Why a seismic engineer never stands still

Dr Barnali Ghosh, Mott MacDonald Technical Principle, explains how her specialist skills are in demand around the world.

Dr Barnali Ghosh: witness to devastating effects of nature
Dr Barnali Ghosh: witness to devastating effects of nature

Seismic engineers are concerned with the fall-out from earthquakes  and during my formative years in a small town in India I witnessed severe floods and earthquakes that devastated my local community.

This sparked my lifelong passion working to combat the effects of natural disasters through scientific solutions. I am now a chartered civil engineer, bringing highly specialised technical skills to challenging projects across the world.

During a working day in London I opened my inbox and found an invitation to travel to Tianjin, China as the international expert for the seismic design of a dam in Pakistan. This dam was an under construction, a run-of-the-river hydropower project with an installed generation capacity of 870MW. It's a 54.5m high x 336m wide concrete gravity dam with two gated spillways.

This was my first visit to China and and the historic city of Tianjin. I saw the best of Chinese hospitality when the hosts were waiting to pick me up from the airport. I was also handed a pile of meeting agendas and reports which I had to digest before questioning the designers in the meeting.

We met the local seismologists and had useful interactive sessions with them. The intention of the meetings was to ensure that international best practice was being followed in the seismic design of dams.

Before leaving Tianjin I just managed to become a tourist for a few hours and saw its  mix of historic European architecture, juxtaposed with the concrete and glass monoliths of China. As a seismic engineer I have an exciting life often chasing the unknown.