My educational and work experiences as a Masters student at the University of North Carolina have provided me with the foundation I needed to begin my career in hazards management planning.
After my first year in graduate school, I was given the opportunity to work under the direction of Professor Phil Berke as a research assistant on his hazard mitigation project, funded by the Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence- Coastal Hazards Center. I was then able to gain an internship at IEM, a private consulting firm, in Washington, D.C. Under the direction of retired Major General (MG) Richard Rowe, I conducted strategic assessments of FEMA regions to provide research in responding to task orders. I also participated in a 3-day training session for the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program.
While my internship focused on response planning, I was exposed to all areas of emergency management—preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery. I gained significant knowledge of new and emerging FEMA Doctrine and began to understand how the private sector contributes to the emergency management field. In my final year as a Masters student at UNC, I continued employment at IEM, and joined the Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence-Coastal Hazards Center to assist Dr. Gavin Smith in the development of courses in hazards management at UNC.
I continued my interest in response planning through my Masters Project for the Department of City and Regional Planning and Capstone for the School of Government. Resources were also provided from the Coastal Hazards Center to complete my research, and Dr. Gavin Smith served as my advisor and played an integral role on my Capstone Committee. My research addressed the question: what constitutes a high quality local government emergency management response plan? Through an iterative process of synthesizing literature, evaluating existing plans, and collecting expert feedback, I developed an evaluation tool to measure the quality of local government response plans. I applied a methodology similar to plan quality studies that have been completed for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery plans. My research was intended to better inform practitioners developing or improving response plans, scholars studying the quality of response plans across jurisdictions, and policy makers at all levels of government to further develop standards, requirements, and funding opportunities for response plans.
Since graduating from UNC in May 2012 with a Master of City and Regional Planning and a Master of Public Administration, I have worked at Hagerty Consulting on projects helping to develop documentation for the Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin Combined Statistical Area to integrate the National Mass Evacuation Tracking System and create a concept of operations for shelter placement for the region. I also spent time developing a Catastrophic Mass Care Annex for the Boston Region and worked on a number of exercises for Penn State University, Chatham County, Georgia, and Long Beach, California. Today, I am working in the Planning, Exercise and Doctrine Branch of the National Disaster Recovery Planning Division at FEMA Headquarters.
I have been fortunate to have a number of different experiences in just a few years. I plan to continue to gain insight and hope to make valuable contributions to the field of hazards management planning throughout my career.
I attended Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and received a Bachelor degree in Foreign Service (BSFS) with a major in Science, Technology, and International Affairs. I received my Masters from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in City and Regional Planning (MCRP), with a concentration in Land Use and Environmental Planning.
I studied the environmental implications of urban development at Georgetown University. As a student in Washington DC, I interned for multiple local organizations, since I was particularly interested in how communities plan for and conserve their limited natural resources. Following graduation, I worked for over six years at ICF International and supported international programs to reduce building energy consumption, limit greenhouse gas emissions, and promote green building strategies in some of the world’s most rapidly developing cities. I enrolled in UNC’s planning program to broaden my expertise in sustainability to the city and regional scale.
At UNC, I have worked as a graduate research assistant at the Institute for the Environment and the Coastal Hazards Center, supporting a variety of projects related to how cities plan for and respond to natural disasters. In my first year, I studied the implementation of hazard mitigation strategies at the local level and helped to develop a web-based Hazard Mitigation Best Practices Guidebook to share recommended practices in hazard mitigation plan development.
I have worked on several research projects focusing on post-disaster recovery at the local level. I analyzed nearly 90 local plans to determine the extent to which post-disaster recovery is being addressed through local policy and planning. I also helped to develop a set of recovery indicators for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This work involved searching over 100 peer-reviewed recovery studies and identifying indicators from these studies that can be used by practitioners to measure progress towards post-disaster recovery.
My graduate research allowed me to pursue my interests in environmental conservation and sustainable development while supporting local communities. Following graduation, I joined FEMA’s Recovery Planning Division, supporting community planning and capacity building activities for post-disaster recovery. I am helping to develop tools and resources to assist local communities in their long-term recovery efforts.
