The Resilient Shelter Project: Phase I

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The Resilient Shelter project team is excited to announce the completion of its market analysis report titled Seeking Low-Cost Seismic Protection for Urban Masonry in an Unstable Terrain.  Phase I of the Resilient Shelter Project consisted of a market analysis of low-cost methods for seismic protection, specifically focusing on multi-story buildings in urban areas of developing countries. A prior blog post titled “Filling the Gap for Seismic Protection” explained more about the purpose behind the project.

With support from Marcial Blondet, Ph.D., Professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, and Ph.D. student Kostas Kalfas, Nicos Makris, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at the Lyle School of Engineering, is working diligently to formulate a solution that is safe, accessible, and suitable for residents of multi-story urban housing. Dr. Makris, Affiliate supervising the work in the report said, “Part of our role as structural engineers is the design and construction of structures that are affordable to the local society and meet acceptable performance levels at present and the years to come without compromising the ability of future generations to use them, maintain them and benefit from them.” Undergraduate Research Analyst Sam Borton and Undergraduate Project Manager JuliaGrace Walker worked with Kalfas, Dr. Makris, and Dr. Blondet to examine the low-cost seismic protection market and produce a report with their findings.

Discussing his motivation for working on the project, Kalfas said, “It is my steadfast belief that we, as the more benefitted, should always give back to society and especially to those who are not as fortunate” and that the Resilient Shelter Project gave him “the opportunity to contribute directly to the people who need our help.”

In the report, Borton and Walker summarize the existing low-cost propositions and discuss to what extent these methods are feasible for the aforementioned target population in Peru. Finding that even these “low-cost” solutions are out of reach for most of the middle-class residents of Lima, the report makes an alternate proposition. Rocking isolation offers great potential as an innovative and economical seismic protection alternative, but it has yet to be implemented as low-cost housing reinforcement. This emerging system of seismic protection could fill a gap in the market, as it may provide a sufficiently low-cost accessible manner of protecting multi-story buildings.

“After learning about the very real danger that earthquakes posed to certain Peruvian communities, as well as seismically-vulnerable communities around the globe, I was especially motivated to support Dr. Makris in this initiative,” said Borton.

As the report was finalized, the project encountered a delay brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting restrictions on international travel. It is the hope of the various collaborators on the Resilient Shelter project that progress on future phases will commence in the Spring of 2021.

Walker said of her experience with the project, “It has been exciting to work with a team that values and promotes cross-cultural and interdisciplinary relationships. I cannot wait to see what else the Resilient Shelter project can achieve.”

To read more about the Hunt Institute’s work to develop future-focused solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems, please click here. For the latest news on the Hunt Institute, follow our social media accounts on LinkedInFacebookTwitter, and Instagram. We invite you to listen to our Podcast called Sages & Seekers. If you are considering engaging with the institute, you can donate, or sign-up for our newsletter by emailing

Duncan MacFarlane, Ph.D., Hunt Institute Senior Fellow

Duncan MacFarlane, Ph.D. Hunt Institute Senior Fellow

Duncan MacFarlane, Ph.D. joins the Hunt Institute as a Senior Fellow bringing his expertise in entrepreneurship and engineering. Dr. MacFarlane holds the Bobby B. Lyle Centennial Chair in Engineering Entrepreneurship and a Professor of Electrical Engineering at Southern Methodist University. Duncan has written more than 100 technical papers or patents in the general area of photonic systems and components. Specific research projects have included micro-optics, ultrafast lasers, photonic integrated filters, nonlinear optics, semiconductor lasers, RF and optical communications, and advanced displays. His work in photonic filters is used widely by practicing optical component and system engineers in industry. He pioneered the manufacture of micro-optics using inkjet techniques and invented a novel 3-dimensional volumetric display that has found application in aerospace.

When asked what motivates him to do impact work, Duncan replied, “I consider myself fortunate to be in a role where I can help everyone around become better and better off.”

Prior to joining SMU, Duncan spent 26 years at The University of Texas at Dallas. An early hire in the then nascent Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science he contributed to the definition and growth of a top engineering school. Duncan served as Program Head of Telecommunications Engineering, and as Associate Dean for Interdisciplinary Programs, he started three new departments (Materials Science and Engineering, Bioengineering, Systems Engineering and Management) and six new degree programs. He has worked at Schafer Associates, Texas Instruments and at JDS Uniphase, and helped start Celion Networks, a telecommunications system start-up backed by Sequoia. He is a Co-Founder of MRRA, a company dedicated to improving medical imaging through supporting instrumentation. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in Electromagnetics, Microwave Engineering, Optics, Probability and Statistics, Signals and Systems, Communication Systems and Electronics. Duncan received his BSEE and MSEE from Brown University, his Ph.D. from Portland State University and his MBA from SMU. Duncan is a registered professional engineer in the state of Texas and a Fellow of the Optical Society of America.

To read more about the Hunt Institute’s work to develop future-focused solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems, please click here. For the latest news on the Hunt Institute, follow our social media accounts on LinkedInFacebookand Instagram. We invite you to listen to our Podcast called Sages & Seekers. If you are considering engaging with the institute, you can donate, or sign-up for our newsletter by emailing

2019 Social Enterprise Cohort

Hunt Institute's Social Enterprise Program

Our 2019 Cohort focused on developing and improving food systems across Dallas and around the world. Of the four Social Entrepreneurs in this cohort, only one was unable to continue work during the pandemic. As we approach the end of the year, below is a brief description of each social entrepreneur’s venture along with links to their work in order to read more and/or follow their progress in the future.

