New initiative will help investigate natural disasters worldwide

SEATTLE, Wash. - A $4.1 million grant was announced today from the National Science Foundation to provide instrumentation and tools for a new Rapid Response Research Facility, which will promptly collect data about how buildings, roads, bridges and other infrastructure are impacted by earthquakes or wind damage from hurricanes, tornadoes and other storms.

The center will be operated by the University of Washington in collaboration with Oregon State University, the University of Florida and Virginia Tech. Scientists say it will provide assistance to teams that can deploy anywhere around the world, and help compile data about damage in a systematic, high-quality way before it’s forever lost to bulldozers, weather, cleanup and repair efforts.

With this information, scientists hope to identify ways to improve building codes, identify weak spots in structures, and take other actions to help mitigate damage from future events. The system will also use the latest and most sophisticated technologies to analyze the landscapes.

“We’re able to learn a great deal now with technologies such as light detecting and ranging, or LIDAR, aircraft monitoring, hyperspectral imaging, and other instruments that can analyze seismic and wind forces better than ever before possible,” said Michael Olsen, an expert in the evolving science of geomatics, associate professor in the College of Engineering at OSU, and one of the co-principal investigators on the project.

“This new center will allow a much better way to coordinate data acquisition efforts, improve its quality and have more confidence in the findings we make. We’ll then work to make that information available to scientists all over the world.”

Joe Wartman, a UW associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and center director, said speed is essential.

"Usually with rescue and response efforts, this very valuable data disappears really quickly," Wartman said. "By collecting this data in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, we can begin to understand what went wrong and why. This allows us to better prepare and take precautionary measures in advance of future events."

The interdisciplinary center will focus on two types of natural hazards: wind hazards, such as tornadoes and coastal storms; and earthquakes, which includes earthquake-induced ground failure and tsunamis. It will also offer training to communities that wish to conduct post-disaster investigations themselves, as well as assess the social costs of disasters.

Findings of this type, Olsen said, will also be of value to the Cascadia Lifelines Program at OSU, which is a university-based initiative supported by private industry to help the Pacific Northwest prepare for the devastating subduction zone earthquake and tsunami expected in its future.

The facility will create new software tools for transmitting, integrating, exploring and visualizing the complex data sets. These include mobile apps to assess structural damage in the field and a platform for mixed-media social data gathering. A computer-automated virtual reality environment will also allow people to walk into a room and “see” the disaster scene in three dimensions as if they were there.

“The idea is that you can use the facility to collect data — either through our staff or our training — and then you can come to the center months later and recreate the field experience by walking through a damaged building or looking at how much a particular area flooded,” Wartman said.

In addition to supporting researchers, the facility will enable citizens to use social media and mobile devices to crowdsource post-disaster data and build awareness about wind- and earthquake-related impacts.

The grant follows the NSF’s larger $40 million NHERI investment, announced in September 2015, which funds a network of shared research centers and resources at various universities across the nation. The goal is to reduce the vulnerability of buildings, tunnels, waterways, communication networks, energy systems and social groups to increase the disaster resilience of communities across the United States.

"Under NHERI, future discoveries will not only mitigate the impacts of earthquakes, but also will advance our ability to protect life and property from windstorms such as hurricanes and tornadoes," said Joy Paushke, program director in NSF's Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation.

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Michael Olsen, 541-737-9327


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LIDAR image of tsunami damage
Lidar image after earthquake

OSU President Ed Ray names search committee for new athletics director

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University President Ed Ray Tuesday named a committee to assist him in a national search to select a new intercollegiate athletics director, as Todd Stansbury moves on to serve as Georgia Tech’s athletics director.

The committee includes noted OSU alumni, an NFL free agent, national leaders in college sports, two head coaches, faculty, students and university leaders. The search committee will be led by Joey Spatafora, OSU Alumni Association distinguished professor and the university’s faculty athletic representative to the PAC-12 conference.

The committee includes Oregon State alumni Marty Reser, vice president of sales for Reser’s Fine Foods; Steven Jackson, National Football League all-pro running back and former OSU player; John Stirek, president, Western Operations, Trammell Crow Company; Kim Casale, retired area director of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.; Pat Casey, head OSU baseball coach; Tanya Chaplin, head OSU women’s gymnastics coach; and Kate Halischak, OSU Faculty Senate president and director of student-athlete academic services.

