What's your sleep routine like?
I really try sleeping 7-8 hours every day. For me this is personally super important, because I have bipolar disorder and any drastic change in my sleeping pattern could be associated with an increased risk for mania.

What's your work routine like?

Usually, I work between 8-10 hours. My contract is for 36 hours per week, but recently I found myself working in the evening and weekends. Now, I am practicing more self-care and try to leave office at 6.30 pm the latest and resist the temptation to continue working once I am home.

What's the best advice you ever received?
It is totally fine if you make mistakes. Everybody does and you really will learn from then. If you once fail super hard, then you probably won’t make that mistake again.
Also, there is no shame in getting help if you need it! There are multiple resources available, so make sure to use them.