Dr. Maria Dillard is the Acting Director of Disaster and Failure Studies (Engineering Laboratory) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
As Acting DFS Director, Dr. Dillard leads a multidisciplinary staff responsible for conducting fact-finding investigations focused on: building and infrastructure failures; successful building and infrastructure performance; evacuation and emergency response systems; and disaster recovery and community resilience. These investigations can be carried out under four different statutory authorities at NIST: National Construction Safety Team (NCST) Act, National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (NEHRP), National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program (NWIRP), and the NIST Organic Act. The results of these investigations are intended to inform recommendations to improve codes, standards, and practice. To enable successful technical investigations, the DFS Program actively collaborates across the Materials and Structural Systems Division (e.g., Community Resilience, Structures, and Earthquake Engineering Groups), the Engineering Laboratory (e.g., Fire Research Division, Applied Economics Office, EL Data Security and Technology Group), and other institutions. The primary focus of disaster and failure studies is on events that occur within the United States and its territories, however, NIST may conduct reconnaissance of international disaster or failure events when lessons can be learned that are relevant to U.S. construction.
Dillard provides leadership for the National Construction Safety Team (NCST) statutory program. Dillard is also a member of the National Construction Safety Team for the Technical Investigation of Hurricane Maria’s Impacts on Puerto Rico and will continue to serve as project lead in the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program’s Study of Hurricane Maria Impacts and Recovery in Puerto Rico. Her project focuses on the recovery of the services provided by schools and hospitals and the role of these social institutions in the recovery of communities following disasters.
Prior to accepting her new position, Dillard served as Research Social Scientist for the Community Resilience Group at NIST. She has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Pittsburgh with a focus on the measurement of social-ecological resilience for coastal and island communities and a MA in Sociology from East Carolina University. Previously, Dillard was a Social Scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Coastal and Ocean Science and a researcher for the Veterans Affairs Healthcare Administration. She has professional experience in community engagement through positions focused on communications, public education, and community outreach for environmental, healthcare, and social issues. Dillard’s research is focused on community response to hazards and chronic stressors, the development of methods for measurement and modeling community resilience, recovery, well-being, and vulnerability, and the social dimensions of disaster.