Cassandra J Rutherford

Cassandra J Rutherford

  • Assistant Professor
Dr. Cassandra Rutherford joined the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering (CCEE) at Iowa State University (ISU) on January 1, 2017, as an assistant professor. Before joining ISU, Dr. Rutherford was a tenure-track assistant professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering from December 2011 until December 2016.

Dr. Rutherford’s research interests are the characterization of soil subjected to dynamic loading, geo-hazard mitigation, ground improvement and the design of deep foundations. She is passionate about helping society overcome geo-hazards (floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, slope failures) and invest in future renewable energy options (tidal current turbines and wind turbines). Within these four areas, she has worked in the advancement of laboratory cyclic testing devices to investigate the effects of earthquakes on nuclear power plants and offshore slopes. She has developed novel methods for soil improvement such as using magnetic particles to improve soil which uses recycled materials such as iron filings and steel slag. She has conducted
centrifuge modeling and analysis of deep foundations for developing offshore tidal current turbines and wind turbines. She has furthered research in offshore in situ testing using surrogate soil materials to “see” how in situ devices are moving through soil. Finally, Dr. Rutherford has led national and international projects related to the investigation of geohazards (submarine landslides, levee failures, erosion, and permafrost degradation). Dr. Rutherford won a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2015 related to offshore foundations for tidal current turbines. Her CAREER award also developed K-12 curriculum to encourage the next generation of engineers to become passionate about renewable energy. Recently, Dr. Rutherford has worked to better understand the dynamic loading of granular materials including gravel roads. Approximately 60% of Iowa’s roads are gravel. Her research helps Iowa DOT engineers improve performance of gravel roads while reducing maintenance costs. Dr. Rutherford is also investigating crushing of offshore calcareous sands. As more renewable energy developments move further offshore, areas around the world with calcareous sands need guidance in how to install offshore foundations such as piles in these crushable and brittle materials.

Since joining ISU, Dr. Rutherford has developed a multi-disciplinary research program, built a state-of-the-art experimental laboratory, disseminated results in peer-reviewed venues (high impact journals and national and international conferences) and actively engaged in local, national, and international outreach activities at K-12, college and adult levels. She has been sought out as an expert for television, radio and news articles and served in prestigious positions such as Governor Reynold’s Blue-Ribbon Commission on Midwest Flooding and the advisory board for the 4th International Symposium on Frontiers in Offshore Geotechnics 2020 in Austin, Texas. Dr. Rutherford was also elected by her geotechnical engineering peers to the board of the United States Universities Council on Geotechnical Education and Research (USUCGER) in 2017 and won the USUCGER Early Career Educator Award in 2021. She has been recognized as an excellent teacher through the Joseph C. and Elizabeth A. Anderlik Faculty Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from CCEE at ISU and her position as a faculty mentor in the ASCE Excellence in Engineering Education (ExCEEd) program.


Contact Info

406 Town Engr.
813 Bissell Rd.
Social Media and Websites

Summary of Impacts on Research

  • Generated over $3.43 million ($1.3M as PI, $2.13M as Co-PI) funding to support her research from federal, state, local and industry sources as a principal and co-principal investigator. 
  • Recipient of the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award titled: “CAREER: Experimental Modeling of Tidal Current Turbine Foundations: An Integrated Research and Education Plan.”
  • Authored 62 peer-reviewed publications in journals, peer-reviewed conferences proceedings and reports.  Thirteen papers are currently under review at the top peer-reviewed journals.  
  • Contributed to 37 invited talks, television interviews, radio interviews, news articles and podcasts.
  • Led Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance (GEER) team during Midwest flooding in 2016.
  • Collaborated with over 46 individuals from the CCEE department, across ISU campus, in industry and other universities both nationally and internationally.

Summary of Impacts on Mentoring and Teaching

  • Advised a diverse group of students including 7 Doctoral (6 graduated), 13 Masters (11 graduated), and 22 undergraduate students (19 graduated).
  • Served on 19 graduate student committees.
  • Mentored 3 doctoral students in the ISU Preparing Future Faculty program.
  • Recipient of the Joseph C. and Elizabeth A. Anderlik Faculty Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering at Iowa State University in 2019.
  • Mentor and assistant mentor for the American Society of Civil Engineers Excellence in Civil Engineering Education (ExCEEd) workshop from 2013-2021.
  • Created Fundamentals of Engineering Exam Geotechnical Engineering review document with online videos to help ISU CCEE students prepare for exam.
  • Re-established the graduate student seminar for geotechnical and materials engineering (CE 581) in 2017.

Summary on Impacts on Institutional and Professional Service

  • Served on department committees including Chair of the Student Recruitment Committee, CCEE Geotechnical Engineering search committee (three different committees), CCEE Construction Engineering search committee, CCEE Environmental Engineering search committee, CCEE Environmental Health and Safety committee, CCEE Promotion and Tenure Review Committee, and CCEE Space and lab cost recovery subcommittee.
  • Served as Graduate Advisor for Geotechnical and Material group (2017-2020).
  • Served as co-advisor for the Geo-Institute (GI) Student Chapter (2019-present).
  • Served on the College of Engineering United Way committee and organized 2 full day fundraisers and over 12 bake sales (2017-2019).
  • Served on 10 NSF panel reviews (2012-2020).
  • Elected to the board of the United States Universities Council on Geotechnical Education and Research (USUCGER), served as secretary (2017-2020).
  • Program technical co-chair of the Deep Foundations Institute DFI44 (2019).
  • Served on Governor Reynold’s Blue-Ribbon Committee on Flooding, Infrastructure and Levee committee (2019-2020).
  • Board of Editors, Deep Foundations Institute (DFI) Journal (2021 – present).
  • Chair, DFI Young member and Student paper competition (2022).
  • Chair, GI Student Participation committee which organizes all GeoChallenges at annual GI conferences (Geo-Wall, Geo-Poster, Geo-Video, Geo-Prediction, and Geo-Shirt). (2020-present).

Summary on Impacts on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity

  • Co-organizer of the CCEE GyGrad Recruitment Weekend focusing on recruitment of underrepresented students (2018 – present).
  • STEAM organizer Nevada Central Elementary encouraging students from diverse backgrounds to consider engineering as a career (2018-present).
  • Participated in f2f: Faculty-to-Faculty Mentoring Dialogues program through the Midwest Experiences in Mentoring Excellence with sessions specifically on diversity, equity, and inclusivity (2022).
  • Initiated CCEE Mentoring Program for undergraduate students, faculty, alumni, and industry partners (2022).