A photo of Assistant Professor Thomas Gernay.
Assistant Professor, Thomas Gernay, received a supplement as part of his National Science Foundation CAREER Award to advance understanding of post-earthquake fire performance.

Thomas Gernay, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Systems Engineering, recently received a supplement as part of his National Science Foundation CAREER Award, which recognizes early-stage scholars with high levels of promise and excellence. Last year, Gernay received the original five-year award for “Performance-Based Fire Design for Cold-Formed Steel Structures,” aimed at enabling more accurate modeling of the effect of fire on cold-formed steel (CFS) structures. As the founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Multi-Hazard Resilient Structures research group, he develops innovative methods to advance the resilience of the built environment against fire. 

The new supplement is focused on improving understanding of post-earthquake fire performance. Gernay will collaborate with a team that will perform both seismic testing (with increasing, multi-directional earthquake motion) and live-fire testing on a 10-story CFS structure at the University of California San Diego. The structure is part of a multi-university-industry collaborative Capstone Test Program within the NSF-supported Cold-Formed Steel National Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (CFS-NHERI) project. 

Buildings that use lightweight CFS-framing have seen limited study of their full-scale, system-level performance following natural hazards, so we are looking to develop information that can be used to improve loss and downtime predictions and evaluate functional recovery and fire performance after seismic damage,” said Gernay. “By integrating different construction methods, including modular construction, within a single building and performing a live fire test, we can compare their efficiency and structural performance in a scenario that mimics real life.” 

Gernay’s research extends beyond the laboratory—he continues to develop computational modeling techniques and risk-based methodologies to advance structural fire safety. He also is the co-author of SAFIR®, an innovative software used by more than 250 institutions, engineers, and researchers worldwide to model accurately and predict a structure’s response to fire.