Student Research Grants

Next Cycle Applications Due: March 10, 2023

The SFPE Foundation supports a number of initiatives designed to further its mission to enhance the scientific understanding of fire and its interaction with the natural and built environment. An important part of this mission is developing the next generation of fire protection engineers. The foundation encourages this through an emphasis on student involvement in the Research Roadmap program as well as through the Student Research Grant Program.

Goal: Realize the SFPE Foundation vision through providing educational and research opportunities for the next generation of fire protection engineers.

Purpose: To support innovative baccalaureate and graduate-level student research projects in fire safety science or fire protection engineering and to showcase the contributions of students to the advancement of fire protection engineering.

Read about our Past Recipients.

Award Incentive

Funding: A $5,000 stipend will be provided to the student recipient(s) of the grant. Travel support to the SFPE annual conference, or equivalent may also be provided.

Grantees may have the opportunity to participate in SFPE Foundation and SFPE-affiliated events and communications to publicize the results of their research, such as the SFPE Annual Conference, SFPE Foundation website and social media outlets, and SFPE Chapter presentations, among others.

Eligibility

This program is intended for undergraduate and graduate students conducting research with a fire safety science or fire engineering focus.

Application Guidelines and Award

The grant proposal must be submitted by the student through this form and must include the student's faculty advisor's recommendation.

Submissions should not exceed 5 pages single-spaced (not including the cover page, recommendation letter, and Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form) and should include a description of the innovative objective of the research project, describe the tasks that will be undertaken to achieve it, and state the proposed timeline for completion. Successful applicants will situate their proposed research project with respect to addressing the knowledge gaps identified in the SFPE Research Roadmap. Additionally, if this is supplemental funding, it should be made clear how the additional funds will be used, the source of additional funding, and if any potential conflicts or restrictions exist that would impact the presentation and publication of the research.

Final decisions rest with the Foundation's Board of Governors, upon recommendation from the Technical Committee.

Proposal Recommended Format

While a standard format is not required for the submission of a proposal, it is recommended to follow the basic layout and contents as specified below.

Cover Page: Title of the project; name, email address, and affiliation of the student; name and email address of academic supervisor/sponsor; and description of any prior financial support.

Content:

  • Specific Aims (Objectives)
  • Background and Significance
  • Methods and Procedures
  • Budget and Justification
  • Timing and Deliverables
  • Conflicts of Interest or Restrictions on Publication (complete the COI Form available here)
  • Biographical Sketch of Principal Investigator, key staff, and/or students who will be involved in the proposed project
  • References/Letter of Support from Academic Supervisor/Sponsor

Deadlines

Submissions will be accepted at any time throughout the year; however, submissions are reviewed and grants are awarded twice per year (assuming qualified submissions). Submissions must be received by March 10 to be awarded in June, or by October 2 to be awarded in November.

Submit complete applications to the SFPE Foundation through this form.

Please contact the SFPE Foundation's Director at foundation@sfpe.org with any questions.

Project Deliverables

It is expected that the results of the research will result in the publication of a peer-reviewed research paper and that the results will be presented at an appropriate forum. The paper will additionally be hosted on the SFPE Foundation website for archival purposes.

Recipients

2022

Rocio_Cortez_photo.jpgRocio Cortez (Master student, Texas State University, US) was awarded a student research grant for her project “Integrating Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation into Disaster Loss Reduction Planning.” This project will further empirical and practical understandings of the dynamics that explain wildlife rehabilitation and rescue’s (WRR) capacity to help minimize the consequences of wildfires. It will analyze the conditions and factors that affect WRR’s ability to readily and effectively partake in wildfire response, and assess the nature of information exchange’s influence in wildfire response preparedness via cross-agency communication, coordination, and information exchange.


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Marika du Plessis (MEng/PhD student, Stellenbosch University, South Africa) was awarded a student research grant for her project “Experimental and Numerical Testing of Mass Timber Connections Considering Gap Size and Passive Protection.” This project aims to understand if the fire behavior of mass timber connections can be predicted reliably and improved by using passive fire protection intumescent mastics.


photo_franchini.jpgAndrea Franchini (PhD student, Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, University College London, UK) was awarded a student research grant for his project “A Novel Risk-Based Fire Design Method for Sustainable Structures.” This project is focused on developing an extension to the Maximum Allowable Damage approach using machine learning techniques and on implementing the approach into safe and sustainable structural optimization. Furthermore, the project will apply the proposed computational risk-based design framework to bridge structures.



wzl.jpgZilong Wang (PhD student, Research Centre for Fire Safety Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong/China) received a student research grant for his project “Smart Fire Calorimetry Driven by Image Analysis and Artificial Intelligence.” This project aims to develop a smart fire calorimetry system using fire scene images and artificial intelligence. The outcome of this research will provide a simple and convenient way to measure the fire HRR, which shows great potential in future smart firefighting applications.



