Mohammad Al-Assi, from Irbid, Jordan, describes his country as one of limited resources. Government subsidies on bread, water and electricity lower the cost of basic commodities for people in need, but are paid for through loans from foreign aid.
Then there’s the Syrian refugees that the country’s absorbing, whom Al-Assi said also “need resources and support.”
Both issues make funding for Jordan’s transportation industry more scarce. But Al-Assi is determined to make a difference nonetheless.
A doctoral student in civil engineering at the University of Idaho since 2016, Al-Assi is studying under College of Engineering Assistant Professor Emad Kassem to research improvements in skid resistance on roadways. Their ultimate goal is to reduce traffic accidents and ensure motorist safety.
Lack of skid resistance is a problem in every corner of the globe with paved roads. But Al-Assi says the hot desert sun, combined with a constant flow of traffic, accelerate friction loss in pavement in Jordan, causing the asphalt to rut. When rain comes, water gets trapped in those ruts and motorists have to navigate slick, dangerous roadways.
Al-Assi is experimenting with and testing various asphalt mixtures and design procedures to find the optimal asphalt for creating friction between a car’s tires and the pavement in a cost-effective and sustainable way.
“Before I started this project I wasn’t really sure what friction was,” said Al-Assi, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from the Jordan University of Science and Technology in 2012 and 2015, respectively. “I did a Skype interview with Emad and he described the project he’s working on, and I thought it’d be really interesting to study what causes friction because it’s a complex process with many forces.”
“Being in a city like Moscow where it’s snowing for two to three months a year and having that affect the friction — I thought this will be an ideal place to study it.”
After graduating from U of I in 2019, Al-Assi would like to pursue a post-doctoral position and then find a teaching position to be “involved in students’ learning process.”
While he’s unsure whether he’ll return to Jordan, he hopes his research could get picked up by the transportation sector there. He wants his efforts to increase the life expectancy of pavement materials, but also increase the life expectancy of motorists — here in Idaho and across the globe.
Article by Kate Keenan, College of Art and Architecture
Published in Spring 2018