Dr. Chen Promoted to Full Professor for Excellence in Research, Teaching

The consummate professional in the ETCM Department for more than 10 years, Dr. Don Chen’s reputation for excellence in teaching and his research expertise in the areas of Pavement Management Systems (PMS) and Building Information Modeling (BIM) have been the foundation for his promotion to the level of Full Professor in the Engineering Technology and Construction Management Department.

Dr. Chen joined the faculty at UNC Charlotte in 2009. In his time here, he has been instrumental in helping build the Construction Management undergraduate program, establish the masters in Construction and Facilities Management program, and grow the Infrastructure and Environmental Systems doctoral program.

“I came to UNC Charlotte because I saw it as the perfect place to continue my love of teaching and to develop my research,” Dr. Chen said. “I have had great colleagues and students to work with, and the strong support of our administration. There are very close working relationships between faculty in the department. The colleagues help each other with teaching and collaborate on research. It has been a very rewarding experience working here.”

In helping build the ETCM academic programs, Dr. Chen has been the lead instructor in ETCE 4251 Highway Design and Construction. He has also developed a new BIM course, which is now required for all Construction Management and Civil ET students.

Dr. Chen’s research expertise has led to a series of PMS projects with the North Carolina Department of Transportation over the past 10 years. His work in BIM has steadily increased and made him a valuable asset to the University when he quickly applied his expertise to aiding UNC Charlotte in its COVID19 on-campus testing efforts.

Dr. Chen’s BIM Research Applied to COVID19 Testing

“I got a call from the team doing the residence hall wastewater COVID monitoring,” Dr. Chen said. “For residence halls with positive tests, they wanted to know if we could use my Building Information Modeling skills to quickly identify specific rooms that were positive, in order to make timely decisions on how many students need to be tested and quarantined.”

Based on floor plans, Dr. Chen’s reports based on BIM can identify impacted rooms and display them clearly on a computer screen (See figure 1). So far Dr. Chen had completed reports for nine residence halls.

“When we got positive results, we wanted a quick turnaround to figure out what rooms were involved,” Dr. Chen said. “The main goal is to not to have to test all of the students in the building for COVID. The reports pinpoints the impacted rooms, which saves time and money in testing.”

The work has been very beneficial, said Dr. Cynthia Gibas of the Department of Bioinformatics and Genomics, who leads the UNC Charlotte Residence Hall monitoring project. “Don Chen's work was very important for getting the wastewater monitoring project working properly after initial setup,” she said. “He helped us figure out what portion of each building was connected to our autosampling sites, which made it easier to track down individuals who might be infected. Later, we used information from Dr. Chen and Facilities Management to choose better sites for our autosamplers so we could get better coverage of buildings.”

Dr. Chen’s NCDOT PMS Research

Since his first project in 2011, Dr. Chen has developed modeling tools that have become the backbone for NCDOT to use in the management and maintenance of highway and road pavements.

“NCDOT has been steadily changing the way we do things,” Dr. Chen said. “We used to do visual inspections of pavement surface distresses, driving slowly down roads and then stopping to write down what we saw. It was an interesting time. We got honked at a lot for going so slow. Now, we have vehicles with sensors on the bumper that collect all the data on road conditions, and do it at normal driving speeds. We then use the data to build models that can figure out the best maintenance processes for the different roads.”

Dr. Chen and his students have collaborated on the research with other faculty from ECTM, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Geography and Earth Science.

“The goal has been to create data-driven decision processes for road maintenance,” Dr. Chen said. “In the last 10 years, the research has led to us making big leaps forward in our analysis and decision making.”

SUMMARY Description of the development and validation of pavement deterioration models and analysis weight factors for the NCDOT Pavement Management System:

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Pavement Management Unit (PMU) is charged with maintaining 79,000 miles of roadways using its Pavement Management System (PMS). How to effectively conduct performance and funding analyses is the key question this unit is facing. To address this issue, the researchers at UNC Charlotte propose to validate existing pavement deterioration models using historic pavement condition data and data collected during this project. New deterioration models will be developed when necessary. It is also proposed to evaluate the existing Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) process; weight factors currently used in CBA will be studied and suggestions for new types of variables and weight values will be provided. In addition, the researchers will review trigger points on decision trees used by the Department. A clear and concise instruction to update deterioration models and weight factors will be developed. The products from this study will provide NCDOT with best practice approaches to enhance its PMS. Ultimately, this enhanced PMS will enable PMU to accurately assess and describe the pavement conditions, and to strategically manage NCDOT’s roadway system in a cost-effective manner.

Dr. Chen’s Grants and Contracts Awarded:

(PI: a total of $1,725,585; co-PI: a total of $439,334; Grant total: $2,164,919)

  •  PI, “Development of Pavement Performance Models using New Breakpoints and Pretreatment Conditions.” North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), 8/1/2019-7/31/2021, $323,960.
  • Co-PI, “Capturing and Communicating the Value of NCDOT Research.” North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), 7/1/2016-6/30/2017, $106,000.
  • Co-PI, “A Study on Fatigue Damage Mechanisms of Panels of Glass Façades.” National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), 1/1/2016-12/31/2019, ¥ 804,600 ($123,575 as of 1/1/2016)
  • PI, “Development of Performance Curves for Composite Pavements in PMS.” North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), 8/1/2015-8/31/2018, $257,445.
  • PI, “Setting Appropriate Benefit/Condition Jumps for Pavement Treatments in PMS.” North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), 8/1/2015-5/31/2018, $260,903.
  • PI, “Evaluation of Benefit Weight Factors and Decision Trees for Automated Distress Data Models.” North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), 8/16/2014-12/31/2017, $256,902.
  • PI, “Development and Validation of Pavement Deterioration Models and Analysis Weight Factors.” NCDOT, 4/16/2011-6/30/2014, $278,639.
  • PI, “Development of IRI Limits and Targets for Network Management and Construction Approval Purposes.” NCDOT, 8/16/2012-8/15/2014, $347,736.
  • Co-PI, (Dr. John Hildreth, PI), “Inclusion of Maintenance in Life Cycle Costs of Flexible and Rigid Pavements.” NCDOT, 8/16/2012-8/15/2014, $180,660.
  • Co-PI, (Dr. Hyunjoo Kim, PI), “Generating Construction Schedules Using OPEN BIM (Building Information Modeling) Based ifCXML Technology in Highway Constructions.” Korea Institute of Construction Technology, 3/1/2013-11/30/2013, $29,099.

Internal Projects

  • PI, “Development of an Integrated GIS‐Based Pavement Management System.” Targeted Research Internal Seed Program (TRISP), the Charlotte Research Institute, UNC Charlotte (UNC Charlotte-SOTL), 7/1/2018-6/30/2019, $53,152.
  • PI, “A Project-Based Integrated Work/Review Cycle (PBIWR) for Design and Learning of Accelerated Construction Monitoring.” UNC Charlotte Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (UNC Charlotte-SOTL), 1/10/2011-12/16/2011, $8,780.