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Earthquake Engineering Researcher Thomas O’Rourke Will Lecture on Natural Disaster Issues

Dr. Thomas D. O'Rourke
Dr. Thomas D. O’Rourke

KNOXVILLE–Cornell University professor Dr. Thomas D. O’Rourke will present his lecture “The New Normal for Natural Disasters” at 3:40 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, in Room 307 of the Science and Engineering Research Facility (SERF) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

The lecture is the 2012 Distinguished Lecture of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI), hosted by the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Tennessee as a part of its distinguished seminar series program. O’Rourke, the Thomas R. Briggs Professor of Engineering in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell, is renowned for his expertise in earthquake engineering research. He also delivered a report to the National Science Foundation (NSF) on infrastructure conditions below the World Trade Center following the Sept. 11, 2011, attack on New York City.

In this talk, O’Rourke will discuss the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku, Japan; the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes in the Canterbury region of New Zealand; and Hurricane Katrina. He will also offer examples of critical infrastructures at risk, including earthquake effects on the water supply of Southern California and hurricane effects on New York City. He will explain that the severity and consequences of these extreme events have established a new level of what can be considered “normal” for natural disasters. He will propose that researchers need a new approach to the way the risks are evaluated in such extreme events, and in the way that critical infrastructure is defined and protected.

O’Rourke has served on many national advisory committees, including the NIST Advisory Committee for Earthquake Hazards Reduction, NAE Committee on New Orleans Regional Hurricane Protection Projects, and NSF Engineering Advisory Committee. He has served as chair or member of the consulting boards of many large civil construction projects, as well as the peer reviews for projects associated with highway, rapid transit, water supply, and energy distribution systems. He is a member, and former president, of the EERI, a member of the US National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and a Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science. An author and co-authored of more than 350 technical publications, O’Rourke’s research interests cover geotechnical engineering, earthquake engineering, underground construction technologies, engineering for large, geographically distributed systems, and geographic information technologies and database management.

For additional information, contact the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at 865-974-2503 or