Career Began
Jack Baker
Jack Baker
Source: Rod Searcey
Jack Baker at the 2013 Bay Bridge East Span
Jack Baker at the 2013 Bay Bridge East Span
Source: Jack Baker
2005 Helmut Krawinkler, Jose Andrade, Hesaam Aslani, Jack Baker, Allin Cornell
Jack Baker in 2005 with Helmut Krawinkler, Jose Andrade, Hesaam Aslani, and Allin Cornell
Source: Jack Baker
Contributions to Structural Engineering History in Northern California

Jack W. Baker is a professor of structural engineering at Stanford University whose work focuses on uncertainty in earthquake hazards, ground motions, and risk. Over his career, he has made valuable contributions to improving methods for selecting ground motions for seismic risk analysis, estimating earthquake-related economic losses, and characterizing risk to geographically distributed systems.  

Jack started his career as a math and physics major at Whitman College in Washington. After college and a year working in the construction industry while taking engineering classes at the University of Washington, he decided to pursue a graduate degree in structural engineering. He was accepted at Stanford University, where Professor C. Allin Cornell, a pioneering figure in probabilistic seismic hazard analysis, became his mentor and long-term advisor.

After his Master’s, Jack continued with the PhD under Allin’s supervision, working within the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center to explore improved methods to select ground motions for dynamic structural analysis. Advising from hazard expert Allin Cornell, eminent structural engineers Helmut Krawinkler and Greg Deierlein, and numerous forward-looking practicing engineers, created an environment that fostered creative thinking. Through careful study, he identified previously unknown correlations between components of ground motion response spectra that would significantly influence ground motion selection practice.

After completing his PhD in 2005, Jack spent a year as a postdoctoral scholar at ETH Zurich before returning to Stanford as an assistant professor in 2006. Over the next 15 years, he continued to advance the science and practice of ground motion selection, playing a key role in the development of now widely used standards such as ASCE 7-16.

In parallel, Jack played a key role in developing the FEMA P-58 framework for performance-based earthquake engineering, and then working with Curt Haselton to turn it into a practical tool for industry through the development of the SP3 software package. He has also co-authored (with Brendon Bradley and Peter Stafford) Seismic Hazard and Risk Analysis, a key textbook for the profession. And he has served as a consultant or peer reviewer on many industry projects utilizing new hazard, risk, and ground-motion selection techniques.

In addition to his technical contributions, Jack is a committed educator and mentor. Having benefited from the support and high expectations of advisors, he works hard to provide the same for his students. While proud of his research accomplishments, Jack sees a duty to also support his institution and profession through academic service. In recent years, he has taken on leadership roles with EERI‘s Earthquake Spectra journal and Stanford’s new Doerr School of Sustainability, among others.

Looking ahead, Jack continues to work on earthquake risk while also exploring ways to apply his expertise to climate change hazards. He remains committed to doing work that is both personally interesting and directly useful to the structural engineering profession.

Awards & Accomplishments
  • William B. Joyner Lecture Award, awarded jointly from the Seismological Society of America and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, 2023
  • Thorpe Medal Winner, from the European Council on Computing in Construction, 2022
  • Association of American Publishers PROSE Award Finalist in the Earth Science category, for the textbook Seismic Hazard and Risk Analysis, 2022
  • Structural Engineers Association of Northern California (SEAONC) Helmut Krawinkler Award, given to an individual who has demonstrated "outstanding leadership in implementing state-of-the-art research into practice," 2019
  • ASCE Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize. Citation: “For research to characterize the damaging effects of earthquake ground motion spectral shape, duration, near-fault directivity and other features for seismic hazard analysis and performance-based engineering of buildings, bridges, and geographically distributed infrastructure.” 2018
  • University of Canterbury Visiting Erskine Fellow, 2015
  • Excellence in Structural Engineering Research Award from the Structural Engineers Association of California (SEAOC), 2015
  • Eugene L. Grant Award in recognition of dedication and excellence in teaching at Stanford University, 2013
  • Early Achievement Research Award from the International Association for Structural Safety and Reliability (IASSAR), 2013
  • Outstanding Paper, Earthquake Spectra, 2011
  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award, 2010
  • Shah Family Innovation Prize, awarded by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute to honor an individual under the age of 35 for creativity, innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit in earthquake risk mitigation and management. Citation: “In recognition of Jack Baker’s exceptional contributions to the field of seismic risk assessment and communication. By bringing together the fields of structural engineering and engineering seismology, Dr. Baker has identified and introduced the pioneering approaches of using the ground motion parameter epsilon and Conditional Mean Spectrum concepts to select and scale ground motions for nonlinear analysis. These concepts are now employed worldwide in seismic risk analysis and performance-based engineering.” 2010
Related Engineer(s)
  • Carl Allin Cornell
  • Helmut Krawinkler
  • Gregory Deierlein
  • John Stewart
  • Norm Abrahamson
  • Eduardo Miranda
  • Anne Kiremidjian
  • Curt Haselton
  • Brendon Bradley
  • Peter Stafford
  • Nico Luco
  • Henry Burton
  • Abbie Liel