Speed School Student Wins Prestigious ACRP Graduate Research Award for Innovative Airport Pavement Project

October 18 2023

By Danielle Henson


Students and faculty standing in front of a staircase that leads to the J.B. Speed School Building on the University of Louisville campus.

Jackson Stewart (second from right) with Dr. Ghasemi-Fare (fourth from right.)

Jackson Stewart, a master’s student at the University of Louisville J.B. Speed School of Engineering majoring in civil engineering, has been announced as one of the recipients of the esteemed Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Graduate Research Award for the academic year 2023-2024. The ACRP Graduate Research Awards, sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration and managed by the Transportation Research Board (TRB), are designed to encourage applied research in aviation-related fields and help shape the future of the airport industry.

Stewart’s path to this prestigious accolade was marked by a blend of excitement, dedication, and an unwavering commitment to excellence. “I was initially surprised and excited! As with all applications, you can only put in your best effort and wait for the response; you never know if what you put together was what they were looking for or who else is applying,” said Stewart. He expressed his gratitude to his advisor, Dr. Omid Ghasemi Fare, who played a pivotal role in pushing him to apply for this esteemed fellowship.

This recognition marks not only a personal achievement, but also a milestone for the University of Louisville. As the first student from the university to receive this award, Stewart sees himself as a trailblazer, hoping to inspire undergraduate students to engage with their research group. “I was excited to pave a new path for the university as well, since I am the first student here to receive this fellowship,” he said.

Jackson Stewart, master’s student at the J.B. Speed School of Engineering majoring in Civil Engineering

Stewart’s award-winning research, titled “Sustainable Deicing Method for Airport Pavement,” is poised to revolutionize the field of airport infrastructure. The project aims to determine the feasibility of using geothermal energy to deice airport pavements, a critical aspect of ensuring safe and efficient airport operations during winter weather conditions.
Stewart’s research involves a comprehensive approach, including a literature review of current airport geothermal system applications, field test studies using the geothermal concrete slab experimental setup at the university, and the development of a computational model to analyze the heat needed for deicing airport pavements.

The significance of Stewart’s research extends beyond innovative pavement deicing solutions; it addresses environmental concerns and energy efficiency. By comparing geothermal heating with traditional methods like electric heating and chemical deicing, Stewart’s research aims to reduce the environmental impact of airport operations. “Geothermal systems are energy-conscious, which not only reduces electric power demand but reduces the need for chemical deicing solutions that cut down pavement lifespan and contaminate drinking water,” he emphasized.

Dr. Omid Ghasemi Fare, Stewart’s faculty mentor, spoke highly of his mentee’s dedication and potential impact. “Jackson is an exceptionally bright and hardworking student,” Dr. Ghasemi Fare said. “His ability to elucidate complex concepts using real-world examples is particularly impressive, demonstrating a genuine passion for research.”
Stewart’s achievement highlights the significance of the ACRP Graduate Research Award program in nurturing talent for the aviation industry’s future. “Receiving this prestigious national award underscores the importance of the research we conduct at UofL at the national level, as well as Jackson’s exceptional background and activities compared to other applicants nationwide,” Dr. Ghasemi Fare stated.

Looking ahead, both Stewart and Dr. Ghasemi Fare hope that this project will lead to further collaborations with governmental agencies and private entities in the aviation industry. Future projects may involve expanding the geothermal system experimental setup and exploring innovative solutions to enhance airport pavement systems.
As the aviation industry strives to become more sustainable and efficient, Jackson Stewart’s groundbreaking research is poised to play a crucial role in shaping the future of airport infrastructure. His dedication to innovation and commitment to sustainability exemplify the spirit of the ACRP Graduate Research Award program, which continues to support the development of talented individuals who will drive progress in the airport industry.