Although asphalt is commonly used as a material to build road pavements, it must be uniquely designed to survive different climate and traffic conditions. As a result, pavement engineering is an impactful and critical research topic that affects anyone who relies on roadways and pavements for transportation.
As the national leader for asphalt technology, the Western Regional Superpave Center (WRSC) was established by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to implement Superpave technology. Superpave technology is an innovative method to scientifically design and develop asphalt pavements to meet the specific climatic and traffic conditions making the pavements more sustainable and cost effective.
The Western Regional Superpave Center (WRSC), a national leader for asphalt technology is located within the University of Nevada, Reno. Photo courtesy of the WRSC.
Leading the Implementation of Superpave Technology
Located within the Pavement Engineering and Science Program at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), WRSC leads the effort to implement Superpave technology within highway agencies. Dr. Peter Sebaaly, Director of WRSC, became interested in researching Superpave technology because of the complexity of each application of asphalt.
“Pavement engineering is a non-traditional specialty where every pavement is unique in terms of the environment and material loads. Every pavement is interesting. You cannot order a material with certain strengths, you have to design it,” said Dr. Sebaaly.
Dr. Peter Sebaaly, Director of the Western Regional Superpave Center (WRSC). Photo provided courtesy of the WRSC.
As Director of WRSC, Dr. Sebaaly takes his research out of the laboratory and onto the roadways. Dr. Sebaaly was recently recognized with UNR’s prestigious 2019 Outstanding Researcher award for his contributions in pavement engineering and science. Dr. Sebaaly and his team help to prioritize the implementation of asphalt technology to improve roadways not only throughout Nevada but also across the nation.
WRSC Program Alum Brings Superpave Technology to Wood Rodgers
Sandeep Pandey, a Geotechnical and Pavement Engineer at Wood Rodgers, earned his Master’s degree through the Pavement Engineering and Science Program in collaboration with WRSC. After graduating from the program and joining Wood Rodgers, Sandeep saw an opportunity to combine the groundbreaking research that he was involved in with the projects he was working on and introduced WRSC to Wood Rodgers.
Sandeep Pandey works on a Dynamic Shear Rheometer (DSR) machine in the Wood Rodgers Materials Testing lab.
As an integral part of the Pavement Engineering and Science Program at UNR, WRSC assists students such as Sandeep to be successful in their industry. Through advanced asphalt technology education, students are able to apply their knowledge into both private and public practice.
“We have an incentive for our students to succeed. This is an extended warranty for our students. When a company hires our students, and then comes back and asks for help to set up a lab or needs help in pavement evaluation, design or management aspects, we respond,” explained Dr. Sebaaly.
In fact, WRSC is willing to assist any company that is interested. Wood Rodgers just happens to be one of the few who saw and capitalized on this unique partnering opportunity in applying the research and technology into real-world projects. As a result, our clients are able to benefit with more sustainable projects that save costs and resources in the long run.
Dr. Sebaaly continued, “We help the industry and we support our graduates. Even if you don’t have any of our graduates, we would still help you. We are all partners in the community, not competitors. If you do well for the community, everybody will do well.”
WRSC Oversees the Expansion of Wood Rodgers Materials Testing Laboratory
In 2016, Wood Rodgers collaborated with WRSC to expand our Geotechnical and Materials Engineering services to become one of the leading materials testing labs in Northern Nevada. Our state-of-the-art materials engineering and testing services support both the design and construction phases of our transportation projects, creating a one-stop-shop for our clients. Expanding our services, Wood Rodgers included a Superpave laboratory in 2018, with initial set-up oversight by the WRSC.
“Collaboration with local agencies is very important,” explained Dr. Sebaaly. “The best way is to use our expertise in the interest of our community. We don’t have a product to sell, so we don’t have any benefits other than good roadways. We look for these opportunities to contribute back to our state.”
Continuing Education and Innovation in Engineering Industry
As WRSC continues its work in Nevada and throughout the nation, the center established courses for engineers to keep up with emerging technology. Dr. Elie Hajj is the Associate Director of WRSC, and encourages engineers from all backgrounds to continue their learning.
Dr. Elie Hajj, the Associate Director of the WRSC. Photo provided courtesy of the WRSC.
“We want Wood Rodgers to be out in front, helping agencies to implement new and innovative technologies…. We encourage agencies instead of discouraging them. Do your homework, learn and expand your knowledge through seminars and courses, and then you will not be afraid of new technology,” said Dr. Hajj.
In addition to formal classes, WRSC customizes trainings and workshops that are applicable for each company’s individualized needs.
For more information on the WRSC, please refer to their website here.