Student Profile: Sam Wilson
A bit about me
I am an Auckland local; born and raised. However, I have a passion for getting out of the city for surfing, hiking and motorbiking.
After completing high school, I went on to study civil engineering at The University of Auckland where I focused on structural and fluids disciplines, graduating in 2016. I went through the graduate programme at Aurecon, a design consultancy, and ended up accepting a role at the end of my degree. I moved to Wellington within the Aurecon Resources and Manufacturing team for 2 years. It was a great, supportive environment with big projects and technically brilliant colleagues. The role taught me a lot about engineering consulting, project management and of course technical design.
Safety is a big part of engineering judgement; understanding risk and implementing measures to minimise the hazards people are exposed to. I have always felt driven towards further education and the personal passion of helping people. When I stumbled across the Master of Disaster Management programme it was a perfect match; getting to apply engineering knowledge and helping people in their most vulnerable state.
My project is funded by Resilience to Nature’s Challenges, along with QuakeCore, a Christchurch based agency tasked with improving pre-disaster preparation, gaining knowledge in seismic response, identifying vulnerabilities and providing capacity for rapid earthquake recovery. I am supervised by Dr Alice Chang-Richards at The University of Auckland.
My research project focuses on the recovery of horizontal infrastructure (roads, bridges, buried water lines) and services following seismic events, and is titled Quantification of infrastructure downtime in earthquake reconstruction. Knowing how to rapidly rebuild disaster-damaged infrastructure, while deciding appropriate recovery strategies and catering for future investment is a matter of core interest to government decision makers, utility providers, and business sectors.
The purpose of my research is to find out how decisions and outcomes for physical reconstruction affect the overall recovery process of horizontal infrastructure in New Zealand, using the Canterbury and Kaikōura earthquakes as case studies. I’m taking a mixed approach to data collection which includes a systematic review, questionnaire survey and semi-structured interviews. This is helping me to capture the perspectives of those involved in the reconstruction process and gain insights into the effect of critical elements on infrastructure downtime. Talking to people involved in recovery has been an eye-opening and humbling experience; it’s heart-warming to see how genuine and passionate those involved are about their communities and the role they have played in recovery.
Findings from my research will contribute towards advancements of a systems dynamics model that uses critical decision-making variables across phases of the reconstruction process to assess how these variables affect the rebuild process and the corresponding downtime.
This project will enhance our ability to explore different ways we can improve resilience. It will also test the efficacy of alternative means for facilitating a faster and better reconstruction process. A report will be provided to QuakeCore at the end of the year with further deliverables to follow including a peer reviewed journal article targeting prominent journal publications. I will also be presenting my findings at a QuakeCore conference in September and to Auckland Council. I am hopeful that this project will feed into industry knowledge and improve the efficacy of the decisions made regarding the recovery of infrastructure in New Zealand.