For Chilean born Soledad Mashiri, the constant fear of earthquakes was a way of life.
The 51-year-old University of Wollongong student has just completed her civil engineering PhD, focusing on a way to make homes safer in earthquake-prone areas.
Working with two other researchers, Mrs Mashiri's thesis examined how a mixture of sand and rubber from recycled tyres can act as a cushion around the foundations of buildings to minimise the damage from earthquakes.
"What the tyres do is absorb the force ... when it's mixed with the sand it has improved strength," Mrs Mashiri said.
With 80 per cent of the world's earthquakes happening in developing countries, the mixture of sand and rubber can be easily found and is relatively cheap in these areas, as well as being environmentally friendly.
"I really liked the fact that these used tyres are an envionmental problem but they can be used to solve something," she said.
The solution is designed for low to medium density buildings less than 10 storeys high and if implemented around the world, Mrs Mashiri says the impact of earthquakes, such as the one that hit Nepal earlier this year could be reduced significantly.
"If it had been implemented in Nepal, so many lives could've been saved," she said.
However, her research hit close to home only two days after Mrs Mashiri started in 2010, with an 8.8 magnitude earthquake hitting off the coast of her home town of Concepción.
The quake and resulting tsunami killed an estimated 525 people and made Mrs Mashiri realise the potential impact of her work.
"Thinking that thousands of lives could be saved in the future kept me well motivated," she said.
While Mrs Mashiri graduated last week, it took the student just over two decades to complete her studies.
Mrs Mashiri started her Masters degree at the university in 1993 after moving to Australia from Chile, but her academic career was put on hold after meeting her husband and having three children.
Despite working night shifts at Coles several days a week, Mrs Mashiri was encouraged by her husband, a fellow researcher, to resume her studies in 2010 and hasn't looked back.
After completing her masters degree, she was urged to complete her PhD and continue her research into reducing the impact of earthquakes.
Now graduated, Mrs Mashiri hopes the technology can be improved further and can help countries around the world.
"We are responsible of our contributions to society and should consider the global benefit, rather than individual or personal benefit," Ms Mashiri said.