Other members of the search committee are Stephen Thompson Jr., an OSU student-athlete competing in basketball; Colleen Bee, associate professor in OSU’s College of Business, who serves as co-chair of OSU’s athletics advisory committee; Michael Green, OSU interim vice president of finance and administration; Jim Patterson, OSU senior associate athletics director for development; student Darren Nguyen, executive director of community programs for the Associated Students of Oregon State University; and Marianne Vydra, interim OSU athletics director. Tricia Gerding, OSU human resources consultant, will serve as the committee’s search advocate.

Jeff Schemmel, president of College Sports Solutions, a strategic consulting company for collegiate athletics, and Kevin Weiberg, former commissioner of the Big 12 Conference, will serve as the search firm.

The search for a new athletics director began last week after Stansbury announced on Sept. 22 that he would leave Oregon State to return to his alma mater after serving as director of OSU intercollegiate athletics since August 2015. Stansbury played football at Georgia Tech and later worked in the school’s athletics department.

“The strong interest in this position demonstrates national awareness that Oregon State University is a place of excellence and leadership both on and off the field,” Ray said. “Our next athletics director will contribute to the university’s overall momentum and build upon the success of Oregon State’s men’s and women’s athletics. He or she will be committed to our student-athletes and to the success of all OSU students.”

Ray said he is committed to athletics success at the highest level. “I guarantee that Oregon State will continue to compete on the conference and national level and will win championships. We will win the right way – the Oregon State way,” Ray said. “Count on it.”


Steve Clark, 541-737-3808


OSU President Ed Ray names Marianne Vydra interim athletics director

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University President Ed Ray Wednesday named Marianne Vydra as interim OSU athletics director while the university completes a national search to select a new intercollegiate athletics director.

Todd Stansbury, Oregon State’s current athletics director and vice president, announced last week he will leave Oregon State to serve as Georgia Tech’s athletics director. Ray said Vydra and Stansbury will work together to provide for a “seamless leadership transition” to occur on Nov. 4.

Vydra served as interim director of Oregon State athletics in the summer of 2015, presently serves as deputy director of OSU athletics for administration and is the department’s senior woman administrator. In February 2015, CollegeAD.com named her one of the top 10 senior woman administrators in the NCAA.

“I thank President Ray for the opportunity to once again serve in this role,” Vydra said. “I also want to thank Todd Stansbury for assembling the best team in the nation. He brought some real stars in athletics administration to Oregon State and he allowed the stars already here to really shine. We will continue full steam ahead by executing our shared vision for the athletics department, the university and Beaver Nation.”

Vydra serves on numerous OSU, Pac-12 Conference and national governance committees. She is the chairperson for the NCAA Women’s Soccer and Softball committees; a member of the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Committee; and a member of Oregon State’s President’s Commission on the Status of Women.

Vydra previously served as vice president of the executive board of the Pac-12 and has been a member of several other conference committees. These include the long-range planning committee; student-athlete advisory committee; diversity initiative committee; women’s basketball tournament committee; and the league’s television committee. 

She came to OSU in 1992 after working as an academic counselor at the University of Maine.



Steve Clark, 541-737-3808


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Marianne Vydra

Finance and Administration Committee of OSU Board of Trustees to meet August 25

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Finance and Administration Committee of the Oregon State University Board of Trustees will meet on Thursday, August 25.

They will consider quarterly management and investment reports, and discuss the university risk management topic assigned to the committee; 2016 board assessment results; and the 2017 committee work plan.

The meeting is open to the public and will run from 10-11:30 a.m. in the President’s Conference Room, Room 650, in Kerr Administration Building, 1500 S.W. Jefferson Way in Corvallis.

The agenda and meeting materials will be posted as they are available at http://oregonstate.edu/leadership/trustees/meetings. The public can listen to the meeting by calling the toll-free number listed on the agenda. If special accommodation is required, please contact Marcia Stuart at (541) 737-3449 or marcia.stuart@oregonstate.edu at least 72 hours in advance.

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Steve Clark, 541-737-3808


Academic Strategies Committee of OSU Board of Trustees to meet August 19

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Academic Strategies Committee of the Oregon State University Board of Trustees will meet on Friday, August 19.

They will consider an academic program termination, and review amendments to the committee charter; university risk management topics assigned to the committee; results of the 2016 board assessment; and the 2017 work plan for the committee.

The meeting will run from 9:30-11:30 am in the President’s Conference Room, Room 650, in Kerr Administration Building, 1500 S.W. Jefferson Way in Corvallis. The meeting is open to the public.