I began my undergraduate studies in Civil Engineering at Jackson State University in the Fall of 2005, a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina made landfall. I started my studies with a full academic scholarship combined with an athletic scholarship. One of the first things my coach and I did upon my arrival was to stop by Dr. Whalin’s office to thank him for the support that the School of Engineering was providing me. It didn’t take me long to establish a friendship with Dr. Whalin, given his amiable character. I recall being in Dr. Whalin’s office chatting about classes while being surrounded by many books with titles that described the coasts of countries, water wave mechanics, sediment transport, and oceanography, not to mention his many awards from the USACE ERDC Coastal & Hydraulics Laboratory. It was because of Dr. Whalin and the time he took to share his knowledge and experience with me that I learned about coastal engineering. I am very grateful for the influence that Dr. Whalin had on my educational development and for his friendship, which I still enjoy until this day.
I took Dr. Whalin’s Survey of Coastal Natural Disasters class in the Spring of 2009, my last semester at JSU. This was the first coastal engineering class taught at JSU. Dr. Whalin brought his many years of experience as an engineer, oceanographer and policy developer into the classroom.
The main component of the class was a comprehensive report to be written on a major coastal natural disaster, including hurricanes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. I selected the eruption of the volcanic island Krakatoa which triggered massive tsunamis that wiped out villages in the nearby islands. The literature review I did for my report certainly motivated my interest in coastal disasters and in coastal engineering as a whole. Furthermore, it was because of this class that I learned about JSU’s involvement with the Department of Homeland Security’s Coastal Hazards Center of Excellence. The summer following this course I worked for the Center, processing hurricane data and getting exposed to coastal modeling tools such as SMS.
After graduating from JSU, I started a Master of Science degree in Ocean Engineering at Texas A&M University. I was fortunate to have funding from Dr. Patrick Lynett, a recognized tsunami expert. Dr. Lynett got me involved in a research project on submarine landslide-induced tsunamis for the U.S. Geological Survey Nuclear Commission. When I graduated from Texas A&M my vision was to become a well-rounded coastal engineer capable of doing numerical modeling, dredging, mooring analysis, and engineering design. Due to the work I did for my thesis, I am in particular passionate about tsunamis and the challenges that they pose to engineering design of onshore infrastructure.
I currently work as a coastal engineering intern for a consulting firm by the name of Moffatt & Nichol. Among the projects that I have worked on involving coastal natural disasters are: a FEMA Flood Insurance Study for three coastal counties in southeast Texas; a storm surge study for Cameron LNG in Calcasieu Channel, Louisiana; a storm surge update for Golden Pass LNG, Sabine Pass, Texas; and a tsunami inundation study in Kitimat Arm, British Columbia.
During my two years with the firm I have come to realize that areas prone to coastal disasters present peculiar challenges to engineering design. Whether it is storm surge elevations affecting the elevation of docks or high currents produced by tsunamis that can rip off a ship from berth, coastal disasters are a major factor that goes into the conceptual design phase. Often, there is not enough data to assess the risk or calibrate our models, so efforts like the CHC’s to increase awareness are very important and beneficial to the engineer.
My name is Yulian Kebede, and I am originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. My master’s degree research at North Carolina State University is focused in geotechnical engineering which is an area of civil engineering that studies the engineering behaviors and properties of soil.
Being from a country where farming is the main or the only source of income for most families, I have always had a curiosity about soil. I have always wondered how soil is formed and what makes one type of soil different from the other. Through my high school years, I also developed a passion for math; thus, I picked a career path that involves the study of soil with the help of math. Civil engineering was the best field that coupled these two subjects. The geotechnical aspect of engineering attracted my attention in my undergraduate years; therefore, attending graduate school and studying more about the mechanics and physical properties of soil was the obvious choice for me. Even though geotechnical engineering does not have much in common with farming and agriculture, I found it fascinating to study and discover a whole new field of soil study.
