Designing Africa's Roads Project Working Group: Member Bios

Lori E. Tunstall photo

Dr. Lori E. Tunstall is co-chair of the working group and an assistant professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Colorado School of Mines. Her research is focused on two main areas: 1) understanding and controlling durability issues in concrete, with an emphasis on frost durability; and 2) exploring novel materials for improved sustainability and performance of concrete. She earned a joint Ph.D. in Materials Science and Civil and Environmental Engineering from Princeton University in 2016, receiving Princeton’s Emerging Alumni Scholars Award. She continued at Princeton as a postdoctoral researcher until beginning an appointment at Honeywell FM&T as a materials scientist from 2017 to 2019. There she received the 2017 Defense Programs Award of Excellence for her contributions in solving a critical manufacturing issue.

Rebecca Kirby photo

Becca Kirby serves as a Research Assistant Professor and Lecturer in Kellogg’s Sustainability and Social Impact Program, and as Market Access Director for NEST360 (Newborn Essential Solutions and Technologies). NEST360 works to reduce preventable newborn deaths in sub-Saharan Africa through the development of innovative technologies and the scaling of these life-saving medical devices across health systems. Through her involvement in market shaping activities, Becca works to design solutions that help better connect both the supply and demand side who face high transaction costs, information gaps, or risk imbalances that contribute to market shortcomings. In her role, Becca works to understand these challenges and design scalable and sustainable solutions, ultimately helping to build an efficient and functional marketplace for newborn services and equipment in Africa. She has worked closely with UNICEF to develop Target Product Profiles for newborn technologies in resource-limited settings, presented as a panelist on global World Health Organization (WHO) webinars, led market assessments in multiple African countries, and designed the first global Newborn Technology Landscape report.

Prior to her work at Kellogg, Becca worked as a consultant in Deloitte’s healthcare practice. She received her MBA from Kellogg and BBA from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Leslie Ann Myers photo

Dr. Leslie Ann Myers joined the FHWA Office of Pavement Technology in HQ in 2002, as a Pavement Design Engineer and she managed the Mobile Asphalt Materials Testing Laboratory. She was also the Asphalt lead for the Pavement Design Guide Implementation (DGIT) Team. She served as the Operations Team Leader for the FHWA-FL Division from 2006 to 2009, where she led the team of Area Engineers, ER program, LPA program, and had collateral duties of Pavement and Materials Engineer. Dr. Myers was an Associate Professor in Civil Engineering at Villanova University from 2009 to 2019 and rejoined FHWA in the Office of Preconstruction, Construction, and Pavements in HQ as a Senior Asphalt Pavement Engineer in 2019. She is leading the Mobile Asphalt Technology Center (MATC) program. She is the Chair of the Transportation Research Board’s AKP30 Committee on Asphalt Pavement Design and Rehabilitation.

Yi Bao photo

Dr. Yi Bao is an Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering and the Director of Smart Infrastructure Laboratory at Stevens Institute of Technology (SIT), Hoboken. Before joining SIT, he was a Research Fellow at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, and a Guest Researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). His research interests include advanced infrastructure materials; structural health monitoring; nondestructive evaluation; complex structures; and machine learning. He has published more than 140 peer-reviewed journal papers and serves as the Associate Editor for ASCE’s Journal of Bridge Engineering and the journal of Frontiers in Physics, as well as the Assistant Editor for the journal of Engineering Structures.

Shane Underwood photo

Dr. Shane Underwood is a Professor and Associate Head of Undergraduate Programs in the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at North Carolina State University. His research focuses on developing improved pavement systems through experimental mechanical studies of paving materials and through studies to understand the vulnerability of these system’s to climate and technology uncertainties. His work has been published in more than 125 peer reviewed journal papers and he has spoken at various national and international venues on topics related to pavements, paving materials, and infrastructure resilience.

Matthew J. Gombeda photo

Dr. Matthew J. Gombeda is an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Gombeda is also the director of the Structural and Concrete Materials Testing Laboratory on Illinois Tech’s Mies campus and his major research areas include behavior and mechanics of reinforced and prestressed concrete structures, innovative precast concrete components, innovative cementitious materials, blast design and analysis methodologies, progressive collapse mitigation, and experimental methods. He is an active voting member of multiple technical committees within PCI, ACI and ASCE.

Jeramy Ashlock photo

Dr. Jeramy Ashlock is the R.L. Handy Associate Professor of Geotechnical Engineering at Iowa State University, and President of Handy Geotechnical Instruments. He developed the automated version of the Borehole Shear Test device and has performed research on shallow and deep foundations, granular road stabilization, surface wave testing of soils and pavements, development of geotechnical field and laboratory test methods, dynamics of soils and foundations, and computational mechanics. In 2014 he received an NSF CAREER award to perform experimental and computational research on dynamics of pile groups. He previously served as Vice-Chair (2011-2016) and Chair (2017-2022) of ASTM Subcommittee D18.09 on Cyclic and Dynamic Properties of Soils.

