NCAT Announces Four New Researchers

Adriana Vargas Headshot

Adriana Vargas comes to Auburn from the University of Costa Rica where she taught civil engineering courses at the undergraduate and graduate level while also working at their national infrastructure lab, LANAMME. Vargas joined NCAT in August as an assistant research professor and will be leading all pavement preservation experiments and teaching a course in pavement management at Auburn University every other year.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Costa Rica and was inspired to work in pavement research after receiving her MBA from the State University at Distance in Costa Rica. “I worked for a company that mostly did pavement management consulting, and I started getting most of my experience that way. It made me realize that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to make sure we keep our pavements in good shape.”

Vargas earned her master’s degree from Auburn and later worked as a consultant in the San Francisco Bay area. She returned to Auburn to obtain a Ph.D. in civil engineering while working at NCAT as a research assistant. She now looks forward to growing professionally in her new role and expanding her research to different aspects of the asphalt pavement industry.

Although moving away from her family in Costa Rica was challenging, especially with a newborn child, she is excited to be back in Auburn and working for NCAT. She looks forward to attending football games with her husband, Fabricio Leiva.

Fabricio Leiva Headshot

Fabricio Leiva joined the NCAT research team in August as an assistant research professor and will lead research on using recycled materials in asphalt pavements and multi-scale pavement analysis while also teaching civil engineering courses at Auburn University during the summer.

Leiva earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Costa Rica and his master’s degree from Auburn while working as a graduate assistant at NCAT. He worked as an engineer in California before returning to Auburn to obtain a Ph.D. in civil engineering. He moved to Costa Rica in 2012 to conduct research on accelerated pavement testing and other asphalt technologies at LANAMME.

Although his interest in pavement technology was fueled by the need to give back to his country, opportunity and the availability of resources is what steered him back to Auburn. “There’s a great need to pretty much fix everything that has to do with transportation infrastructure in Costa Rica,” said Fabricio. “I was looking for a university that had a big background in materials, especially for pavements. I knew that Auburn University and NCAT could meet my expectations regarding experience and knowledge in pavement materials and accelerated pavement testing.”

Fabricio looks forward to cheering on the Auburn Tigers this fall with his wife, Adriana Vargas, and building a new home for their family in Auburn.

Fan Gu Headshot

Fan Gu joined the NCAT team in September and will be leading research regarding rolling resistance, cold central plant recycling (CCPR) and cold in-place recycling (CIR).

Gu earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in transportation engineering from Southeast University in China before moving to Texas in 2011. After receiving his Ph.D. in civil engineering from Texas A&M University, Gu went on to conduct postdoctoral research with Texas A&M Transportation Institute and was the principal researcher for multiple projects for the Texas Department of Transportation, including an innovation project to develop nondestructive rapid quality assurance/quality control evaluation test methods and supporting technology.

Gu believes in the importance of the transportation infrastructure, which led to his interest in asphalt materials testing and characterization as well as nondestructive evaluation of pavements. “I am excited to collaborate with other researchers on a variety of topics and transfer the findings to the asphalt pavement industry. Joining NCAT is important to me, especially since it’s a leading research center in asphalt materials and pavement.”

Fan plans on attending Auburn basketball, football, and baseball games with his wife, Di Jin, in his spare time.

Fan Yin Headshot

Fan Yin joined NCAT in July as a postdoctoral researcher with a strong asphalt pavement background and interests that complement those of other NCAT engineers. Yin will be working on the cracking group research led by NCAT and MnROAD to determine the most appropriate long-term aging protocol that needs to be applied to asphalt mixtures before cracking tests. “This research is a hot topic within the industry,” said Yin. “Contractors are trying to use more recycled material to save money—that’s why this aging and cracking project is very important. Hopefully we can help the industry use more recycled material and make sure the performance is good as well.”

Yin became interested in civil engineering at a young age. “My uncle is a civil engineer. When I used to stay with him as a child he would show me some buildings that he worked on, so I think that’s how I got started.”

After earning his bachelor’s degree in transportation engineering from Southeast University in China, Yin moved to the United States in 2010. He received his master’s degree and Ph.D. at Texas A&M University and worked as a graduate research assistant and postdoctoral researcher at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI). He participated in four National Cooperative Highway Research Program projects on sustainable pavement materials and asphalt material characterization while in this position.

Yin looks forward to beginning his career at NCAT and living in Auburn. During his free time, he enjoys traveling, playing basketball, and hiking with his wife.