Paving the road to success

Elie Hajj in his lab

As you drive down pothole-infested roads and highways during winter months, chances are your thoughts oftentimes center on one constant annoyance: the quality (or lack thereof) of the road's surface.

But Dr. Elie Y Hajj, assistant professor of civil engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno, is thinking about this constant annoyance all the time.

"From the first day I started my graduate studies, my interest and curiosity in asphalt pavement started growing," he said. "The unique and complex behavior of the asphalt material kept me eager to know more about it."

After earning a bachelor's degree in Lebanon, Hajj made the long trek to Reno, Nevada, to earn a master's and doctoral degree in civil engineering.

"Pavements/materials engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno is a nationally recognized teaching, research and training program," Hajj said. "The pavements/materials laboratory at the University is fully equipped with state-of-the-art equipment to evaluate the strength and performance properties of paving materials."

He says his primary research interests address concepts of pavement design and analysis, pavement construction issues, pavement sustainability and engineered paving materials such as recycled asphalt pavement (RAP) and warm-mix asphalt (WMA).

He recently received funding approval from the Nevada Department of Transportation for a project pertaining to engineered materials. The title of his project: "Development of Specifications for Engineered Cementitious Composites for use in Bridge Deck Overlays."

Other recent research has attempted to provide answers to questions of asphalt maintenance.

"In light of shrinking agency budgets, pressure is being placed on agencies to become more cost-effective in their delivery of services to the public," said the active member of several national Transportation Research Board committees. "I have been extensively involved in several research studies that evaluated the long-term performance of asphalt pavement preservation and rehabilitation activities."

One such study was sponsored by Nevada's Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County, which sought to identify and recommend the optimum time for the slurry seal application on asphalt pavements. A similar study was also completed for NDOT, in which eleven different preservation activities were evaluated using long-term performance data.

"Based on the findings of this study, an elaborate pavement preservation program was developed to help Nevada DOT personnel selecting cost-effective preservation activities," Hajj said.

In his current position, Hajj says he feels fortunate to be able to teach undergraduate and graduate classes in the areas of civil engineering and pavement design and materials. He also has assisted in setting up and teaching several laboratory experiments for undergraduate and graduate courses and for technical workshops on pavements and materials.

"I strongly believe that the main purpose of university education is to aid students in expanding their knowledge and developing strong critical thinking skills for better decision making," saidHajj. "Consequently, in all my courses, I aim to help students attain active reasoning and understand the importance of the material for their career development."