Davidson to lead international professional society
Rachel Davidson


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9:21 a.m., Jan. 19, 2010----Rachel Davidson, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Delaware, has been elected president of the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA).

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The office is a three-year commitment, with the cycle beginning in December 2009. As president-elect during the first year, Davidson will be responsible for planning the society's 2010 annual meeting. As president during the second year, she will run council meetings and lead the organization, and as past-president the final year, she will head the awards committee.

“The organization is vibrant and financially healthy right now due largely to the strength of its journal, Risk Analysis,” Davidson says. “There's currently a lot of activity and interest in risk analysis within the government and on mainstream media. The SRA is in the midst of a large push to internationalize, and there has been a lot of growth of new chapters in various parts of the world. It's an exciting time to be involved in SRA, and I'm looking forward to playing a leadership role in the society.”

SRA broadly defines risk analysis to include risk assessment, characterization, communication, management and policy. The society's interests include risks to human health and the environment, both built and natural, and encompass threats from physical, chemical and biological agents and from a variety of human activities as well as natural events.

Building on the momentum from SRA's recent accomplishments, Davidson plans to continue the twin goals of improving the society's stature, visibility and influence and increasing membership to create an expanded, inclusive and engaged society.

She is particularly interested in increasing the numbers of students and young professionals. “Based on the 2005 member survey,” she says, “only about 5 percent of members are 30 years old or younger. We need to bring the next generation of risk analysis professionals into the SRA early in their careers, so that they can fully benefit from interacting with the community and so that they can receive the support necessary for success.”

In addition to her appointment in civil engineering, Davidson is a core faculty member of UD's internationally renowned, interdisciplinary Disaster Research Center (DRC). She conducts research on natural disaster risk modeling and civil infrastructure systems with a focus on regional risk and lifeline risk -- for example, electric power and water supply. She has modeled earthquakes, hurricanes, urban fire and ice storm risk, both to better characterize risk and to identify effective risk management decisions.

“Rachel's election as president of the Society of Risk Analysis demonstrates that her colleagues in the field value her professional standing and outstanding leadership skills,” says Sue McNeil, professor and director of the DRC. “SRA is a significant organization in an era of increasing emphasis on risk management.”

Davidson has taught courses on engineering risk analysis, decision analysis, and civil infrastructure systems, as well as modules on risk analysis and natural disaster risk for other courses.

She serves on the executive committee of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Technical Council of Lifeline Earthquake Engineering (TCLEE); on the SEI-ASCE Technical Council on Life-Cycle Performance, Safety, Reliability, and Risk of Structural Systems; and on the executive committee of the board of directors of Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW).

Davidson earned her doctorate at Stanford University and joined the UD faculty in 2007.

Article by Diane Kukich