Yazen Khasawneh photo

Dr. Yazen Khasawneh is an associate teaching professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences at the University of Notre Dame. His expertise is in soil-structure interaction, structural and soil response to dynamic loading, development of constitutive models, forensic engineering, testing through various scales, and instrumentation. Dr. Khasawneh is currently working on detailed dynamic response of the onshore wind turbines, long-term performance foundations subjected to dynamic excitations, and on the use of deep machine learning to extract a constitutive models for the foundation-soil interaction. Dr. Khasawneh received his Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in civil engineering from Purdue and UIUC, respectively. He received his bachelor’s degree JUST in Jordan.

Gerardo W. Flintsch photo

Dr. Gerardo W. Flintsch, P.E. is the Dan Pletta Professor of Engineering with The Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Director of the Center for Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute at Virginie Tech He chairs the Transport Research Board (TRB) standing committee AKP10 on Pavement Condition Evaluation and the World Road Association (PIARC) technical committee 3.3 on Asset Management and serves a s Vice-president and Technical Director of FM Consultants, LLC.

Jinsang Kim photo

Dr. Jinsang Kim is a Professor and Director of Macromolecular Science and Engineering and a Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His research themes are rational molecular design, chemical synthesis, and molecular assembly of functional polymers to make tailor-made specific functions. Current research topics under investigation include self-signal amplifying molecular chemical and bio sensors, biomimetic polymers and adhesives, conjugated polymer-based organic electronics, high performance polymers, and highly emissive metal-free organic emitters.

Muhammad R. Hajj photo

Dr. Muhammad R. Hajj is the George Meade Bond Professor, Chair of the Department of Civil, Environmental and Ocean Engineering and Director of the Davidson Laboratory at Stevens Institute of Technology. Dr. Hajj is a renowned scholar in the fields of nonlinear dynamics, fluid mechanics, structural dynamics and fluid-structure interactions with applications in aero- and hydro-elasticity, ships hydrodynamics, biomimetically-inspired air and underwater vehicles, and energy harvesting. Currently, he is directing several large projects including the Stevens Flood Advisory System. He is also directing the design of 100 kW wave energy converter for potential testing at the PacWave South site in Oregon. Dr. Hajj is a Fellow of the Engineering Mechanics Institute and has served as an elected member of its Board of Governors. Dr. Hajj received a B. Eng. degree (with distinction) from the American University of Beirut. He received a M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Texas at Austin.

James Grenfell photo

Dr. James Grenfell is a Principal Professional at ARRB (Australian Road Research Board). He is undertaking joint NACoE/WARRIP work to investigate the use of recycled and reclaimed plastic in safe, sustainable future road infrastructure and has been working on a variety of projects to advise government on the best practice use of recycled materials in transport infrastructure. He has recently completed work as project lead on Austroads APT6311 Use of Crushed Glass in Road Infrastructure. His work focused on Austroads projects TT2046 Improving the cost effectiveness of foamed bitumen-stabilised pavements and TT1897 Increasing the use of low-cost modified granular materials in new and rehabilitated pavements. He is a Director-at-large of the International Society of Asphalt Pavements.

Nuno Gil photo

Dr. Nuno Gil joined the University of Manchester in 2002 where he works as a Professor of New Infrastructure Development at the Alliance Manchester Business School after earning a PhD in civil engineering from UC Berkeley. He has 20 years of experience in researching and teaching leadership and governance applied to capital-intensive project-based investment in new technology from infrastructure assets and defense systems to technology to produce science and conquer the space, so-called 'megaprojects.’ Over the years, Nuno has consulted or done research with CH2M HILL and Intel (USA) Rolls Royce, BAA, BP, Manchester City Council, Network Rail, London2012, Crossrail, High speed 2, Thames Water (UK); L&T, JICA DFCCIL (India); World Bank, LAMATA (Nigeria), Road Fund (Uganda), UN Habitat, Ford Foundation (Egypt), and OECD. Nuno was lead editor and author of Duality by Design: The Global Race to Build Africa's Infrastructure and is currently authoring a book for MIT Press, Megaprojects: A Theory of Purpose, Value Creation, and Value Distribution.

Yahya Kurama photo

Dr. Yahya Kurama is a professor at the University of Notre Dame in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences. He received his PhD in Civil Engineering from Lehigh University. Professor Kurama’s research interests include the behavior and design of concrete buildings under earthquake loading, precast/prestressed concrete, structures under fire effects, and reinforced concrete materials for increased construction efficiency and sustainability.

Roberto T. Leon photo

Dr. Roberto T. Leon received his Ph.D. from the U. of Texas at Austin in 1983. He was on the faculty at the University of Minnesota and Georgia Tech before joining Virginia Tech as D.H. Burrows Professor of Construction Engineering in January 2012. Dr. Leon’s research focuses on dynamic behavior and design of composite and hybrid steel-concrete structures, testing of full-scale and model structures in the laboratory, and field instrumentation of structures. He is a registered professional engineer in Minnesota, the co-author of a book on composite construction, a non-technical book on bridges and tunnels, the author and co-author of over 125 articles in refereed journals.