About Our Research

While there is no one-size-fits-all sustainable infrastructure solution, our research works to remove unnecessary barriers to this goal. We study engineering decision making at the system, behavioral, and cognitive level to find solutions that lead to less carbon intensive and more user-centered solutions for our infrastructure systems.

Related to Theme 1: systems, the inherent scale and complexity of infrastructure often limits the feedback of information to the engineering design team and reduces their ability to make more accurate judgments about future projects. Our research team analyzes historical, current, and readily available data about infrastructure systems to inform engineers about design decisions that lead to energy and emission reductions.

Related to Theme 2: behavior, the solutions we have developed relate to choice architecture, meaning understanding, and when appropriate, shifting the way design options are posed to infrastructure stakeholders and decision makers. Connected to this theme is education for sustainability. We assess how students learn about sustainability (including climate change) in higher education and how this informs their beliefs and agency.

Related to Theme 3: cognition, to better understand how decision makers process, interpret, and make judgments we use methods from cognitive neuroscience. Advances at the cognitive level inform our recommendations to encourage more consideration for sustainability and provide a better understanding of how risk and uncertainty influence engineering judgment.

Our Decision Engineering Lab, includes functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to conduct empirical research on decision making. Please contact us if you are interested in using, or partnering, on a future fNIRS project.

About Me


Tripp Shealy is an assistant professor in the Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and principal faculty member in the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech. Previously, Dr. Shealy worked as a consultant for the construction industry reviewing building codes, assisting engineering firms with sustainability assessments, and as a project engineer building water treatment facilities. He received his doctorate from Clemson University. His research focus is on engineering decision making for sustainable infrastructure systems. He targets under-explored areas by applying concepts from psychology and data science to implement cost effective ways to guide stakeholders in the infrastructure development process towards decisions that lead to more sustainable outcomes. His research interest also includes how themes related to sustainability can attract new students to study engineering.

Tripp lives in Blacksburg, VA with his wife and son. When not teaching, advising students, or conducting research he is typically mountain biking in the national forest adjacent to campus.

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