My current research deals with the prediction of erosion that occurs under a bridge pier; this phenomenon is one of the main causes of bridge failure in the United States. Our research team has developed a new tool that has the potential for predicting erosion more effectively than those that are currently available. We are in the process of testing this newly developed tool in different soil types and different environmental conditions in order to understand the limitations of this tool and generate concrete results of its effectiveness. The research team is led by Professor Mo Gabr and is funded by Department of Homeland security through the Coastal Hazards Center (CHC). I was introduced to my research team during a CHC summer internship when I was an undergraduate at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. After the completion of the internship period, CHC presented me the wonderful opportunity to continue my research as a master’s student by offering me financial assistance; without this assistance, I would not have been able to continue my research.
After finishing my graduate studies, I plan to work in the industry for some time in order to help transition my theoretical knowledge learned in the classrooms into practical knowledge applied in real life scenarios. Since I have two siblings that are civil engineers, I plan to coordinate with them and start a multidisciplinary engineering firm in the future.
Currently, I am finishing a year as a post-doctoral research associate at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Institute for the Environment. In 2012, I completed my Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning at UNC-CH. Starting in August 2013, I will be an assistant professor of Urban Planning at the University of Kansas where I will focus on environmental planning.
My work on natural hazard mitigation and climate change adaptation can be traced back to longstanding and deep interest in understanding and improving how we – as individuals, groups, and societies – can better interact with the natural environment. Having grown up in Durham, NC, I’d been exposed to severe thunderstorms, ice storms, and even the occasional hurricane during my youth. My subsequent academic training was in geology and environment policy after which I gained professional experience in land use and transportation policy. I realized that these areas of interest and expertise intersect in the realm of natural hazards and climate change. Watching the human suffering and the environmental impacts of the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina catalyzed my desire to return for my doctoral studies and carry out my career working in these critical and complicated areas of study.
Throughout my doctoral and post-doctoral years, I have worked on a CHC project led by Dr. Phil Berke and Dr. Gavin Smith here at UNC-CH. We have evaluated state and local natural hazard mitigation planning in accordance with the federal Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000. A major thrust of our work has been improving understanding of how state and local officials can better integrate land use planning (e.g. zoning, subdivision ordinances and other approaches that influence where and how development occurs) with hazard mitigation efforts. This work is critical because the most effective long-term approach for reducing losses from natural hazard events is to steer development out of hazardous areas into safe locations. My dissertation research extended from the CHC project and investigated the influence of involvement of planners in hazard mitigation planning networks, which are typically led by emergency managers. The results of my dissertation indicate that strong ties between local planners and emergency managers and networks with numerous interconnections that facilitate collaboration can contribute to greater incorporation of land use approaches into mitigation planning.
One of the most satisfying aspects of working on the CHC project and my dissertation research has been our research team’s ability to translate our findings into policy-relevant recommendations shared with the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other key mitigation stakeholders. In addition, I have also found satisfaction in helping develop tools practitioners can use at the local level, such as web-based guidance for creating high-quality mitigation plans.
Overall, the CHC project has been tremendously valuable for my development as a researcher with ambitions to make positive contributions to scholarship and practice. I hope to have the opportunity to continue to work on CHC projects in the future!
I am a recent graduate from Jackson State University with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. Growing up in Portland, Oregon, I attended Benson Polytechnic High School where I studied drafting design with an emphasis on architectural and engineering design. There I was first introduced to the professional world of engineering. My instructor was a former mechanical engineer, and often discussed with us the different fields of engineering. I began to grow a passion for civil engineering because of the many different disciplines it offers. Being a student at Benson High School in their drafting design program motivated and influenced me to begin a career in civil engineering at Jackson State.
