OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENT RESEARCH
Students are welcome to join our research group!
I can serve as advisor or committee member for students from Civil and Environmental Engineering, The Myers-Lawson School of Construction, and Industrial and Systems Engineering. I have some GRA funding available for students to work on some of the projects listed on the Research Projects and Interests pages. Or, a student can create her/his own project for dissertation, thesis, or project and report.

Here are some topical areas that could be investigated, using the equipment and resources of the OCHRE Lab:
  • Indoor Environmental Quality
  • Confined Space Health and Safety
  • Design of tools
  • Design of sensors - pervasive or wearable
  • Worker Respiratory Symptoms
  • Worker Exposure to Particulates and Chemicals During Construction Operations
  • Office Lighting and Noise and Occupant Productivity/Perception
  • Sustainable Building Asset Maintenance and Management
Opportunity: Graduate Research Assistantship (Doctoral), Project DUSTI
I have a large grant from the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety and am seeking a doctoral student to lead the research of this project. My collaborators on this project are Enid Montague at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Ted Koebel in Urban Affairs and Planning at Virginia Tech. Below is a summary. This GRA will begin in August 2010 and will provide support for three academic years. It begins as a Step 13 on the graduate stipend scale. Travel money and computing equipment will also be available for the selected student. It is expected that the doctoral student will generate a dissertation from this work; therefore, it is essential that applicants have a significant interest in this subject area. If you are interested in this opportunity, please submit the following to me, via email at dyoung@vt.edu:
To Apply
Submit by email. Application deadline is March 15:
  1. A current resume
  2. A brief (less than one page) statement of your interest in this opportunity
Please address how your background and career goals align with this area of research.
Project DUSTI Summary
Respiratory disease among construction workers in general, and plasterers and wall finishers in particular, is a major public health concern. Workers in these trades suffer from disproportionately high rates of respiratory disease and disability. Drywall finishing operations have been associated with worker over-exposure to dust containing known particulate respiratory health hazards, such as silica, talc, mica, and calcite. Despite the existence of effective engineering controls, such as ventilated sanders and low-dust drywall compound, worker exposures persist. Previous work by the investigators identified key barriers to the adoption of dust-control technology and diffusion of innovation in the construction industry. In previous studies by Dickerson, ventilated drywall sanding tools were found to be highly effective in reducing dust; however, a survey study revealed industry-wide usage to be very low. Through interviews of firm owners and workers and through a laboratory-based comparison of the usability of several tools, Dickerson identified barriers to technology adoption related to productivity, work quality, and perceptions of benefits and risks. Previous work by Koebel examined construction industry characteristics that influence adoption of new technologies and identified strategies for enhanced innovation diffusion. Work by Montague evaluated the role of trust in technology adoption. The proposed work will translate these previous findings into an intervention strategy to improve dust-control adoption by firms. Diffusion strategies are required to promote the successful dissemination and adoption of innovations. While there has been considerable attention given to the diffusion process and variables influencing adoption, the data comes solely from retrospective studies; there is no evidence regarding prospective strategies to promote diffusion of safety and health innovations in the construction industry. The development and evaluation of a diffusion intervention strategy presents a significant opportunity to recommend a diffusion strategy for other safety innovations in the construction industry.

The project specifically aims to:
  1. Develop an intervention strategy to improve dust-control technology transfer into the drywall-finishing industry. The intervention will target three separate populations: workers, owners of small firms, and owners of large firms; because, in our previous work, adoption barriers were found to differ among these three groups. The worker intervention will employ "cues to action" and training aimed at health information, risks, trust, and control technology. The small-firm intervention will employ the creation of "technology champions" within the firms and training aimed at productivity and customer satisfaction impacts, health information, and regulatory drivers. The large-firm intervention will involve information dissemination to purchasing agents aimed at communicating productivity and quality impacts, health information, and regulatory drivers.
  2. Evaluate intervention strategy. A quasi-experimental design (pretest-posttest, with control group) will be employed to evaluate the intervention's impacts on key theoretical constructs and barriers to adoption among workers, small-firm owners, and large-firm purchasing agents. The primary study hypothesis is that the following constructs will improve post-intervention: health knowledge, perceived risk, worker self efficacy, organizational trust, trust in the technology, adoption readiness, and perception of barriers.