Lisa Holliday is interested in making buildings that can withstand catastrophes, those that are natural as well as man-made. Living in Oklahoma City, she witnessed the damage that was done in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred T. Murrah Federal Building. Designing structures that can resist blasts is similar to designing structures to resist earthquakes, both of which can be a real challenge even for developed countries. For developing countries, it can be even more difficult. In 2005, Lisa received a Boren Fellowship to study Turkish and conduct Ph.D. research on the earthquake resistance of buildings in developing countries.
During her Boren Fellowship, Lisa attended Middle Eastern Technical University in Ankara, Turkey, enrolling in Turkish language classes along with engineering coursework. She also worked closely with a professor who is an expert on assessing seismic vulnerability of structures, to research low-cost earthquake resistant structures and how Turkey is improving the earthquake resistance of its buildings. Because of top-notch researchers, the large number of old and at-risk buildings, and the ample supply of seismic activity, Turkey was an excellent place for Lisa to study how a country can upgrade the seismic performance of its buildings.
Using her existing Spanish language skills, Lisa later applied these principals to a study of structures in Nicaragua. She surveyed towns in Nicaragua, analyzed typical structures, and made recommendations for improvements. Studying cost-effective earthquake solutions for other countries makes citizens safer and promotes good will. In addition, low-cost solutions for other countries may also provide innovative cost-saving measures here in the United States.
To complete her service, Lisa is conducting structural engineering research funded by the Department of Defense. She is proud to be using her engineering skills to improve the safety of structures in the United States.
Written: December 2009