NEHRP Graduate Fellowship Awarded to Scott Swenson

Scott Swenson, a Ph.D. candidate in structural engineering & geomechanics at Stanford University, has been selected as the 2012-2013 NEHRP Graduate Fellow in Earthquake Hazard Reduction. The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute awards fellowship each year in a cooperative program with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. Swenson was chosen from a group of 12 well-qualified applicants from the fields of architecture, geology, and structural and geotechnical engineering at universities in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Oregon, South Carolina, and Virginia. The fellowship applications were reviewed by a committee chaired by Scott Olson of the University of Illinois (chair of the EERI Student Activities Committee).

Swenson is conducting research at Stanford’s John A. Blume Earthquake Engineering center on two approaches to improving the seismic performance of low-rise lightweight residential construction made of either wood or cold-formed steel framing. While not a major life-threatening risk, damage to residential housing has been a major contributor to earthquake losses and a disruption to families and community.

The first method involves strengthening and stiffening such structures inexpensively through tying in components that have classically been considered architectural (e.g. gypsum-clad walls and stucco façades) and utilizing more resilient component connections. For more vulnerable locations, a low-cost base isolation system for lightframe structures is being developed.

Swenson’s research envisions a system where all of the wall, ceiling and floor framing work together to resist seismic effects. By mobilizing all of the framing components, the goal is to make residential construction more economical while improving its seismic performance. In the coming months, Swenson’s team will perform physical tests of strengthened and stiffened walls, room enclosures, and a full-scale two-story house.

Swenson’s faculty supervisor, Professor Gregory Deierlein, stated “he has developed an innovative research program and has demonstrated his ability to take the initiative on experimental and computational research. Over the course of his research, he has collaborated with practicing engineers and engaged undergraduate students to assist him with the work. Finally, through his efforts to form the EERI Stanford Student Chapter and participate in other professional activities, Scott has demonstrated a genuine commitment to earthquake engineering research and practice.”

Upon completing his degree, Swenson plans to continue this innovative research on cost-effective seismic engineering methods as a professor. He envisions continued collaboration with industry to ensure that his research benefits practice.

The fellowship is given to foster the participation of capable individuals in furthering the goals and practice of earthquake hazard mitigation. It provides $12,000 for a nine-month stipend and $8,000 for tuition, fees, and research expenses.

The objective of EERI is to reduce earthquake risk by advancing the science and practice of earthquake engineering; by improving understanding of the impact of earthquakes on the physical, social, economic, political and cultural environment; and by advocating comprehensive and realistic measures for reducing the harmful effects of earthquakes.