IAS Scholars

IAS Junior Fellow and Research Assistant Professor of

Civil and Environmental Engineering


Dr. HUANG Duruo obtained her BEng from Tsinghua University in 2008. After working as a Geophysics Field Engineer at Schlumberger Ltd. in the United States for three years, she pursued graduate studies and received her PhD in Geotechnical Engineering from HKUST in 2016. Currently she is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at HKUST and an IAS Junior Fellow. Earlier this year, Huang was admitted to the nation’s Thousand Talents Plan as a Young Professional. Her research aims at understanding earthquake hazards in order to improve the sustainability and resilience of key infrastructures. Here are some open questions about earthquakes and their associated hazards that Huang endeavors to answer.

Understanding Earthquake Hazards:
How Hard Might It Shake?

Earthquake hazards are directly related to the intensity of ground shaking. Due to the focusing or defocusing of seismic waves, strong motions are amplified at convex features such as ridges or hill tops, and attenuated at concave features such as canyons and valleys. Due to the complexity of topographic amplification, this feature has not yet been incorporated into most seismic design codes. Huang was recently awarded a General Research Fund grant from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (RGC) to develop parametric models to predict strong-motion amplification. She seeks to assess 3D topography and subsurface soils by using simple proxies of terrain topography, soil profiles, and input waves. Once completed, this project will significantly advance the state of the practice for seismic design in mountainous regions such as Hong Kong.

Strong earthquake motions cause significant damage to infrastructure and ground soil. Under earthquake loading, soil deposits can completely lose their load-bearing capacity and behave like liquids. This tendency is referred to as soil liquefaction. However, the mechanism for triggering liquefaction and post-liquefaction soil behavior is not well understood. Collaborating with HKUST faculty Prof. WANG Gang, Huang is participating in an RGC-supported research project to improve our fundamental understanding of soil liquefaction and of modeling techniques. This study will test various hypotheses concerning the linkages between microscopic soil structures and the macroscopic behavior of soil liquefaction by using laboratory tests and discrete element modeling.

Mitigating Earthquake Hazards: What Should We Do?

Nowadays, many hydraulic and hydropower mega-projects have been planned, or are under construction in the southwestern part of China. The high seismicity, complex geology, and steep terrains in this region pose significant challenges to the seismic design and long-term safety of these mega-projects. In collaboration with a top research team led by Prof. JIN Feng from Tsinghua University, Huang is currently developing a large-scale physics-based numerical model to generate a big picture of earthquake strikes and associated landslide hazards on a regional scale. This study models complicated fault rupture processes, wave propagation, and earthquake-induced landslides under various earthquake scenarios and hydro-geologic conditions. The findings of this research will guide engineers in formulating various mitigation measures for long-term protection of these key infrastructures against earthquakes.

\\ Earthquakes are destructive and deadly. As a researcher, my mission is to better understand earthquakes, and to design safer and sustainable infrastructures to prevent loss of life and property. \\