NHERI Graduate Student Council

Leadership


NGSC Officers

President | Holly Davies

Holly Davies

My name is Holly Davies, and I am a 2nd year PhD student at the University of Houston Graduate college of Social Work (GCSW) where my trauma research focuses on structural inequalities, policy, and mental health surrounding natural disasters. I received my MBA from Rice University, my MSW from the GCSW, and am passionate about using interdisciplinary qualitative and quantitative approaches to reduce risk. I bring practical leadership experience in flood remediation and mitigation, which has received mayoral and presidential awards. With a dedicated executive working group, I helped create our by-laws and look forward to continuing to serve all NHERI GSC members by building a strong network of future colleagues. Together we can use science to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive world as we research ways to mitigate and adapt to natural hazards – and I would be honored to be your President, helping us move toward that goal.

Vice President | Emmaleah Jones

Emmaleah Jones is a graduate student at Northeastern University studying Urban Informatics, which is essentially a blend of data science and urban planning, and participates in the Global Resilience Institute (GRI) there. Her background is in urban planning, social science, and resilience studies. As part of her honor’s thesis, she conducted research with 100 Resilient Cities on urban governance and climate change-related natural hazards (flooding, land subsidence) in coastal villages is Semarang, Indonesia. She is also an incoming Fulbright researcher in Chile, where she works with an interdisciplinary team at CIGIDEN (the Research Center for Integrated Disaster Risk Management), as well as the Chilean Ministry of Housing and Urbanism, ONEMI (the National Office of Emergency of the Interior Ministry), and other organizations on a project to build a simulation-based visualization and decision-support tool for integrating risk assessments into urban planning at-scale as a part of their "Disaster Research Workflow", or DRW, on a pilot project in a mid-size coastal city called San Antonio. The aim of her research is to generate a data-driven appraisal of the cost of non-resilient growth, to help build a more reactive tool that enables A/B testing of land-use policy strategies and their cost; thus assisting local decision-makers to operationalize the science and calculate long-term risk in plans and designs.

Secretary | Jordan Nakayama

I am Jordan Nakayama, a structural engineering PhD student working on developing theory guided data science frameworks learning from post-event windstorm reconnaissance data. I am running for the position of secretary to serve and communicate with the GSC community at large and to directly impact the students within this council by contributing to its mission of building a community of graduate researchers and connecting members with mentors in natural hazards fields. I am passionate about learning and connecting with all fields of natural hazards research and would be thrilled to have the opportunity to lead in this organization.

Vice-Secretary | Nelmary Rodríguez Sepúlveda

My name is Nel Rodríguez Sepúlveda, and I am a 24-year-old Puerto Rican geologist working on a master’s degree at Michigan Technological University. I currently research the relationship between volcanically emitted heat and volcanically emitted sulfur dioxide in a variety of volcanoes as a way of increasing the pool of information available for volcanic hazard management. My goal as a scientist is to be involved in geologic hazards research that takes in account the ethnographic setting of the areas involved and takes ethical measures to ensure that those most affected are listened to. As a member of the NHERI NGSC Executive Committee I strive to promote diversity in scientific viewpoints. I also work to give NHERI NSGC members opportunities to interact with scientists from different fields and cultures as an attempt to decrease the space between hazards scientists and the reality of the places in which they carry out research.

Treasurer | Elliot Nichols

My name is Elliot Nichols, and I am a PhD student in the GeoSystems group at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where I use remote sensing technologies such as UAV Structure from Motion (SfM), Multi-Spectral imagery, and LiDAR to quantify and detect the impact of natural disasters on civil infrastructure. In addition, I am the current Recorder for the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance (GEER) Association, for which I aid in organizing reconnaissance teams following an extreme event, act as a liaison between the field team and GEER leadership, and maintain the GEER website including editing and publishing reconnaissance reports and data to DesignSafe. I have also participated in GEER field missions to the 2020 Edenville, MI dam failures and the 2021 eastern European flooding. As Georgia Tech’s Geo-Society Vice President, I maintain and organize all group finances, thus my application for the Treasurer position, for which I have current experience in maintaining accounts and group funds. My goal for the NSGC is to make our funding transparent to all members and to make a thorough plan for all future expenditures with the support of the general membership and approval of the executive committee.

Vice-Treasurer | Edwin Rajeev

My name is Edwin Rajeev, and I am a 3rd year Ph.D. student (5th-year Graduate Student) at the University of Florida. I am pursuing my Master’s and Ph.D. in Civil and Coastal Engineering, with a primary focus on Coastal Ecosystem Dynamics. Before my Ph.D. studies, I obtained my Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering from India, and Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Florida. I have a demonstrated history of working in multiple disciplines of engineering, such as mechanical, aerospace, biomedical, civil/coastal, and software engineering. My primary expertise lies in numerical modeling for riverine and coastal flows employing Navier-Stokes and Shallow water equations. Added to this, I also have a strong background in instrumentation for the experimental study of environmental flows and sediment transport. During my Ph.D. studies, I have collaborated with various Civil and Coastal Engineering firms in Florida to provide custom project-specific engineering and software solutions. I am currently affiliated with Cummins Cederberg – _Coastal and Marine Engineering. As part of the NGSC, I would bring emphasis to industry relations. The focus would be to enable and foster collaborations between NHERI and the civil/environmental/coastal engineering industry with aim of accelerating the transfer of science to society.


