Professor Debra Laefer is an art historian turned civil engineer, who has devoted her research career to the protection of historic structures. With degrees from NYU, Columbia University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, she moved to the School of Civil, Structural & Environmental Engineering at UCD in 2004.
Professor Laefer’s research aims to prevent damage to buildings above tunnel excavation, by developing a 3D modelling system that can predict what buildings are most likely to sustain damage during tunnelling.
In order to protect existing buildings, especially heritage ones, while servicing the transport and utility needs of such urban centres, it is important to better understand the impact of subsurface engineering activities. Professor Laefer and her team aim to reduce both the rates of building damage and their affiliated costs by improving current systems of damage prediction.
To demonstrate her work with 3D modelling and its impact on urban spaces due to tunnelling Professor Laefer holds a model of Christ Church in Dublin.
She currently heads the Urban Modelling Group at University College Dublin and is associate editor of four journals and a Fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, as well as a Fulbright Fellow.