Johns Hopkins Gazette: February 5, 1996

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

     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

     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

     Both lectures begin at 3 p.m. in the Arellano Theater, with
receptions afterward in the Glass Pavilion.

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