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MCEER Bulletin, Volume 21, Number 3, Fall 2007

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Volume 21, Number 3, Fall 2007

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2007 Tri-Center Field Mission to Japan

group photo at shake table

MCEER SLC Participants, (from left): Bing Qu, Seda Dogruel, Nurhan Ecemis and Georgios Apostolakis, at E-Defense facilities in Miki City

The NSF-sponsored 2007 Tri-Center Field Mission comprised three educators and fourteen students from MCEER, MAE, PEER and NEES. The group visited Japan, one of the most seismically active regions in the world and a leader in earthquake engineering research, from July 21-28, 2007. The team, led by PEER’s Scott Ashford, included four MCEER SLC members, all Ph.D. students from the University at Buffalo (UB)-- Georgios Apostolakis, Seda Dogruel, Nurhan Ecemis and Bing Qu-- along with MCEER Director of Education, Sabanayagam Thevanayagam.

The trip began with a visit to the Center for Urban Earthquake Engineering (CUEE) at Tokyo Institute of Technology. Students participated in a Japan-US-Taiwan Joint symposium on earthquake engineering, and made presentations on their Ph.D. research topics.

collapsed plant

Collapsed Cement Plant near Kashiwazaki City from the 2007 Niigata Earthquake

The next day, participants took a boat tour of Tokyo Bay and observed construction projects of the Tokyo-wan Rinkai Bridge and the D-runway of the Tokyo International Airport. They proceeded to Port and Airport Research Institute (PARI) for a technical visit. PARI is an independent administrative institution with a primary goal of facilitating construction of ports and airports through research, by developing and improving technologies. Students viewed demonstration tests at major laboratory facilities: Underwater 3D Shaking Table; Simulation Tank for Oil Recovery in Marine Situations; laboratory for Coastal Ecotoxicology/Mesocosm; Geotechnical Centrifuge; Aircraft Load Simulator; and Large Hydro-Geo Flume (tsunami facility).

The group also organized a post-earthquake reconnaissance visit to Kashiwazaki city, the area most affected by the July 16, 2007 earthquake in Niigata, Japan. They visited damaged bridges; a collapsed concrete plant; areas with lateral spreading and liquefied soils; and collapsed/damaged wooden houses. Though tragic in nature, the devastation of earthquakes can serve as a real-life learning laboratory and the participants learned valuable lessons that brought new perspectives to their research agendas.

students inside girder

This damaged steel bridge girder at the Hanshin Expressway Museum was removed after the 1995 Kobe Earthquake

The next day, the group traveled to Kyoto, where they visited the Nijo Castle, a UNESCO world heritage site, originally built in 1603 as the official Kyoto residence of the first Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyasu. The group then toured the Disaster Prevention Research Institute (DPRI) at Kyoto University directed by Professor Susumu Iai. At Kyoto University, another Japan-US Joint symposium on earthquake engineering took place and students from both institutions presented their research. A technical visit to the DPRI experimental facilities followed. Professor Iai invited the group to dinner at a traditional Japanese restaurant where cultural and engineering experiences were exchanged with Japanese students.

The last day, the team visited the E-Defense facilities at Miki City, where they toured the laboratory which houses the largest seismic table in the world.

After E-Defense, the team visited the Hanshin Expressway Museum and had a unique opportunity to see components taken from the collapsed Hanshin Expressway during the January 17, 1995 Kobe earthquake and learned about the retrofit/redesign strategies and new technologies that were employed in its expeditious restoration. The final stop was at the 980m long Minato-Ohhashi Bridge in Osaka City, the world’s third longest truss bridge, and participants learned about the retrofits implemented after the earthquake in 1995.

Students are preparing reports focusing on different aspects of earthquake engineering based on new insights they gained from this Field Mission. An SLC seminar is planned for the 2007-2008 academic year. For more information, visit