Rachel Adams, recent graduate of the School of Civil and Construction Engineering, examines a structure in Nepal, following the 2015 Gorkha earthquake.

Earthquake Spectra, a leading journal on geotechnical engineering, recently published an article by Ben Mason, associate professor of geotechnical engineering in Oregon State University’s College of Engineering, recent graduate Rachel Adams, and colleagues from Caltech and Nepal. The article, Observations and simulations of basin effects in the Kathmandu Valley during the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake sequence, describes the Kathmandu Valley geology, analyzes motion from the initial earthquake and aftershocks, and identifies different factors responsible for the unusual ground motion that occurred in the region.

While publishing as a co-author is an accomplishment on its own, Adams had other notable achievements while at Oregon State.

During her graduate work, Adams accompanied Mason, her major advisor, on two research trips to Nepal. Their first trip occurred on the one-year anniversary of the Gorkha earthquake where Adams and Mason attended a workshop – with attendees from throughout the world – focused on reconstruction efforts. Through the gathering, they connected with Nepalese engineering professionals from government, academia, and industry who were eager to stay up to date on the best practices for their field.

“There is a large desire to improve education for engineering students and professionals, and consequently make improvements to infrastructure design and construction,” said Adams.

Through connections made with Nepalese colleagues, Mason and Adams identified topics for an earthquake engineering workshop, aimed at sharing current best practices on U.S. geotechnical engineering methods. In September of 2016, Mason, Adams, and researchers from other U.S. universities, presented the workshop at the National Society for Earthquake Technology – Nepal in Kathmandu.

“It was so valuable to interact with the engineering professionals in Nepal, and see their unique challenges for site investigations and construction in the very dense Kathmandu Valley,” said Adams. “We were there not only to teach and help to improve conditions, but to learn from them as well.”

Adams, who was an Evans Fellow in Oregon State’s Humanitarian Engineering program, participated in the Nepal activities with funding from the Evans Family Fellowship. The program supports research and travel for graduate work in humanitarian engineering through a generous donation from Dick and Gretchen Evans.

Much of the research in the Earthquake Spectra article employed data from previous trips to Nepal by Mason and the article’s lead author, Domniki Asimaki of Caltech. Together, they collected perishable data immediately following the earthquake – in an activity known as earthquake reconnaissance. As part of her graduate research, Adams worked with Mason and Asimaki on processing and reducing the data and making subsequent observations and interpretations. Essentially, the team investigated how the geology of the Kathmandu Valley changed the recorded earthquake motions, which is particularly relevant for the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

For Adams, who began her academic career at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon, the quest for knowledge and helping others took her to unexpected places.

“It was amazing to be able to be submerged in a culture so different from the U.S., but also discover that the people there had many of the same goals as us,” said Adams. “They have proved to be an extremely resilient community, which is a great example for the Pacific Northwest with the impending Cascadia Subduction Zone event.”

Earthquake Spectra, the professional journal of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI), is published quarterly in both printed and online editions in February, May, August, and November. EERI established Earthquake Spectra with the purpose of improving the practice of earthquake hazards mitigation, preparedness, and recovery.

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