Structural engineer Floriana Petrone was one of four EESA postdocs to address the Meet your Postdoc session on Thursday, November 16, a brown-bag lunch series designed to acquaint senior scientists with EESA postdocs and their significant contributions to Berkeley Lab.

After completing her undergraduate studies in Construction Engineering, Floriana received her Ph.D. in Structural Engineering from Sapienza University of Rome.

Floriana applies this expertise to multiple projects undertaken at Berkeley Lab that explore how to achieve resilient systems, one of EESA’s Grand Challenges, through seismic event preparedness. For one such project she works as an analyst for the development of a computational tool for the nonlinear seismic analysis of coupled soil-structure systems representative of the Department of Energy nuclear facilities.


Question: Describe the path that led you to Berkeley Lab.

Answer: While conducting my Ph.D. research in Rome, I participated in an opportunity known as Transatlantic Partnership for Excellence in Engineering. This program allowed me to finish my Ph.D. research into the analysis of shear resisting mechanisms of RC and composite structures at the University of California, Davis. After finishing my Ph.D. research in 2013, I accepted a postdoc position that brought me back to UC Davis. Through conversations with faculty there, I learned of potential postdoctoral research positions here at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab–one of which I obtained in September of 2015.

Q: What spurred your interest in engineering?

A: I’ve always had a passion for mathematics and physics. I chose engineering because it allows me to apply these subjects towards achieving concrete results. It is satisfying knowing that the results of my research can be immediately useful in society.

Q: What do you hope to have achieved by the end of your career as an engineer?

A: I hope by the end of my career that I have contributed something useful to the field of structural engineering–something that has the potential to save lives or have a positive and lasting impact in the field.

Q: As an engineer, what has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?

A: Having the motivation to keep going when a project gets tough or I’m frustrated with some entirely new area of research. But these challenging situations often translate into new prospects that trigger curiosity and dedication toward new research fields.

Q: Of all the issues currently of concern to scientists, which issue in your opinion deserves the most scientific attention?

A: Resiliency in the face of natural disaster. I think it is important that we continue to improve how we bounce back after these events. They are unfortunately unavoidable, but we can improve our ability to handle them. For example, that’s done by moving towards the development of advanced methodologies for seismic hazard and risk assessment, with a non-deterministic approach to engineering problems.