Friday, October 23, 2015

OU Engineering Professor Leads NSF Grant on Infrastructure Resilience

Whether it is malicious or an act of Mother Nature, an infrastructure attack could cripple the nation as more people depend on the interconnected services such as water, electricity, communication, transportation and health care.

University of Oklahoma School of Industrial and Systems Engineering researcher Kash Barker is leading a team to evaluate how analytics from multiple sources can increase network resilience. The National Science Foundation project, titled “Resilience Analytics: A Data-Driven Approach for Enhanced Interdependent Network Resilience,” is a cooperative research effort between OU Gallogly College of Engineering colleague Charles Nicholson and researchers at the University of Virginia, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Stevens Institute of Technology, Penn State University, Virginia Tech and the University of North Texas.

“Resilience is broadly defined as the ability of a system to withstand the effects of a disruption and then recover rapidly and efficiently,” Barker said. “As disruptions become more frequent – even inevitable – designing resilience into our infrastructure systems, such as the transportation and electric power networks, is becoming more important.”

For example, when a large-scale tornado hits, debris may be strewn across roads, power lines disabled and citizens injured. The related systems – transportation, power grid and emergency care – all rely on each other. Hospitals require electricity to serve an influx of patients, but roads free of debris to repair downed power lines also are required. Understanding how all such systems work together throughout a disruptive event helps decision-makers make better decisions regarding allocation and scheduling of resources.

Barker’s project is part of the first round of funding for the National Science Foundation activity known as CRISP: Critical Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Systems and Processes. These three- and four-year projects, each with funding up to $2.5 million, are part of a multiyear initiative on risk and resilience.

The National Science Foundation’s fiscal year 2015 investment in CRISP is a multidisciplinary collaboration between the Directorates for Engineering, Computer and Information Science and Engineering and Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences. As a result, Barker’s project is a multi-disciplinary approach to evaluating and planning for resilience. The systems engineering perspective analyzes how these networks behave together and can be optimized. Computer and data sciences are addressing how to turn large amounts of data into something meaningful to improve interdependent resilience, and the social sciences evaluate how the resilience of the society depends on the resilience of the physical infrastructure.

 “Analyzing data from a variety of sources is important,” Barker said. “We emphasize the role of the community in providing data about not only their experience, but what is happening in the underlying physical infrastructure to give us a better idea of the behavior of interdependent networks before, during and after a disruption.”

Knowledge from these will lead to innovations in critical infrastructure, strengthening community support functions and in delivering even a broader range of goods and services.

Pramod Khargonekar, National Science Foundation assistant director for engineering, predicts the new understanding of infrastructure, combined with advances in modeling and smart technologies, will offer important, groundbreaking discoveries to improve resilience. “These research investments will help support national security, economy and people for decades to come,” Khargonekar said.

The Gallogly College of Engineering at the University of Oklahoma challenges students to solve the world’s toughest problems through a powerful combination of education, entrepreneurship, research, and community service and student competitions. Research is focused on both basic and applied topics of societal significance, including biomedical engineering, energy, engineering education, civil infrastructure, nanotechnology and weather technology.

The programs within the college’s eight areas of study are consistently ranked in the top third of engineering programs in the United States. The college faculty has achieved research expenditures of more than $22 million and created 12 start-up companies.

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2015, its budget is $7.3 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 48,000 competitive proposals for funding, and makes about 11,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.