Luna invited to international conference in Egypt

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On September 28, 2009

Dr. Ronaldo Luna, associate professor of civil engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology, is traveling all the way to Egypt this fall to present research findings that come partly from Poplar Bluff, Mo.

Luna has been invited to share his work at the 17th International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, which will feature top experts from around the world. The conference will be held Oct. 3-9 in Alexandria, Egypt.

At the conference, Luna will discuss the use of geographic information systems (GIS) as a modern tool to help agencies and engineers assess structures in earthquake-prone areas. Some of the information Luna will present was collected in lowland areas around Poplar Bluff, which is located in the New Madrid Seismic Zone.

“Poplar Bluff is situated at a divide between uplands and lowlands,” Luna says. “The lowlands shake like Jello in an earthquake, and the uplands shake like a stiff board.”

Luna studies the soils and geology in seismic zones to better understand how earthquakes impact structures. Some of this research focuses on liquefaction — the tendency of sediments to momentarily liquefy during a large earthquake.

If the sediments in lowland areas of Missouri or riverbanks near the Mississippi River were to liquefy during an earthquake, bridges and other structures would fail.

Luna advocates the use GIS equipment to help agencies and engineers understand the dangers better. “We want planners to use GIS to assess hazards for bridges,” he says. “These modern tools can provide red flags for bridges in danger.”

The GIS tools, according to Luna, are like screening instruments for the Earth and its structures. He likens the bridges to medical patients. By using GIS, he says, “we can identify which bridges are really sick.”

In addition to presenting a scholarly paper he co-authored, Luna has also been invited to conduct a workshop on geo-engineering data while in Alexandria. The conference will be held at the New Bibliotheca of Alexandria, which contains millions of books, four museums, a planetarium, and four art galleries.

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