Working Group Leadership

Chair of Membership | Faith Nnenanya

Faith Nnenanya is a dynamic young Geotech Faculty/Lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, who is studying the interaction between Soils, Structures and Multi-Hazards from a probabilistic perspective for her Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at University of California, Davis. She carries a unique blend of experience in Academia, Industry, African, British and now the US system and culture. She has served on various committees during her undergraduate years and career in design and teaching; notable are: Secretary of Alumni & Friends Contact Committee, Chair of Technical Committee, Secretary of Engineering Community Development Service Group, Member of Exams & Records Committee, Departmental Representative for ISO 9001-SON Certification, and Volunteer as an Audio Engineer. She is running for the office of Vice-President of NHERI GSC and Chair of Membership WGS with a mission to make NHERI a global name. Give her your vote and together set the stage for “Building Connections in Hazards” in NHERI GSC in 3 key areas: People, Research and Practice.

Vice-Chair of Membership | Sasan Dolati

I am Sasan Dolati a Ph.D. Candidate in Structural Engineering at the University of Texas at San Antonio. I am an ambassador of the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department that helps UTSA recruit talented graduate students. I won the ACI San Antonio chapter scholarship award in 2021 and a PEER blind prediction contest at the University of Berkley on a topic very close to my Ph.D. work (I received the first prize from 116 international applicants). Besides being active, working as a manager for ten years, having strong knowledge and background in infrastructures, and communicating with companies motivated me to be nominated for NSGC. I plan to communicate with companies about each research group topic so graduate students can expand their research. Companies consider these research groups as solutions for their needs that can bring funds to each group, and students will be able to find their job by this plan.

Chair of Workshop & Mentoring | Jasmine Bekkaye

Jasmine Bekkaye is a Civil Engineering PhD student at Louisiana State University. Her research since she began her graduate program in 2020 has focused on the impacts of natural disasters on coastal infrastructure as well as disaster debris generation and its impacts on communities. Additionally, she has had the opportunity to attend the NHERI Summer Institute and use NHERI resources, such as the RAPID Experimental Facility, to collect perishable data before and after multiple hurricanes in Louisiana. She is focused on building a network and community for natural hazard researchers like herself and to provide support and resources for fellow researchers. Her plans for the NGSC are to further expand the resources and opportunities available to natural hazard researchers and to use her platform to disseminate this information to fellow researchers.

Vice-Chair of Workshop & Mentoring | Olaniyi Diran Afolayan

Olaniyi Afolayan is a first-year PhD student in Geotechnical Engineering at Auburn University, Alabama, where he is researching "The mechanism of piping in unsaturated embankments". Prior to starting his doctoral program, he worked as a Civil Engineer for four (4) years in a local construction company and as an Assistant Lecturer at Covenant University, Nigeria, for two years and ten months in Nigeria. As a collaborative and active researcher, he has authored and co-authored over ten (10) journal articles and conference papers. He is also a reviewer for two ESCI journals (KSCE Journal of Civil Engineering and International Journal of Construction Management). Olaniyi is inspired by knowledge, loves meeting new people, and read novels during his leisure time. Based on his research and work experience, he is qualified as an Vice-Chair of Workshop and Mentoring; which borders around documentation, writing, and communication.

Chair of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion | Margaret (Maggie) Webb

Margaret (Maggie) Webb is a master's and Ph.D. student in environmental engineering and engineering education, respectively, at Virginia Tech. She graduated with her mechanical engineering degree from Rice University and worked for ExxonMobil as a subsea engineer and as a high school STEM teacher in a Houston charter school before starting grad school. Her research interests include supporting the needs of displaced engineering students, understanding the supports and barriers to educational continuity for engineers in a disaster context, and preparing engineering students interdisciplinarity to address disasters in their work. She is currently working on a journal article related to the successful implementation of interdisciplinary graduate programs for engineers, the evaluation and development of a Disaster Resilience and Risk Management graduate certificate program, and a conference paper on issues at the intersection of equity and experiential learning with engineering study abroad programs. She is well suited to serve as either the social science research lead, the DEI chair, or the workshop and mentoring chair because of her extant experience in social science research in an engineering context, her research interests and expertise with creating diverse, equitable, and inclusive educational and work environments, and her passion and background in workforce development.

Vice-Chair of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion | Harman Singh

Harman Singh is currently enrolled in a dual degree program (Master's and Ph.D.) in Geography at Penn State University. As a graduate representative at her school, she has experience building a diverse community, encouraging mentorship, and creating an inclusive environment in research. In her role as vice chair of the DEI working groups of the NHERI graduate student council she supports and facilitates the same resources and community building. She is interested in organizing talks and workshops that include researchers from diverse backgrounds as well as creating a diversity resources page that anyone from the community could suggest resources to add too on equity in hazards research or DEI conversations in the workplace.