This summer I have the opportunity to visit North Carolina State University and conduct research in the Department of Civil, Construction Management, and Environmental Engineering through the Department of Homeland Security’s Coastal Hazards Center of Excellence (CHC). Under the direction of Dr. Mo Gabr, I will be assisting with Innovative Component Design and Retrofit of Critical Civil Infrastructure. This project is focused on providing a platform for a better assessment of the failure potential of protective earth structures as well as the effectiveness of retrofit measures for mitigating the extent of damage. In addition, I investigate the emergence of integrated failure modes of earth dams and levees and their impact on the protective functionality under severe storm loading. The developed approaches are applied to the Howard Hanson Dam in collaboration with USACE- Seattle District. The Risk Prioritization Tool for Dams by FEMA will be used to analyze and develop risk assessments for earth dams and levees. Through research of the Howard Hanson Dam, the goal is to define acceptable performance limit states, to be displayed through a spreadsheet. The limit state spreadsheet will be linked to the FEMA assessment tool to perform a risk assessment of the flood protection structure. The major objective is to develop retrofit strategies for protective earth structures, which will provide better tools for vulnerability assessment and implementation of remedial measures in preparation for anticipated severe storm loading.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Coastal Hazards Center of Excellence has given me a wonderful opportunity to participate in research and gain vital tools as I move forward in my studies and career. Through funding assistance from the CHC, I am able to intern at North Carolina State, where I am developing research strategies and improving my problem-solving skills as it pertains to “real world” scenarios. My theoretical knowledge learned at Jackson State and the research experience I’ve gained at North Carolina State University have helped me gain a full-time position as a Civil Engineer at TranSystems Corporation in their Fort Worth, Texas office. My experiences at North Carolina State will be very beneficial as I transition from the classroom to an industry position. Furthermore, I will use the skills and theories I have learned from my internship as a stepping stone into my professional career to generate creative ideas as I gain industry experience.
I am M. Onur Kurum, a recently graduated Ph.D. student from the Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering Department at North Carolina State University. I completed my undergraduate and master studies in Turkey at Middle East Technical University in the Civil Engineering Department with an emphasis on coastal engineering during my master studies. My interest in coastal engineering was initially motivated by my desire to work on a more dynamic environment compared to the environment where traditional civil engineering practices take place. Later, this simple motivation turned out to be an important factor shaping my life and career decisions.
The coastal region is an ever-evolving environment between the land and the sea, driven by wind, waves, tides, currents, storm surge, sea level rise and flooding. This evolving landscape provides protection to the less dynamic inland landforms by providing a buffer to these forces. This critical interface and interaction between the built and natural environment as it relates to the resilience of landforms was the overall topic of my research. The Department of Homeland Security’s Coastal Hazards Center of Excellence (CHC) gave me the opportunity to continue my graduate studies on this topic and conduct research examining landform dynamics that are critical to where, how and when we build in coastal environments. It does so by developing high-resolution multi-temporal geospatial analysis and modeling of geomorphic evolution.
Geospatial and numerical modeling tools together provide results that can be used to improve the communication of hazard and risk and to incorporate hazard and risk into land use planning and other decision making processes. The main part of my work contributes to improving our numerical simulation capabilities to predict landform behavior to extreme events such as hurricanes. With a high capacity in simulation of real events and their effects on the coast, it is possible to generate and investigate scenarios beforehand and develop strategies to prevent or mitigate the devastating effects of a possible extreme event. The importance of this objective is, I believe, obvious: protecting human life and critical infrastructure that we depend on. The modeling framework I worked on was created using past events that affected the North Carolina coast; however, it is applicable to the nation’s coasts. It is my opinion that it is up to the policy and decision makers to utilize academic research findings and create relevant policies that will help preserve the natural coastal environment while increasing its resilience to extreme events.
I am a 4th year Ph.D. student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. I will be graduating in the summer of 2013 and have taken a position as an Assistant Professor at the Air Force Institute of Technology in the Department of Operational Sciences. Prior to my graduate studies, I completed my Bachelors of Science, also from RPI, in the Mathematical Sciences Department. Before graduate school, I worked full time as a rotational analyst for Progressive Insurance. During one summer as a graduate student, I worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory as a Risk Analysis intern.
