When Judith Mitrani-Reiser visited Chile days after a massive earthquake hit the South American nation in 2010, what she saw left her shaken to her core.
Apartment towers had toppled. Bridge decks lay scattered. Communications were down in vast areas of the country, disrupting everything from rescue efforts to the transfer of patients to hospitals.
"It was painful to me, as an engineer, to see how badly we had failed society," said Mitrani-Reiser, a professor of civil engineering at the Johns Hopkins University and a leading expert in the field of disaster resilience.
Mitrani-Reiser, 37, has developed a worldwide reputation for helping communities struck by...