Durham's Norton earns Fulbright Scholar grant

Durham's Norton earns Fulbright Scholar grant

Calendar Icon Mar 03, 2016          RSS Feed RSS

Terri Norton, associate professor of construction engineering in The Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction.
Terri Norton, associate professor of construction engineering in The Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction.
When a devastating earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan in 2011, Terri Norton was among the many expecting a long recovery process.

Five years later, the associate professor of construction engineering in The Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction, is hoping a prestigious grant will help her understand how Japan has rebounded so quickly and use that knowledge to help people around the world.

Norton last week learned she has been awarded a six-month Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program grant to expand her research into disaster debris management.

“I’m excited because this is the beginning of what my research goals and plans are,” Norton said. “There are other international sites that I’d like to visit – like Nepal, Haiti and Taiwan – but there are so many cool takeaways that I’m learning because of the connections I had previously made in Japan.”

Three months after the disaster struck Japan, Norton first visited Japan and saw the massive debris fields. Upon returning this past summer, Norton was amazed and impressed with the progress made in the recovery.

“They’re rebuilding, but there’s not a complete buildup. They have some new housing, but they have areas where the population is still in temporary shelters,” Norton said. “To see the transformation from complete desolation to see how life is beginning again, that’s important.”

While in Japan, Norton has been working with faculty at Tohoku University and its International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDes) to increase spheres of influence. In 2017, she and a colleague there will be presenting a collaborative paper at the 16th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering in Chile.

Norton said funding from the grant will be spread over three-month periods the next two summers and could allow her to also spend time learning how people in the U.S. – specifically New Jersey and New Orleans -- responded after major disasters.

The research could also lead to expanded course offerings for students, Norton said, and hopefully to more prestige for the college’s construction engineering program.

“This can set us apart from so many others in my research area. This is a niche that not many people are doing,” Norton said. “This should help not only my name but UNL’s be among the top in the field, and at a Big Ten institution like Nebraska it’s important to have faculty and researchers with that type of notoriety both nationally and internationally.”

Since its establishment in 1946, the Fulbright Program has given more than 360,000 students, scholars and scientists from around the world a chance to further academic studies and research and work toward solving shared international concerns.

Fulbright alumni have won 53 Nobel Prizes and 82 Pulitzer Prizes and include some of the world’s foremost innovators and inventors.

Norton said the magnitude of the award has not yet sunk in, but it’s in the back of her mind.

“I think right now I’m just excited about the opportunity to expand my research program,” Norton said. “The prestige and notoriety, that’s not the ultimate goal. I don’t want to get caught up in all of that because I still have to press on. There’s so much I still have to do. This is a tool to allow me to make it to that next step.”