Earthquake Engineering students explore one of Europe’s most seismic countries

Students stood in front of Church in L'Aquila City

Earthquake Engineering students explore one of Europe’s most seismic countries

An MSc in Earthquake Engineering and Infrastructure Resilience can take you many places, quite literally! This year’s cohort of MSc students recently visited some of Italy’s most seismic regions to put their classroom theory into practice.

It’s no surprise that we understand things better when we have context or lived experience of them. Contextualised learning is especially important for those preparing for a career in earthquake engineering.

The Earthquake Engineering and Infrastructure Resilience MSc at the University of Bristol provides students with several out-of-the-classroom learning opportunities, with a particular highlight being an annual field trip to a seismic area – the cost of which is absorbed within the tuition fees. Each year, students take a short trip to an earthquake-affected area in Europe to witness the devastating impacts of seismic activity on local infrastructure and the communities they serve.

The trip serves a dual purpose. Students get to witness and assess buildings that have been impacted by earthquake damage for themselves, just as they would in their professional life. They also have the opportunity to inspect the well-thought-out designs of some of Europe’s most architecturally significant sites – many of which they will have studied in the classroom.

Earthquake Engineering Spring 2024 trip

This year’s students recently took to the skies to explore Italy, a historically seismic country. Here’s what they got up to each day.

Day 1 – Location: L’Aquila

Crane over historic building
Structural renovation of a historic building

On the first day of the trip, the students arrived in L’Aquila, a historic city and the capital of both the Abruzzo region and the Province of L’Aquila. In 2009, this city endured a 6.3 magnitude earthquake, Italy’s worst earthquake in 30 years. This devastating event extensively damaged the ancient city and resulted in the ongoing detection of thousands of aftershocks.

Since the 2009 earthquake, structural restorations and safety precautions have been implemented to prevent further devastation. During their visit, students explored several sites such as a masonry structure retrofitted with base isolation, and a church that had its domes and arches reconstructed. They also examined the general damage to buildings and the temporary structures needed to ensure their safety.

Then it was on to Rome, where the students began a sightseeing tour of Italy’s capital city.

Day 2 – Location: Rome

Students entering the tunnel construction site
Visiting the tunnel site

On the second day, students continued their exploration of Rome, paying a visit to two significant structures currently under construction for the 2025 Catholic Jubilee; a steel bridge and a new tunnel. The tunnel is of particular interest as it is being created to improve access to St Peter’s Basilica, the most prominent building in Vatican City. Preparations are well underway for the landmark event which only occurs every 25 years.

During the afternoon, the students travelled to Pavia, an ancient city known for its fertile surrounding land, industry and academia.

Day 3 – Location: Pavia

During day three, the students visited the EUCENTRE lab in Pavia – a private non-profit foundation focused on earthquake and specifically risk engineering.

The laboratory contains amazing experimental infrastructures such as shaking tables, hydraulic actuators for dampers, and a test rig for seismic isolators qualification.

Earthquake Engineering at Bristol

The University of Bristol has a rich history in earthquake engineering dating back to the 1970s. Equipped with some of the finest facilities in the UK for experimental study, Bristol has its own multi-million-pound earthquake laboratory, home to the most advanced earthquake shaking table in Europe. Here, students can program the table with any recorded or simulated earthquake to observe the impact on their prototyped buildings and infrastructures under different levels of movement.

Learn more about MSc Earthquake Engineering and Infrastructure Resilience