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Two CCEE students awarded ACI fellowships

Sam Valmassoi (left) and Paul Acuna

Ph.D. candidate Paul Acuna and civil engineering student Sam Valmassoi were awarded fellowships from the American Concrete Institute (ACI) Foundation. The foundation is a nonprofit subsidiary of ACI that promotes progress, innovation, and collaboration in the concrete industry through strategic investments in ideas, research, and people to create the future of the concrete industry. 

Acuna received the foundation’s Barbara S. and W. Calvin McCall Carolinas Fellowship, and Valmassoi was tapped for the JoAnne K. & Cecil L. Jones Carolinas Fellowship. Fellowship recipients will receive a $10,000 educational stipend, paid travel expenses and attendance fees to two ACI conventions, and assistance in finding an industry mentor. 

Since the inception of the Foundation’s Fellowship program in 2008, the ACI Foundation has provided financial support, mentorship, and internship opportunities to over 275 students. This year, the ACI Foundation awarded 19 fellowships and 14 scholarships to students from 27 different institutions. 

Sam Valmassoi, who is advised by Rudi Seracino, Greg Lucier and Roberto Nuñez, is an active member of NC State’s student chapter of ACI and served as team captain for the student chapter of Earthquake Engineering Research Institute Seismic Design Competition.

Sam Valmassoi

Valmassoi also works with Seracino as an undergraduate research assistant, focusing on the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (NCDOT) Harkers Island bridge replacement project. The project involves replacing two 50-year-old bridges with a new single-span bridge reinforced entirely with Fiber Reinforced Polymer (FRP) composites instead of steel.  This approach seeks to eliminate the large corrosion typically seen in coastal structures, increasing the lifespan of bridges near aggressive marine environments.

“By replacing steel with non-corroding glass and carbon fiber composites, we can prevent one of the main causes of degradation that leads to costly repairs or replacement. Our research on the Harkers Island bridge aims to develop best practices for using FRP-reinforced concrete in future structures.”

Valmassoi said he feels honored to receive the fellowship and to be recognized among a talented group of students and future leaders.

“In addition to financial support, this award will enable me to attend ACI conventions and become more involved in the organization,” Valmassoi said. “After graduating this fall, I plan to pursue a master’s degree in structural engineering and mechanics at NC State. This fellowship will help me continue my research and pursue my academic goals while preparing me for a career in structural engineering.”

Paul Acuna

Acuna, who is advised by Seracino, is a graduate advisor for the student chapter of ACI, treasurer of the EERI student chapter, and social chair for the Latin American Student Association.  He was recently selected to participate in the Project Precast competition organized by the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute. 

“This competition involved six teams sponsored by different precast companies, tasked with designing both an architectural and structural solution within a tight two-day deadline, and presenting it to a highly qualified group of judges,” Acuna said. “My participation in this competition allowed me to showcase my skills and knowledge in concrete design and construction, as well as collaborate with peers and professionals from the industry.”

Like Valmassoi, Acuna is also involved in the research on the Harkers Island bridge replacement project.

“By the end of this project, our team aims to develop substantial design and construction recommendations and improve FRP materials standards,” Acuna said. “Our findings will help to promote the use of FRP materials, ultimately enhancing the quality, durability, and safety of coastal bridge infrastructure. This project is a prime example of how academic research can drive real-world innovation and make a positive impact on society. I feel privileged to be a part of this exciting project and look forward to seeing the results of our work.”

Acuna said receiving the fellowship was one of the most exhilarating moments of his academic career. 

“ACI is a highly respected professional organization that has played a vital role in advancing the analysis, design, and construction of concrete structures for decades,” Acuna said. “Being awarded a fellowship is a tremendous honor that I am proud to have received. It not only recognizes my hard work and dedication to the field but also provides me with unparalleled opportunities to network with other professionals, learn from the best in the industry, and contribute to the advancement of concrete technology. I am committed to utilizing this opportunity to make a positive impact in the industry and contribute to the advancement of concrete technology. I am excited to see what the future holds and look forward to being part of the ACI community.”