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  • CAREER Project on Humanizing Engineering and Resilience Awarded by National Science Foundation

CAREER Project on Humanizing Engineering and Resilience Awarded by National Science Foundation

CAREER Project Figure

Societies depend on resilient infrastructure and the uninterrupted provision of drinking water, electricity, and wastewater treatment; when infrastructure is not resilient, hazards and disasters can disrupt these services causing enormous economic losses and human and environmental impacts. Improving the resilience of the nation’s infrastructure to current and future hazards is vital for society and a grand engineering challenge. While much is known about the physical and technical dimensions of resilience, there are fundamental gaps in our understanding of the human dimensions of resilience. In particular, we cannot explain why infrastructure managers overwhelmingly focus on building resilience to the past, bouncing back from disruption, rather than bouncing forward or building resilience to future hazards and surprise. This Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant supports fundamental research that will address this gap in knowledge to: advance resilience theory to include human dimensions, identify the different human dimensions factors necessary to bounce back as well as bounce forward, produce actionable knowledge that will enhance resilience of U.S. infrastructure systems, and develop curricula to educate students and professionals about human dimensions of engineering. The novel integrated research and education approach offers unique opportunities for students to engage in research, prepares them to help solve societal problems, and helps diminish the gender gap in engineering. In addition to training a postdoctoral researcher and graduate and undergraduate students, this project will engage a broad audience including 150 students and 200-250 infrastructure managers and public officials.

This research advances fundamental understanding of resilience and resilience theory to enable researchers to assess human dimensions factors of resilience across a range of critical infrastructure not previously possible. It also advances novel methods and applies experimental techniques to demonstrate the effectiveness of tools for improving resilience and of a new educational model for enhancing student understanding and commitment to engineering. Results from this research will provide scholars with a new theory and methods for assessing human dimensions of resilience and will give practitioners concrete guidance on how to measure and improve infrastructure resilience to present and future hazards. Unique quantitative and qualitative datasets, interactive graphic displays, and professional and undergraduate engineering curricula will be produced and made widely available. Broad dissemination will occur through publications and conferences as well as webinars, trainings, and presentations to partners, infrastructure managers, and their communities.

This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.