Challenges and Opportunities for Reducing Earthquake Risks

Reginald DesRoches, Ph.D.
William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering
George R. Brown School of Engineering
Rice University

Tuesday, March 13, 4 p.m., Dearborn 118

Free and open to the public. Reception to follow. 

The 2010 Haiti earthquake was one of the most devastating natural disasters in modern times: Officials estimate more than 300,000 people died and another 300,000 sustained injuries. In the United States, nearly half of Americans live in earthquake-prone regions. As populations increase in urban areas, infrastructure ages and falls into disrepair, and infrastructure systems become increasingly interconnected and susceptible to cascading failures, earthquakes are likewise becoming more destructive and more costly around the globe. Improved computational methods, coupled with new “smart” materials and structural systems, are providing engineers with unique tools to minimize the impacts from earthquakes and to enhance resilience in communities around the world. 

Reginald DesRoches is the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering at the George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice University. In this position, he provides leadership to a top ranked engineering school with 9 departments, over 125 faculty, and 2500 students. His primary research interests are in design of resilient infrastructure systems under extreme loads and the application of smart and auto-adaptive materials. His research is highly interdisciplinary and spans micro- to macro-scale. He has published approximately 300 articles and served as thesis advisor to 30 doctoral students. 

Dr. DesRoches served as the key technical leader in the United States’ response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, taking a team of 28 engineers, architects, city planners, and social scientists to study the impact of the earthquake. Dr. DesRoches serves on the National Construction Safety Team Advisory Committee (NCST), National Academies Resilient America Roundtable (RAR), the Board on Army Science and Technology (BAST), the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Advisory Committee, and the Global Earthquake Modeling Scientific Board. 

Dr. DesRoches received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 2002 — the highest honor bestowed upon scientists and engineers in the early stages of their careers. Most recently, he is the 2018 EERI Distinguished Lecturer, was elected Fellow of the Structural Engineering Institute (2016), Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineering (2015), and was a recipient of the 2015 ASCE Charles Martin Duke Lifeline Earthquake Engineering Award, the Georgia Tech Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Advisor Award (2010), the 2007 ASCE Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize, and the Georgia Tech ANAK Award (2008). The ANAK award is the highest honor the undergraduate student body can bestow on a Georgia Tech faculty member. 

DesRoches was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and grew up in Queens, New York. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, Master of Science in Civil Engineering, and Ph.D. in Structural Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was recently elected to the civil engineering department’s Academy of Distinguished Alumni (2015).

About the series

The Edwards Lecture Series, initiated by Professor Harry Yeh in 2005, is named in honor of Miles Lowell Edwards – an engineering genius – known for his unique and successful inventions. His remarkable achievements included developing prosthetic heart valves, creating timber industry materials to debark trees, and enabling Boeing B-17 aircraft pumps to operate at high altitudes.  

Past lectures  

  • 2005: Michael Longuet-Higgins, “Mass Transport and Wave Damping over Rippled Sea Beds”
  • 2006: Colin Brown, “Modelling of and as Granular Media”
  • 2007: Chiang C. Mei, “Nonlinear Resonance in a Harbor” 
  • 2008: Jim Duncan Smith, “Flow, Sediment Transport, and Geomorphic Adjustment in Rivers”
  • 2009: Robert Guza, “Observations of Southern California Waves and Wave-Driven Processes”
  • 2010: Gary Parker, “Self-Stratification due to Suspended Sediment in Rivers and Turbidity Currents: the Delicate Balance of the Latter” 
  • 2011: Peter Rhines, “Exploring the Subpolar Oceans with Seagliders and Satellite Altimetry”
  • 2013: Greg Lawrence, “Waves and Currents: Hawking Radiation in the Hydraulics Laboratory”
  • 2014: Brian Kirby, “Geometrically Enhanced Differential Immunocapture: Using Obstacle Arrays in Microfluidic Devices to Enhance Efficient and Pure Rare Cell Capture from Fluid Suspensions” 
  • 2015: Juan Restrepo, “Taking Uncertainties into Account in Geosciences, Physics, and Engineering” 
  • 2016: Thomas E. Boothby, "Engineering Iron and Stone
  • 2017: Gregory G. Deierlein, "From Performance-Based Engineering to Earthquake Resilience
  • 2017: C. Michael Walton, "Innovation in Delivery of Transportation Infrastructure"
  • 2017: Jerome F. Hajjar, "Damage and Collapse Assessment in Steel and Composite Structures"