Ashley P. Thrall

Myron and Rosemary Noble Assistant Professor

of Structural Engineering

University of Notre Dame
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
and Earth Sciences



Robert Devine (PhD, expected 2020)

Evan Gerbo

My name is Rob Devine, and I am a graduate student at Notre Dame co-advised by Dr. Thrall. My interests are in Structural Engineering specifically in novel reinforced concrete design. Advised by Dr. Kurama and Dr. Thrall, my research will be on new design methodologies of reinforced concrete structures focusing on sustainable materials. I completed my undergraduate studies at Notre Dame as well, graduating from the Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences Department in the spring of 2015. While an undergraduate, I did research advised by Dr. Kurama on the Adequacy of Recycled Concrete Aggregates in Prestressed Concrete.


While an undergraduate at Notre Dame, I was a member of the varsity Track and Field team for my first three years and I participated in Bengal Bouts, th,e largest collegiate amateur boxing tournament in the country. In my free time I continue to run and box and have aspirations of completing a triathlon. I also enjoy mountain climbing, football, and trying new foods. For my undergraduate research under Dr. Kurama, I was awarded the Gibran Kareem Undergraduate Research Prize. Also, I am a Richard and Peggy Notebaert Fellow, as awarded by the Graduate School of Notre Dame. I am excited to continue my career at Notre Dame and pursue my interests in Structural Engineering.


Evan Gerbo (PhD, expected 2018)


Evan GerboMy name is Evan Gerbo and I am a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame. I am currently pursuing a PhD in Civil Engineering with a specialization in Structures. My research at Notre Dame will focus on deployable bridges for use in disaster relief efforts. I spent the last 5 years earning my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Architectural Engineering at California Polytechnic, San Luis Obispo. Cal Poly’s “Learn by Doing” motto strengthened my desire to physically construct my designs myself, ensuring functionality and quality. My interests within structural engineering involve seismic design and analysis, funicular cable and shell structures, and optimization using genetic algorithms.


From the time I was little I have loved to learn how the world works, and primarily focused on structural and mechanical systems such as cars and motorcycles. I am originally from Placerville, a small rural town in Northern California. I was lucky to have access to a shop full of tools, plenty of space and raw materials allowed me to learn construction and mechanical skills from an early age. I spend my free time tinkering with cars, motorcycles and occasionally computers. I am looking forward to combining my passions for structural and mechanical engineering at Notre Dame in the coming years.


Alexis Tugilimana (PhD, expected 2018)


Alexis Tugilimana

I am Alexis Tugilimana and I am a graduate student from the Universite Libre de Bruxelles since 2014, in which I am actually pursuing a PhD co supervised by Dr. Thrall. My researches focus on the topology optimization of lightweight modular structures under uncertainties.


I grew up in Ath, a small Belgian town situated in the south west of Bruxelles. After my secondary studies, I started studying industrial engineering at the Institut Superieur Industriel in Mons, specialized on buildings and civil engineering. This multidisciplinary formation generated a large interest on the practical dimension related to the civil engineering, i.e. the different techniques of conception and the management of the organization for a practical project. I developed in parallel a large interest in Physics and Mathematics, through my passions related to astronomy, cosmology and astrophysics, which aroused my curiosity to physically understand, as much as possible, the phenomena occurring all around me. This curiosity pushes me to undertake a second master of sciences in civil engineering at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles. The latter, being more theoretical, allowed me to discover new fields of interest in civil engineering such as the numerical analysis, the finite element analysis and the structural optimization.


Mirela Tumbeva (PhD, expected 2019)


Zach BallardMy name is Mirela Tumbeva and I am from Bulgaria. I am a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame, specializing in Structural Engineering. I have a master degree in Civil Engineering. For two years, I had been part of two projects in my home country, participating as a field supervisor. Though, I enjoyed working on a big construction site and having the chance to meet people form all over the world, I believe Notre Dame and the Kinetic Structures Laboratory are the right place for me at this stage of my life.