Chair of Research | Taylor Heath

Taylor Heath is a Doctoral Student in Sociology and Demography at the University of Pennsylvania. Her primary reason for getting involved in the NHERI NGSC is to further interdisciplinary research opportunities as the climate and energy crises require social and natural scientific inquiry to further our understanding and ability to problem-solve these crucial challenges. Her hope is to do this in a leadership capacity by creating connections between members with shared research interests and diverse research capabilities as well as with faculty and professionals working in the field, developing a publicly-available data and research database that can be used by members and other scholars working in these capacities, scheduling workshop sessions in which members at all stages of research can share research for feedback, and creating writing and research accountability groups that can keep all of us moving forward on our work despite the many challenges we are presented with in these uncertain times. She has served as Operations Chair and Social Chair in her department's graduate student council, as well as at her previous university's graduate student Senate in order to secure funding, encourage interdisciplinary research collaboration, and create mentoring connections for students in their departments. She is hopeful to be able to contribute to the future of this incredible initiative.

Vice-Chair of Research | Hamed Tohidi

Hamed Tohidi is a Ph.D. candidate of civil engineering at The University of Memphis. He is working on a five-year seismic and liquefaction hazard mapping project for western Tennessee. His research background, complements the role as a Vice-Chair of Research Working Group Committee.

Chair of Networking & Community Building | Saman Khedmatgozar

Saman Khedmatgozar is a Ph.D., Candidate. Saman is a graduate research assistant at Florida International University in Miami, FL, with a focus on structural engineering. He graduated with an MS in Structural Engineering in 2019. During his master’s study, he was the first rank of all civil engineering students with a 4.0 GPA. His Master's research project focused on the piers of the bridges and their nonlinear behavior under earthquakes. He has worked on the design, evaluation, retrofit, and rehabilitation of bridges by using innovative material and energy dissipation systems. He has also worked on the design of structures with FRP composite materials. He started his Ph.D. in Civil engineering in 2020. During his Ph.D. study, he has worked on the ABC-UTC research project “Alternative Materials and Configurations for Prestressed-Precast Concrete Pile Splice Connection”. This research project and development of a Guide are directly applicable to improving pile splice connection design and analysis for ABC projects, including new bridges and replacement of existing bridges. Currently, he is working on the FHWA project "Guide for Field Inspection of In-Service FRP Reinforced/Strengthened Concrete Bridge Elements."

Vice-Chair of Networking & Community Building | Paola Rivera

Paola Rivera is pursuing a Master's in Geology with a Natural Hazards and Disaster Risk Reduction Certificate from Michigan Technological University. Her interests include multidisciplinary approaches to geosciences and the effect of social inequalities in reinforcing vulnerability indices in communities. She recently participated in collaborative research in El Salvador to learn the adaptation and challenges of rural agricultural communities during drought seasons in the Central American Dry Corridor. Her main area to focus for the NHERI Student Council is to expand the science communication field and how research implementation to understand the root causes of disaster dynamics in communities can impact project application for response and recovery during these events.

Chair of Technology & Communication | Niko Grisel Todorov

Nikolay (Niko) Grisel Todorov has two MSc degrees (1) in Geodesy, Cartography and Remote Sensing from UACEG, Sofia, Bulgaria (1993) and (2) in Computer Science from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (1999). Niko is working on his PhD in Computational and Data Sciences at Chapman University, Orange, California (2024) with focus on machine learning, and causal inference. He has worked as a FEMA Hazus Software Development Lead between 2002-2021 utilizing knowledge from both degrees and gaining in-depth knowledge in natural hazards (NH) and delving in hydrology and hydraulic riverine modeling, coastal flooding, coastal surge, and tsunami modeling. As a NGSC Technology Chair his goal is to lead the organization to adopt the latest NH R&D principles, accommodate brainstorming ideas, start new and/or extend existing NH tools based on the current academic publications and future computational trends.

Vice-Chair of Technology & Communication | Edwin Rajeev

Edwin Rajeev is a 3rd year Ph.D. student (5th-year Graduate Student) at the University of Florida. He is pursuing a Master’s and Ph.D. in Civil and Coastal Engineering, with a primary focus on Coastal Ecosystem Dynamics. Before his Ph.D. studies, he obtained his Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering from India, and Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Florida. He has demonstrated history of working in multiple disciplines of engineering, such as mechanical, aerospace, biomedical, civil/coastal, and software engineering. His primary expertise lies in numerical modeling for riverine and coastal flows employing Navier-Stokes and Shallow water equations. Added to this, he also has a strong background in instrumentation for the experimental study of environmental flows and sediment transport. During his Ph.D. studies, he has collaborated with various Civil and Coastal Engineering firms in Florida to provide custom project-specific engineering and software solutions. He is currently affiliated with Cummins Cederberg – Coastal and Marine Engineering. As part of the NGSC, he brings emphasis to industry relations. The focus is to enable and foster collaborations between NHERI and the civil/environmental/coastal engineering industry with aim of accelerating the transfer of science to society.