Better partnerships for a better society

Some of the nation’s top researchers gathered at Northeastern University this week for the National Science Foundation’s annual Engineering Research and Innovation Conference, which is being hosted by the College of Engineering.

Faculty members, such as Mishac Yegian, a Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, used the event as an opportunity to network and collaborate with their esteemed peers.

Yegian on Monday presented his in-progress research on making soil more earthquake-resistant. The research, funded by a $1.2 million grant from the NSF’s George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake and Engineering Simulation, is an excellent example of partnerships, engaging collaborators at the University of Texas, SUNY Buffalo, and Boise State.  The project focuses on perfecting a technique called induced partial saturation, which uses oxygen bubbles to stabilize soil.  The partnership uses research equipment through the George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake and Engineering Simulation.

Northeastern faculty presented a range of engineering research throughout the conference. For example, Jacqueline Isaacs, professor and chair of the department of mechanical and industrial engineering, presented research intended to foster the sustainable development of nanotechnology. Andrew Gouldstone, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, presented research exploring volcanology and thermal spray techniques to develop “geo-inspired” nanoporous thin films and coatings.

This year’s conference theme, developed in concert with the university’s institutional goals, focused on building robust partnerships between academia, industry and government with an aim toward implementing positive outcomes for society. In three town hall meetings, conference attendees were invited to participate in discussions on best practices, successful partnerships and future opportunities.

Sara Wadia-Fascetti, associate dean and professor of civil and environmental engineering, helped organize the conference. She said, “town hall conversations stressed that people are the most important part of partnerships and that partnerships are similar to marriages and require compromises and understanding each other’s priorities.  The “partnership continuum” can result in many long term and unexpected benefits.”

The conference may be winding down, but the Network for Earthquake and Engineering Simulation will kick off its own annual event on Thursday at the Hynes Convention Center. The Quake Summit 2012 will focus on research accelerating infrastructure design and construction practices that minimize damage during earthquakes or tsunamis.