2021

Franqueville__Juliette.jpgJuliette Franqueville (PhD student, UT Fire Research Group, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Texas at Austin) was awarded a student research grant for her project “Deep-Learning for Flame Characterization in Compartment Fires.” This project aims to develop a low-order model based on artificial neural networks (ANNs), which are machine learning algorithms inspired by biological neural networks, to characterize the effects of vent flows on pool fires in compartment fires. The ANNs training process will leverage transfer learning, which has the potential to make the training of the ANN faster and to produce more accurate flame position predictions.


Yohannes_Portrait.jpgYohannes Shewalul (PhD student, Fire Engineering Research Unit, Stellenbosch University, South Africa) was awarded a student research grant for his project “Fire Behavior of Construction Systems Incorporating Waste Materials.” The project will identify commonly used waste materials in construction systems for which fire ratings have not been obtained and conduct experimental fire testing on construction systems incorporating such waste materials. The results of this study hold the potential to inform strategies of the fire service when responding to incidents where large quantities of oil-based recycled materials are encapsulated in walls.


CherylMarek.jpgCheryl A. Marek, P.E. (PhD Candidate in Civil Engineering, University of Maryland) was awarded a student research grant for her project “Causal Factors in the Escalation of Fire Incidents During Naval Ship Maintenance Availabilities.” The project aims to improve industrial fire safety during naval ship maintenance availabilities by assessing why some incipient fire incidents escalate to major fires in order to recommend standardized data reporting inputs and inform program, technical and contractual requirements.




D_Morrisset.jpgDavid Morrisset (PhD student, University of Edinburgh Fire Research Centre, UK) was awarded a student research grant for his project “Quantifying the Statistical Uncertainty of Furniture-Scale Fire Testing.” The project investigates the statistical variation in furniture calorimeter testing and will thereby improve the tools available to FPEs and provide a large dataset for a variety of key experimental results, including the heat release rate. Initial results from the project have been published in the July 2022 issue of FPE eXTRA.





Zulmajdi.jpgIffah Umairah Zulmajdi (pursuing a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering, Universiti Putra, Malaysia) was awarded a student research grant for her project “A Comparison of Zone and Field Model for the Probabilistic Simulation of NIST Kitchen Fire.” The project assesses whether probabilistic simulation of kitchen fire spread using field models (CFD) can produce better representation of the fire phenomena as compared to using zone models. Drawing on this assessment, the project will determine whether it is useful to invest in probabilistic simulations using a field model, which uses very high resources, or whether it is sufficient to use zone models.



2020

    • Bronwyn Forrest from University of Waterloo was awarded 5K to provide support for her project Human Physiological Response to Fire Exposure: A Comprehensive Model, which aims to fill gaps that currently exist with respect to detailed definition of evolved fire environments, and to address the lack of current understanding regarding how that environment impacts exposed humans.
    • Deanna Craig from Clemson University was awarded 5K to provide support for her project Realizing Autonomous Structural Fire Engineering through Machine Learning, which aims to create a foundation for next-gen structural fire engineering tools that is not only streamlined, but autonomous in nature.
    • Diego Alvarez Coedo from Comillas Pontifical University was awarded 5K to provide support for his project Experimental Validation of a Multi-scale Modelling Methodology for Tunnel Fires, which aims to gain knowledge in the use of multi-scale numerical models, using fire dynamics simulator, applied to tunnel fires through their validation with full-scale data and also with specific reduced scale fire experiments.
    • Francesca Lugaresi from Imperial College London was awarded 5K to provide support for her project Mechanical Failure of Glazed Curtain Walls Exposed to Fire, which aims to assess the safety of a curtain wall systems under thermal effects due to fire.
    • Alyssa A. DeSimone from the University of Michigan was awarded 5K to provide support for her project, Novel Fire Spread Model for Large Compartments, which seeks to create a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model that uses the flux-time product to estimate ignition from one burning object to another.

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  • William Calcagno from Worcester Polytechnic institute was awarded 5K to provide support for his project State of Use of Lithium-Ion Batteries and Thermal Runaway Onset, which seeks to determine the impact usage has on the tendency for a lithium-ion battery to initiate thermal runaway.



