Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI): Center of Excellence; Herff College of Engineering. (Research Centers at the University of Memphis)

By Patterson, Gary | Business Perspectives, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI): Center of Excellence; Herff College of Engineering. (Research Centers at the University of Memphis)


Patterson, Gary, Business Perspectives


The Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI) at The University of Memphis is an internationally-known research institute whose mission is to further the understanding of earthquakes and their effects, particularly those in Mid-America, and to reduce the risks they pose to society through research, public information, and education. Following a magnitude 5.0 earthquake that shook the entire Mid-South in March 1976, the Tennessee State Legislature in 1977 established CERI as an agency of the state with a mandate to perform earthquake research and serve as a focal point for the distribution of earthquake information tailored to the needs of various technical and non-technical user groups. In 1984, the Tennessee General Assembly and then-governor Lamar Alexander identified the most advanced research facilities in the state's university system for designation as State Centers of Excellence. CERI was one of the first COEs to be established. The Center has since grown to become a world leader in the st udy of earthquakes and the operational facility for the largest network of seismic instruments in the eastern U.S. For fiscal year 2001-02, the Center received nearly $1.4 million in external funds, making it one of the leading research centers associated with Tennessee Board of Regents institutions.

Academics at CERI

CERI supports the mission of The University of Memphis by providing excellent education at the graduate level and by conducting important research that benefits the urban community directly through investigations of seismic hazard. The Center maintains a graduate program in Earth Sciences offering Master's and Ph.D. Degrees and is an integral part of the new Department of Earth Sciences, which combines the faculties of the Department of Geography and Geological Sciences to develop strong undergraduate and graduate programs with an emphasis on hazards. Our students receive training in the fields of geophysics and active tectonics that includes participation in cutting-edge research. Outstanding students may qualify for the Palisades Geophysical Institute and Herff Fellowships offered at CERI. Students are encouraged to present papers at national meetings and benefit from the numerous meetings held at CERI that bring together leading scientists from the United States and foreign countries. Students at CERI have opportunities for interesting field work in the U.S. and abroad. See www.ceri.memphis.edu/deathvalley for pictures of a recent student field trip to Death Valley organized by CERI Professor Charles Langston.

CERI Seismic Networks

Although current research projects dot the globe from Antarctica to Alaska, CERI specializes in earthquake monitoring and research in the New Madrid and East Tennessee seismic zones. The New Madrid seismic zone, which has produced at least 3 catastrophic earthquake sequences in the last 1,500 years and dozens of smaller damaging events in the last 150 years, presents a significant hazard to populations in Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, and Kentucky. The East Tennessee seismic zone produces about 80 small earthquakes per year and is currently a target for future applied research.

CERI now operates one of the most modern, informative seismograph networks in the country, consisting of over 130 stations in 11 states. Most are located in the active New Madrid seismic zone, but the Eastern Tennessee seismic zone is also monitored. Traditionally, regional seismic networks filled a research role, but recent advances in hardware, software, and methods provide an opportunity to fill an implementation role in hazard mitigation by proactively providing information to appropriate users within a time frame that enhances the utility of the information. This goal is specifically addressed through CERI's participation in the U.S. Geological Survey's Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS), which is an effort to upgrade seismic monitoring systems throughout the U. …

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