Engineering Ph.D. candidate Emad Hassan’s desire to help people led him to Colorado State University’s NIST Center for Community Resilience Planning, where he strives to help save lives and reduce the impact of natural hazards on communities. Hassan’s research focuses on how natural disasters impair two critical social institutions – health care and education – and how this affects the resilience of the whole community.
“I want to work in an area that addresses societal well-being, so I can see the impact of my research on people,” Hassan said.
Hassan has developed innovative methods for measuring the recovery of hospitals and schools that will be used by community planners and decision-makers to understand the resilience of their communities. He also is testing different mitigation strategies to help hospitals and schools recover, such as backup systems for power, water and telecommunications; backup facilities; transferring resources or patients/students; and alternatives like virtual learning – a strategy with which we are familiar this semester.
Joining the NIST center changed the way Hassan thinks about research. As an accomplished structural engineer, he viewed communities as a set of buildings and infrastructure, and his responsibility was to ensure the safety, constructability and cost efficiency of the buildings.
“Now I am looking at the communities as integrations between many interdependent components,” Hassan said.
From earthquakes to pandemics
In his M.S. dissertation at Cairo University, Hassan proposed using cold-formed steel – as opposed to more common, stiffer steel structures – to efficiently dissipate earthquake energy with minimal damage to buildings. The university nominated his research as the best engineering dissertation presented in Egypt between 2014 and 2017, for a competition held every three years by Egypt’s Ministry of Higher Education. Hassan published two articles from this study that are cited frequently.
Motivated to help people, Hassan recognized that a community’s stability in the aftermath of earthquakes or other natural disasters hinged on the essential services provided by hospitals and schools. He examined their contributions from physical, economic and social perspectives, as well as how these institutions interact with other systems.
Now the health care system model Hassan developed for his Ph.D. research has a new application. Hassan and his adviser, Civil Engineering Associate Professor Hussam Mahmoud, are exploring the use of the model to investigate the impact of the pandemic on U.S. health care systems. Coupling the model with COVID-19 data, they can learn how patients are distributed in different health care facilities, the capacity of each facility to treat patients, the impact of triage criteria, patient treatment time, patient waiting time, and patient outcome based on the availability of disinfection supplies. They think the model can be used to study the effect of community-level decisions, such as temporary hospitals and mitigation strategies, including quarantines and social distancing. Hassan hopes to continue this work after graduating with his Ph.D.
Hassan likes to work. A lot. In addition to his Ph.D. research, Hassan manages the Structural Engineering Lab, provides technical support to CSU’s steel bridge team, serves as a TA for two classes, tutors civil engineering students, and is running two tests for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He has published four papers and is about to submit two more. He also volunteers with International Student and Scholar Services as a Cultural Mentor, Food Bank for Larimer County, RamRide, and Poudre School District.
“The level at which Emad produces is unmatched,” said Mahmoud. “And this does not come at the cost of quality.”
Hassan said he is surrounded by supportive people, including his wife, Yasmin, and Mahmoud. Yes, Hassan also is married and has three young children. Yasmin takes care of the kids and helps manage his hectic schedule. He calls her the best time manager he has ever met.
Looking back at all of his accomplishments at CSU over the past four and a half years, Hassan is proudest of the feedback he received from his CIVE 261 students. The students rated him highly and commented positively about how he helped them understand the challenging subject of engineering mechanics and dynamics.
Hassan will defend his thesis soon. After graduating, he plans to continue his research as a postdoctoral fellow with the NIST center, and then he’ll look for a faculty position, so he can keep researching and teaching.
Hassan said if he could do it all over, he would choose CSU “again and again.”
“CSU for me is not just a university, it is a community that gave me the feeling that I am part of it, and it always will be my home,” he said.