BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Like most doctoral candidates, University at
Buffalo student and Haitian native Pierre Fouché is a study
in focus and determination and, if anything, the Jan. 12, 2010,
earthquake that struck his home country only intensified these
As originally planned, Fouché, who came to UB for his
master's degree in 2006 on a Fulbright scholarship, will defend his
dissertation this summer; it describes a new technique he helped
develop that can better protect bridges from damage caused by
earthquakes and explosions, either malevolent or accidental.
But since last January, Fouché also has been intimately
involved in an effort to transfer to his peers in Haiti the
knowledge he is gaining at UB.
In September and May, he was one of the instructors in a team
organized by UB's internationally renowned MCEER, Multidisciplinary
Center for Earthquake Engineering Research, which is partnering
with Quisqueya University (UniQ) in Port-au-Prince to teach
engineers and architects in Haiti how to incorporate seismic design
into their work.
Fouché will again be one of the instructors in the third
seminar planned for March, as will André Filiatrault, PhD,
MCEER's director, UB professor of civil engineering and one of the
world's leading earthquake engineers. Information on the March
seminar is at http://mceer.buffalo.edu/education/UniQ/registration/default_EN.asp.
When the earthquake struck, Fouché said, it was the first
time in many generations that Haiti had had an earthquake, and
Haitian engineers and architects were not trained to design and
build structures against this type of hazard.
"By providing this type of training, we are empowering Haiti's
engineers and architects by helping them understand how earthquakes
affect construction and how to build and preserve new construction
against such occurrences," he says. "There is a willingness to
learn. These professionals are open to this new type of knowledge;
they truly seem committed to build differently. Our best course of
action is to continue to empower them, by giving them the tools and
skills they need to be effective when the reconstruction process
According to Fouché, the reconstruction process will take
3-5 years to truly take off and make an impact, if any, and so far,
it has been hampered by the lack of resources, a result, he says,
of the fact that many pledges of financial support have yet to
"Some observers will think, 'we gave money and they did nothing'
but Haiti has been through this before," says Fouché, noting
that Haiti has, in past disasters, received pledges of support that
have remained unfulfilled.
For now, he is very much encouraged by the response of the
Haitian engineers and architects who have attended the MCEER-UniQ
seminars. So far, approximately 350 have attended, some of them
traveling long distances to get to Port-au-Prince where the
seminars are held and many returning for the more advanced
sessions, underscoring their thirst for knowledge about how to
prevent another disaster like the one that happened last
As Adajah Codio, one of the seminar attendees, and a friend and
former student of Fouché's put it: "Haiti is in a seismic
area. We can't move the country to another place. These seminars
are teaching me that the most important thing we can do is to
reduce our vulnerability by designing our buildings the proper
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