LSU to establish first hurricane engineering program in the world

August 15, 2000

U.S. Sen. John Breaux and LSU officials have announced that the university has received a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to establish a ground-breaking new curriculum in hurricane engineering.

The program will be the first of its kind in the world and is a joint project of the LSU Hurricane Center and the LSU College of Engineering.

"This project will define LSU as the global leader in, and in fact, the creator of, hurricane engineering," Marc Levitan, director of the LSU Hurricane Center, said. Levitan, also an associate professor in LSU's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is the principal investigator and project director for the program.

The curriculum will invent a new engineering discipline, known as hurricane engineering, which will address design concepts behind buildings and infrastructure in hurricane-prone regions. Levitan said engineers and architects are generally not trained to consider such factors as hurricane-force winds, wind-borne debris, storm surge, rainfall flooding or rain-induced landslides. Therefore, structures are usually not designed to withstand all of the effects of major storms. The hurricane engineering program will address all aspects of construction and engineering on individual buildings, levees and transportation and evacuation systems.

The innovative curriculum will create a minor in hurricane engineering for students majoring in civil engineering, architecture or construction. Initially, the curriculum will consist of three courses in civil engineering and a fourth course in disaster engineering, which will be available to non-engineering majors as an elective. The disaster-engineering course will also form a core component of a new degree in Disaster Science, Mitigation and Management, which is being developed by the LSU Hurricane Center for the College of Arts and Sciences. All of the hurricane engineering courses will be targeted to upper-level undergraduates and graduate students.

To accompany the curriculum, members of the project team plan to write the first textbook on hurricane engineering and create Web-based educational materials.

"Right now, there are no textbooks on the subject and only limited amounts of curricular materials of any kind," Levitan said. "We will literally write the book about this field."

Twenty-one LSU faculty members are involved in the project, along with civil-engineering professors from Southern University and the University of Missouri-Rolla. Principal investigators for the project are Marc Levitan, Emir Macari, Brian Wolshon, William Moe and Vijay Singh of LSU's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

The project fits in with LSU's push to develop interdisciplinary curriculums and research centers. The hurricane engineering program will likely attract students from the Colleges of Engineering, Design and Arts and Sciences.

The LSU Hurricane Center, which is awaiting final approval from the state Board of Regents, allows LSU researchers from several different disciplines to work together under one umbrella to study many aspects of hurricanes.
Contact Kristine Calongne
LSU News Service

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