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Pakistani Professors Train in Earthquake Engineering Techniques

Release Date: October 31, 2008

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- News of any earthquake spreads quickly among the dozens of earthquake engineering researchers and students at the University at Buffalo. But Wednesday's magnitude 6.4 quake in southwest Pakistan held particular interest for two researchers visiting UB and MCEER this semester from Pakistan's NWFP University of Engineering and Technology in Peshawar.

Since August, Ali Syed and Amjad Naseer, both professors in that university's Earthquake Engineering Center, have been visiting researchers at MCEER, UB and its Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory (SEESL), where they are participating in intensive training in earthquake engineering technologies and testing techniques. MCEER is a national center of excellence focused on multi-hazard engineering and headquartered at UB.

Both professors learned of the recent quake very soon after it occurred. It was situated near Quetta, in one of Pakistan's most seismically active regions; in 1935, that city was destroyed by an earthquake that killed 35,000 people.

"As far as Quetta city is concerned, there may be some damage there from this new earthquake, but so far the exact amount and type is not yet known," said Naseer.

Greater damage and large numbers of casualties occurred in the small, impoverished and remote villages, some of which were reportedly devastated.

Naseer said that most homes in these villages are adobe style, made of mud and/or sun-dried brick and straw with heavy roofs. But even these modest homes can be made more earthquake-resistant, he said, by erecting timber posts and braces in corners of rooms and in the middle of walls, and by joining them with horizontal posts.

Similar techniques, including confined masonry, which he is focusing on, also will benefit masonry buildings, which are prevalent throughout Pakistan. He has tested single- and double-story typical confined brick masonry building models on the shake table at the University of Engineering and Technology to better understand their behavior. These techniques, he said, have been successfully employed in regions of high seismicity throughout the world, for example, in India, Mexico, Peru and Serbia.

Connections between UB and other U.S. universities and the University of Engineering and Technology in Pakistan were launched not long after that nation's devastating 2005 earthquake in which 80,000 people died. The Engineering University at Peshawar signed a three-year memorandum of understanding with UB's MCEER to begin research that would help reduce seismic damage in Pakistan.

As part of that relationship, a student from the University of Engineering and Technology is currently completing his doctorate in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering in UB's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and a second student will begin his studies at UB in the spring.

"In seismic testing, the University at Buffalo is among the top few institutions in the U.S. and the world," said Ali Syed. "We are auditing classes and getting exposure to state-of-the-art methodologies and techniques."

At UB, Syed and Naseer have worked closely with Andrei Reinhorn, Ph.D., Clifford C. Furnas Professor of Structural Engineering, and with the technical staff of the SEESL.

"This unique hands-on training is offered to international researchers and laboratory staff with interests in acquiring and operating similar equipment and/or other components in their laboratory facilities," said Andre Filiatrault, Ph.D., director of MCEER and SEESL and UB professor in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering.

While Syed has visited UB previously for short periods (he has an uncle who lives in Buffalo), he said that the opportunity to spend several months here is extremely gratifying.

And while the professors have worked with other universities in the U.S., they are interested in doing more with UB, particularly in seismic bridge design.

"Seismic research on bridges has just started in Pakistan and since this is one of UB's key areas of expertise, we would like to do more with the university," said Syed.

A key factor in the professors' decision to come to UB was the opportunity to work with UB researchers, learning to operate the shake tables and other seismic simulation equipment in SEESL, a state-of-the- art facility that is home to twin, movable shake tables capable of real-time seismic testing of structures up to 120 feet in length. It is a leading equipment site in the National Science Foundation's George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) a nationwide earthquake-engineering "collaboratory."

Since Sept. 11, 2001, faculty in UB's Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering and MCEER, along with other researchers throughout the university, have been applying their expertise to a broad range of natural and manmade hazards from earthquake engineering to extreme events, in close cooperation with the UB 2020 strategic strength in "Extreme Events: Mitigation and Response."

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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