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Chi awarded grant from the National Science Foundation to study response to disasters

Posted: August 13, 2015

Guangqing Chi, Associate Professor of Rural Sociology and Demography and Director of the Computational and Spatial Analysis Core in the Social Science and Population Research Institutes, is the recipient of a grant from the National Science Foundation to study the interconnection of population and infrastructure in response to disasters.

The project, titled “Population–Infrastructure Nexus: A Heterogeneous Flow–based Approach for Responding to Disruptions in Interdependent Infrastructure Systems,” is a collaborative research project with Xiaopeng Li, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Mississippi State University.

Reducing the instability and vulnerability of the critical and complex population–infrastructure system is essential for a more resilient and efficient society. Catastrophic events, such as the Northeast Blackout of 2003 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, shut down or interrupted essential and interdependent components of our national infrastructure, such as electric networks, fuel supplies, and transportation systems. This vulnerability is heightened by changing population dynamics that impose serious challenges to the nation’s infrastructure system in efficiently responding to both moderate disturbances and extreme events.

The primary goal of this interdisciplinary research project, says Chi, is to increase the resilience of the U.S. interdependent population–infrastructure system during disturbances of various magnitudes, ranging from operational uncertainties to major disruptions.

He adds that the research will contribute to the development of "smart communities/cities" where multiple stakeholders can work together to achieve common goals.

Another goal of this research is to develop innovative educational and training modules to provide a vision of efficient, resilient, and socially vital communities and built environments as well as the means to achieve them.

For the project, researchers plan to develop a framework to assess the critical and complex interdependence of various infrastructure systems and population groups. The framework will also assist city planners in analyzing short-term mobility behaviors as well as the long-term social and demographic evolution of the interconnection of population and infrastructure.

Chi says that the model will be integrated with a cyber-communications system based on self-organized “swarm intelligence” to create a realistic system in which individuals and groups, by communicating their available information, behave in a unified, cohesive manner.