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Magdalene College Cambridge

Professor Emily So

Professor Emily So is Professor of Architectural Engineering in the Department of Architecture and Director of the Cambridge University Centre for Risk in the Built Environment (CURBE).

Before coming to Cambridge, she worked at Arup as a senior geotechnical engineer and was a Mendenhall Fellow at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) from 2009-2011. Emily is a chartered civil engineer with experience of assessing and managing urban risk and resilience. She has actively engaged with earthquake‐affected communities in different parts of the world, focusing on applying her work towards making real-world improvements in seismic safety. With her collaborators in China, she was part of the design team that won the World Building of the Year in 2017. The judges were impressed by the iterative research process which could be re-applied to anywhere in the world affected by seismic problems and low levels of wealth. “The architects succeeded in translating ‘four walls and a roof’ into something which, through architectural commitment, becomes a project that is much more profound.”

Saving lives from earthquakes is a priority and motivates her research. Her area of specialty is casualty estimation in earthquake loss modelling and her research has led to improved understanding of the relationship between deaths and injuries following earthquakes. Her work on human casualties in earthquakes adopts an approach which depends as much on epidemiological as structural engineering understanding of the problem. In its very nature, this is cross-disciplinary work and requires an understanding of the historical and cultural contexts, the current and future physical, social, and natural environments, and the interplay between physical and social sciences. She has been involved in interdisciplinary and international collaboration through her work with the UK’s Earthquake Engineering Field Investigation Team (EEFIT), Global Earthquake Model (GEM), the World Bank and the USGS, and actively participates in the international debate on the way forward for disaster risk mitigation. She has extended her work in earthquakes to modelling and finding solutions to mitigate against other natural perils. Recognised as an expert in the field, Emily sits on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) providing valuable and timely scientific and technical advice to support the UK Government’s Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBR). She was the recipient of the 2010 Shah Family Innovation Prize, an award given annually by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) to promising young practitioners or academics.