Creating an Earthquake Warning System in Nepal through International Partnerships

November 11, 2020

As Duke celebrates International Education Week, students from the Earthquake Early Warning in Nepal Bass Connections project team reflect on their experience conducting research across international boundaries. This project is a partnership between faculty and students at Duke University and the Tribhuvan University Institute of Engineering (IOE) in Kathmandu who are working together to develop innovative seismic sensing technologies capable of detecting possible earthquakes early. As the team develops this technology, they are also considering the behavioral and policy landscape. This partnership began in 2019 when a small team of Duke faculty and students traveled to Nepal, but has since proceeded virtually. Here, students from both institutions reflect on what they have learned from working with one another. 

Kathryn Jenkins.“Working with the IOE in Nepal has played a vital role in my Bass Connections experience. As the team was a few months ahead in their work, they were able to introduce us to the project and give us a strong jumping-off point as we began our own research. The IOE team not only provides knowledgeable members to the team, but also first-hand perspectives and an inimitable understanding of the needs of the community we aim to benefit. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to learn from and work with the IOE team, and I look forward to continuing our research this coming year.” –Kathryn Jenkins ’23, Electrical & Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Duke University

Sajan.“Having felt the shocks and seen the damages an earthquake can do to lives and structures, I know how vital this project is for a seismically active region like Nepal. It is such a privilege for me to work under the guidance of a cool and brilliant professor, Dr. Gavin. It has been an amazing experience for me to work closely with Duke University in this avant-garde project – discussing ideas, learning, presenting and exploring – being thousands of miles apart. This project has been important in my academic career choices and research experiences.” –Sajan K.C., Civil Engineering, Tribhuvan University

James Marek.“I first got involved with the Nepal Earthquake Early Warning System project last October, learning the basics of hazard analysis based on the prior collaborative work of Duke and IOE students in Nepal. Although our plans to travel to Nepal this past summer were disrupted due to COVID-19, we picked back up this semester searching for a research topic to complement the extensive work being performed by our partners at IOE. After an in-depth look at their research, as well as multiple conversations on how our future work can build on theirs without encroaching, we have decided to focus on earthquake source clustering to build more accurate hazard relationships. My work with IOE over the last year has been truly amazing, and it’s exciting to see this relationship between the two institutions produce potential leaders in the earthquake field in Nepal.” –James Marek, Civil Engineering ’22, Duke University

Roisha.“I was nonplussed in the first few meetings with the Duke team; I literally felt that the terminologies used in the meeting were out of my league. Nevertheless, with the immense coordination with the Duke team, I was able to mug up everything over time. Since I had never engaged in any project with people from a different country, it was an unprecedented feeling. It feels more like working through different dimensions – in every meeting we discuss the approaches we have pursued, and in the next meeting we review our methods. Now that we have worked together for more than a year on the probabilistic seismic hazard analysis (and now risk analysis as well), it has been easier than ever!” –Roisha Maharjan, Civil Engineering, Tribhuvan University