Yao Wang (PhD, expected 2019)


Zach BallardMy name is Yao Wang. Now I am a PhD student at the University of Notre Dame. In the past one year, I studied and worked as a teaching assistant at the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB). I am really grateful for the experience in UB since I’ve learned a lot there. Then I transferred to the University of Notre Dame since Dr. Thrall’s research field best matches my research interest. Furthermore, The University of Notre Dame gives the perfect environment for studying and doing research and I really enjoy the life here. Before coming to the US, I earned my bachelor degree and master degree in civil engineering from Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT), China.


I grew up in Yuanping, a small city in China which is famous for its flour food diet culture. Thus I myself am interested in cooking. During the leisure time, playing yoga and listening to music are the favorite things that I would prefer to do since health always comes first.




Max Ducey (BSCE, expected 2016)


Madalyn SowarMy name is Max Ducey and I am a senior Civil Engineering Major doing undergraduate research under Dr. Thrall and Dr. Kurama. The project I am working on is a collaborative project with industry partner AECOM and Sandia National Laboratories for the Department of Energy. The project centers on the use of high strength materials and prefabricated rebar systems to accelerate the construction of concrete nuclear energy infrastructure. I joined the project at the beginning of my senior year after taking Dr. Kurama's reinforced concrete design class as a junior. My role in the project so far has focused on concrete mix design and material testing, as well as some research on existing prefabrication technologies for rebar cages.


I have spent most of my life in Portland, Oregon, but have also lived in Kansas City, Missouri, and the suburbs of Chicago. I decided to study civil engineering due to the influence of my uncle, who is a structural engineer for Thornton Tomasetti and previously worked for ARUP. Growing up I saw him travelling all over the world working on buildings, from the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore to skyscrapers in Dubai to stadiums in Azerbaijan. I hope my career as an engineer will allow me to have a similar global impact.


As an undergraduate I have also been involved in the ASCE Concrete Canoe Competition as well as Notre Dame Students Empowering through Engineering Development, a student chapter of Bridges to Prosperity which is a nonprofit group that builds suspended pedestrian bridges for isolated communities in the developing world. I will be traveling to Nicaragua this upcoming summer to build one of these suspended pedestrian bridges with a team of seven other undergraduates.


Madalyn (Maddy) Sowar (BSCE, expected 2016)


Madalyn SowarMy name is Maddy Sowar, and I am a senior at the University of Notre Dame studying civil engineering. I grew up in Dayton, Ohio with an older brother and sister. In middle school, I was very interested in civil engineering and wanted to build bridges. However, it wasn't until the end of freshman year of college that I decided to major in it. Since then, my fascination has grown in kinetic and deployable structures. I am also interested in landscape architecture and how buildings function for their environment. In my free time, I enjoy painting, drawing, cooking, and spending time outdoors. Attending Notre Dame has been the best decision I have ever made. It has taught me a lot about civil engineering, provided amazing and unique opportunities, and has allowed me to grow as a person. I am excited to continue my education and research, and believe that I will one day make a lasting impact on the world through my work as a civil engineer.




Madalyn SowarMy name is Steven Barbachyn, and I am a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Notre Dame under the direction of Dr. Kurama and

Dr. Thrall. I earned my Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering at Hope College (Holland, MI) where I participated in undergraduate research on the design and control of reconfigurable tetrahedral robots in connection with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. At Hope College, I also spent two years on the planning, design, and on-site construction of a diversion dam and water distribution system for the village of Nkuv, Cameroon as part of Engineers

Without Borders (EWB).


My rewarding experience with EWB sparked my interest in the civil

engineering field and led to the pursuit of a Master's degree and PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Notre Dame. As a Master's student, I was

awarded the Portland Cement Association (PCA) Education Foundation

Fellowship. My research at Notre Dame has primarily focused on the seismic

behavior, analysis, and design of reinforced concrete structures, particularly

medium- and high-rise coupled shear wall systems. I believe my extensive work in these areas will allow me to provide important contributions as a postdoctoral researcher to a recently-funded Department of Energy project centering on the accelerated construction of nuclear concrete structures using high-strength materials and prefabrication methodologies.




Graduate Students:


Lara Alegria Mira (PhD 2014)

Job Placement: Nomad Consulting (Brussels, Belgium)


Lara Alegria MiraMy name is Lara Alegria Mira and I graduated in 2010 at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in Belgium as a structural engineer. As a member of the TRANSFORM research group at the architectural engineering department of the VUB, I am pursuing a PhD. The focus of my research lies on deployable scissor structures for temporary and mobile shelters.


