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Center for Geotechnical Modeling

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NEES Consortium Operation: FY 2005 - FY 2014  (NEES Consortium, Inc.)

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

The Center for Geotechnical Modeling at the University of California, Davis is a part of the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES). The Center is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and is home to a geotechnical centrifuge.

Geotechnical centrifuges are used for research in geotechnical science, an area of civil engineering concerned with how geological materials (dirt and rock) interact with the foundations of built structures such as bridges, roads, and houses. In a research laboratory, engineers use centrifuges to study the affect of gravity on soil samples or small-scale models of structures. The experiments serve to measure properties such as the strength, stiffness and capacity of foundations for bridges and buildings, the stability of hillsides and seawalls, etc. Small models do not weigh the same as a full size structure, of course, but the forces created by the centrifuge can artificially recreate the affects of gravity to provide accurate results. Geotechnical centrifuge tests are important for understanding - and predicting - the effects of earthquakes on buildings, bridges, roads and the ground upon which they stand. That knowledge will enable us to build earthquake-resistant structures and reinforce existing structures to withstand the force of earthquakes.

The George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) is the centerpiece of NSF’s ongoing priority to understand earthquakes and prevent or mitigate the damage they cause. Opened for operations on Oct. 1, 2004, NEES is a network of sites available for experimentation on-site, in the field, and through remote operations. The network helps researchers understand how earthquake and tsunami forces affect ground motion and soil liquefaction as well as the built environment—buildings, bridges, utility systems—and near-shore and coastal environments. The NEES networking cyberinfrastructure connects equipment sites and provides a tele-presence, a curated central data repository, simulation tools and collaborative tools for facilitating on-line planning, execution and post-processing of experiments.

Education & Outreach

The Center offers several different educational opportunities for K-12, undergraduate students, graduate students, and the community. These include, but are not limited to teacher and student modules, hands-on activities, seminars, and short courses. The Center also offers outreach via tours and web presentations throughout the year.

The NEES Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program is a dynamic 10-week summer research program for upper division undergraduate students interested in Civil Engineering, Computer Science/Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and other fields related to seismic risk mitigation testing. REU participants are paired with a faculty advisor, join a NEES research team, and participate in enrichment activities including attending the NEES Annual Meeting and the Young Researchers’ Symposium. Mentors, including university faculty, researchers, and graduate students, provide support and guidance to interns. Students are taught how to conduct independent research and how to participate effectively as a member of a research team. 

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  • Image from the NSF-funded Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation.
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