The Whiting School of Engineering's Inaugural Professorial Lectures: Jones Tracks Down Destruction To Understand Construction Phil Sneiderman ----------------------------------- Homewood News and Information Like many of the people and things he studies, Nicholas P. Jones, a Hopkins civil engineering professor, seldom stands still. Jones' scholarly interest is structural dynamics, with an emphasis on wind and earthquake engineering. In pursuit of this, he's studied the Golden Gate Bridge to find out how well it stands up to fierce winds. He's gone to a Maryland boxing gym to measure the power of punches delivered to an athlete's head. He flew to Japan last year to learn how the Kobe earthquake caused thousands of deaths and serious injuries. Even at the Homewood campus, Jones is rarely at rest. Weather permitting, he spends his lunch hours outdoors with students on the lower quad, playing "Ultimate Frisbee." Last week, however, Jones slowed down just long enough to deliver an Inaugural Professorial Lecture before more than 100 faculty members, students and friends. The event celebrated his elevation to the rank of tenured professor after a decade at Hopkins' Whiting School of Engineering. Although Jones was approved for the post last year, the lecture program, followed by a reception, brought the honor home to him. "It was certainly exciting to have reached this point after 10 years," Jones said. "This really put the period at the end of the sentence." He was particularly moved to find that the first master's and first doctoral students he had supervised were in the audience."I was very pleasantly surprised," Jones said. His former students are now faculty members themselves at Hopkins and the University of Delaware. During the lecture, Jones' diverse research occupied center stage. To illustrate the importance of proper bridge design, he showed dramatic film footage of the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington State as it twisted in the wind shortly before it collapsed in 1940. With a colleague from Hopkins, Jones has reviewed several modern bridges and proposed aerodynamic design changes to help ensure that they do not collapse during severe windstorms. Jones also showed footage of his boxing experiments. With researchers from the Hopkins School of Public Health, Jones placed devices in protective boxing helmets to record data about the magnitude and frequency of blows to the head. The information will be used in the study of brain injuries associated with the sport and head injuries in general. Jones told the audience his future projects included developing even smaller components for use in boxing research and wiring a house in North Carolina to record how hurricane winds affect the structure. As he wrapped up his lecture, Jones referred to a survey he received recently. It had asked university faculty members whether they would follow their same career path, if they could go back in time. Jones said his response came quickly. "It's an unequivocal and resounding yes," he said. "I'd do it all again." The program concluded as Jones' mentor, Robert H. Scanlan, also a Hopkins civil engineering professor, and Engineering dean Don P. Giddens paid tribute to the newly tenured faculty member. "You're just a delight to know and an asset to the school and the department," Giddens said. Scanlan described Jones, a native New Zealander who earned his master's and doctorate at the California Institute of Technology, as "a charming mix of proper down-under manners and laid-back Southern California ways." Scanlan also poked a little fun at his colleague's quirks, including Jones' love of Frisbee games and his extremely hectic schedule. "He's on the move all the time," Scanlan said. "He's a blur." In an interview after the lecture Scanlan praised Jones as "an experimentalist with a sound grounding in theory." Scanlan added: "He has a lot of energy and drive." Jones' lecture continued a Whiting School tradition begun in 1993 as a way to honor newly tenured professors and allow them to talk about their research. Dean Giddens proposed the lecture series after observing a similar ceremony at an academic center in England. Two more inaugural lectures, both open to the public, are scheduled this semester. On Monday, Feb. 5, Annalingam Anandarajah, a professor of civil engineering, will speak on "Geotechnical Earthquake Engineering in Liquefiable Lands." James Allen Fill, a professor of mathematical sciences, will discuss "Markov Chains, Card Shuffling and Self-organizing Data Structures," on Monday, March 11. Both lectures begin at 3 p.m. in the Arellano Theater, with receptions afterward in the Glass Pavilion.
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