Post-doctoral Fellow Yichuan Zhu Applies Engineering Techniques to Geologic Problems
Dr. Yichuan Zhu uses his engineering background to solve large-scale problems in a variety of disciplines. His role as post-doctoral research fellow at the Kentucky Geological Survey provides him with opportunities to integrate data science with geology. Zhu has completed the requirements for a Ph.D. in civil engineering from Texas A&M University and he has a master’s degree in civil engineering and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, both from China University of the Geosciences. While working on his master’s degree, he conducted research at the Research Center of Geo-hazard Prevention at the China University of the Geosciences. Zhu was also an intern for the China State Construction Engineering Corporation, where he analyzed support systems in a variety of ground types, including hard rock and soft soil.
Even as a young child, Zhu enjoyed the natural environment. One of his most memorable experiences when he was a child was on a boating trip with his family in Jingzhou, Hubei Province, on the Yangtze River, where he viewed the Three Gorges Dam. Fast forward to 2010, Zhu was part of the team that built the Huangmailing tailings dam while he was employed by the Hubei Academy of Safety Science and Technology. Zhu was involved with the instrumentation and monitoring of the dam and developed a remote integrated platform to indicate the safety status in real time. He greatly enjoyed this work because he was able to apply engineering concepts he learned in school while working outdoors. He has also published research on seepage through tailings dams.
While at Texas A&M, Zhu worked with Dr. Zenon Medina-Cetina in the Stochastic Geomechanics Laboratory. His dissertation is titled “Spatio-Temporal Statistical Characterization of Boundary Kinematic Phenomena Observed on a Series of Triaxial Sand Specimens.” His research project involved Bayesian inversion, 3-D digital image correlation, and finite-element modeling to quantify uncertainties and calibrate the results of triaxial strength tests on sand. He also worked with Dr. Julie Loisel, a geographer whose research is focused on long-term terrestrial ecosystem response to global change. Under her direction, Zhu participated in an interdisciplinary project using high-resolution satellite imagery and artificial intelligence to monitor Arctic ecosystems; specifically, they used the Bayesian network and GIS technologies to evaluate the environmental, economic, and social impacts of climate change. Zhu has also published research on power-grid reliability, soil erodibility, and probabilistic simulation of gas leaks from pipelines.
In his new role at KGS, Zhu plans to work on collaborative projects with other KGS researchers and scientists and engineers within the University. Zhu says, “As a researcher trained from a background in both data science and engineering, I am especially excited to learn about collaboration opportunities at KGS. My goal is to share my experiences and expertise in advancing disciplinary boundaries, and to forge new knowledge and connections between engineering and geosciences.” He is currently working with Matt Crawford in the KGS Hazards Section to use data analytics to determine risk associated with landslides. Computational integration will improve the Survey’s ability to determine risk uncertainty for landslides and will help with planning and development in landslide areas. Zhu is also collaborating with KGS researcher Matt Massey to improve the mapping of terrace landforms using data analytics to evaluate map terrain datasets.
Zhu is involved with several professional organizations, including the American Society of Civil Engineers, Engineering Mechanics Institute, Society for Underwater Technology, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.