Research Report/MA Thesis:
Energetics of Lithium-Ion Battery Failure during Use and Thermal Abuse
Author: William Calcagno (Recipient of a 2020 SFPE Foundation Student Research Grant)
Submitted: 2022 (Master of Science Thesis at Worcester Polytechnic Institute)

    • This publication also contributes to the Fire Dynamics and Non-Building Fires threads of the SFPE Research Roadmap.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Tests the impact of the usage condition of lithium-ion batteries on their thermal runaway properties during thermal abuse in a modified copper slug calorimeter.
      • Compares results for two chemistries of cylindrical 18650 lithium-ion cells: LiNiMnCoO2(NMC) and LiNixCoyAl1-x-yO2 (NCA). 
      • Average time to thermal runaway for NCA cells decreased as discharge current increased, while the average time to thermal runaway for NMC cells increased if discharge was present but did not increase continuously with increased discharge current.
      • NMC cells lost charge faster than the NCA cells, which resulted in NMC cells undergoing thermal runaway during the high-discharge tests at a significantly higher temperature than every other test condition.
      • The results of a variety of other comparisons between NCA and NMC are presented.
      • Results suggest that while the employed test methodology can be generalized and applied to different battery chemistries, the impact of a lithium-ion battery’s usage condition(i.e., discharge current) on its thermal runaway properties cannot be generalized between different chemistries and each new chemistry should be tested in the future.

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    Shaorun Lin from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University was awarded 5K to provide support for his project Megafire Mitigation: A Novel Methodology to Fight the Smouldering Wildfires, which aims to advance and enrich the wildfire-fighting strategy for suppressing smouldering underground wildfires.






    Publications:
    Several publications have resulted from this project, including: 

    Limits of Sustaining a Flame Above Smoldering Woody Biomass in Combustion Science and Technology

    • This publication contributes to the Resilience/Sustainability and Fire Dynamics threads of the SFPE Research Roadmap.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Explores the flaming of emission gases from the smoldering wood chips (200 kg/m3) under different oxidizer flow velocities (4 mm/s-24 mm/s) and oxygen concentrations (14%-21%) through porous media.
      • Once ignited on the top, the smoldering front first propagates downward (1st stage, opposed) to the bottom and then propagates upward (2nd stage, forward).
      • We found that during the 1st-stage downward smoldering propagation, a stable flame of smoldering emissions could be piloted and sustained.
      • Proposes a simplified heat transfer process to reveal the limiting conditions for the co-existence of flaming and smoldering.
      • Enriches strategies for the clean treatment of smoldering emissions and promotes an energy-efficient and environment-friendly method for biowaste removal.

    A Computational Study on the Quenching and Near-limit Propagation of Smoldering Combustion in Combustion and Flame

    • This publication contributes to the Fire Dynamics thread of the SFPE Research Roadmap.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Builds a physics-based 2-D computational model that integrates heat and mass transfer and heterogeneous chemistry to investigate the limiting quenching conditions of in-depth smoldering propagation in a typical biomass sample.
      • Simulation results predict that the smoldering quenching occurs as the sample width decreases or the wall-cooling coefficient increases, agreeing well with experiments.
      • The modelled minimum smoldering temperature is about 350 °C, and the minimum propagation rate is around 0.5 cm/h.
      • Further analysis demonstrates that either the smoldering temperature or propagation rate increases with the sample width and eventually approaches it maximum value.
      • Explores the influences of the ambient temperature and oxygen level on the smoldering quenching distance.

    Smoldering Ignition Using a Concentrated Solar Irradiation Spot in Fire Safety Journal

    • This publication contributes to the Fire Dynamics thread of the SFPE Research Roadmap.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Investigates the smoldering ignition of tissue paper by a concentrated sunlight spot with heat fluxes up to 780 kW/m2, which is focused by a transparent glass sphere.
      • The measured minimum spot irradiation for smoldering ignition is not a constant and is much higher than 11 kW/m2 measured in a traditional cone-calorimeter test.
      • As the diameter of the irradiation spot decreases from 20 to 1.5 mm, the minimum irradiation for smoldering ignition increases from 17.5 to 205 kW/m2, and the ignition energy increases from 0.084 to 2.0 MJ/m2.
      • A simplified heat transfer analysis reveals that the lateral conductive cooling within the fuel becomes dominant for a smaller spot ignition area.

