Abheetha Peiris is a civil engineering graduate student, class of 2011, from Colombo, Sri Lanka, with a focus in structural engineering. The graduate program in the civil engineering department as afforded Peiris numerous opportunities that he might not have been able to take advantage of back home.
“The knowledge and the experience I’ve gained the past four years I doubt I could have had any place else,” he says.
The majority of this knowledge and experience comes from his research with Dr. Harik and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KTC). “Dr. Harik,” he says, “is like a pioneer in using composites in strengthening bridge structures. I was finishing my masters in Japan when I wrote to him about doing a PhD and he invited me over.”
Upon accepting the offer and moving to the United States, Peiris couldn’t wait to get started with the research.
“In addition to my own research I get to be involved in a lot of different types of engineering research. Most of all I really value being able to do research under Dr. Harik within the Kentucky Transportation Center,” says Peiris.
One example of these findings is in his research project entitled, “Seismic-Hazard Maps and Time Histories for the Commonwealth Of Kentucky.” During this research a study was conducted to emphasize the earthquakes that would have maximum impacts on humans and structures via ground motion hazard maps and time histories for three differing earthquake scenarios in Kentucky.
Peiris says, “working at KTC I’ve been able to do a lot of research and publish most of the findings.” Some of these publishings include his research on, “Seismic Evaluation of Bridges On and Over the Parkways in Western Kentucky,” a study that was performed as an investigation into the bridges on/over the five parkways in Western Kentucky. During the research several bridges identified were deemed susceptible to major earthquakes. Other information accrued during this project will be used in the seismic analysis and future design of Kentucky highway infrastructures.
In addition to his KTC papers Peiris says, “I’ve also co-authored several conference papers. Last April I attended the FHWA Bridge Engineering Conference in Orlando to present some of my own research.”
The FHWA conference normally has over 500 people in attendance. Past attendees have been public sector bridge employees, design professionals, fabricators, contractors, academics as well as representatives of local and federal public agencies from across the United States and possibly several foreign countries.
The conference is seen as an outlet for sharing the latest advancements in bridge engineering with Department of Transportation bridge engineers and owners. In the past conference topics have included best practices of accelerated bridge construction, safety, quality, high performance for steel, concrete, fiber–reinforced polymer composite and timber bridges.
Peiris felt honored to present his research along with numerous other academics in front of such a prestigious panel of attendees. “It was great,” he says, “especially since every one there was specializing in your field of research. I got to meet with people who do similar research and the location in Orlando wasn’t bad either.”
So after graduation what does the future hold for Peiris? “Definitely a big no to a desk job at a company. I still haven’t decided yet. Dr. Harik’s letting me continue work for him after I graduate, so I hope to start applying then. I am mostly interested in doing research, like what I do at KTC, but I might consider a faculty position if I get to do research,” says Peiris.