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Whittaker Elected MCEER Director

Multi-hazard resilience will continue to be focus

Release Date: December 16, 2011

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Andrew Whittaker is the new director of MCEER, a national center of excellence focused on multi-hazard engineering.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Andrew S. Whittaker, PhD, a University at Buffalo professor and an internationally recognized expert in earthquake and blast engineering, has been elected as director of MCEER, a national center of excellence focused on multi-hazard engineering.

Headquartered at UB, MCEER is committed to the discovery and development of new knowledge, tools and technologies that increase the resilience of communities and infrastructure during extreme events, such as earthquakes and hurricanes.

A UB faculty member since 2001, Whittaker becomes the sixth director in the center's 25-year history.

"Andrew Whittaker's extensive background in earthquake and blast engineering will further strengthen MCEER's mission as a multidisciplinary, multi-hazard engineering center. We are pleased to have him as MCEER's next director," said Rajan Batta, PhD, acting dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at UB.

Whittaker, UB professor and chair of civil, structural and environmental engineering, was elected to the position by the MCEER Management Council, consisting of UB faculty that lead MCEER research programs.

"Being a part of MCEER and working alongside such remarkable talent in one of the world's most versatile experimental facilities is what initially drew me to UB 10 years ago. To be listed among their leaders is both humbling and gratifying," said Whittaker.

Whittaker succeeds Andre Filiatrault, PhD, UB professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering, a leading expert on shake-table testing of structural and nonstructural building components who led MCEER in advancing its expanded scope of multi-hazard engineering and disaster resilience. Filiatrault is stepping down after three years to pursue research interests.

Under Whittaker's leadership MCEER "will continue to draw upon our earthquake engineering roots to develop engineering solutions that advance resilience in the face of a variety of hazards that plague our nation's infrastructure," he said.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, research revealed that the knowledge, tools and technologies developed in earthquake engineering could advance infrastructure resilience against other hazards and extreme events, both natural and man-made. Consequently, MCEER's mission was expanded to embrace these new challenges, Whittaker said.

"Subsequent studies have tested the efficacy of innovative, earthquake resistant bridge columns when subjected to blast loads, as well as the application of earthquake-protection systems to improve resilience of nuclear power facilities against earthquakes and such cascading hazards as tsunami," he noted.

"Here in Western New York, development of the UB/MCEER Experimental Campus for Large Infrastructure Protection, Sustainability and Enhancement (ECLIPSE Campus) has provided unique full-scale testing capabilities for research, development and evaluation of innovative technologies that improve resilience and contribute to the intelligent renewal of our nation's infrastructure," he added. "And a collaborative project with the Structural Engineers Association of New York is helping us evaluate and reduce earthquake vulnerability in New York City's masonry buildings, many of which are more than a century old."

A structural-engineering expert in the seismic resilience of nuclear power structures, Whittaker is recognized for his work on the blast analysis of nuclear power infrastructures. He has conducted extensive research on the fragility of conventional and isolated power plants, risk assessment procedures, modular composite construction for Generation III+ plants and proposed designs for Generation IV reactors. He has served on various national professional committees addressing the seismic safety of nuclear power facilities.

As the immediate past director of UB's SEESL, one of 14 member labs of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES), Whittaker brings substantial experience in earthquake engineering and organizational leadership to his new MCEER post. Since 2005, he has served as president of the Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering (CUREE), a U.S. not-for-profit corporation whose membership includes 26 research universities and 280 affiliated faculty devoted to the advancement of earthquake engineering research, education and implementation.

He has served on the board of directors for the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) from 2008 to 2010 and currently serves on the board of directors for the World Seismic Safety Initiative (WSSI).

In the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Whittaker was a member of a three-person MCEER-NSF reconnaissance team that collected forensic data at Ground Zero.

He is a licensed structural engineer in the state of California and is a member of several American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) committees that address structural loads, blast engineering and earthquake protective systems.

Whittaker reviews research proposals for the NSF, Canadian Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Australian Research Council and the University of Cyprus. He reviews manuscripts for the American Society of Civil Engineers (Journals of Structural Engineering, Engineering Mechanics, and Wind Engineering & Industrial Aerodynamics), the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, Earthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics, the Journal of Earthquake Engineering, Nuclear Engineering and Design, the Structural Design of Tall Buildings, and the Journal of Sound and Vibration; and reviews papers for national and international conferences on earthquake, blast and structural engineering.

He has authored or co-authored seven textbook chapters and more than 60 refereed journal articles, earning "Best Paper Award" three times.

He also teaches and acts as advisor and examiner to numerous PhD and master's students at UB.

Whittaker holds an undergraduate degree in civil engineering from the University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, and a master's degree and doctorate in civil engineering from the University of California at Berkeley.

He and his family reside in Williamsville, N.Y.

Founded in 1986, the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research headquartered at the University at Buffalo is a national center of excellence in advanced technology applications dedicated to reducing losses from earthquake and other hazards nationwide. One of three such centers in the nation established by the National Science Foundation, MCEER has been funded principally over the past two decades, with more than $67 million from NSF; more than $47 million from the State of New York and more than $34 million from the Federal Highway Administration. Additional support comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, other state governments, academic institutions, foreign governments and private industry.

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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