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Shaking up Science: Q&A with Anke Kamrath

An SDSC employee for almost two decades (18 years), Anke Kamrath currently serves as the center's division director for user services and development as well as the director of the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation's Cyberinfrastructure Center. Otherwise known as NEESit, this group works to advance the state of earthquake engineering in research and in practice. The NEESit team develops and supports an extensive information technology infrastructure for earthquake scientists and researchers. Anke received her M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from UC Berkeley. "I was a "real engineer" (actually rocket scientist) for a couple of years before transitioning to the computationally-oriented environment at SDSC."

What has been the most surprising thing you're learned from your work with the earthquake engineers?

Kamrath: I would say a couple of things have surprised me. First, the level of international collaboration within the field of earthquake engineering is amazing. Cooperation and collegiality seems to permeate many of the overall research endeavors. Its clear that earthquake losses are indeed an international challenge, and that we all are helping advance the understanding in this area, not just for our own countries but for broad global benefit.

Secondly, I'm still surprised how much opportunity there is for impacting the field of earthquake engineering through the application of cutting-edge IT solutions. In particular researchers conducting large-scale experiments have not traditionally shared their data with others in the field. Given the complexity and cost of experiments, NEES provides an environment for others to participate in experiments and fosters the sharing of experimental data. This is just one aspect of NEES that provides the opportunity to accelerate advances in the field more broadly.

NEESit has become a pathfinder Cyberinfrastructure project within the National Science Foundation. What opportunities has this created for the team?

Kamrath: As a pathfinder project we've been approached by other projects in the planning stages (e.g., NEON) to share our experiences, technology and lessons learned. Being one of the first out of the gate offers many challenges and opportunities. I look forward to leveraging and sharing experiences from NEES with other cyberinfrastructure projects.

Has becoming more involved in the earthquake community made you more wary or less of earthquakes here in the United States?

Kamrath: That's an interesting question. Overall I feel less wary of the impact of earthquakes given the many engineering improvements that have been adopted by builders to make structures safer within the US. There's still a huge risk within the US, but constant improvements will hopefully continue to mitigate the impact. However, internationally I feel more wary. Every few months we hear about large-scale earthquakes in other countries and the severe impact on the built-infrastructure and of course the resulting human loss.