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Thomas Gernay, an assistant professor in civil and systems engineering, explores and designs innovative alternatives to traditional structural fire protection. His pioneering computational modeling techniques and risk-based methodologies, which are used worldwide, are helping structural engineers, architects, and builders create buildings that are better able to avoid or withstand fire and other man-made and natural threats.

Gernay founded and leads Johns Hopkins’ Multi-Hazard Resilient Structures research group. Focusing on computational mechanics, performance-based design, and the development of numerical analysis software, his team seeks to enhance the resiliency of structures through the development of computer simulations that model the performance of entire buildings under extreme hazards. In particular, he has an interest and noted expertise in studying the effects of fire and multi-hazard scenarios involving a fire on materials, structures, and systems.

Gernay 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. His lab also studies the impact of critical infrastructure damage, which can disrupt a city’s ability to function, and develops methods to minimize damage and recovery time to enhance community resiliency. The SAFIR software was used by three of the leading structural engineering firms working on an ASCE/SEI (Structural Engineering Institute) – CPF project on advancing performance-based structural fire design in the U.S.

A fellow of the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute (HEMI), Gernay received a 2019 HEMI Seed Grant for his experimental study of metals under extreme temperatures. He also received the 2019 Foundation Medal from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Fire Protection Research Foundation. Gernay’s professional awards include the International Gustave Magnel Award (2017) and the IAFSS Best Thesis Award (2014) for his contributions to the modeling of concrete at elevated temperature, as well as the McKinsey & Company Scientific Award (2013). He received fellowships from the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research, the Belgian American Education Foundation, and the Fulbright Commission. Prior to joining the Johns Hopkins faculty in 2018, Gernay was an adjunct lecturer at the University of Liege in his native Belgium.

He is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and serves on the steering committee of the ASCE/SEI Technical Committee on Fire Protection. He also serves on the ACI Fire Resistance and Fire Protection Committee for the American Concrete Institute and the International Association for Fire Safety Science (IAFSS) subcommittee on research. His expertise contributed to the revision of Annex C of Eurocode 1992-1-2 for concrete columns in fire. In addition to authoring numerous presentations, book chapters, and articles, Gernay has delivered invited lectures at multiple institutions and frequently presents courses on the SAFIR software.

Gernay is an associate editor of Fire Technology, the peer-reviewed journal of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the Society of Fire Protection Engineering (SFPE). He reviews papers for numerous journals, among them Engineering Structures, International Journal of Solids and Structures, and Construction and Building Materials. He served on conference committees, including the 6th International Symposium on Life-Cycle Civil Engineering (IALCCE2018) in 2018, and he chaired sessions for the 10th International Conference on Structures in Fire in 2018 and for the 2nd International Fire Safety Symposium in 2017. Gernay served as an external committee member for Ph.D. defenses in the U.S., Spain, Italy, Belgium, and the U.K.

He received his BSE (2007) and ME (2009) in Civil Engineering and his PhD (2012) in Structural Engineering from the University of Liege in Belgium. He conducted research at the CEA near Paris, France, was a project engineer for Cockerill Maintenance Ingenierie in Belgium, and did post-doctoral work at Princeton University as a Fulbright Fellow.