Agenda and meeting materials will be posted as they are available at http://oregonstate.edu/leadership/trustees/meetings. The public can listen to the meeting by calling the toll-free number listed on the agenda. If special accommodation is required, please contact Marcia Stuart at (541) 737-3449 or marcia.stuart@oregonstate.edu at least 72 hours in advance.

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Steve Clark, 541-737-3808


Health care systems engineering expert to head OSU school

CORVALLIS, Ore.  – Harriet Nembhard, a professor of industrial engineering and an expert in operations research, process improvement, and quality control, has been named as the new head of the School of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at Oregon State University.

Nembhard, who comes from Penn State University, will be the Eric R. Smith Professor of Engineering.

At Penn State Nembhard cofounded and directed the Center for Integrated Healthcare Delivery Systems. It became the university’s driving force behind health care delivery research, with holistic solutions that encompass engineering, medicine, nursing, health policy, and information sciences and technology.

Nembhard also served this year as interim department head of Penn State’s Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. She developed a strategy for academic development and faculty recruiting, initiated a master’s degree program and enrolled its first class, and organized teams to respond to major research thrusts in the College of Engineering.

Nembhard has written 46 peer-reviewed journal articles and a new textbook, “Healthcare Systems Engineering.” She has studied visualization methods for communicating healthcare data, statistical methods for the early detection of influenza outbreak, modeling patient adherence to treatment, monitoring mammograms for diagnostic error, and development of a patented manufacturing process for small-scale medical devices.

“We’re delighted to welcome Professor Nembhard to the School of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering,” said Scott Ashford, dean of OSU’s College of Engineering. “Her ability to serve students, success as an academic leader and researcher, and ability to create and foster productive and collaborative partnerships between academia and industry will be a great asset to our growing engineering community.”

Nembhard has served as a technical consultant for several major companies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Pharmaceutical Science and Clinical Pharmacology Committee, and Penn State’s Office of Planning and Institutional Assessment.

“The School of MIME has a long history of research and teaching excellence,” said Nembhard. “I am looking forward to working with the faculty and staff to further enrich our programs and deliver engineering innovations that address the needs of our society.”

Nembhard received her master’s and doctoral degrees in industrial and operations engineering from the University of Michigan.

Media Contact: 

Steve Frandzel, 541-737-1082


Scott Ashford, 541-737-5232


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Harriet Nembhard
Harriet Nembhard

Corvallis campus water tested for lead, copper

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has tested water from nearly 40 Corvallis campus buildings for lead and copper levels following news that lead had been found in some Portland-area schools.

All preliminary tests for office and classroom buildings included in the test group came back with good results. Most facilities, including both campus daycare buildings, showed no to very low detectable elements in the water.

More comprehensive testing will be done throughout the Corvallis campus to continue to monitor the health and safety of the campus community. The testing should be finished by early August.

Testing was done in June in all University Housing and Dining buildings. Nearly all of the buildings met safety standards. In one residence hall, Poling Hall, water from one floor kitchen sink and three showers exceeded acceptable levels for lead; and three sinks and two showers within the hall showed elevated levels, but did not exceed the acceptable levels for lead. To provide for full safety, OSU has shutoff water to those fixtures until repairs are made.

Benton County Health Department officials say that the health effects for adults would be negligible given the borderline levels of lead found and the fact that the sinks and showers were not a primary water source for drinking.

OSU is required to make repairs to pipes and fixtures when safety levels are exceeded. Following repairs in Poling Hall, sampling will be conducted to ensure the problem has been resolved. This issue appears to be fixture-specific, but water will be turned off to the affected fixtures until the issue is resolved.

Dan Kermoyan, assistant director of OSU Environmental Health and Safety, said testing of other Oregon State-owned facilities, including Extension offices, experiment and research stations, as well as the university’s Bend and Newport campuses, will be completed by early September.

Details on the June testing report are available online, at http://oregonstate.edu/ehs/2016-drinking-water-quality-report

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Steve Clark, 541-737-3808


OSU names marine science leader from Southern California to head college

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A marine science leader from southern California, who serves as vice chair of the board of trustees for the national Consortium for Ocean Leadership in Washington, D.C., and president of the board of directors of the Southern California Marine Institute, has been named dean of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University.

Roberta Marinelli, executive director of the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Southern California, will begin her new duties at Oregon State on Sept. 30. She succeeds Mark Abbott, who last year accepted a position as president and director of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Roy Haggerty has served as interim dean of the college since Abbott’s departure.

