Ioannis Kougioumtzoglou | Using Mathematical Tools to Better Understand Complex Structural Dynamics

Natural disasters like earthquakes produce major building and bridge damage, result in fatalities, and cause business interruption. While earthquake prediction can help, mitigation strategies to prevent major loss before an earthquake strikes and development of technologies to rapidly assess damage and aid in effective rescue and recovery efforts after an event, are high priorities for many countries, including the United States.

Ioannis Kougioumtzoglou
Ioannis Kougioumtzoglou
Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics
—Photo by Eileen Barroso

While resonance is a generally understood quality of musical instruments, it is also an important variable in man-made structures. Depending on its properties, every structure has natural vibration frequencies. By understanding the dynamics of resonance phenomena of bridges and buildings, civil engineers can design and retrofit these structures to withstand severe dynamic loading from earthquakes, hurricanes, and strong winds, and can identify the occurrence and location of damage that can compromise the structure.

But understanding—and then predicting—how structures will react to environmental excitations that are inherently random is easier said than done. For Ioannis Kougioumtzoglou, assistant professor of civil engineering and engineering mechanics, that’s an interesting challenge that he is tackling by the numbers.

“I have always been fascinated by the history of mathematics,” he says. “Most ancient Greek mathematicians managed to sustain a symbiotic relationship between mathematics and the physics of nature, and that is exactly what the essence of engineering is. Studying the dynamics of complex engineered structural systems is just a great example of that.”

Currently, there exist no versatile methodologies that can address in a combined manner four critical components of the dynamic behavior of structures: a structure’s time/space-varying behavior; the difficulty in working with highly limited and irregularly sampled data; the complex, non-linear behavior of systems; and the uncertainties prevalent in both the excitations and the system’s properties. That’s the challenge Kougioumtzoglou is addressing using advanced mathematical tools to develop efficient analysis, design, monitoring, and maintenance procedures related to structural and dynamical systems.

“Systems that exhibit nonlinear/hysteretic behavior and that are exposed to hazard-inducing conditions are of particular interest to me,” he says. “I want to address the challenges that relate to developing methodologies that can effectively acquire, interpret, and translate raw data into pertinent stochastic models, and determine the system response/reliability statistics in an efficient manner.”

Because his work is broad and multifaceted, it intersects civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering, as well as applied mathematics and statistics. It contributes to diverse research fields such as structural dynamics, probabilistic methods, data acquisition, and signal processing, as well as structural safety and reliability. In 2014, his work won the attention of the European Association of Structural Dynamics, which awarded him the Junior Research Prize for his innovative influence on the field of nonlinear stochastic dynamics.

Kougioumtzoglou is a co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Earthquake Engineering and has served as a guest editor for several special issues in international technical journals such as the Journal of Probabilistic Engineering Mechanics. He is a member of the Engineering Mechanics Institute (EMI), an associate member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), a registered (licensed/chartered) professional civil engineer in Greece, and a fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) in the UK.

Five-year Diploma in Civil Engineering, National Technical University of Athens in Greece, 2007; MSc, Rice University, 2009; PhD, Rice University, 2011

—by Amy Biemiller

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