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Rights: The University of Waikato
Published 21 July 2007 Referencing Hub media
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Dr Stefano Pampanin from the University of Canterbury explains that seismic engineers need a good understanding of physics, mathematics and other sciences, as well as a broad general knowledge and a scientific approach.

Transcript

DR STEFANO PAMPANIN
I would say that starting from the beginning would be the basic skills of what an engineer should need which are basics of math, physics, chemistry; but is not just math and physics that you are going to use for, for example, a dynamic calculation - it is much broader than that. Is the whole engineering mentality, which is a problem solver, and being hungry of looking at some other disciplines’ knowledge. So you get to work on finite element models, which are computational type of models.

So the basic skills are I would suggest, at the beginning, typically those of a normal engineer; but then they become more and more defined, so they are becoming deeper. At the same time broader, because you really need to talk a little bit about the knowledge of other disciplines, like mechanical engineering, like geotechnical engineering, like control algorithms. So, very advanced math, very advanced computer science. And that is where we’re getting, nowadays, the best research possible, because people are starting communicating, and you are developing materials - for example carbon fibres, which were absolutely typical of aeronautic engineer, and then they got moved to civil engineering.

And so it is fundamental that kids will have a basic concept well understood, not because they can write properly a multiple choice written test, but because they are very well understood in terms of complication and consequences of what they mean, and real life practical interpretation of those basic mathematical and physics law, because everything will be then going around. On a piece of an envelope someone should be able to sketch - properly - the design, by making a very quick assumption in the head, and those assumption are numerical calculation, approximation, very good understanding of units. Which means mathematical and physics and statics are behind those sketches.