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The Italian Connection.


Some of the latest developments in seismic engineering are coming out of one of Europe’s oldest centres of learning – and there are two strong connections to Christchurch.


We’re talking about Pavia, a peaceful town in Italy which dates back to pre-Roman days that is now home to an internationally recognised cluster of universities, institutes and academies.


It was here that Dr Nigel Priestley co-founded the ROSE School for Advanced Studies in Seismic Risk in 2002 and Quake Centre Director, Dr. Robert Finch attended their recent international conference on advances in this sector.


“It is vital that we stay aware of what is happening around the world, how that impacts on the work we are doing and what we can contribute back,” says Dr. Finch. “That’s why connections such as our links to the ROSE School are so important, especially in terms of research and changes in thinking regarding seismic engineering.”


Being at the academic forefront is nothing new for this small town of around 70,000 people.


It boasts what is considered to probably be the oldest proto-university in Europe, dating back to 825, and one of the most ancient universities. The University of Pavia was renovated by the Duke of Milan, and officially labeled a Studium Generale in 1361.


As it stands today, the University has over 23,000 students from Italy and overseas, and almost 1000 teaching staff. The wide variety of subjects are organised into 18 Departments of teaching, and study programmes are provided at all levels, from Bachelor’s degrees to Doctorates.


Along with the university, there is the Borromeo College, the Ghislieri College and the IUSS Pavia, the Institute for Advanced Studies. The latter includes the ROSE School (the European School for Advanced Studies in Reduction of Seismic Risk as a department).

The late Dr. Nigel Priestley, a UC alumnus and professor, co-founded this prestigious institution in 2002.


Dr. Priestley drew on his vast earthquake engineering experience in setting up the unique curriculum, teaching courses in Earthquake Engineering himself and working with MS and PhD students, many of whom are now internationally recognised.


Under his direction, the School is notable for its allocation of the major European prize in the field of earthquake engineering. He left the School in 2008, and was named Emeritus Co-Director from 2009. 


Thanks to Dr. Priestley’s foresight, leadership and seismic engineering knowledge, ROSE School is renowned for earthquake engineering and engineering seismology.


As a way to further honour Dr. Priestley’s legacy, the School’s annual conference was renamed ‘The International Nigel Priestley Seminar’. Dr Finch chaired one of the sessions here for the May 2015 event.


The International Nigel Priestley Seminar is a chance for MSc and PhD students in Earthquake Engineering and Engineering Seismology, Risk and Emergency Management, and Weather Related Risk of the UME postgraduate school to present and discuss their research work to an audience of international experts. The Seminar also has a long-held tradition of inviting a prominent scientist to deliver a keynote lecture on a given contemporary and highly relevant topic in the field of Earthquake Engineering and Engineering Seismology.


At this year’s event, the keynote address entitled "Simplified Seismic Evaluation of Older Concrete Buildings for Collapse Potential" was delivered by William T. Holmes, Structural Engineer and Executive Principal of Rutherford & Chekene, USA. 


The UC Quake Centre is pleased to be able to maintain such a strong link with the university where Dr. Priestley worked for such a significant period of his life and to be keeping pace with the latest thinking in this challenging area.





Albert Einstein lived in Pavia for a short time as a teenager, cutting short his studies in Munich and joining his family in Italy - some say as a means of escaping military conscription in a pre-WWII Germany.












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