Newswise — El PASO, Texas (Dec. 19, 2022) – A $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will spur The University of Texas at El Paso’s efforts to help underserved communities across the nation become more resilient to earthquakes.

Over the next two years, UTEP faculty members Aaron A. Velasco, Ph.D., professor of earth, environmental and resource sciences; Marianne Karplus, Ph.D., associate professor of earth, environmental and resource sciences; and Jeffrey Weidner, Ph.D., assistant professor of civil engineering, will collaborate with researchers from across the United States to establish the national Center for Collective Impact in Earthquake Science (C-CIES).

“Our plan is to develop leading edge earthquake research projects that reach deeply into our communities, and in doing so, the input we receive from these communities will help guide the science that we conduct,” Velasco said.

Many regions in the U.S. do not have regular earthquakes. Still, they have faults that can create large earthquakes (termed low probability of occurrence), and communities in these regions are not prepared to experience a large quake with the capacity to cause significant damage (termed high-impact events). The new center will specifically address areas of low probability of occurrence but high impact earthquake risk and seek to meet the needs of all communities for natural hazard mitigation.

The goals of C-CIES include advancing basic earthquake science and engineering; establishing a foundation for sharing a value-driven understanding of science; responding to the needs of all kinds of communities through use-inspired research; and recruiting, retaining and training the next generation of diverse earth scientists.

“Developing this new earthquake center will provide excellent opportunities for UTEP students to participate in world class and societally important research on earthquakes and other geohazards,” Karplus said. “We intend to integrate a culture of equity and inclusion and appreciation of diversity into all of our research, education and community-based efforts.”

UTEP researchers hope to launch the center in 2024 with $2 million to $3 million in funding per year. Until then, they will plan and launch pilot projects over the next two years with C-CIES collaborators from New Mexico Tech, Miami University, Boston College, the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), the College of Charleston, the University of Utah, Georgia Tech, The University of Texas at Austin, the University of Puerto Rico and The University of Texas Health Science Center (which one? – “at Houston” or “at San Antonio”).

With an emphasis on community engagement, a network of community members, organizations and institutions will contribute to the center’s collective impact model by developing a common agenda, centralized support, continuous communication, mutually reinforcing activities, and shared measurement. The center’s research will focus on responding to the needs of vulnerable populations that have been historically underserved by current earthquake science, engineering and public policy.

“One of the most exciting and unique aspects of this effort is the truly interdisciplinary nature of the research because it will provide plenty of opportunities for learning and growth outside of the silos in which research normally occurs,” Weidner said.

To learn more about the work of C-CIES, visit

About The University of Texas at El Paso

The University of Texas at El Paso is America’s leading Hispanic-serving university. Located at the westernmost tip of Texas, where three states and two countries converge along the Rio Grande, 84% of our 24,000 students are Hispanic, and half are the first in their families to go to college. UTEP offers 169 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs at the only open-access, top-tier research university in America.