Maria Q. Feng awarded the Robert Moskovic Award for contributions in the Safety & Sustainability of Civil Infrastructure Systems field

Apr 21 2021

Maria Q. Feng, Renwick Professor of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, has been awarded the Robert Moskovic Award for contributions in the Safety and Sustainability of Civil Infrastructure Systems field.

The Robert Moskovic Award was created to distinguish personalities with scientific and academic careers that have earned recognition from their peers worldwide. The prize is a tribute to the founder of the TC12/ESIS  (European Structural Integrity Society) technical committee. The winners will be announced at the scientific and technical events organized by TC12/ESIS.

Feng is an expert in the safety and sustainability of civil infrastructure systems. She has developed a way to remotely monitor a structure’s health and reliability in real-time using sophisticated computer vision sensors to collect data, without even having access to the structure. “The sensor technology can potentially revolutionize the way we maintain infrastructure systems,” says Feng. Feng, whose research thrives on interdisciplinary collaborations, developed robust imaging processing algorithms with computer science colleagues that gives a basic, low-cost video camera the ability to remotely and reliably monitor structural health. The system, she explains, can accurately measure the vibration of the structure by tracking surface features in challenging outdoor environments and automatically assessing the structural health condition based on analytics of the vibration characteristics from the video images. The real-time monitoring results can help officials, such as bridge owners, to determine which bridges need work or repair more urgently than others.

“We are focusing on two technical challenges: the first is to accurately measure dynamic displacement, often less than a few millimeters, from far away in an optically noisy field environment, and the second is to diagnose structural integrity based on the measurement,” Feng says.  Recently, her co-authored publication with her PhD student Eleonora Maria Tranci (lead author) and others on an innovation machine learning algorithm for structural health monitoring won the IMAC-XXXIX Best Paper Award.

Feng has also pioneered the development of novel fiber optic dynamic sensors, microwave imaging technology for subsurface damage detection, wind/earthquake/blast protective systems, as well as vibration-based system identification algorithms for health diagnostics of buildings and bridges. Her sensor technology has been used for monitoring five bridges and a building in California, including the Vincent Thomas Bridge, a critical long suspension bridge that links Los Angeles and Long Beach harbor to the freeway network.

Feng is currently working on a research project to develop low-power and energy-harvesting wireless sensor system, sponsored by the National Science Foundation’s Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers and Toshiba Corporation.  With the support of the New York City Department of Transportation, Feng recently took a team of graduate students and conducted a successful field test of the sensor system on the 6,855-ft-long Manhattan Bridge that crosses the East River in New York City.

In addition to her ongoing work in developing sensor and data analytics systems for monitoring civil infrastructure, Feng recently started a U.S. Department of Energy research project to develop a game-changing, smart, lightweight, fiber-reinforced polymer composite material for electric vehicle applications.  Working with such industrial leaders as General Motors, Feng is confident that one day in the near future, our cars will be able to self-monitor their own structural health, saving maintenance cost and enhancing structural safety.

A background in mechanical engineering and robotics constantly fuels Feng’s interest in inventing products that make it easier and cheaper to monitor, assess, and analyze infrastructures, vehicles, and any other engineered structures. At Columbia Engineering, she directs the Sensing, Monitoring, and Robotics Technology (SMaRT) Lab. Prior to joining the School, Feng was Chancellor’s Professor at University of California, Irvine, and founding director of the Center for Advanced Monitoring and Damage Inspection. A fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Feng has received numerous national and international awards in recognition of her work, including a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the ASCE’s Collingwood Prize and Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize, and the Alfred Noble Prize, which is given jointly by the ASCE and other professional societies.