Break Bread, Break Boarders

Founder: Jin-Ya Huang

Break Bread, Break Borders is catering with a cause: empowering refugee women to earn a living through their existing cooking skills, while they also share their incredible stories with the community. Huang is an Affiliate of the Hunt Institute and one of our first Social Entrepreneurs​. The Dallas Observer featured her story in their December 19, 2019 edition. In addition, Huang was a member of the 2020 Class of Presidential Leadership Scholars. Most recently, Huang was featured as a TIME Magazine Community Bridge Builder.

Restorative Farms

Founder: Dr. Owen Lynch

Restorative Farms wants to grow a better Dallas. Their mission is to foster a vibrant and viable community-based urban farm system — an agrisystem — in one of the country’s largest food deserts: South Dallas, Texas. Lynch has been featured in several blogs describing his various community engagements and awards. He is a Senior Fellow in the Hunt Institute and has worked in this area of research for many years. Most recently, Restorative Farms was featured in the Dallas Morning News article Urban farm sprouts on unused DART property beside South Dallas station.

Janta Energy

Founder: Mohammed Njie

Janta is determined to significantly improve access to energy in The Gambia, where most rural citizens and institutions like schools have no electric power. One of Janta’s key energy sources is agricultural waste because farming is a primary economic activity in The Gambia. Njie has been recognized as a Grand Challenges Scholar, winner of SMU’s Big Ideas, and is also part of the SMU Incubator. He is the first SMU student to be invited to the Hunt Institute’s Social Enterprise Program receiving the title of Social Entrepreneur.

Garden of the World

Founder: Kunthear Mam-Douglas

Garden of the World aims to bring the connection between nature and mental health to light through a mindful world garden that promotes sustainable food systems in Dallas. This work is suspended until further notice due to the global pandemic. We remain hopeful it will resume soon.

Each of the Social Entrepreneurs has made a mark in their communities and a dent in the work that needs to be done in our sustainable food systems. As we embark on a new year, we celebrate the completion of this cohort and prepare for the next.

To read more about the Hunt Institute’s work to develop future-focused solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems, please click here. For the latest news on the Hunt Institute, follow our social media accounts on LinkedInFacebookTwitter, and Instagram. We invite you to listen to our Podcast called Sages & Seekers. If you are considering engaging with the institute, you can donate, or sign-up for our newsletter by emailing

VR Small, Hunt Institute Fellow

Founder/Executive Director
Veteran Women’s Enterprise Center, Certified SCORE Mentor SCORE Dallas
Personal Slogan: “Dedicated to changing the way we see the world and do business!”

The Institute welcomes VR Small as an Associate. Ms. Small supports the business community via WINGS and as a Certified SCORE Mentor. She continually focuses her energy on developing innovative programs for women, veterans and small business owners—turning visions into realities as the Founder and Executive Director for the Veteran Women’s Enterprise Center (VWEC): a national initiative that has broken ground in southern Dallas as the first of many VWECs projected for Texas and our nation.

Ms. Small’s former positions include President and Chief Executive Officer, Small Industries Organizational Success Strategies (SIOSS), Founder and Executive Director for the Brooklyn Executive Business Women’s Association (BEBWA), Director of the Center for Healthy Living at Long Island University and more than ten years as an adjunct professor specializing in psychology, organizational development and management of human service agencies. VR’s expertise in building strategic alliances and providing innovative technical assistance spans nearly 20 years, illustrating a vibrant history of success helping individuals, nonprofits, businesses and associations access the resources they need to succeed.

A dynamic advocate for women veterans, VR testified in support of the original House Bill to make June 12, Women Veterans Day in Texas and organized a celebration of the 2017 signing of the Bill supported by women veterans across the region. She chaired the 2018 Dallas Planning Committee coordinating events around the city in recognition of the first official Women Veterans Day in the State of Texas, which also celebrated the 70th Anniversary of the 1948 Women Armed Services Integration Act. And in collaboration with the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, the VWEC has launched the “Moments that Matter” research project, the first local survey focused exclusively on women veteran-owned businesses in the DFW area.

Committed to advocacy for women and small businesses, VR serves on the Advisory Committee for TWU Center for Women Entrepreneurs. Ms. Small is a SMU, Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity—Inclusive Economy, Dallas Public Voices 2019, and Bush Institute Stand to Veteran Leadership Program Fellow and featured in Dallas Innovates: The Future 50. Actively involved in veteran support, she continues to serve on the 30th Congressional District Veteran Advisory Committee, Representative Neave’s Sexual Violence Task Force and support the efforts of various local veteran coalitions and service organizations. Ms. Small chaired the Veteran Business Subcommittee for the City of Dallas, Office of Business Diversity and was the 2017 VP for Veteran Affairs with SCORE Dallas.  Most importantly, VR is a U.S. Navy Veteran, proud stepdaughter and sister to U.S. Army Retired Vietnam & Iraq Veterans respectively!