Lebanese American University


Groundbreaking research

Civil Engineering Assistant Professor Dr. Grace Abou-Jaoude Estephan wins PEER research grant for study of earthquake risks in Lebanon.

Abou-Jaoude Estephan’s proposal, entitled “Earthquake-generated landslide hazard in Lebanon,” rose to the top of a very strong pool of candidates.

Lebanon is more typically associated with political instability than seismic instability. But tremors in recent months — one in May reached a magnitude of 5.3 — are a reminder that the country is perilously situated in a high seismic zone, indeed within four active fault lines.

LAU’s Dr. Grace Abou-Jaoude Estephan, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering studying earthquake risks in Lebanon, has recently been selected to receive a grant under the Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) Program, a new program developed jointly by the National Science Foundation and USAID.

Abou-Jaoude Estephan’s proposal, entitled “Earthquake-generated landslide hazard in Lebanon,” rose to the top of a very strong pool of candidates, and was one of only 42 shortlisted proposals from a total of 488 submitted applications. It was subsequently approved for funding in the generous sum of $100,000 for a period of two years.

“I feel deep pride for winning this grant,” Abou-Jaoude Estephan said. “It is an excellent opportunity for LAU to host this research program at the targeted national scale.”

The goal of the project is to produce a hazard map of Lebanon that shows the critical areas prone to earthquake-induced landslides.

The Beirut earthquake of 551 A.D. (estimated at 7.6 on the moment magnitude scale) visited massive destruction on the entire coast of then-Phoenicia. Some seismologists say a repeat of the event is overdue.

According to Abou-Jaoude Estephan, Lebanon’s geographical location and geological makeup make it especially vulnerable to earthquakes and landslide hazards. In recent years, the growth in population on the coastal strip — and its extension on the hillsides of the western mountain range — have made it even more susceptible to natural hazard risks.

“Studies and research have shown that an earthquake of even the smallest magnitude can cause landslides, but this has never been studied in Lebanon,” explains Abou-Jaoude Estephan.

“This requires more research, in light of the country’s vulnerability,” she adds.

Dean of the School of Engineering Dr. George Nasr underlined the importance of the grant for the university, reflecting as it does the rigor and relevance not only of Abou-Jaoude Estephan’s work but of LAU research in general.

“I am thrilled for Dr. Abou-Jaoude Estephan — and for the School of Engineering as a whole — as we continue, individually and collectively, to position ourselves among the top schools in the region,” says Nasr.


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