Earthquakes, cyclones, floods and tsunamis are events of low probability but high consequences. Associate Professor Hao Zhang's research looks at the frequency and magnitude of such events, and at their effects on structures such as buildings and bridges, with the aim of increasing safety by improving design.
"We cannot eliminate earthquakes, cyclones and so on. They will happen. But in terms of our structures, we can be prepared.
"It's not possible to design a structure that is absolutely safe - one that will never fail - but we can certainly mitigate the risks so that, for example, if a major earthquake does occur, the people inside will be able to get out.
"I always wanted to be a structural engineer. My parents were both mechanical engineers, so I was familiar with engineering generally, but as a kid I decided I wanted to build something big, so I went into civil engineering!
"I worked in industry before entering academia, which means I appreciate the challenges and responsibilities of being a civil engineer. I wanted to gain this experience before becoming a researcher. Otherwise I felt that I would be doing research into, for example, building better bridges but would never have designed one myself.
"I joined the University of Sydney in 2008, and am very happy to have moved here. I can choose what I want to research, and the School of Civil Engineering provides me with a lot of support, including funding, student resources and opportunities to collaborate with colleagues and industry. I really enjoy working in this environment."