PhD researcher receives Public Scholar Initiative fellowship and investigates impact of Georgia sedimentary basin

Preetish Kakoty (PhD, ’22) has been awarded the 2020-2021 UBC Public Scholar Initiative fellowship. He is one of two UBC Faculty of Applied Science students to receive the honour this year.

The metro Vancouver region faces major seismic risk due to its close proximity to the Cascadia Subduction Zone. This risk is further elevated because of the Georgia sedimentary basin, which amplifies ground motion shaking.

Together, these factors may potentially bring disproportionate impact to older, tall buildings in West End of Vancouver—many of which house vulnerable sections of the community.

Preetish has been working closely with the city of Vancouver and other researchers to understand the amplification of earthquake shaking due to the sedimentary basin and its impact on communities in a future large magnitude earthquake.

“My collaboration with the city of Vancouver has given me an opportunity to contribute to the city’s seismic policy and actively inform upcoming seismic resilience targets of the city,” he said. “I’ve also collaborated with researchers from communities which have similar experience of recovering from major earthquakes to integrate their learnings in my research.”

Preetish’s enthusiasm for earthquake engineering began during the final year of his undergraduate, when he was involved in researching the seismic risk of his hometown of Guwahati, which is located in the Himalayan region at the eastern frontier of India.

“The experience introduced me to a wide variety of topics in earthquake engineering and the impact that this research can have on a community,” he said.

His immense curiosity to gain more depth in this area led him to pursue the PhD program at UBC Civil Engineering.

“I was interested in joining a program which has a thriving disaster research community as well as a research group which is inter-disciplinary in nature,” said Preetish.

“Preetish shows a strong sense of commitment to his research. He works independently with creativity and enthusiasm. I believe he has the potential to make significant research contributions in the field of earthquake engineering,” said Dr. Carlos Molina Hutt, Assistant Professor and Preetish’s research supervisor.

The UBC Public Scholars Initiative (PSI) was launched in 2015. Its goal is to support UBC doctoral students who wish to make purposeful contributions to the public good through collaborative, action-oriented, and/or creative forms of scholarship in their dissertation work.

For Preetish, the inter- and trans-disciplinary nature of the PSI, and its potential to drive real life positive impact, is what attracted him to the fellowship.

“The PSI provides the platform to explore the research problem at hand from a much wider perspective,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for students to re-imagine their work by creating deliverables beyond the traditionally required ones.”

This year, Preetish will continue to collaborate with the city of Vancouver. He is currently developing a framework to incorporate basin amplification in the 6th-generation national seismic hazard model of Canada, while also continuing his work on models to assess existing tall building infrastructure in the region for megathrust earthquakes.

If you would like to get in touch with Preetish, you may email him or connect with him on LinkedIn