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UC student to study natural disaster research at Stanford

Canterbury postgraduate to study natural disaster research at Stanford

June 24, 2014

A University of Canterbury postgraduate student is heading to Stanford University with a $33,000 Fulbright scholarship to study earthquake-related structural engineering.

Max Ferguson was tonight awarded a Fulbright scholarship at Parliament House. He was one of 26 postgraduates from all over New Zealand to receive the awards. The University of Canterbury received 10 awards – more than any other New Zealand university.

His research focuses on using modern technology to create safe, environmentally friendly buildings that are easy to construct. When he returns to New Zealand, Ferguson plans to work for a design or construction firm and build structures that are safe and innovative.

``I start at Stanford in September but will attend the Institute for International Education gateway programme at the University of Oklahoma in August. I chose Stanford for my scholarship research because of the incredible atmosphere there. Everyone at Stanford wants to change the world. The students walk around the campus discussing their research projects and their plans for the future. The campus is full of life, ideas and exciting possibilities.

``The focus on research and development at Stanford is stronger than I imagined possible. Everyone inspired me to make a difference. All the students I talked to said they felt privileged to be there.’’

Ferguson graduated in April 2014 with a civil engineering honours degree. His honours research project looked at base isolation and damage-resistant technologies for a new generation of structures that are resistant to earthquakes.

The project involved designing a six storey apartment building for the centre of Christchurch using a combination of damage-resistant technologies. He worked with an Italian engineering firm, Cresco, to ensure that the design was feasible and cost-effective. He was able to show their apartment building would not sustain any damage in a significant earthquake.

``The destruction caused by the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes and other similar events around the world demonstrated that there is room for improvement. I want to see recent advancements in computer technology used to improve the way we design and construct buildings and civil infrastructure.

``My study experience at the University of Canterbury was quite amazing. The civil engineering course there covers a broad range of topics from structural design to personality types. The lecturers are all experts in their own fields, many of them from renowned universities around the world.
`My supervisor, Professor Stefano Pampanin, can best be described as intense. He encouraged us to conduct our research in an extremely fast-paced and adaptive fashion. He encouraged us to work at the cutting-edge of engineering research, continuously adapting our focus to meet the requirements of the civil engineering industry. The engineering course at Canterbury ultimately changed my perception of the modern world, in a social and technical context.

``Like many people in Christchurch, the February 22 earthquake really challenged me. I think that the most challenging aspect of the earthquake was the rapid change it bought to people and their surroundings. The earthquake caused changes to all aspects of life in Christchurch.

``The earthquakes helped me to accept change as an important part of life and encouraged me to look for positive opportunities in every situation.’’


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