As dean of CEOAS, Marinelli will assume leadership for one of the strongest Earth sciences programs in the nation, with nationally recognized teaching and research expertise in oceanography, atmospheric sciences, geology, geography, and coastal studies. The college has approximately 110 teaching and research faculty, who last year brought in $39 million in research grants and contracts.

The college also is an integral part of the university’s new Marine Studies Initiative, which seeks to further expand Oregon State’s role in teaching and research related to the world’s oceans, and help address some of the issues they face, including climate change, sustainable fisheries, ocean acidification, sea level rise and others.

“Roberta Marinelli is an experienced scientist and administrator with valuable leadership experience at major marine science institutions in this country, as well as in Antarctica through the National Science Foundation,” said Sabah Randhawa, OSU provost and executive vice president.

“There was a real sense of excitement about her candidacy for dean from all corners of the university – students, faculty, staff, administration and external stakeholders,” Randhawa added. “She has a real sense of the strength of the people and programs in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, and sees opportunities for growth and even more excellence in the future.”

Marinelli has been at the University of Southern California since 2011. Prior to that, she was program director for Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems for the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Sciences Division and earlier had been associate program director for NSF’s Antarctic Biology and Medicine program.

She also has been a researcher and faculty member at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography at the University System of Georgia.

In addition to directing USC’s Wrigley Marine Science Center on Santa Catalina Island, Marinelli oversees the George and Mary Lou Boone Center for Science and Environmental Leadership, where scientists and policy-makers meet to resolve environmental challenges.

Marinelli has a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Brown University, and a master’s degree and doctorate in marine science from the University of South Carolina.

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Sabah Randhawa, 541-737-2111


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Roberta Marinelli

OSU Board of Trustees approves $1.17 billion budget for coming year

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University Board of Trustees today approved a $1.17 billion operating revenue budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year that provides funds for growing the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend and new investments guided by the university’s strategic plan.

Trustees also discussed Oregon State’s commitment to equity, inclusion and social justice, and recognized Provost and Executive Vice President Sabah Randhawa, who will leave the university this summer to become president at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. The board also recognized out-going Trustee Brenda McComb, who resigned her seat on the board representing OSU faculty when she was promoted to Oregon State’s senior vice provost for academic affairs.

Oregon State initiatives supported by next year’s budget include:

  • Expanding the Division of Undergraduate Studies to address student retention and graduation rates;
  • Funding the Office of Institutional Diversity and other initiatives to help all students and staff succeed;
  • Opening Johnson Hall, a new facility to support growth in the professional program of the College of Engineering;
  • Completing staff and program development for statewide public services; and,
  • Increasing academic support in key areas.

The $1.17 billion in budgeted revenues provides for $604 million in educational and general funds expenditures that support instruction, research and outreach; $224 million for expenditures for self-supporting programs, including housing and dining, athletics and student centers; and $334 million in restricted funds expenditures provided from externally-funded grants, contracts and gifts.

The trustees also reflected on the funding request for the 2017-19 biennium that includes a significant increase in state support following the 2015 Oregon Legislature’s approval for increased funding for Oregon’s seven public universities. But trustees also discussed some future financial uncertainties. These include a trend in slower growth in the population of traditional college-age students; increases in the state of Oregon minimum wage; and significant changes in federal overtime policies for salaried employees that will go into effect later this year.

“The fiscal year 2017 budget will allow investments in the success of our students and the diversity of our community, while providing support for high quality learning experiences and global impacts through our graduates and research discoveries,” said OSU President Ed Ray.

The board also supported an amendment to the 2015-17 capital plan. This will allow important project scope improvements that have increased the cost of the Oregon Forest Science Complex project by $8 million to be funded by gifts; and $10 million for construction of a Complex for Resilient Infrastructure and Safety. This complex will be supported by $5 million in philanthropic gifts.

The board heard a presentation  on issues of inclusion, equity and social justice at Oregon State and what steps OSU is taking and has planned to provide a more safe, diverse and inclusive community.

These steps include increased communication to the OSU community; establishing a bias incident reporting process; supporting efforts to diversify faculty and staff; developing student learning modules; enhancing faculty and staff education, training and awareness; and expanding efforts and outreach to the larger community.

Trustees recognized Randhawa with a Board resolution and presentation of a framed plaque. Randhawa served as OSU’s provost and executive vice president from 2005 and worked at the university for more than 30 years as a faculty member and administrator.

As provost, he served as the university’s chief academic officer and second-ranking administrator providing overall leadership for Oregon State’s academic affairs, faculty and student services, information technology, research and graduate programs, the OSU Extension Service and Ecampus.