    Smoldering Propagation and Blow-off on Consolidated Fuel Under External Airflow in Combustion and Flame

    • This publication contributes to the Fire Service and Fire Dynamics threads of the SFPE Research Roadmap.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Quantifies the smoldering propagation rates on consolidated biomass and the blow-off limits under concurrent and opposed external airflows up to 50 m/s.
      • As the airflow velocity increases, the smoldering propagation rate first increases to its maximum value (Oxygen-limited Regime) and subsequently remains stable (Thermal Regime), regardless of the airflow direction. Afterward, it slightly decreases (Chemical Regime) until blow-off, and the blow-off of opposed smoldering is easier, similar to the pattern of flame spread.
      • The blow-off airflow velocity (13–46 m/s) of smoldering combustion is around ten times larger than that of flaming combustion, and it decreases as the fuel diameter or density increases.

    How to Build a Firebreak to Stop Smouldering Peat Fire: Insights From a Laboratory-scale Study in International Journal of Wildland Fire

    • This publication contributes to the Fire Service and Wildland/WUI Fire threads of the SFPE Research Roadmap.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Explores the feasibility of firebreaks to control smouldering peat fires through laboratory-scale experiments with the dry-mass moisture content (MC) of peat soil varying from 10%(air-dried) to 125%.
      • Finds that smouldering peat fire may be successfully extinguished above the mineral soil layer, even if the peat layer is not entirely removed.
      • There are two criteria for an effective peat firebreak: (I) adding water to make the peat layer sufficiently wet (>115% MC in the present work); and (II) ensuring that the peat layer is thinner than the quenching thickness (<5 cm). Criterion I may fail if the water table declines or the peat layer is dried by surface fires and hot weather; thus, satisfying Criterion II is more attainable.
      • A sloping trench-shaped firebreak is recommended to guide water flow and help maintain high peat moisture content.

    Climate-induced Arctic-boreal Peatland Fire and Carbon Loss in the 21st Century in Science of The Total Environment

    • This publication contributes to the Wildland/WUI Fires thread of the SFPE Research Roadmap.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Develops a new physical model to estimate the extra carbon emissions from artic-boreal peat fires.
      • The predicted total carbon loss from boreal peat fires in the 21st century is 28 Gt.
      • Under a larger artic warming rate, the peat fire carbon loss with further increase.
      • The boreal peat fires affect the ecosystem through multiple biogeochemical processes.


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    Natalia Flores Quiroz from Stellenbosch University was awarded 5K to provide support for her project on the development, and application of forensic investigation procedures for informal settlement fires, which seeks to develop new tools of fire investigation for people living in poor conditions. 






    Publications: 

    Several publications have resulted from this project, including: 

    Fire Incident Analysis of a Large-scale Informal Settlement Fire Based on Video Imagery in International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
    • This publication contributes to the Human Behavior, Non-Building Fires, Wildland/WUI Fires, as well as Fire Dynamics and Fire Service threads of the SFPE Research Roadmap. 
    • Key takeaways: 
      • Importance of studying real fire incidents in informal settlements to understand the fire spread, the human behavior, and firefighters’ response and operations with respect to those incidents. 
      • Implications for the development of policy for safety during urban environment large-scale fires, as well as the development of improved interventions, firefighter strategies, community layouts, and response strategies for low-income communities. 
    Application of the Framework for Fire Investigations in Informal Settlements to Large-scale Real Fire Events – Consideration of Fire Formation Patterns, Fire Spread Rates and Home Survivability in Fire Safety Journal
    • This publication contributes to the Non-Building Fires, Forensics/Investigations and Wildland/WUI Fires threads of the SFPE Research Roadmap. 
    • Key takeaways: 
      • The application of the Framework for Fire Investigations in Informal Settlements (FFIIS) allows developing hypotheses that more accurately define the area of fire origin and pattern formation sequence. 
      • Fire pattern for large post-flashover fires in Informal Settlements can be treated as wildland fires pattern. 
    Towards Understanding Fire Causes in Informal Settlements Based on Inhabitant Risk Perception in Fire
    • This publication contributes to the Human Behavior and Wildland/WUI Fires threads of the SFPE Research Roadmap. 
    • Key takeaways: 
      • Survey respondents’ risk perception emphasized factors outside their control when asked about their own household, but personal irresponsibility when asked about their community. 
      • Inhabitants’ fire risk perception of their settlement is similar to that of firefighters in previous research. 
      • The risk mitigation demands are more focused on decreasing the consequences of the fire than on the occurrence of a fire event. 
      • The (South African) national fire statistics are not capturing the causes of real fire incidents in informal settlements. 
      • Improvements to the documentation process after a fire event could provide critical information for the implementation of prevention measures. 

    2019


    SV.jpg

    Sandra Vaiciulyte from the University of Greenwich awarded 5K to provide support for her project, When Disaster Strikes: Human Responses to Wildfires and Evacuation in the South of France and Australia, which is a study that focuses on human behavior, specifically that of people from different cultures in wildfire scenarios.



