SimCenter Welcomes 2019 Summer REUs

Published on June 17, 2019


The NHERI SimCenter is hosting four REU students at UC Berkeley this summer. NSF’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program promotes education and research through internships in active research. The four REUs join the SimCenter for an intensive ten-week internship where they complete independent research projects, mentored by domain experts on the software development team. Their research outcomes will be presented August 1-2 at UT Austin with REUs from the other NHERI sites, and their backgrounds and goals are shared below. Matt Schoettler, SimCenter Associate Director of Operations, was an REU intern himself and knows the benefits of the program and notes the success of past interns in earning graduate degrees. Matt states that “their research topics represent an expanding field of civil engineering into regional risk, vulnerabilities, and consequences.”

Meet the REUs (from left to right):

Ellie Month – is an undergraduate at Cornell University, will be a junior this fall in environmental engineering with a special interest in modeling clean water and infrastructure systems. Her interest in natural hazards engineering started with her observations from Hurricane Sandy on the east coast. She believes that computer modeling and simulation are beneficial tools, especially when these models are applied on a regional scale. At the SimCenter, Ellie is studying the functionality of a clean water network damaged by natural hazards.

Fernanda Breña – an undergraduate at Tufts University, will be a senior this fall in civil engineering, including wastewater and transportation topics. She is considering graduate school, but may seek employment first to better understand the significance of her chosen major. She values the role programming plays in civil engineering research and looks forward to learning and applying Python at the SimCenter. She is investigating the disruption to traffic networks caused by earthquakes.

Paola Vargas – is an undergraduate in environmental engineering, with a minor in computer science, at the University of Michigan; she looks forward to completing her final semester before applying for internships after this REU program. She is keenly interested in data science, emergency response, and social implications of natural hazards, and she is especially fascinated with large complex systems. At the SimCenter she is investigating damage and loss impacts on a region and considering interventions to improve social vulnerabilities.

Haley Hostetter – an undergraduate at Southern Illinois University, will be a senior this fall in civil engineering with an interest in structural and seismic design. She began college with an interest in architecture then realized that she was interested in understanding how structural systems work. She recognizes the importance of programming and coding in civil engineering applications, and she looks forward to more exposure to structural and earthquake engineering while at Berkeley. At the SimCenter she is generating stochastic ground motions to evaluate the model’s ability to represent the November 2018 Alaska earthquake.