McCormick Magazine

Partnering for structural health in India

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rightThe Partnerships for International Research and Education–Intelligent Structural Health Management (PIRE-ISHM) program at McCormick links faculty and students with universities around the world in hopes of creating safer infrastructure.

PIRE is a National Science Foundation initiative that seeks to catalyze international research engagement. Last year Sridhar Krishnaswamy, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Center for Quality Engineering and Failure Prevention, and his colleagues won a five-year PIRE grant to establish a global partnership of universities, laboratories, and companies to engage in cutting-edge research and education in the area of intelligent structural health management (ISHM) — a new concept aimed at preventing the catastrophic failure of structures by using diagnostic sensors to retrieve data about the current state of a structure.

Northwestern's partner universities are mostly in South and East Asia, and projects will include both graduate and undergraduate exchanges, research visits, internships, and, perhaps most importantly, exposure to the culture of research in other countries.

"Over the past 50 years, there's been a lot of global interaction, but it has been predominantly students coming into the United States," says Krishnaswamy, who acts as one of the coordinators of the program. "Our graduate students don't often get experience studying or doing research abroad. The purpose is to expose our students to different cultures and allow them to develop substantial links with researchers around the world."

Last summer Aurora Zinck, a PhD student in materials science and engineering, and Brad Regez, a postdoctoral fellow in mechanical engineering, each spent a month at partner university India Institute of Technology Madras laying the framework for partnerships to come. Krishnaswamy says they hope to send 20 students to partner universities over the next four years.

"With a huge issue like structural health management, the problems are global and the solutions are common," Krishnaswamy says. "Partnerships like these will help create solutions that will help increase structural health around the world."

—Emily Ayshford