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July 2015

Developing the groundwork for improved earthquake safety

During an earthquake, the greatest risk for injury or death comes from building collapse and structural failures caused by the compounding of forces during the seismic event.

Marina Maciel is laying the foundation for success in her career. A civil engineering undergraduate student from Universidade Federal de Santa Maria in Brazil, Marina is researching ways to make buildings safer during seismic events under supervision from Professor Dan Palermo at York University’s Department of Civil Engineering.  Together, they are working to test, analyse, and refine a new type of reinforcement technique for concrete walls to better withstand intense earthquakes.

During an earthquake, the greatest risk for injury or death comes from building collapse and structural failures caused by the compounding of forces during the seismic event. Marina is working with computer models to simulate how buildings withstand the forces of an earthquake over time. She is testing whether the magnitude or frequency of the earthquake’s force waves play a larger role in the risk of collapse, then using the models to refine the reinforcements as they are built.

The reinforcement techniques that Professor Palermo and his team are developing would help cement walls to better withstand the compounding of forces and recover their shape after an earthquake. The reinforcements could be used to refurbish existing foundations, thereby preserving buildings and potentially saving lives. Marina’s computer models help the team to make improvements to the formulation of the concrete so that it will have the best chance of success during a seismic event.

For Marina, her Mitacs Globalink internship has ignited a new-found passion for research.

At the beginning of my undergraduate studies, I wanted to go work directly in industry. But now I am attracted to graduate school because I want to learn as much as I can before I start applying my knowledge to the outside world.”

In fact, her professor has already invited her to return for later studies, and she would also be eligible to apply for the Mitacs Globalink Graduate Fellowship.

As she nears the final weeks of her internship, Marina reflects on a summer spent in Canada. “There is so much about Mitacs Globalink that makes it a unique and excellent experience. I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to learn so much as a researcher, and as a person.”


Mitacs would like to thank Industry Canada, the Governments of Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan, and Le Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies. Mitacs is pleased to work with international partners to support Globalink, including Brazil’s le Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, the China Scholarship Council, Campus France, India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development, Mexico’s Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education.