Research studies concerning earthquakes and earthquake engineering in ITU initiated with the Erzincan earthquake in 1939. Firstly, the Institute of Seismology, as a division of ITU Rectorate, was established in 1951. This was followed by many research related studies conducted by the NAFIA VEKALETI. Institute of Seismology which was supported by UNESCO at the time, began working on the field of earthquake resistant structures. This way, for the first time in Turkey, research studies related to earthquake engineering and seismology started with significant amount of support provided by Japanese scientists. This was followed by Turkish academics and students getting necessary training afterwards. However, in 1982, council of higher education board closed the institute.
Another attempt to establish an international committee on earthquake engineering was issued in 1965. National Turkish Earthquake Committee was then established in 1973 under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Rıfat Yarar. As the first activity, the committee organized the 1st European Earthquake Engineering Conference in 1975, 1975 Turkish Earthquake Code was published by the virtue of this committee. The research project with an acronym UNDP/UNESCO 014, and titled “Reducing the Earthquake Risk in Balkan States” was launched in 1976. By 1980, 7th Earthquake Engineering Conference had been organized in Istanbul by this committee.
The institute mainly focused on two main criteria. Teaching and research were the actual headings in mind and it was when Prof. Dr. M. Hasan BODUROĞLU became the Head of the Civil Engineering Division, earthquake engineering curriculum for graduate education was finalized in 2001. Earthquake Engineering Program was a subdivision of Civil Engineering graduate program under the Institute of Science and Technology at the time. As for research, collaborations were initiated with Japan which resulted in a 5-year consensus period and which was supported by JICA and led the establishment of Earthquake Engineering Research Center and Earthquake Engineering Education and Training Center. ITU Structures and Earthquake Engineering Laboratory was founded as a result of this collaboration which lasted for 8 years. With the help of this collaboration, experimental type research which is crucial for earthquake engineering based studies, was jump-started. Subsequently, there were other collaborations with JICA under the program entitled “Third Country Training” which organized three Earthquake Engineering courses in 2003 and 2004 with participants 12 different Balkan and third world countries. In early 2000, 31 faculty members were trained in emergency management by FEMA of the U.S. due to collaboration with U.S. Emergency Management. After setting up the Institute of Emergency Management in 2001, a non-thesis graduate program as a subdivision of ITU Institute of Science and Technology had been started with the supports of Oklahoma State University and Texas A&M University.
As far as general purpose of earthquake engineering related works in Turkey, the major role for our establishment is to reduce the earthquake risk through the earthquake engineering and disaster management practice. Earthquake Engineering is a multidisciplinary field covering a wide range of sub-fields such as engineering seismology, structural engineering and geotechnical engineering. Around the world, earthquake engineering is one of the major programs in graduate studies of higher education institutions. With the later inclusion of the Disaster Management Program, Institute of Earthquake Engineering and Disaster Management was finally founded in October 2010.
One of the major goals of our Institute of Earthquake Engineering and Disaster Management is also to help provide knowledge based PhD level training to near-future researchers in Turkey. Following their PhD studies, these academics will have the necessary skills to be the next-generation faculty members equipped to transfer their knowledge and experience gained in ITU to others. Another reason for this is to avoid sending our graduate students abroad for higher education which is the main reason for brain-drain in Turkey. It is also aimed at creating more opportunities to Turkish-born academics and PhD graduates such that they return to Turkey and use their knowledge and experience for the public benefit.
National and international competition is ultimately the main goal to take the necessary steps to carry our Institute up to that level. In today’s global world, science and engineering education amounts to multidisciplinary studies. With the establishment of Institute of Earthquake Engineering and Disaster Management at ITU, our mission is to pursue multidisciplinary research to be among the elites on earthquake engineering and disaster management fields to meet the needs of our public as a nation and to conduct internationally-recognized research for the global world.