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A Letter on MCEER's future, from the new director

October 9, 2008

Dear Colleagues:

Now that MCEER has successfully transitioned from an NSF-sponsored Earthquake Engineering Research Center (EERC) into a Multiple Hazard Engineering Research Center, it is a good time to reflect on past accomplishments and embrace future opportunities.

Led by visionary academics, students, industry partners and sponsors for the last twenty-two years, the innovative research at MCEER in many ways, has revolutionized the field of earthquake engineering worldwide. From the development and implementation of supplemental damping and seismic isolation systems for buildings and bridges to the development of pre- and post-disaster decision-support systems for public and private organizations, MCEER has been successful in integrating the talents of engineers and social scientists to develop complete solutions to earthquake engineering problems.

By way of the vision and leadership of past directors Professor George Lee and Professor Michel Bruneau, and the contributions of countless center researchers, MCEER also has redefined the field of multiple hazard engineering through the development and quantification of the disaster resilience concept. MCEER’s resilience framework paves the way for further development of specific multiple hazard engineering solutions for years to come. Anchored by the long-term support of its various sponsors, including the State of New York and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the future of MCEER is bright indeed.

It is now, under the umbrella of a new shared management structure, that I have gratefully accepted the opportunity to serve as MCEER Director for the next two years, beginning September 1, 2008. I am in debt to my colleagues at the University at Buffalo for trusting me in this leadership role.

The center’s new shared management model emerged after months of planning by a committee appointed by the University at Buffalo’s (UB) Dean of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Its main objective is to further integrate and energize cohesive teams of researchers, students, industry partners, and staff, to collaboratively meet the challenge of engineering resilience solutions not only for earthquakes, but for multiple hazards, as well.

Going forward, MCEER’s research plan will concentrate on the discovery and development of new knowledge, tools and technologies for the intelligent renewal of infrastructure that also equip communities to become more resilient in the face of extreme events arising from multiple natural and man-made hazards. The program will continue to leverage MCEER’s many years of earthquake engineering expertise, and it will revolve around three complementary research thrusts on 1) Infrastructure and public policy, 2) Sustainable and resilient buildings, and 3) Innovative technologies. It will expand on NSF-sponsored research on lifelines, hospitals, and response and recovery, and build on the strength of on-going high-profile research activities at UB, as well as those of researchers at other collaborating institutions. Examples of these include the multi-year FHWA project on the seismic design of bridges, led by Professor George Lee, and the NSF-funded NEESR Grand Challenge Project on Nonstructural Components, led by Professor Manos Maragakis from the University of Nevada at Reno.

This new program also is bearing fruit in the form of other projects including a three-year study to enhance resilience of electrical power systems in earthquakes. This project, funded by the California Energy Commission and the Bonneville Power Administration in Oregon, is led by Professor Andrei Reinhorn.

The new organizational model also encourages strategic alliances with a wider variety of external partners. For example, a joint initiative with the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center of the University of California at Berkeley recently was established to develop unified design guidelines for bridge bearings and seismic isolators. This two-year project is being funded by the California Department of Transportation and is led by Professor Michael Constantinou.

MCEER also will continue to learn from extreme events by deploying reconnaissance teams to disaster stricken areas. Following Hurricane Gustav, an NSF-supported MCEER team conducted follow-up investigations among hospitals in Louisiana. This effort focused on the emergency preparedness and response of hospitals following Hurricane Gustav, and how these health-care facilities improved their plans as a result of Hurricane Katrina three years earlier. This study is led by Professor Daniel Hess from UB, Professor Lucy Arendt from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay and Mr. Ronald Eguchi from ImageCat, Inc. in California, on behalf of the MCEER Remote Sensing Institute. Reports from these investigations are being prepared and will be disseminated to stakeholders far and wide via print and electronic media.

Given MCEER’s longstanding record of success, and these latest developments that point toward continuing achievement ahead, I feel thoroughly privileged to accept the torch passed on by Michel Bruneau – and I look forward to the opportunity to contribute in maintaining the long tradition of excellence at MCEER. Quoting past University at Buffalo Provost and leadership guru, Dr. Warren G. Bennis: “Good leaders make people feel that they're at the very heart of things, not at the periphery.” Throughout my involvement with MCEER, the center made me feel part of an important research enterprise that invigorated my professional career. I hope that my contribution will make current and future MCEER participants feel the same way.

Sincerely,

ublogo

Andre Filiatrault, Ph.D., Eng.
Director