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USGS Mendenhall Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program

17-6. Bringing USGS earthquake science to risk assessment of critical U.S. infrastructure

Critical infrastructure serves as the backbone of any civic society; their operation is fundamental for community resilience in the aftermath of a major earthquake or other natural disaster. Critical infrastructure comprises several important sectors: transportation (e.g., roads, rails, bridges), water and wastewater (e.g., pipelines, transmission and treatment facilities), energy (e.g., electric, oil and natural gas, power grids), public health (e.g., hospitals), and government facilities (e.g., facilities owned or leased by federal, state, local, and tribal governments). The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2017 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gave the nation’s infrastructure a grade of D+, highlighting the urgent need to revitalize our deteriorating infrastructure. While the need for upgrading our infrastructure has been well-publicized and is well-recognized in the engineering and academic communities, a clear path forward to develop an objective strategy for identifying individual and systemic risk and to help prioritize upgrading requirements remains a challenge. 

How can USGS science be used to better inform the vital and costly infrastructure investments of the future? What tools can be employed and enhanced, and how can risk to infrastructure be best quantified and articulated?  A sound engineering risk assessment and investment strategy is needed to identify facilities at highest risk from normal aging as well as extreme events.

This Research Opportunity is focused on a more complete characterization of risk associated with earthquake impacts on selected critical infrastructure sectors. The Mendenhall Fellow will have access to data such as the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Infrastructure Foundation-Level Data (HIFLD) database, the Department of Interior (DOI) Strategic Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment project database, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) National Bridge Inventory (NBI) data, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Hazus data and software (including the source code).  Results from the Mendenhall research are expected to contribute toward rapid and improved estimation of earthquake damage and impact to infrastructure, identification of inspection needs, prioritization of repairs and retrofits, and development of potential mitigation and recovery strategies. Similarly, the research could lay out a framework for systematically assessing risks from other natural hazards.

We seek a research scientist to apply state-of-the-art risk estimation methodologies associated with spatially distributed infrastructure assets and to model the impact from network interdependencies. In addition, the researcher is expected to investigate and develop new, innovative techniques to model individual and systemic risk of select infrastructure and potentially propose a broader multi-sector framework to evaluate earthquake risk for developing mitigation priorities.

Potential research topics include:

We invite proposals from candidates who have experience in civil engineering analysis and design methods, system engineering, and risk analysis. The key developments from this research undertaking are expected to directly help in enhancement of the USGS ShakeCast and PAGER system capabilities, and to potentially conducting FEMA P-366-like assessments for the U.S. infrastructure. Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the advisors below early in the application process to discuss project ideas and how they fit into the framework of ongoing seismic vulnerability and risk modeling efforts.

Proposed Duty Station: Golden, CO

Areas of Ph.D.: Civil engineering with a focus on structural engineering analysis and design methods, system engineering, and/or risk analysis (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines, but with extensive knowledge and skills relevant to the Research Opportunity may be considered).

Qualifications: Applicants must meet one of the following qualifications: Research Civil Engineer. (This type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the occupations stated above. However, other titles may be applicable depending on the applicant's background, education, and research proposal. The final classification of the position will be made by the Human Resources specialist.)

Research Advisor(s): Kishor Jaiswal, (303) 273-8584,; Nicolas Luco, (303) 273-8683,; Kris Ludwig, (303) 273-8616,; Jack Baker (Stanford U), (650) 723-4121,

Human Resources Office Contact: Melissa Barnhart,, 916-278-9412

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U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
URL: Jaiswal.htm
Direct inquiries to Cara A. Campbell at
Maintained by: Mendenhall Research Fellowship Program Web Team
Last modified: 11:07:41 Fri 08 Feb 2019
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