Puleo wins prestigious NSF Career Award for 'swash zone' research
Jack Puleo has won the NSF Early Career Development Award.
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10:08 a.m., June 22, 2009----Jack Puleo, assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Delaware, has received a prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award to study swash zone sediment transport. The swash zone is the area near the shoreline where waves wash up and down the beach face.

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The five-year $444,229 award is aimed at developing a broader understanding of the physics of coastal sediment transport in this area, thereby leading to significant improvement in the ability to predict such coastal phenomena as beach erosion and beach nourishment performance.

Puleo points out that with much of the population living near the coastline and with global sea levels rising and sandy coastlines eroding, there is a critical need for better understanding of sediment transport processes in the swash zone.

“Current predictive models are extremely limited by their inability to accurately characterize the significance of transport in the so-called bedload layer,” Puleo says. “This limitation is primarily due to the fact that no reliable measurements of time-dependent bedload transport exist, even though we have evidence that bedload is often the dominant transport mode.”

To address this issue, Puleo will carry out both laboratory and field studies using a novel sensor to measure sediment transport in the bedload layer.

As part of the educational outreach component of the project, he plans to initiate a “beach in a classroom” program for high school students and for teacher training workshops using a 16-foot portable wave flume. He also plans to develop a summer internship program for underrepresented students in the fields of coastal engineering and oceanography.

“Jack is a great asset to the University of Delaware,” says Tripp Shenton, chairperson of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “He brings tremendous energy to both his teaching and his research, and this Career Award recognizes his strong abilities in both areas.”

Puleo, who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Florida, was an oceanographer with the Naval Research Laboratory before joining the UD faculty in 2004. He has received a number of teaching awards, including the College of Engineering Slocomb Excellence in Teaching Award, a University of Delaware Excellence in Teaching Award, and a national award, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) New Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award.

The highly competitive NSF Career Award is bestowed on researchers deemed most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century.

Puleo is the fifth UD faculty member to receive the NSF Career Award in 2009. Also receiving NSF awards were E. Fidelma Boyd, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences; Matthew Doty, assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering; Christopher Meehan, assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; and Jingyi Yu, assistant professor in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences.

Also this year, Joshua Zide, assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, received an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award.

Article by Diane Kukich
Photo by Duane Perry