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On the Road to Research

This article appears in the Summer 2024 print edition of NAPA Quarterly. Subscribe here.

NAPAREF Road Scholars program aims to clear hurdles for pavement students.

Industry leaders set a goal to raise $3 million for graduate students at the National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT) at Auburn University.

That goal led to the creation of the Road Scholars program, a collaboration between the NAPA Research and Education Foundation (NAPAREF) and NCAT that aims to support students in pavement studies as they complete their graduate programs on the way to joining the roadbuilding workforce.

Make a pledge today to support the Road Scholars program.

The Road Scholars program in many ways is illustrative of the original partnership between NAPAREF and Auburn that established the NCAT program in 1986, and later the world-renowned Test Track. A national proving ground for asphalt pavements where highway agencies and industry sponsors fund testing on the 1.7-mile oval in 200-foot test sections, research at the Test Track is a major feature of NCAT graduate studies. This real-world laboratory allows for cutting-edge experimentation while avoiding the risk of failure on actual roadways.


NAPA Quarterly reached out to the two newest members of the NCAT Board of Directors to learn about the value of the research done at NCAT and its role in shaping the future of the asphalt pavement industry.


Carolina Cavalcante
President, Tilcon Connecticut, A CRH Co.

WHAT ABOUT NCAT’S BOARD OF DIRECTORS FIRST ATTRACTED YOU TO PURSUE A LEADERSHIP ROLE AND HOW DOES YOUR WORK WITH TILCON INFORM YOUR ROLE ON THE NCAT BOARD?

I saw the opportunity to be part of the NCAT’s Board as a way to learn more about asphalt technology and research in real-time! The Center is a worldwide leader in providing research for our industry, so they play a significant role in the direction asphalt mixes and specifications will move towards in the future. I have an Industrial Engineering degree, but my career has been more focused on strategy and management, so I don’t consider myself an asphalt expert. This exposure to NCAT is also part of my personal development, increasing my knowledge and expertise in the industry.

As the President of Tilcon CT, a CRH Company, I am well-versed in the practical implementation of mix designs in the field. This hands-on experience equips me to bring valuable insights back to NCAT, ensuring that our research efforts are not just theoretical, but also practical and implementable.

NCAT AND NAPA HAVE ANNOUNCED THE ROAD SCHOLARS PROGRAM, WHICH AIMS TO RAISE SCHOLARSHIP FUNDS TO SUPPORT GRADUATE STUDENTS IN PAVEMENT STUDIES AT AUBURN. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE VALUE OF THIS INVESTMENT WILL MEAN FOR THE FUTURE OF THE ASPHALT PAVEMENT INDUSTRY?

My recent exposure to NCAT and Auburn University showed me that they have been truly leading asphalt education and research for many years. The Center’s history is remarkable, and I encourage more people to learn about NCAT. As an industry, we are experiencing a labor shortage. Implementing a scholarship program opens doors for more students to pursue education in our field, and potentially attracts a diverse range of candidates. This is a win-win!


heather dylla

Heather Dylla
Vice President for Sustainability & Innovation, Construction Partners, Inc.

WHAT ABOUT NCAT’S BOARD OF DIRECTORS FIRST ATTRACTED YOU TO PURSUE A LEADERSHIP ROLE AND HOW DOES YOUR WORK WITH CPI INFORM YOUR ROLE?

Bridging the gap between research and its practical application has always been a passion of mine.

Assuming a leadership position at a premier research institution like NCAT is not only a dream realized but also a responsibility I hold in high regard. My role as the Vice President of Sustainability and Innovation at Construction Partners Inc. (CPI) complements NCAT’s objectives perfectly. As we expand our sustainability and innovation initiatives at CPI, I am eager to leverage this experience to assist NCAT in identifying gaps and opportunities. This collaboration aims to propel advancements in both research and education, further aligning with NCAT’s mission.

“Attracting and retaining top talent in our field is not just crucial for our industry’s growth; it’s imperative for meeting the research demands of the future.”

NCAT AND NAPA HAVE ANNOUNCED THE ROAD SCHOLARS PROGRAM, WHICH AIMS TO RAISE SCHOLARSHIP FUNDS TO SUPPORT GRADUATE STUDENTS IN PAVEMENT STUDIES AT AUBURN. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE VALUE OF THIS INVESTMENT WILL MEAN FOR THE FUTURE OF THE ASPHALT PAVEMENT INDUSTRY?

Attracting and retaining top talent in our field is not just crucial for our industry’s growth; it’s imperative for meeting the research demands of the future and ensuring our competitive edge. Our dedication to The Road Forward: A Vision for Net Zero Carbon Emissions for the Asphalt Pavement Industry necessitates a commitment to innovation and a skilled workforce. NCAT, bolstered by the contributions of these graduate students, is instrumental in transforming our knowledge and understanding of asphalt pavements into tangible advancements. CPI is proud to be a sponsor of the Road Scholars Program, a pioneering initiative designed to support the next generation of industry experts. This synergy is essential for propelling us toward our ambitious goals and maintaining our industry’s leadership in sustainable development.


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