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Jan. 15: NSF Awards Carnegie Mellon's Jacobo Bielak $1.6 Million for Earthquake Research

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Chriss Swaney                      
412-268-5776
swaney@andrew.cmu.edu

NSF Awards Carnegie Mellon's Jacobo Bielak
$1.6 Million for Earthquake Research

PITTSBURGH — Carnegie Mellon University's Jacobo Bielak was awarded $1.6 million over the next four years from the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) PetaApps program to develop earthquake computer simulations that play an important role in reducing seismic risk for large urban coastal cities.

Bielak leads a team of researchers from several campuses of the University of California along with David R. O'Hallaron, associate professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon.

"These simulations will provide unprecedented detailed knowledge of how an urban system performs in a large earthquake and what is needed for improving disaster planning and preparation," said Bielak, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon.

"One of the keys to making such large-scale simulations possible is the ability to create extremely large models of earthquake prone areas like the Los Angeles basin.  This new grant will give us the resources to create three-dimensional models that can simulate how earthquakes impact buildings, bridges and other critical urban infrastructures," said Bielak, who was recently elected to the Mexican Academy of Engineering.

Over the past decade, Bielak, O'Hallaron and their students have successfully collaborated with researchers at the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) on a series of increasingly ambitious and influential computer models of earthquake behavior, creating fully realistic three-dimensional representations of complex basin geology, earthquake sources and earthquake ground motion.

But Bielak reports that this new earthquake research is designed to push the capability of existing hardware and software programs. The new research will give Bielak and his team the opportunity to integrate the ground motion of large sedimentary basins like the Los Angeles area with a variety of large databases, such as entire building inventories, to study the impacts of large magnitude earthquakes on buildings, transportation systems and other important underground infrastructure.

James H. Garrett Jr., head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon, said the NSF research award is another example of the university's successful problem-solving environment. "The project draws upon our expertise in earthquake engineering, computer and computational science and seismology," Garrett said.

Bielak and his team will also collaborate extensively with the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center to test some of the special algorithms and simulation structures that will allow them to generate a more accurate picture of how to improve public safety during an earthquake.

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