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CCEE’s Dr. Ashly Cabas awarded for work in earthquake risk mitigation, management

Dr. Ashly Cabas

CCEE Assistant Professor Dr. Ashly Cabas was one of two recipients of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute’s 2021 Shah Family Innovation Prize. The award honors young professionals and academics under the age of 35 who excel in “creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit in the field of earthquake risk mitigation and management,” according to EERI.

“It is a huge honor to receive this award from EERI,” Cabas says. “I felt excited and motivated to keep working on the technical and social aspects of my work that I am most passionate about. I also felt supported by an outstanding professional community in the field of risk mitigation and management. Shortly after the EERI made the official announcement, I received many emails from colleagues, friends, and family with the kindest of words and best wishes for the future. I felt blessed and so fortunate. To me, that was the best prize.”

The selection committee says Cabas has distinguished herself as a leader in the areas of site response analysis and ground motion characterization at the interface between engineering seismology and geotechnical engineering. 

“She has displayed exceptional leadership in the fostering of a diverse, community-driven earthquake engineering profession through her mentorship of under-represented groups and the creation of a network of Latinx geotechnical earthquake engineers. This effort will enable a diverse group of earthquake engineers to support their own communities, building capacity and supporting seismic risk reduction.”

Cabas, who completed her undergraduate studies at Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in Caracas, Venezuela, earned her M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech. Her research interests include the assessment of seismic hazards, performance-based design in geotechnical engineering, the prediction of the response of soils and foundation systems to seismic loading and dynamic soil-foundation-structure interaction, and she primarily focuses on the advancement of the current understanding of the impact that local soil conditions have on ground motions, improving the assessment of site-specific seismic hazards, and elucidating the correlation between ground motion parameters and structural response and damage.

Cabas says mentoring students is “one of the most important missions I have as a professor, if not the most important. Good mentoring can cultivate curiosity, nourish strengths and serve as a vehicle for students to reach their full potential. I think mentoring is also one of the fundamental components of successful diversity and inclusion initiatives.”

Cabas started the Earthquake Engineering and Seismology Community Alliance in Latin America (E2SCALA) program with “the objective of  improving retention strategies for and broadening participation of Latin American students in earthquake engineering. E2SCALA means to ‘climb’ and also to ‘scale’ in Spanish, and those are key drivers of this program — to help Latin American students reach their highest potential (to climb), while building a network that grows with our community’s goals (to scale up). Academic partners from nine countries in Latin America have already expressed interest in the program and their commitment to serve as mentors. I am excited to help this program grow and become sustainable, facilitating the exchange of ideas and resources among Latin American researchers, practitioners, and students interested in reducing seismic risks in the region.”

Cabas has received numerous accolades including 2021 NC State Impact Scholar, 2021 New Faces in American Society of Civil Engineering Geo-Institute, 2020 Fellow for the National Science Foundation Enabling the Next Generation of Hazards and Disasters Researchers Fellowship Program, and 2017 ASCE Excellence in Civil Engineering Education (ExCEEd) Fellow.

“Dr. Cabas’ recognition from the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute confirms what we in the department have recognized,” CCEE Department Head Dr. Morton Barlaz says. “ Ashly is a young scholar who is already making significant contributions in understanding ground motions during seismic events.”