    Publications: 

    Several publications have resulted from this project, including: 

    Exploring ‘Wait and See’ Responses in French and Australian WUI Wildfire Emergencies in Safety Science

    • This publication contributes to the Human Behavior and Wildland/WUI Fires threads of the SFPE Research Roadmap. 
    • Key takeaways: 
      • This study systematically compared survey responses of residents in French and Australian at-risk regions.
      • The results showed regional differences, with participants in France tending to choose to ‘wait and see’ as a response to fire cues more often than participants in Australia.
      • There was less waiting when participants received environmental as compared to social cues, although the type of environmental/social cue appeared to moderate this behaviour.
    Cross-cultural Comparison of Behavioural Itinerary Actions and Times in Wildfire Evacuations in Safety Science

    • This publication contributes to the Human Behavior and Wildland/WUI Fires threads of the SFPE Research Roadmap. 
    • Key takeaways: 
      • This study compares survey data from residents of areas at-risk of wildfires in the South of France and Australia.
      • Results revealed that, across the two regions, the discrete actions in response to a wildfire threat were similar overall, albeit their priority sometimes differed. However, when analysed by category, the prioritisation of actions was uniform across samples.
      • Regional differences were also observed in relation to: mean number of actions, time committed to actions and the influence of socio-demographic factors, indicating geographical and cultural determinants.

    2017

    • Franz Richter from Imperial College London awarded 5K to provide partial support for the Computational Investigation of the Timber Response to Fire, which is a study that focuses on the creation of a toolkit to more accurately predict the charring rate of timber, thereby helping fire engineers and regulators assess the safety of proposed building designs.
    • Dr. Michael Gollner from the University of Maryland awarded 5K to provide partial support for the graduate student program instructor and lecture and laboratory materials for An Introduction to Math and Physics through Fire Dynamics, which is a unique, semester-long, on-campus high school bridge program designed to introduce students to advanced concepts in chemistry, physics, and mathematics through the lens of fire dynamics, so as to increase their exposure to, and understanding of, the value of these concepts, which are typically taught independently as separate areas of study.

    2015

    • Dr. Brian Meacham from Worcester Polytechnic Institute awarded 5K to provide partial support for the development of a textbook entitled Fire Performance Analysis for Buildings, which will be published by John Wiley & Sons. The textbook will provide a framework for evaluating the performance of buildings against fire scenarios that link the fire, active and passive fire defenses, people, building architecture, and site conditions. The award will help support the participation of students and others to assist in the completion of fire performance analysis examples, supporting graphics, and the final technical review.
    • Dr. Brian Meacham from Worcester Polytechnic Institute awarded 5K to provide partial support for the research project Post-Earthquake Fire Performance of a Light-Gauge Cold-Formed Steel Framed Building. The funds from this grant will support room-scale fire tests in order to assess the fire performance of structural and non-structural systems, including exit system components (corridors, stairs, doors), fire- and smoke-rated compartmentation (walls and ceilings), exterior system performance (walls, windows), and if time and resources permit active fire protection systems. The research is slated to begin in May 2016 and findings will be summarized and disseminated via multiple formats, including conference papers, journal articles, and technical reports.
    • Egle Rackauskaite from Imperial College London awarded 15K to provide partial support for the research project Response of Steel and Concrete Structures to Travelling Fires. The funds will go towards creating a collaboration between the Imperial College London and the University of Michigan to investigate and compare the structural response of steel frames and concrete frames to traveling fires. The research will capture the fire heterogeneity effect on the structural response and quantify it in a probabilistic framework. This will identify the critical fires that could lead to the most severe conditions for the structures.

    2014

    • Isaac Leventon from The University of Maryland awarded $11,607 to provide partial support to provide a new high school bridge course: An Introduction to Math and Physics through Fire Dynamics. The funds will go towards creating a semester-long program that is designed to introduce students to advanced concepts in chemistry, physics, and mathematics, through the lens of fire dynamics to increase their exposure to, and understanding of, the value of these concepts, which are typically taught independently as separate areas of study. By studying the content of this course as it applies to a series of real-world applications, student awareness of the responsibilities and career opportunities of a fire protection engineer is also developed. Watch a story on The University of Maryland-funded course Sparking a Love for Science by Studying How Christmas Trees Burn.

    2013


    • Dr. Jose Torero from The University of Queensland was awarded 5K to provide partial support to the creation of a fire safety engineering program at The University of Queensland for the creation of a new SFPE Student Chapter (UQ-SFPE). You can find all the great things UQ-SFPE is doing here.