Student Spotlights

Doug Slattery

Geo-grid Researcher

photo of Doug Slattery with group of students wearing construction vests

 Doug Slattery (middle) learning construction techniques on a class field trip

Oct. 22, 2014

As a high school student, Doug Slattery was awed by the scale of Texas-area construction projects and rapidly changing skylines. A native San Antonian whose parents and sister attended UT Austin, Doug knew instinctually that he wanted to be a Longhorn, and that he wanted to work on the scale of buildings rather than nanoparticles. When decision time came, he chose to pursue studies in architectural and civil engineering.

The final product of [multiple years of work] as a civil engineer is a building that weighs thousands of tons…. It’ll be a satisfying feeling to be able to see the results of my efforts from miles away,” he says.

Doug’s intense attraction to the megalithic is combined with an interest in geotechnical engineering, the applied science of soil and rock mechanics and in general the behavior of earth materials. Big buildings are great, but the power to keep them standing lies not only in their most epic vertical elements, but in subtle horizontal processes too.

Doug’s current project, under Jorge Zornberg and funded by TXDoT, focuses on these elements. Along with another undergraduate student, Jigar Desai, Doug explores the relationship between geo-grids reinforcement beneath a pavement and surface cracking. 

Doug described the project in some detail, “Expansive clays, which are common in the area, swell and contract during dry and wet seasons. This movement of the clay creates cracks in the pavement surface. Through our research, we’re attempting to discover the best method in which a geo-grid can be utilized beneath the pavement surface to reduce cracking from expansive clays.”

The results of the project, the researchers hope, will have significant impacts on the ways roads are built and on the cost of maintaining them.

He has also spent two summers as a construction intern and participated on the CAEE Undergraduate Advisory Board. As an advisory board member, he is responsible for scheduling site tours for other students with construction companies.

Doug's future plans intertwine with his current interests - he plans to pursue employment in the construction field after graduation.