Masanobu Shinozuka | Developing Advanced Systems Technologies for Disaster Assessment and Mitigation

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 strike 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.

Masanobu Shinozuka
Masanobu Shinozuka
Professor of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics

“I grew up in Japan and routinely experienced the severity of natural disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons, and landslides. Civil engineering and engineering mechanics became an opportunity for me to help minimize these impacts,” says Masanobu Shinozuka, one of the world’s most renowned experts in earthquake and structural engineering, and professor of civil engineering and engineering mechanics.

Shinozuka's research focuses on continuum mechanics, micromechanics, stochastic processes and fields, structural dynamics and control, and earthquake and wind engineering. He also studies systems engineering, with emphasis on structural and system reliability; risk assessment of lifeline systems, including water, electrical power and transportation networks; and analysis of the socio-economic impacts of natural disasters.

He is particularly interested in field theory and risk-assessment methodology in civil engineering and application to earthquake engineering in buildings, bridges, and lifeline and environmental systems. He developed the first Monte Carlo method of evaluating the likelihood of failure of civil infrastructure systems constructed on seismically active fields. In addition, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, two engineering firms, and three regional utility companies in California, he developed a novel monitoring and inspection system for large pipe networks in water and wastewater infrastructure systems using wireless sensor nodes incorporated in an advanced Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system.

“My current research focus is to transfer the present seismically hazardous United States to an earthquake-resilient nation,” he says.

Shinozuka’s long and distinguished career has contributed to the development of a national vision for engineering research, education, and practice. Prior to joining Columbia Engineering, Shinozuka was the Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Irvine. Before that, he was the Sollenberger Professor of Civil Engineering at Princeton University and the Champion Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Southern California. In the early 1990s, the National Science Foundation tapped Shinozuka to serve as director of its National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research in Buffalo, NY. Prior to that, he was the Renwick Professor of Civil Engineering at the Engineering School, where he taught for 30 years. In 2012, he made his return to Morningside.

He has received numerous awards for his contributions, including Columbia Engineering’s Egleston Award for distinguished engineering achievement, the Alfred M. Freudenthal Medal for distinguished achievement in safety and reliability studies applicable to civil engineering, the Robert H. Scanlan Medal and the Theodore von Karman Medal for distinguished achievement in engineering mechanics, all from the American Society of Civil Engineers. In 2013, the Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers Engineering Mechanics Institute established the Masanobu Shinozuka Medal, to be awarded annually, beginning in 2015, recognizing individuals for outstanding contributions in stochastic systems.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a fellow in the American Society of Mechanical Engineering, an elected foreign member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, and an honorary member of the American Society of Civil Engineering.

BS, Kyoto University, 1953; MS, Kyoto University, 1955; PhD, Columbia Engineering, 1960

—by Amy Biemiller

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