By Grace Farrar | October 14, 2020
Nathan Huynh, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of South Carolina, was selected for a Supplemental High Value Research award for his “Sign Life Expectancy” research by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. Huynh’s work will save the South Carolina Department of Transportation thousands of dollars annually in sign replacement costs while ensuring that road signs are still safely visible at night for South Carolina’s drivers.
“I really rely on the SCDOT to provide continuous funding in order for me to maintain my research program,” Huynh says. “Doing good work for them and having them acknowledge that we're doing good work is very valuable for a long-term relationship.”
“It's kind of a win-win situation when you have not only the outcomes of the research being important, but also the training opportunities for students in the project itself.”
-Juan Caicedo, chair, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Huynh’s research focused on quantifying the life expectancy of road signs across South Carolina based on their retro-reflectivity. The SCDOT maintains a minimum level of acceptable reflectivity for road signs to be considered safe, and previously replaced them every 10 years. Based on Huynh’s research, these road signs only need to be replaced every twelve years. This translates to 1,250 fewer signs for the DOT to replace each year and an annual savings of $93,000.
“I'm happy that the SCDOT saw benefit in the research and that they took the time to submit a summary of our work to the AASTHO governing body to be considered for an award. I'm grateful that they did that,” says Huynh.
Huynh was assisted in this research by one graduate student, Zane Pulver, and five undergraduate students. These students traveled the entire state and collected data on 1,600 signs.
“This was a monumental effort and I'm really proud of the students’ work. There's no way I could've done this work without their help,” he says.
Huynh’s research and this award are beneficial for both the UofSC College of Engineering and Computing and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Juan Caicedo, chair of the department, says, “It's kind of a win-win situation when you have not only the outcomes of the research being important, but also the training opportunities for students in the project itself.”