The renowned structural engineer and international consultant passed away at the age of 81 on March 23rd.
Recently, the death of Vilas Mujumdar, a distinguished international advisor on resilient infrastructure issues, was reported. His relationship with the Research Center for Integrated Disaster Risk Management (CIGIDEN) began prior to its creation and was thanks to the personal and professional bond he had with the principal researcher of CIGIDEN and former dean of UC engineering, Juan Carlos de la Llera.
Mujumdar and De la Llera met at an academic event held in Bolivia, from which they began to forge a relationship of friendship and collaboration on risk and resilience issues in the face of socio-natural disasters. “Talking with him, he told me that he had dedicated his entire life to working on risk issues and had also worked at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the United States, where he was program director. He was well-known among academics in the civil and structural engineering field, as well as in the seismic field,” recalls Juan Carlos De La Llera.
Link with CIGIDEN
The first tangible connection between Vilas Mujumdar and Chile was as an advisor to the Engineering 2030 Project, led by Juan Carlos de la Llera, whose goal was to rethink the way future engineers are educated in Chile, placing greater emphasis on some specializations of the profession that have a social impact, in addition to promoting the international connections of the UC School of Engineering:
At the same time, Mujumdar was invited to participate as an international advisor to CIGIDEN. “I told Rodrigo Cienfuegos (director of CIGIDEN) that Vilas be considered as an advisor since he worked in the areas of risk and resilience,” recalls the UC academic.
In this sense, Mujumdar’s main contributions to Disaster Risk Management (DRM) were to approach his expertise from and for public policy and to understand how governments and states work, so that scientific knowledge can land in public policy, assures the CIGIDEN researcher.
“Vilas was a very wise and judicious person, with a huge and very generous heart. He donated money to the University of Notre Dame to develop scholarships in the area of risk and resilience. He was a very generous person with his time,” emphasizes the researcher.
Vilas Mujumdar was a structural engineer and worked as an independent consulting engineer since 2009. Previously, he was CEO, president, and partner in many engineering firms in Asia, Europe, Canada, and the United States and worked at the highest level in the public sector, as Chief of Operations in the State Architects’ Division in California and as Director in the Engineering Research and Natural Hazards Centers at the National Science Foundation (NSF).
He also served on the boards of various professional societies, including the ASCE and was internationally recognized for his leadership and contribution to transdisciplinary and integrated work for the reduction of disaster risks.
In addition, he was the chief editor of engineering for Natural Hazards Review (2009-2015), a multidisciplinary and multiple-risk journal of ASCE. He wrote books, guidelines, numerous reports, and manuals and more than 80 technical documents, along with giving more than 35 keynote lectures around the world.
One of the ideas that Juan Carlos De la Llera values and believes should be implemented in Chile is the creation of macro laboratories where all universities in Chile can develop scientific knowledge for the country, as Vilas Mujumdar did during his work at the National Science Foundation where he allocated resources for the management of various research projects. “This would allow in a country where there are not so many resources for the development of sciences, they can be strengthened in one place,” says who is one of the initial founders of CIGIDEN.