Bret M. Webb, Ph.D., P.E., D.CE
University of South Alabama
150 Jaguar Drive, SH3142
Mobile, AL 36688 USA
Phone: (251) 460-6174
Fax: (251) 461-1400

Research Positions

Currently seeking multiple graduate students to fill positions at the MS, PhD, and Postdoc levels. Research topics include: living shorelines, beach and tidal inlet dynamics, barrier island response to extreme events, groundwater impacts to coastal lagoons, and infrastructure resilience. Research assistantships are available. Click here for more information.

Current Research Assistants

PhD Students
Garland Pennison


MS Students
Kelsey Carpenter
Sean McQuagge
Elizabeth Winter
Jackie Wittmann


Undergraduate Students
Ian Cox

Former Students

MSCE Students
Patrick Hautau (2018)
Marshall Hayden (2018)
Kate Haynes (2018)
Justin Lowlavar (2017)
Bryan Groza (2016)
Kari Servold (2015)
Chris Marr (2013)
Richard Allen (2013)
Miyuki Matthews (2012)


Post Docs
Jon Risinger
Jungwoo Lee

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We have two new research projects starting soon and both provide funding for research assistants at various academic levels. One of the projects, funded through the RESTORE Act, will focus on the hydrodynamics and water quality within a coastal lagoon. That project will involve fieldwork and hydrodynamic modeling and will support one MSCE student and one postdoc position. The other project, funded by the US Coastal Research Program, aims to develop systems engineering approaches that improve community resilience to coastal hazards. That project will support two PhD students in our Systems Engineering program. Position requirements are summarized below. Those interested in the positions below should send me a cover letter and resume/CV by email ( Please be sure to state in your cover letter which position you are seeking.

  • Postdoc Position (1): The ideal candidate will possess a PhD in coastal engineering, oceanography, marine science, or a closely related field. Candidates should have a strong background in programming (e.g., MATLAB, R, Python, etc.), GIS, spatio-temporal data analysis, and the ability to prepare and apply hydrodynamic models. Familiarity with Delft3D is preferred but not required. This position will be expected to assist with fieldwork (in/on water).
  • PhD Positions (2): The ideal candidate will possess a MS degree in coastal engineering or a closely related field. Acceptable candidates will have some knowledge of contemporary coastal resilience issues, extreme events, climate change, and civil engineering infrastructure. Experience with programming (e.g., MATLAB, R, Python, etc.), familiarity with GIS, and a strong background in probability and statistics are required. Some experience applying hydrodynamic models is preferred but not required. Students should understand that their PhD will be in Systems Engineering with an emphasis on the natural and built coastal environments. These positions are limited to US citizens only.
  • MSCE Position (1): The ideal candidate will possess a BS degree in civil engineering, environmental engineering, marine science, or closely related field. A complete understanding of probability and statistics is necessary. The ability to perform fieldwork (in/on the water) is required for this project. Familiarity with programming, GIS, modeling, data analysis, and research experience are preferred but not required.

Active overwashing event on N.C. Highway 12 following Hurricane Dorian. (NCDOT)

Garland Pennison, PE recently defended his doctoral dissertation research related to coastal road reliability. Garland’s dissertation, “Assessing Coastal Road Reliability Using Celerity Dispersion Functions,” presents new methods for characterizing the vulnerability of coastal highways to extreme events. Garland’s work uses the outputs from high fidelity numerical model simulations of extreme events, which are integrated over the duration of the event to create cumulative intensity measures that describe road damage locations and damage severity. Garland’s work has uncovered a very interesting correlation between cumulative wave celerity dispersion predicted by either water surface elevation or peak wave period, with the answers being extremely similar to one another. Furthermore, development and application of a cumulative pseudo-Froude number does an excellent job predicting not only the road locations that are most likely to fail, but also the severity of damage. Some of Garland’s dissertation products are listed and linked below and a forthcoming manuscript is in preparation for a peer-reviewed journal. Once available, Garland’s final approved dissertation will be linked in the list of materials below. In the meantime, please consider watching Garland’s dissertation defense recording below.

  • Pennison, G.P. 2018. Predicting Coastal Roadway Damage using Modified Dispersion Functions. Center of Excellence for Risk-Based Community Resiliency Planning, First Place Award in the Graduate and Post-Doctoral Competition; Awarded 4 May 2018. (link)
  • Pennison, G.P., Cloutier, R.J., and Webb, B.M. 2018. Local Coastal Roads—Next Generation. Proceedings of the 2018 Industrial and Systems Engineering Conference. K. Baker, D. Berry, C. Rainwater, eds. 6 pp. (link)
  • Pennison, G.P., and Webb, B.M. 2018. Coastal Roads: Using Failure to Strengthen Resiliency. 2018 National Coastal Conference, American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA 2018) Resilient Shorelines for Rising Tides, Galveston, TX. (link)
  • Pennison, G.P., Webb, B.M., Padgett, J., and Gidaris, I. 2018 . Predicting Coastal Roadway Damage using Modified Dispersion Functions; Pennison. 36th International Conference on Coastal Engineering (ICCE 2018), Baltimore, MD. (link)
  • Pennison, G.P., and Webb, B.M. 2019. Using Coastal Road Failures to Improve Resiliency. 2nd International Conference on Transportation System Resilience to Natural Hazards and Extreme Weather (Transportation Research Board of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine), Washington, DC. (link)
  • Pennison, G.P., and Webb, B.M. 2020. Coastal Road System Failures: Cause and Effect. Proceedings of the 2020 Industrial and Systems Engineering Conference. L. Cromarty, R. Shirwaiker, P. Wang, eds. 6 pp. (link)
  • Pennison, G.P., and Webb, B.M. 2020. Transdisciplinary Systems Thinking: Sustainability of Coastal Systems. Proceedings of the 2020 Industrial and Systems Engineering Conference. L. Cromarty, R. Shirwaiker, P. Wang, eds. 6 pp. (link)
  • Pennison, G.P. 2020. A Systems Approach for Evaluating Coastal Road System Reliability Using Cumulative Celerity Dispersion Functions. Dissertation, University of South Alabama. (link)
  • Darestani, Y.M., Padgett, J.E., Webb, B.M., Pennison, G.P., and Fereshtehnejad, E. Fragility Analysis of Coastal Roadways and Performance Assessment of Coastal Transportation Systems subjected to Flood Hazards. J. Performance Constructed Facilities (in review).
  • Pennison, G.P., Webb, B.M., Cloutier, R., Smallegan, S.M., and Steward, E. Assessing Coastal Road System Reliability using Celerity Dispersion Functions. Coastal Engineering Journal, Special Issue (in preparation).

*Garland’s work was conducted as part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Center of Excellence for Risk-Based Community Resilience Planning under Cooperative Agreement 70NANB15H044 and 70NANB20H008 between the NIST and Colorado State University. The content expressed in these works are the views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of NIST.