Meet Laura Dalton

Tell me a little about yourself!

I just started my second year as a PhD student in the Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering Department working under Dr. Mohammad Pour-Ghaz. After graduating I plan to complete a post-doctoral position and pursue a career in academia where I hope to run my own imaging laboratory. Outside of my PhD, I enjoy being outside doing anything active, learning new things, and traveling/experiencing to new places.

What primary instrument(s) are you using for your research and what do you like about it?

My favorite piece of equipment in the AIF is the new Zeiss Xradia 510 Versa 3D X-ray Tomography System. I really enjoy using this machine because I operated a similar CT scanner at my previous job to image a variety of geologic materials. Having past experience with a similar machine has assisted me in learning the system and utilizing it to the fullest for the CT scanning I am currently doing. Using 3D imaging techniques to further the understanding of porous material structure and how fluids move through porous materials is a topic I am highly passionate about and currently working on in my PhD studies. 

“An additional perk of this system [Zeiss Xradia] is that it extremely user-friendly and can be used on a range of materials!”

Nano-CT Images

Nano-CT Scan of Concrete Volume, Interior Structure, Segmented Cement Paste Matrix (Light Grey), Segmented Air Void System (Red), and Combined Paste and Air Void Systems.


What have you been researching and how is it impacting the community?

My PhD topic involves utilizing imaging modalities at different length scales and hybrid 3D imaging techniques to improve the understanding of mass transport in porous media such as concrete. Concrete is unique in that water is needed to make concrete, but water can also cause concrete structures to deteriorate over time.

From driving over bridges to walking on sidewalks to sitting in a building, most people in the United States interact with concrete structures daily. My research involves better understanding how water and ions moves through concrete so we can use this information to mitigate and/or inhibit deterioration of concrete material. Improving this area of knowledge can assist in improving the maintenance and long-term safety of the infrastructure utilized by citizens in their everyday lives.  

What have you learned from your experience at AIF?

From my experience at AIF, I have learned how to operate a range of imaging equipment and been educated on the science behind each machine. It is one capability to learn to operate a piece of laboratory equipment, but a completely different experience to fully grasp how the technology works and understand the fundamental science involved. This type of understanding has pushed me to formulate different approaches to my research using the various pieces of equipment available to me in the AIF.  

Best thing about AIF in 5 words or less?

Knowledgeable and helpful staff!

Is there a staff member at AIF that has helped you?

I would like to thank Hanhan Zhou, BB Chung, Roberto Garcia, and Chuck Mooney for training me on various pieces of imaging and sample preparation equipment. My research would not be what it is without your help. Thank you!