Susanna Rose Westersund
Civil, environmental and sustainable engineering
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Graduation date: Spring 2023
FURI | Spring 2022
Treated Waste Plastics: A Solution for Enhancing the Performance of Concrete Construction
The environment today is facing concerns about the over-accumulation of plastics in landfills as well as excessive CO2 emissions. Containers and packaging take up approximately 15 million tons each year, and accumulations such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch are entering the oceans. Work has been done to alter and treat polyethylene plastic to be added to cement mixtures. This is done in an attempt to increase the bearing capacity and ductility of concrete in addition to decreasing carbon emissions and plastic waste.
Mentor: Christian Hoover
Featured project | Spring 2022
Civil engineering junior Susanna Westersund is making concrete more sustainable and reducing plastic in landfills by developing a method to replace some of the carbon-emitting cement with plastic waste. Westersund is conducting this research with her faculty mentor, Assistant Professor Christian Hoover, and through this experience has gained confidence in herself and her abilities as an engineer.
What made you want to get involved in FURI? Why did you choose the project you’re working on?
I wanted to get involved in the FURI program ever since I heard about it my first year at ASU. I thought it would be an interesting way to get involved in research beyond just being a volunteer.
I chose this project because I am interested in the sustainable materials that can go into civil engineering.
What has been your most memorable experience as a FURI student researcher?
The biggest thing I have noticed since being in this program is that I now see applications of things I am learning in my classes. There are also things I have learned in the lab that I have been able to apply in my courses.
How will your engineering research project impact the world?
My project could impact the world because it is a solution to plastic waste and recycling. Concrete production is one of the leading causes of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, so by replacing some of the cement with plastic particles, it is better for the environment. Plus this will allow for a new end-of-life for these plastics.
How do you see this experience helping with your career goals?
This project has helped me because I can speak on more experiences. I now have experience working in a team along with experience in many different lab settings. When I go into job interviews I have the ability to talk about my project and how I have applied myself outside of class.
What is the best advice you’ve gotten from your faculty mentor, Christian Hoover?
One of the best pieces of advice I have gotten is to trust in my abilities. I always second guess myself, but through working with him I have begun to trust in my own knowledge and opinions.
Why should other students get involved in FURI?
Other students should get involved in this program because it is a great way to get involved outside of the classroom. I have met many different faculty members and students who have given me connections and I have learned more about other projects as well.