Professor Ganesh Thiagarajan and his student Rini Mitra won first place in an international earthquake simulation contest. They will be recognized at the 14th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering in October in Beijing, China.
Earthquake simulation win, NSF award added to engineer's credits
Professor Ganesh Thiagarajan knows the secret to effective engineering.
“Whenever you’re working with enthusiasm, good things tend to happen,” said Thiagarajan, a civil engineer in UMKC’s School of Computing and Engineering (SCE).
Last fall, he was working with enthusiasm when he and graduate assistant Rini Mitra won first place in an E-Defense blind analysis international earthquake simulation contest. The earthquake simulation challenge aimed to improve the seismic performance of steel frames through numerical simulation.
Using commercial computer software and their drawings, they most closely predicted the actual movements of a four-story building that researchers shook in Japan. They will be recognized at the 14th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering in October 2008 in Beijing, China.
Previously a UMKC Faculty Scholar – an award established to give face to the vision, values and goals the university has created in the areas of teaching and research – Thiagarajan has added another honor to his growing credits. Recently, he received the coveted National Science Foundation’s (NSF) CAREER award.
A model for academic excellence
The CAREER award is NSF’s most prestigious award in support of the early career development activities of faculty who most effectively integrate research and education.
“Ganesh has been an extraordinary faculty in all aspects of academia,” said Khosrow Sohraby, Curators' Professor and associate dean for research in the SCE. “As the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at UMKC grows, he will be a role model for all its new and existing faculty members."
Thiagarajan called the award a special honor.
“It is an award that usually one dreams of, and it feels like a dream come true,” he said. “In the long term, it provides for funding to continue, consolidate and promote the research efforts in the specified topic for the next five years.”
The $400,000 NSF grant was awarded for Thiagarajan’s project titled “Fracture Analyses in Concrete via Experimentation & Simulation (FRANCES): Examining Discrete Crack and Fracture Modeling of Concrete under Blast and Impact Loading.”
Project FRANCES addresses a critical national need of how to build safer infrastructure that can withstand blast and impact loading. The project involves the study of the response of reinforced concrete structures through both experimentation and analytical studies.
Thiagarajan hopes to get undergraduates and high school students involved in the project and exposed to these concepts. The high school students targeted are participants of ARROWS, a NSF-funded projected sponsored by the SCE and the School of Education.
Opportunities through partnering
The relationship the SCE has with its students, other UMKC schools and the community opens the door to many of Thiagarajan’s projects.
He and Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering Chairman Mark McClernon are partnering with Black and Veatch to optimize turbine foundation designs.
Thiagarajan has worked with biomedical researchers to build finite element models of patient- specific knees. The group is studying the stresses and strains in various soft tissue and bone materials when subjected to kinematic motions. With the help of a graduate student, he has translated MRI images into models that could study the mobility of the knee.
He also has worked with the School of Dentistry in developing software to study the structure, property and functional relationship in dentin and dentin adhesive interface materials.
“In engineering, we go out seeking projects that will help UMKC and the community,” Thiagarajan said. “Most of our work flows naturally from the last thing we did or from people asking, ‘Can you do this?’”
Because a professor’s day is limited to 24 hours, Thiagarajan’s students benefit from the overflow of work.
“We have the ideas, but not the time,” Thiagarajan said. “Someone like Rini comes in, and she brings in her talents. There’s certainly no way with my time commitments that I could have entered the earthquake simulation contest alone; it’s definitely teamwork.”
He said Kansas City is an ideal place for professional and student engineers to apply their research.
"The thing about Kansas City is we get interesting projects from the people around us, and we’re excited to take them up,” Thiagarajan said.
"In engineering, we go out seeking projects that will help UMKC and the community. Most of our work flows naturally from the last thing we did or from people asking, 'Can you do this?'" --Ganesh Thiagarajan