Asnoldo Benitez (left) and Kevin Kennedy
Asnoldo Benitez (left) and Kevin Kennedy



Most people don’t give their drinking water a lot of thought. But Kevin Kennedy and Asnoldo Benitez aren’t most people.

Learning how water passes through porous materials

There’s a vast science behind water quality, and these two undergraduate civil engineering students have been researching a means of evaluating how water passes through porous material. The purpose of their work, which was presented at the 10th annual Research and Creative Activity Symposium, is to use static light scattering-laser technology-to gain insight into the water filtration process.

Kennedy and Benitez, both juniors, jumped at the chance to work with laser technology under the tutelage of David Mays, an assistant professor of civil engineering, and Tim Lei, professional research associate.

Expanding the traditional curriculum

Learning about static light scattering and how it can be used to measure water filtration afforded them an opportunity to broaden their horizons and develop new skills. “Being able to work with a laser was interesting enough,” Kennedy says, “but I realized that it was an opportunity to take a step outside the traditional civil engineering curriculum.”

For Benitez, too, the research project broadened his understanding of what civil engineering is about. “Seeing the role it plays in water quality gives a deeper purpose to what I am doing,” he says. “Before, I was under the impression that civil engineering was to design living and working space for people, creating an infrastructure for society. Now I see water quality as a real career possibility.”

Benitez says he also learned some skills that are universal, such as communicating about the subject “on a few levels, from layman’s terms to explaining the work to someone who knows more about aggregates than we do.”

Kennedy appreciated the professors’ guidance as much as the independence the research enabled. “With background information and software knowledge, Dr. Mays and Dr. Lei pointed us in the right direction,” he says. “They helped us when we needed it, but they left enough of the work up to us so we could actually learn something.”

Colorado’s number one research university

As the state’s number one research university, CU Denver celebrates both graduate and undergraduate research and encourages qualified students to present their scholarly activities to their peers and the public. From static light scattering to exploring the impact of training for officers who handle domestic violence, students’ research demonstrates discovery-based learning that is essential to the university’s academic enterprise.

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