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New Earthquake Engineering Program in Pakistan Graduates First Masters Students

Updated: Sep 28, 2020

Pakistan’s premier technical university will graduate a unique class in December: its first masters students in structural earthquake engineering. This milestone will bring pride and joy well beyond campus, because Pakistan emphatically needs seismic design experts. GHI helped develop the program’s curriculum.

“I had the honor to be the first student of this program at NED University of Engineering and Technology, with the Roll No EQ-01,” noted Mubashir Hussain. He describes the program as a great experience, which included theory and computer analysis as well as retrofit case studies of existing local structures.

Earthquakes inflict much suffering in Pakistan, in large part because poorly constructed buildings collapse and kill people. Pakistan’s common buildings made of concrete block and unreinforced masonry, and roofs made of concrete or heavy material, have proved especially lethal.

GHI’s Dr. Janise Rodgers and a Pakistan-US team developed earthquake engineering case studies and materials to train Pakistani engineers. Photo: GHI

The earthquake engineering program at NED University was conceived after the 2005 magnitude 7.6 Kashmir earthquake killed more than 87,000 people, including 19,000 schoolchildren. More than 6,000 schools and nearly all hospitals near the epicenter were severely damaged. Millions became homeless overnight.

Like Mr. Hussain, the other structural earthquake engineering students intend to improve seismic design in their country, so that Pakistanis will live in safer buildings in the future. Tallal Ahmed Khan, another student in the program, vividly remembers from childhood the magnitude 7.7 Gujarat, India earthquake in 2001 “so strong that we experienced the shocks in Karachi.” The 2013 magnitude 7.7 earthquake in Arawan, Pakistan affirmed the nation’s constant risk.

“The program is still in its infancy period,” notes Professor Muhammad Masood Rafi, chairman of NED University’s Department of Earthquake Engineering. Eight men and four women are currently enrolled for the 2 1/2 years of study. Most had previous experience as practicing engineers. The Cowasjee Earthquake Study Centre, a research lab established in 2001, is now part of the department, which will also offer graduate programs in geotechnical earthquake engineering and engineering seismology.

What lies ahead for the graduates? Opportunities for them and for Pakistan. Mr. Hussain was a civil engineer working on small scale projects before joining the masters program. Now, his work at the National Refinery will include review and design of buildings, underground piping, steel structure and foundations for the refinery upgrade. Mr. Khan was a civil engineer at a firm that builds state-of-the-art housing. With his new earthquake engineering skills, he will design for seismic safety and will hold consultants’ work to rigorous seismic design criteria.

The case studies now used in the NED University masters program were developed as part of a larger GHI project to build Pakistani capacity in earthquake engineering. GHI paired American experts in earthquake engineering research, education and practice with Pakistani professors and building professionals.

The teams developed the case studies using buildings in Karachi. They created a checklist for assessing safety vulnerabilities in building types specific to Pakistan, and an engineering analysis guide. They also created training materials. Four hundred working professionals attended short training courses.

Collaborative research among this group has greatly enhanced understanding of how Pakistani structures behave in earthquakes. NED University’s earthquake engineering students now test the performance of non-engineered construction common in Pakistan. One tool they use is a shake table model to identify damage patterns and to study retrofit schemes.

NED University professors received hands-on experience and intensive mentoring using all of these tools. GHI’s team of experts worked with them to augment the university’s well established structural engineering curriculum, which developed into the new earthquake engineering program.

The pioneering collaborative project, “Building Pakistan’s Capacity for Instruction, Research, and Practice in Earthquake Engineering and Retrofit,” was funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) through The National Academies and by the Pakistan Higher Education Commission


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