University receives $6.5 million natural disasters research grant

Graduate students will see new opportunities to research natural disasters at the University next year.

The University recently received a grant for $6.5 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The University will work in conjunction with Colorado State University and eight other universities, after being selected against may other highly competitive programs. The ten universities were awarded a total of $20 million to create a Community Resilience Center of Excellence in Fort Collins, Colorado. The center will partner with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to research disasters, such as earthquakes and tornadoes.

“In a way I wear two hats, one is the leader for the University of Illinois effort and more generally the associate director of the entire center,” said Paolo Gardoni, associate professor in Engineering.

The universities will research natural and man-made disasters by creating software that can be used by municipal governments and up, to assist recovery and improve preventative measures. The new software will be based on a previously used open-source program called MAEViz, which was created at the Multi-Hazard Approach to Engineering Center, a unit of the University.

The old software did not account for the degeneration of infrastructure so new research is needed, said Gardoni, who is also the director of the center.

The University was selected as a partner in this program because of previous research done by the center. Additionally, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, based in Urbana, will also participate in the research.

“It is a great opportunity for research, not only for the research itself but also as an experience for the students,” said Roberto Guidotti, civil and environmental engineering Ph.D. candidate.

As a part of the program, Guidotti said the students will travel and meet with other students and faculty from partner universities, allowing them to learn from experts in the field. Currently, Guidotti is researching how networks, such as global trade networks to local pipelines, are affected by natural disasters.

He added that research opportunities will be available to students in fields of engineering, natural sciences, social sciences and computer sciences.

Other participating universities include: Oregon State University, the University of Oklahoma, Rice University, Texas A&M University, the University of Washington, the University of South Alabama, the California Polytechnic University in Pomona and Texas A&M-Kingsville.

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