University of Pittsburgh
August 23, 2011

MEDIA ADVISORY: Pitt Faculty Experts Available to Comment on Aug. 23 East Coast Earthquake

Contact:  412-624-4147

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PITTSBURGH—After a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit the East Coast Tuesday afternoon, with an epicenter near the town of Mineral, Virginia, the University of Pittsburgh is offering the following faculty experts to comment:

- William Harbert: Geophysics Professor and Chair, Department of Geology and Planetary Sciences, School of Arts & Sciences

Harbert oversees the University's seismic station. Maintained by the Department of Geology and Planetary Sciences, Pitt's highly sensitive seismograph consists of a heavy steel canister that can detect as little as a half-nanometer-per-second displacement of the Earth's crust caused by earthquakes anywhere in the world. Pitt's seismic station-as the region's only one-unites Western Pennsylvania with a global network of scientists aiming to better understand the Earth's structure.

Pitt feeds its earthquake readings into the public database of the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS), a consortium of universities sponsored by the National Science Foundation that pools and analyzes seismic data. The station is identified on IRIS as "UPAO" and hooks into two IRIS networks: The "REALTIME" network of nearly 1,900 stations around the world that instantly displays earthquake data, and the "US-REGIONAL" network based at Pennsylvania State University that includes approximately 2,000 stations in the United States and Puerto Rico. Pitt belongs to a five-station sub-network that also includes seismic stations at the Pennsylvania Geological Survey near Harrisburg, on Penn State campus and at a Penn State substation outside of Philadelphia, and at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

Harbert, whose teaching and research focus is on seismology as well as exploration and environmental geophysics, is an Oak Ridge Institute for Science Education Research Associate at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pittsburgh. His professional memberships include the American Geophysical Union, the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, and the Society of Exportation Geophysics.

Areas of Expertise: earthquakes, seismology, exploration geophysics, environmental geophysics.

Highlights: In 2002, following the Quecreek mine disaster, Dr. Harbert served on the Governor's Commission on Mine Voids and Mine Safety, which investigated mine voids and safety.

Harbert can be reached at 724-344-9234 (cell) or, or through Karen Hoffmann at 412-444-5946 (cell) or

- Kent Harries: Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Swanson School of Engineering

 Harries was consulting engineer for the December 2005 collapse of the Lake View Drive Bridge over Interstate 70 in Washington County, Pa, and has consulted on a number of other structural failures in the United States and abroad.

Harries is a member of many technical organizations and committees, including the executive committee of the International Bridge Conference (since 2005) and the American Society of Civil Engineers' (ASCE) Fiber Composites and Polymers Standards Committee and the Committee on Composite Construction where he chairs the Task Group on Steel/FRP Structural Systems. He is also an associate editor of the ASCE Journal of Bridge Engineering. Harries is a licensed professional engineer (P.Eng.) in the Province of Ontario, Canada. 

Areas of Expertise: The design, function, and decay of bridges both modern and old, seismic design and retrofit of building structures, the design and behavior of high-rise structures, the use of non-traditional materials (FRP, HPC, RPC) in civil infrastructure, applications of full-scale structural testing and the history and philosophy of science and technology.

Harries is available at  412-327-5183  (cell) or  until 7 p.m. E.S.T., or through Karen Hoffmann at 412-444-5946 (cell) or




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