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News Release 14-128

Designing infrastructure with resilience from disruptions and disasters

Ten new projects will investigate how to keep complex, interdependent infrastructure working

Computer rendering of a section of downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, following a simulated earthquake

Researchers use simulations to study interdependencies between people and the built environment.

September 29, 2014

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

When infrastructure is resilient, it is able to bounce back after a disruption at an acceptable cost and speed. When resilient infrastructure is interdependent, cascading failures between infrastructure systems may be eased or possibly even avoided.

This ideal of resilience is far from the norm, particularly as the infrastructure we rely upon, much of it aged, grows more interconnected and complex. For example, when Hurricane Sandy struck in October 2012, the resultant loss of power, which affected millions of people, in turn caused disruptions to transportation, communication and healthcare, including the relocation of 6,500 patients from New York City hospitals and nursing homes (see A Stronger, More Resilient New York, 2013).

The growing use of rail for delivering crude oil, particularly from the new fields in North Dakota, exemplifies an interconnection between transportation and energy. The additional traffic places a greater stress on the railroad system and increases the possibility of derailment and temporary disruption of oil supplies.

To investigate innovative ways to bolster the resilience of the electrical grid, water systems and other lifelines and services, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded grants totaling nearly $17 million through cross-disciplinary funding by its Directorates for Engineering and Computer and Information Science and Engineering.

During the next three years, more than 50 researchers at 16 institutions will pursue transformative research in the area of Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Processes and Systems (RIPS).

RIPS researchers will explore the interactions between natural gas and electricity systems, power and communication networks, healthcare and cyber infrastructure and a variety of other combinations. Importantly, new understanding and models of resilience from these projects will encompass community participation, societal services, human activity and land-use.

The researchers will also investigate questions related to vulnerability, risk and resilience in the face of various hazards as well as the everyday degradation that infrastructures face.

The results of these studies will include computational models of interdependent infrastructure systems and services, capable of predicting the complex behavior that ensues when a change occurs, whether that change is a new economic reality or an extreme drought.

"The RIPS investigations will elucidate interdependencies and potentially predict future infrastructure behaviors," said Konstantinos Triantis, who coordinated RIPS during his rotation as an NSF program officer. "How well researchers are able to integrate the engineering, computer, social and behavioral science perspectives will be critical."

  • Anuradha Annaswamy of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will lead the project "Towards resilient computational models of electricity-gas ICI" (1441301) in partnership with MIT colleagues Christopher Knittel and Ignacio Perez-Arriaga.

Alefiya Hussain of the University of Southern California Information Sciences Institute will co-lead the project under a collaborative award (1440468).

  • Anjan Bose of Washington State University will lead the project "Strategic Analysis and Design of Robust and Resilient Interdependent Power and Communication Networks" (1441357) in partnership with Washington State colleagues Scott Frickel, Christine Horne, Chen-Ching Liu and Harold Love.

Co-leading the project under a set of collaborative awards are Chunming Qiao of the University at Buffalo (1441284), Arunabha Sen of Arizona State University (1441214) and Srinivas Shakkottai of Texas A&M University (1440969).

  • John Crittenden of Georgia Tech will lead the project "Participatory Modeling of Complex Urban Infrastructure Systems (Model Urban SysTems)" (1441208) in partnership with Georgia Tech colleagues Baabak Ashuri, Jennifer Clark, Richard Fujimoto and Marc Weissburg.

  • Paulina Jaramillo of Carnegie Mellon University will lead the project "Water and Elctricity Infrastructure in the Southeast (WEIS)--Approaches to Resilient Interdependent Systems under Climate Change" (1441131) in partnership with Carnegie Mellon colleagues Mario Berges, Baruch Fischhoff, Gabriela Hug and Haibo Zhai.

Co-leading the project under a set of collaborative awards are Royce Francis of George Washington University (1441226), and Bart Nijssen of the University of Washington (1440852), in partnership with UW colleagues Dennis Lettenmaier and John Yearsley.

  • Abbie Liel of the University of Colorado Boulder will lead the project "The Interdependent Criticality of Built, Social, and Information Infrastructures in Community Resilience: A New Framework and Participatory Process" (1441263) in partnership with UC Boulder colleagues Shideh Dashti, Bruce Goldstein, Amy Javernick-Will and Leysia Palen.

  • Elise Miller-Hooks of the University of Maryland will lead the project "Quantifying Disaster Resilience of Critical Infrastructure-based Societal Systems with Emergent Behavior and Dynamic Interdependencies" (1441224) in partnership with Joanne Nigg of the University of Delaware and Elizabeth Petrun of University of Maryland.

Judith Mitrani-Reiser of Johns Hopkins University will co-lead the project under a collaborative award (1441209), in partnership with JHU colleague Matthew Green.

  • Thomas Seager of Arizona State University will lead the project "Resilience Simulation for Water, Power & Road Networks" (1441352) in partnership with Arizona State colleagues Mikhail Chester, Nathan Johnson, Ying-Cheng Lai and Clark Miller.

P. Suresh Rao of Purdue University will co-lead the project under a collaborative award (1441188), in partnership with Purdue colleague Loring Nies.

  • My Thai of the University of Florida will lead the project "Vulnerability Assessment and Resilient Design of Interdependent Infrastructures" (1441231) in partnership with University of Florida colleagues Vladimir Boginski, Christopher McCarty and Yafeng Yin.

Arif Sarwat of Florida International University will co-lead the project under a collaborative award (1441223).

  • Paul Torrens of the University of Maryland College Park will lead the project "Human Geography Motifs to Evaluate Infrastructure Resilience" (1441177) in partnership with University of Maryland colleague Vanessa Frias-Martinez.

Roger Ghanem of the University of Southern California will co-lead the project under a collaborative award (1441190).

  • Quanyan Zhu of New York University will lead the project "A Meta-Network System Framework for Resilient Analysis and Design of Modern Interdependent Critical Infrastructures" (1441140) in partnership with NYU colleagues Francisco De Leon, Zhan Guo, Nasir Memon and Rae Zimmerman.

"Conceptualizing multiple infrastructures as cyber-physical interdependent systems and processes--as opposed to discrete components of bridges, rails, power plants and so forth--offers an exciting new paradigm for exploration that will lead to very important new knowledge for the design of resilient infrastructures," said Pramod Khargonekar, NSF assistant director for Engineering. "We look forward to the creation of a multidisciplinary new research community that can revolutionize the infrastructures of the future."

The RIPS concept was developed with significant input from the research community and in close collaboration between NSF's Directorates for Engineering; Computer and Information Science and Engineering and Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences. The RIPS investment sets the stage for NSF's cross-directorate activity Critical Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Systems and Processes (CRISP) planned for FY 2015.


Media Contacts
Sarah Bates, NSF, (703) 292-7738, email:

Program Contacts
Sohi Rastegar, NSF ENG/EFRI, (703) 292-5379, email:
Robert E. O'Connor, NSF SBE, (703) 292-7263, email:
Ralph Wachter, NSF CISE, (703) 292-8950, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2021 budget of $8.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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