The main application area of my research is infrastructure restoration. After an extreme event, such as Hurricane Sandy, infrastructure managers must make decisions on how to restore services as quickly as possible. We utilize optimization models to decide which tasks to repair (due to redundancy in infrastructure networks), who will perform the repair, and when. Other aspects that we consider include the interdependency between different infrastructure systems, in addition to the lack of complete information directly following the event. We then incorporate ways to adapt to the arrival of new information throughout the restoration process. Our research also involves the creation of heuristic algorithms to solve for an infrastructure restoration plan. Based on empirical tests, we have shown that these algorithms can arrive at near optimal solutions in a matter of seconds compared to the hours that are sometimes required of the exact optimization models. The speed of the heuristic algorithms allows us to devise restoration plans in real time, as well as use them for planning situations for many different scenarios.
I am Jamarri Aikins, a fourth-year graduate student at Louisiana State University, and I am pursuing my Ph.D. in clinical child psychology. My research interests include childhood behavior disorders and the various social and environmental factors that contribute to maladaptive behaviors.
I received my bachelor’s degree in psychology from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. During my time in Fort Worth, many of my work and volunteer experiences involved working with children and adolescents in low-income communities. I was always intrigued by the children who became academically successful and psychologically healthy adolescents despite the stressors caused by growing up in these environments. Unfortunately, there were also several children who possessed the talent and potential for academic success but lacked the means, motivation, or support.
The funding provided to me by The Department of Homeland Security’s Coastal Hazards Center of Excellence (CHC) during the summer of 2011 provided me with an opportunity to examine trauma-exposed children and explore the various protective factors that helped children exposed to Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill return to or maintain healthy levels of adjustment. My project focused on examining the various coping mechanisms used by children (e.g. diversion, destructive, and ameliorative coping) and social support provided from several sources (e.g. parents, teachers, siblings, relatives, and peers).
My findings indicated that positive adjustment following Hurricane Katrina was positively associated with social support from peers and teachers. During this project, I worked with my major professor, Dr. Mary Lou Kelley, and this project eventually evolved into a larger thesis project.
After completion of the doctoral program, I hope to provide psychological services in low-income communities and continue to study and understand the factors, including trauma exposure, that contribute to children’s positive psychological adjustment.
I am a recent Masters graduate student in Civil Engineering, specializing in Coastal Engineering, from North Carolina State University. Growing up on the Gulf Coast in Venice, Florida, gave me a natural curiosity for coastal processes. Hobbies such as fishing, surfing, scuba diving and boating allowed me to have daily interaction with the coast. The damage from coastal hazards gave me a respect for these storm systems and a desire to build hazard-resilient communities in the future.
After achieving a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from the University of Florida, North Carolina State University offered me the opportunity to pursue my interest in Coastal Engineering, through the support provided by the Department of Homeland Security’s Coastal Hazards Center of Excellence (CHC). Under the direction of Dr. Margery Overton, our team pursued several modeling-based approaches to coastal research along the North Carolina Outer Banks. One of our exciting tasks involved using post-storm remote sensing to better understand the impact of Hurricane Irene, which caused a breach on the Outer Banks in 2011.
My thesis focused on evaluating a dune erosion methodology which has been used as the basis for FEMA coastal flood mapping guidelines since 1988. This procedure requires a simple geometric alteration of a beach and dune profile prior to modeling the landward extent of wave activity. This directly affects the delineation of hazard zones for coastal communities. My research used storm-induced dune erosion as estimated from pre-storm and post-storm topographic data on the Outer Banks to compare this original methodology to a new numerical model, Cross-Shore Numerical Model (CSHORE). CSHORE simulates the morphology of a shore-normal beach profile due to storm effects and could eventually be used to update FEMA’s dune erosion, wave transformation, wave setup, and wave runup guidelines so that communities will have more accurate hazard zone delineations.
After the completion of my thesis, I was offered the opportunity to work as a Coastal Engineer for Stantec, a firm contracted as part of the Strategic Alliance for Risk Reduction (STARR) to update FEMA flood maps for several regions of the nation. Through my work at Stantec, I have been involved in flood mapping applications for communities in Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Washington, Alaska, and several communities bordering the Great Lakes. Because FEMA is planning to incorporate the use of CSHORE in flood mapping work for the Great Lakes coast, much of my CHC research has been responsible for my recruitment by Stantec and will be used to contribute to the success of future STARR projects.