Eng. Anibal Tafur, a Civil Engineering graduate, held the first position and graduated with honors in the Masters in Structural Engineering at the University of Manchester, in addition to being nominated and to be among the eight finalists of the award “Distinguished Achievement” of such university. Thanks to the “Presidente de la República” grant, granted by the Ministry of Education of Peru, he had the opportunity to continue his studies of specialization in such university.
How was your academic experience in one of the most important educational institutions?
The requirement level of the master’s degree was very high, in the sense that it required a lot of time and dedication. The pedagogical approach and the way of evaluating were very different from what I was accustomed to, since they prioritize the works instead of the exams.
In this way, although we had the advantage of not studying for regular exams, the works demand much more time, but they allow to better capture what was learned when studying real cases and allowing time to research the subject in more depth.
What type of researches did you perform during your stay?
The research project begins to develop from the first day, when you specify your area of interest and you are assigned a thesis advisor according to your choice. After several meetings, where you present your progress and receive the feedback, you get to present your thesis at the end of the master’s degree.
My research project addressed the problems existing in Peru regarding the seismic vulnerability of all types of infrastructure, particularly road infrastructure. I did a previous analysis regarding the bridges affected during the earthquake in Pisco in 2007 and then I focused on a particular case, in order to exemplify this problem and propose possible solutions.
The object of my study was the Huamani Bridge, located near Pisco, which is a 60-year-old reinforced concrete bridge (designed with obsolete seismic-resistant methods) that suffered severe damage during the earthquake in Pisco in 2007, one of the most devastating in recent years in the country.
The bridge has old metal supports located between the top of the pillars and the bottom of the beams of the superstructure. These supports restrict movement and it is counterproductive to use them in seismically active areas. The proposal of reinforcement was to replace these old supports by more modern supports, much used today in the bridges, called elastomeric insulators which are manufactured with a special type of rubber.
These insulators allow to uncouple the movements of the substructure (pillars) and superstructure (beams and board), absorbing and dissipating energy that would be harmful to the reinforced concrete elements of the bridge. By computer simulation, the performance of the structure was compared in both scenarios and it was concluded that the damage that the reinforced structure would suffer, facing an earthquake of similar magnitude that such in Pisco would be reduced by an average of 75%. Another important conclusion of the study was that there is a need in Peru for analyzing many bridges of similar characteristics and evaluating their compliance with the rules currently in force in the country. And that this method of reinforcement is feasible to apply in Peru.
What knowledge learned in the School of Science and Engineering of PUCP do you consider valuable and that helped you to perform in your master’s degree?
The knowledge acquired at PUCP, during my undergraduate studies, played a fundamental role during the master’s degree. It is known that the School has the best professors at the national level in the branch of structures, many of them being recognized authors and members of the committees that elaborate the engineering standards. I was fortunate to receive classes from professors Gianfranco Ottazzi, Alejandro Muñoz, Marcial Blondet, Antonio Blanco, Juan Montalbetti, Luis Zegarra, just to name a few. Thanks to them, I had a very solid base in the subjects of the branch of structures that served me to stand out in the master’s degree. Considering that there were many students coming from prestigious universities from all over the world, the achievement I obtained is a concrete and palpable demonstration that the teaching of civil engineering at PUCP is of the highest level and lives up to the most prestigious universities in the world.
How did you receive the news of graduating with honors and being part of the eight finalists of the “Distinguished Achievement” award?
I was totally surprised, since the academic level was very high and I knew friends who had obtained grades higher than me in the courses. The difference was made by my research project, which had a strong social factor in dealing with such a critical issue in Peru as is the seismic vulnerability of infrastructure. Thanks to this factor and to the excellent guidance of my advisor, my project obtained a very high qualification that made my general average excel. This despite the fact that there were projects more complicated and extensive than mine.
They also informed me that I had been selected as the representative of my school for the award conferred by the School of Science and Engineering of the University of Manchester for the most outstanding research project. Although I did not win this award, I was sent a congratulatory letter, since the mere fact of being nominated was an achievement. My school competed among others with the School of Physics of the University of Manchester, which is very prestigious worldwide, having won the Nobel Prize in Physics 2010 a project developed there by professors NOVOSELOV and GEIM.
I felt a lot of satisfaction, above all, by the people who know me and who helped me in some way or another to obtain this achievement, since they feel part of this, perhaps more than I do.
What is the next step academically, personally and professionally?
The idea of the “Presidente de la República” Grant is to send students from all over the country to prepare abroad to come back and apply the knowledge acquired for the benefit of the country.
In this sense, I met with the chancellor of the Universidad Nacional Toribio Rodriguez de Mendoza of Amazonas, my department of origin, to see the aspects in which I could contribute with the university and the region. The chancellor then informed me that I would be appointed as a visiting professor and would begin to teach workshops and seminars at the School of Civil Engineering, hoping to transmit what was learned in the United Kingdom to future engineers in the area who will be responsible for such a key factor for the development of any region, such as infrastructure.
In addition, I would like to dedicate myself to research and teaching in any region or field where my skills are necessary and useful, hoping to participate in projects addressing issues that are crucial, such as seismic vulnerability, and thus contribute to the development of the country.