BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo's world-renowned
earthquake engineering faculty, and the internationally diverse
students who come here to train in this critical field, are always
intensely interested in any earthquake that occurs. But for Pierre
Fouche, who is working on his doctorate in earthquake engineering,
the earthquake in Haiti had enormous personal significance. Fouche
is Haitian and his family lives there.
Fouche is one of the very few Haitians who are acquiring the
skills necessary to develop structures that can better withstand
the forces of earthquakes. The knowledge he gains at UB will be
very useful to Haiti as it rebuilds.
Earthquake engineers at UB and MCEER, the Multidisciplinary
Center in Earthquake Engineering Research headquartered at UB, are
working intensively to recruit French-speaking structural engineers
to travel to Haiti on relief missions to ascertain the safety of
structures that are still standing. The UB/MCEER engineers are
working to organize these teams in the coming days and weeks under
the sponsorship of AIDG, Appropriate Infrastructure Development
Group, a national organization that helps provide developing
countries with affordable renewable energy, sanitation and clean
In response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti, UB has developed
the UB Haiti Earthquake Relief Web site, at http://www.student-affairs.buffalo.edu/wecare,
in an effort to help the people of the Caribbean island nation as
they struggle to recover.
The Web site provides information about where donations are
being accepted on campus and student events where donations will be
accepted. The site also offers a link to the American Red Cross,
which is accepting donations via text message.
Since determining that his family members in Haiti were safe,
Fouche has been speaking with members of the media to help provide
information about Haiti, its infrastructure and the profound
challenges that lie ahead.
Unfortunately, Fouche says, he had expected an earthquake to
occur in Haiti.
"Haiti is prone to earthquakes; we have recorded some major
earthquake occurrences in the past," he says, noting that in 1771,
a major event destroyed Port-au-Prince completely and another in
1842 killed about 10,000 people in his hometown (Cap-Haitian).
This history, coupled with the other natural disasters to which
his country is prone, made Fouche want to study earthquake
engineering and hazard engineering in general at UB. Funded by a
Fulbright scholarship, Fouche came to UB in 2006 to get his
master's degree in engineering, because he knew of UB's and MCEER's
international reputation in the field.
Currently working toward his doctorate, Fouche is or has been
funded by the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Dean's
Scholarship, the UB Presidential Fellowship and a UB Engineering
"Here at UB, I have the privilege of learning how to design
buildings to better withstand earthquakes and other natural and
man-made disasters, such as tsunamis and terrorist attacks," he
Working under his doctoral advisor, Michel Bruneau, UB professor
of civil, structural and environmental engineering, through a
Federal Highway Administration grant funding Bruneau's research,
Fouche is learning about multi-hazard engineering, an approach
championed by Bruneau and colleagues at UB and other institutions
in the MCEER consortium.
Multi-hazard design aims to provide an integrated and
cost-effective approach to addressing the numerous potential
threats that can impact the built environment; it is a key focus of
the UB 2020 strategic strength in Extreme Events and is part of
"Definitely, this type of design is the future," says Fouche,
"to come up with integrated engineering solutions that perform well
in every type of hazard, so that solutions can be both economical
and structurally safe."
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.