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Visiting Researcher Program, Winter 2021 Profile: Barbara Simpson

January 7, 2022

The NHERI SimCenter hosts an on-site Visiting Researcher Program at UC Berkeley. This residency program provides an opportunity for students, postdoctoral researchers, and faculty to work closely with SimCenter staff on their computational research. Specifically, the program provides office space for hosted researchers, but does not provide financial incentives or reimbursements.

Barbara Simpson, SimCenter Visiting Researcher, Winter 2021

Barbara Simpson, Assistant Professor in Structural Engineering in the School of Civil and Construction Engineering at Oregon State University, is in residence at the Visiting Researcher Program during the Fall and Winter 2021 Quarters. She is an alumna of the SimCenter software development team, and recently presented “ Mitigating computational and experimental constraints to studying wave-structure interaction with a hybrid simulation approach ” [PDF] at the Structural Engineering, Mechanics and Materials seminar series at UC Berkeley on December 6, as well as “Studying fluid-structure interactions via real-time hybrid experimental-numerical simulation” at the Applied Mathematics and Computation Seminar series at Oregon State University on November 19, 2021. Professor Simpson provided some thoughts about the Visiting Researcher Program.

What motivated you to join the Visiting Researcher Program?

The prospect of interacting with the SimCenter team in person and on a regular basis appealed to me as a great opportunity to explore new proposal concepts with the team. I also wanted to learn about ongoing projects at the SimCenter and how to best use them in current and future research projects. I came to the program with some ideas about leveraging the SimCenter’s existing expertise in machine learning and simulation, and I have used this residency program to scope out ideas and address feasibility. For example, if I have an idea that could advance the state-of-the-art, how can it best be implemented successfully? This residency program has also aided in building a network of collaborators to address the multi-disciplinary aspects in a project proposal, so it has been helpful to have close interaction with SimCenter collaborators, which span various disciplines.

What are advantages to being onsite, especially while the SimCenter continues to follow UC Berkeley COVID regulations?

During casual conversation with SimCenter team members, there is a greater ability to convey concepts, more spontaneity in idea generation, and more opportunities to participate in working groups to create a stronger collaborative environment. Being in an office next to the team allows for these interactions.

What is one benefit from interacting closely with SimCenter software developers?

When I started collaborating with the SimCenter, I had existing projects that were exploring how physics-informed machine learning can be applied to finite-element analysis. In interacting with the SimCenter team, this original idea has morphed into another stronger and more feasible concept exploring Bayesian Neural Networks, ultimately resulting in a proposal that was submitted for funding. The development of this concept was significantly accelerated, as I could explore this concept early in proposal development and leverage the SimCenter team’s expertise.

How does SimCenter benefit from your participation in the Visiting Researcher Program?

Creative knowledge exchange is mutually beneficial to both my research team and the SimCenter. With the application of their research tools, the SimCenter team is better equipped to see how concepts and software tools can be used in a research setting. I have also engaged with the SimCenter post-doctoral scholars, and, as an early-career faculty member, have discussed proposal development, teaching and mentorship, and the lessons that I have learned as an assistant professor.

For more information about the SimCenter Visiting Research Program, please contact Matt Schoettler, SimCenter Associate Director, at