North­eastern Uni­ver­sity hosted nearly 500 engi­neers from across the country last week for the 2011 Engi­neering Mechanics Insti­tute, which was orga­nized by three fac­ulty in the Col­lege of Engi­neering professors.

I think it’s cer­tainly fit­ting to have this con­fer­ence on the campus of North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. Our uni­ver­sity and our civil engi­neering pro­gram are on the move,” said Prof. Jerome F. Hajjar, one of the con­fer­ence co-​​chairs, at the start of the event. “Our key research and edu­ca­tion thrusts — these include envi­ron­mental health, civil infra­struc­ture secu­rity, sus­tain­able resource engi­neering — all con­tribute to an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary theme of urban engi­neering that reflects very well on many of the topics that we’re going to be having here at the conference.”

In addi­tion to Hajjar, the con­fer­ence was chaired by Prof. Ming L. Wang and co-​​chaired by Prof. Dion­isio P. Bernal, all of whom are fac­ulty mem­bers in Northeastern’s Depart­ment of Civil and Envi­ron­mental Engi­neering.

The con­fer­ence, which ran from Wednesday, June 1 through Sat­urday, June 4, focused on the inter­sec­tion of aca­d­emic research in engi­neering mechanics and the real-​​world appli­ca­tions of that schol­arly work. The Engi­neering Mechanics Insti­tute (EMI), part of the Amer­ican Society of Civil Engi­neers (ASCE), works to address advanced engi­neering mechanics topics.

Two of ASCE’s biggest ini­tia­tives are sus­tain­ability and infra­struc­ture,” said Andrew Her­rman, ASCE president-​​elect. “EMI pro­vides the research and prac­tical appli­ca­tions our country needs to achieve sus­tain­ability to improve and sus­tain the life of our infra­struc­ture. This con­fer­ence is a great oppor­tu­nity to show­case the research that we’re doing and also the prac­tical applications.”

Keynote speakers addressed such issues like using the use of intel­li­gent wire­less tech­nolo­gies to mon­itor the struc­tural health of infra­struc­ture, and lessons learned from the mas­sive earth­quake and tsunami that struck Japan in March. One of the Northeastern’s national research cen­ters is focused on the former topic — devel­oping sensing tech­nology for real-​​time assess­ment of the safety and integrity of infra­struc­ture such as roads and bridges.

In addi­tion to por­tions of the con­fer­ence aimed at pro­fes­sional engi­neers to the main pre­sen­ta­tions, the con­fer­ence fea­tured a work­shop for grad­uate studies stu­dents inter­ested in aca­d­emic careers as fac­ulty mem­bers as well as three stu­dent paper competitions.

When wel­coming vis­iting engi­neers to campus, In his wel­coming remarks at the start of the con­fer­ence, Stephen W. Director, Northeastern’s provost and senior vice pres­i­dent for aca­d­emic affairs, said the Uni­ver­sity was an excel­lent venue for the con­fer­ence because both had sim­ilar goals: merging aca­d­emic schol­ar­ship with real-​​world experience.

North­eastern is very pleased that you chose us to be the venue for this meeting. I under­stand that it is this institute’s tra­di­tion to hold its meet­ings on uni­ver­sity cam­puses and I think that’s ter­rific,” Director said. “We have a some­what dif­ferent approach to under­grad­uate edu­ca­tion than many other uni­ver­si­ties. With coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion or expe­ri­en­tial edu­ca­tion, we believe that what stu­dents learn in the real world is just as impor­tant as what they learn in the class­room. By alter­nating that expe­ri­ence, they become better edu­cated. Many uni­ver­si­ties do have some co-​​op pro­grams, but here it’s per­va­sive; about 90 per­cent of stu­dents across the uni­ver­sity actu­ally go out on co-​​op.”