The 2009 Plinius Medal is awarded to Helen Crowley in recognition of her outstanding contributions in the fields of earthquake risk assessment and seismic risk mitigation, and in the neighbouring fields of structural engineering and engineering seismology.
Dr. Helen Crowley is a young scientist who graduated with a Master of Engineering in Civil Engineering from Imperial College London in 2000. She worked as a structural engineer in London and then she joined the ROSE School, University of Pavia, Italy, where she became PhD in Earthquake Engineering in 2005 under the joint supervision of Dr. Rui Pinho, University of Pavia, and Prof Julian Bommer, Imperial College London. She has developed an original methodology, based more on displacements rather than forces, for the estimation of the direct damage to buildings from earthquakes, due to both strong ground shaking and liquefaction, based on structural assessment, reliability theory and seismic hazard assessment. Furthermore, a probabilistic approach is incorporated into this methodology in order to account for the variability of the response of buildings at an urban scale. Successful Crowley’s research has covered seismic vulnerability of structures, but also the generation of ground motions to be used in earthquake loss models. In particular, she was able to highlight the importance of considering a large number of scenario earthquakes in the generation of so-called loss exceedance curves (which present the annual probability of exceeding different levels of direct economic loss) as opposed to the use of seismic hazard maps. And she was further able to show how the spatial correlation of the ground motions within a loss model for a given earthquake scenario can have a large influence on the variability of the loss estimates, which is of particular importance to the insurance and reinsurance industry that are interested in estimating future possible economic losses from earthquakes with specific emphasis on the variability of such predictions to ensure that adequate insurance premiums can be set for a given portfolio of buildings.
Dr. Crowley research was published in more than 20 papers in international peer-reviewed journals and presented in numerous international conferences.
In summary, Dr. Crowley has obtained outstanding research achievements in the field of earthquake risk assessment and mitigation, brilliantly combining extremely high quality interdisciplinary work in the related fields of structural engineering and engineering seismology, contributing in the most effective of manners to mitigation of seismic risk at both national and international levels.