2023 NHERI Summer Institute connects new researchers to NSF resources

Early career natural hazards engineers and social scientists gain practical knowledge, network with peers

Published on August 2, 2023


At the Summer Institute, collaborative proposal group Delta works on their mock proposal (From left: Patrick Bassal, Olaniyi Afolayan, Soolmaz Khoshkalam, Kaleigh Yost, Zorana Mijic, and Ashray Saxena. Image: Kaleigh Yost.)

June 23, 2023, San Antonio, TX — In June, early career researchers gathered in San Antonio, Texas, for the 2023 NHERI Summer Institute, a three-day immersive experience with the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure, NHERI.

Funded by NSF, NHERI represents the nation's leading natural hazards engineering network — supporting research dedicated to preventing damage from events like severe windstorms and storm surge, tsunamis and earthquakes.

At the University of Texas San Antonio downtown campus, NHERI's Education and Community Outreach team hosted forty Summer Institute participants. The goal? Introduce young researchers from around the nation to the natural hazards research possibilities with NHERI experimental facilities. [quote from JoAnn, director of the NHERI ECO and VP Research Etc at UTSA]

From talks and demonstrations by NHERI faculty, attendees learned about research projects using large-scale wind tunnels and centrifuges, mobile-shaker vehicles and shake tables, post-event reconnaissance tools, simulation and modeling software — and the secure DesignSafe data repository.

NSF program director Joy Pauschke joined the SI virtually and delivered a high-level overview of NSF-funded research in natural hazards engineering. She emphasized the value of cross-disciplinary investigations and offered practical details about the NSF proposal process. NSF program director Giovanna Biscontin met in person with participants to discuss individual proposal ideas and how best to move a research proposal forward.

A highlight of the annual Summer Institute is the mock grant proposal exercise. Attendees break into groups and, over the course of an afternoon, leverage their new knowledge of natural hazards research to prepare sample NSF grant proposals, which are reviewed and critiqued by NSF and NHERI faculty. This year's collaborative group mock proposal winner was Team Zeta: Himan Hojat Jalali, Sahar Derakshan, Maggie Leon-Corwin, Taylor Heath, Natalie Coleman, and Sovreyne Chadwick.

"It was an incredible experience to connect with engineers, social scientists, and K-12 teachers at the NHERI Summer Institute. Huge thank you to Team Zeta for their collaboration and innovation in the mock proposal competition!" said SI attendee Natalie Coleman, NSF Graduate Research Fellow at Texas A&M University.

Are you an early-career researcher interested in natural hazards? Consider following NHERI on LinkedIn, where this fall, you'll get details about attending the 2024 NHERI Summer Institute.