I was lucky to meet Dr. Thrall during the Structural Morphology Seminar, performed under the direction of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures (IASS) in September 2011. Since then, our common research interest in transformable and deployable structures has led to interesting and fruitful collaborations, conference and journal publications. Due to a travel grant I had the opportunity to travel to the University of Notre Dame, where I stayed for 5 weeks (June 2013) and worked under the guidance of Dr. Thrall on the subject of structural optimization of scissor structures. It was a great experience!


What I was already encountering off the record, we made official by assigning Dr. Thrall as my co-supervisor of my PhD research.


Casey Casias (MSCE 2015)

Job Placement: Gebau Consulting Structural Engineers (Boulder, CO)


Casey CasiasCasey Casias attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she attained her undergraduate degree in architectural engineering. Afterwards, she came to the University of Notre Dame, where she earned her Master's degree from the Kinetic Structures Lab in 2015. She is currently a project engineer with Gebau, Inc. in Boulder, Colorado, where she works primarily in residential structural design.


When not engineering, Casey enjoys cycling, rock climbing, and baking. She learned a great deal while at Notre Dame, and is extremely grateful for the experience.




Chad Quaglia (MSCE 2014)

Job Placement: HNTB Corporation (New York City, NY)


Chad QuagliaMy name is Chad Quaglia, and I have graduated from the University of Notre Dame with my masters degree in structural engineering. My research at Notre Dame focused on movable/deployable shelters for military and disaster relief applications. I come from a family of four, and I was born and raised in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts which is about a half hour south of Boston. I am a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst where I earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering. I have known for a very long time that I have a passion for math and science as well as an aptitude for being creative, curious, analytical, and detail oriented. Since I was a very young child I have enjoyed building Legos and K'nex by following designs as well as creating my own work. I am fascinated by the useful inventions that have been created by simply using scientific principles and the materials and forces which are found in everyday nature. During my time at Notre Dame, I was able to help invent a novel deployable shelter using well known engineering principles which led to a very fulfilling masters experience. In the next chapter of my life, I will be starting my professional career designing complex bridges in NYC for the HNTB Corporation, for which I am extremely excited! I am very thankful for my experience at Notre Dame and my advisor, Dr. Thrall, in particular for the guidance given me in becoming a well rounded and well prepared structural engineer.


Brittani Russell (MSCE 2013)

Job Placement: Building Tomorrow (Uganda)


Brittani RussellAfter six glorious years at the University of Notre Dame I have joined the ranks of Double Domers with both my undergraduate and masters degrees in structural engineering. Having had the opportunity while at ND to travel to several developing countries I can truly appreciate the difference that civil engineering can have on the everyday lives of so many people throughout the world. As a result I have attempted to focus my knowledge of engineering towards this goal, both during my academic career and afterwards. As an undergraduate I served on a team of seven civil engineering students who designed, fund-raised, and traveled to Nicaragua to construct a 125 meter footbridge for a community in need. My masters research with Dr. Thrall focused on developing deployable bridges for disaster relief and military applications. And now, after surviving six South Bend winters (which I actually did enjoy!) I find myself in the warmer climate of Uganda. I am working with Building Tomorrow as their Engineer in Residence to help construct primary schools around the country for children who have never had access to formalized education in their lives.


Undergraduate Students:


Angelene Dascanio (BSCE 2015)

Graduate School Placement: University College Dublin (Naughton Fellowship), Stanford University


Spencer Ness (BSCE 2014)

Job Placement: Troyer Group (Mishawaka, IN)


John (Jack) Reilly (BSCE 2014)

Graduate School Placement: Princeton University


Mark Solorio (BSCE 2013)

Graduate School Placement: Stanford University


Postdoctoral Research Associates:


Zach Ballard (2013-2015)

Job Placement: University of Vermont, Teaching Faculty


Francisco Martinez-Martin (2012-2013)

Job Placement: Mecanotubo Construction (Spain)


Hoberman Sphere at the Liberty Science Center (top), Willis Avenue Bridge (middle), and Tipi (bottom).