“Sabah has been my closest partner,” said Ray. “Oregon State University is a better place than Sabah found it when he arrived here. We will never forget how blessed we have been with his friendship, leadership, compassion and wisdom.”

Trustees also recognized McComb with a Board resolution and framed plaque. Trustees applauded McComb’s contributions, particularly her service on the Academic Strategies Committee, where she helped the Committee understand university processes to consider new academic degrees.

The board approved a new bachelor of science degree in biochemistry and molecular biology in the College of Science, pending approval of the Higher Education Coordinating Commission. This program will help address increased interest in a wide range of new careers and a scientific revolution in molecular biology in the past 40 years.

Trustees heard testimony from six students, a Corvallis community resident, and an OSU faculty instructor, regarding social justice, the affordability of an OSU higher education, including housing and administrative costs and representation of students and faculty on the board.

Trustees also approved a 2017 meeting schedule.

Story By: 

Steve Clark, 541-737-4875


OSU selects noted oceanographer to head Marine Studies Initiative

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Jack Barth, an Oregon State University oceanographer known for his teaching, research, and public engagement related to marine low-oxygen zones, and his leadership in the national Ocean Observatories Initiative, has been named executive director of the Marine Studies Initiative at OSU.

The MSI is a comprehensive, university-wide effort by Oregon State to address ocean health and coastal challenges by creating a global education and research program that blends the science of oceanography with business, engineering, education, the arts and humanities, agriculture sciences, forestry and social sciences, according to Oregon State President Edward J. Ray.

“The world’s oceans are facing unprecedented challenges and the need to address this range of issues – and educate the next generations of an ocean-literate citizenry – is a major focus of this initiative,” Ray said. “Jack Barth is uniquely qualified to lead the enterprise, as a respected scientist, an outstanding educator and collaborator.”

Barth has been on the OSU faculty since 1989 and has been associate dean for research in the university’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences for the past four years. He also has been co-lead of the Marine Studies Initiative since its inception in 2014, with Bob Cowen, director of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon.

“In appointing Jack Barth -- and with the strong leadership provided by Bob Cowen as director of the Hatfield Marine Sciences Center -- Oregon State is doubling down,” said Ray.  “Jack will lead our overall MSI activities and link those initiatives to research, teaching and public engagement conducted at OSU and globally. Bob will drive Oregon State’s Newport-based efforts along the Oregon coast.”

Ray said Cowen will continue to direct Oregon State’s HMSC facilities, fundraising and coastal community relations, and will share in the development of Newport-based academic and research programs.

“Among the goals of the Marine Studies Initiative is to greatly broaden and better connect various marine studies disciplines across the university,” Barth said.

“We’ll still focus on oceanography, fisheries, marine biology, and other science-related issues, but we see some exciting areas into which we could expand including economics, social and public policies, ocean engineering, business and others.”

By 2025, the Marine Studies Initiative seeks to teach 500 students annually at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center and up to 800 more marine studies-related students in Corvallis.

A critical first step in the initiative is a new $50 million, 100,000-square-foot building that could open as early as 2018 in Newport. The Oregon Legislature approved $24.8 million in state bonding for the facility, and the OSU Foundation will raise an additional $40 million in private funding - $25 million to match the state funds and another $15 million to support-related projects.

“The new Newport academic and research facility will be a world-class teaching and research center where OSU will address many of the most pressing problems facing the Oregon coast and the world’s oceans,” said Cowen. “This center will drive discovery; expand learning; and serve as an essential coastal community asset and economic driver.”

Barth is a 1982 graduate of the University of Colorado, where he received a bachelor’s degree in physics. He has a Ph.D. in oceanography in 1987 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

An expert in coastal oceanography, Barth led an $8.4 million interdisciplinary program to study the coastal upwelling marine ecosystem off Oregon. Near-shore studies are critical because much of the world’s population lives near coastal areas, and these marine ecosystems face myriad issues, including sustainable fisheries, ocean acidification, harmful algal blooms, hypoxia, sea-level rise and erosion.

Barth was a member of the National Science Foundation’s Observatory Steering Committee that launched the $386 million Ocean Observatories Initiative. He co-wrote the proposal that resulted in Oregon and Washington being selected as the site for the OOI’s Endurance Array, a sophisticated network of underwater sensors designed to monitor changing ocean conditions.

He also has been a co-principal investigator for the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO), which has received more than $56 million to conduct nearshore research and educate students.

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Jack Barth, 541-737-1607


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Jack Barth
Jack Barth