SMU alumna named the Army Corps of Engineers Researcher of the Year

At SMU McKenna participates in joint supervision of graduate students and service on dissertation committees

Mihan House McKenna ’05, a research geophysicist with the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory (GSL) at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg, Miss., is the recipient of the 2013 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Researcher of the Year Award.

McKenna received her doctorate in geophysics from SMU’s Huffington Department of Earth Sciences and now holds the position of research faculty member. She maintains an interest in applied research and academics at SMU through her joint supervision of graduate students and service on dissertation committees, according to Brian Stump, Claude C. Albritton Professor of Earth Sciences, who supervised McKenna’s thesis research.

McKenna’s achievement comes as no surprise to Stump. “She reaches out to understand a variety of technologies, and then finds innovative ways to apply them,” he says.

After earning her doctorate, McKenna joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to pursue infrasound research. Infrasound refers to sound that is below the frequency band audible to the human ear and can travel great distances. Scientists measure low-frequency acoustic waves as they move through the atmosphere to monitor many different types of natural and man-made events. Such events can range from shallow earthquakes to volcanic eruptions to nuclear explosions to meteorites passing through the atmosphere. Infrasound study also plays a role in many other research spheres, from cardiology to animal communication.

McKenna’s current investigations apply infrasound experimental techniques, mapping and numerical analysis using high-performance computing to create complex 3D models of structures. The models are used to evaluate the health of buildings, bridges and other structures without having to physically examine them.

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