Skip to content
Topics
Stories

Student projects assess Logan Airport resilience

Airplane

Grad­uate stu­dents recently met with Mass­port offi­cials to present rec­om­men­da­tions for strength­ening infra­struc­ture life­line resilience at Logan Inter­na­tional Air­port.

Here is the hypo­thet­ical sce­nario: A major hur­ri­cane is bar­reling toward Boston, bringing flood­wa­ters and destruc­tive winds that threaten Logan Inter­na­tional Air­port. Is this vital New Eng­land trans­porta­tion hub ade­quately pre­pared to deal with the imme­diate and pro­longed effects of this nat­ural disaster?

A group of 27 North­eastern grad­uate stu­dents looked to answer that ques­tion with a semester-​​long project inves­ti­gating Logan’s infra­struc­ture resilience. In Feb­ruary, the stu­dents pre­sented their find­ings to offi­cials at Mass­port, the public authority that owns Mass­a­chu­setts’ three air­ports and the marine ter­minal in the Port of Boston. Jalal Mapar, director of the Resilient Sys­tems Divi­sion at the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity Sci­ence and Tech­nology Direc­torate, also attended the meeting and met with the stu­dents fol­lowing their pre­sen­ta­tions to pro­vide some feed­back and dis­cuss his work.

The stu­dents’ inno­v­a­tive pro­posals included com­mis­sioning tourism duck boats to be used as amphibian vehi­cles for key per­sonnel to get to Logan facil­i­ties inun­dated by a hur­ri­cane storm surge. The stu­dents also high­lighted how new adap­ta­tions of net­work sci­ence and prob­a­bilistic risk assess­ment models could help Logan offi­cials to better iden­tify infra­struc­ture vulnerabilities.


massportpresent600 Stu­dents in Northeastern’s “Crit­ical Infra­struc­ture Resilience” grad­uate course pre­sented their semester-​​long projects to Mass­port and DHS offi­cials last month. Con­tributed photo by Jamie Traynor

The grad­uate stu­dents researched and devel­oped these projects in the fall as part of a new inter­dis­ci­pli­nary course called “Crit­ical Infra­struc­ture Resilience,” which was co-​​taught by Stephen Flynn, a pro­fessor of polit­ical sci­ence and the founding co-​​director of Northeastern’s George J. Kostas Research Insti­tute for Home­land Secu­rity, and Auroop Gan­guly, an asso­ciate pro­fessor in the Depart­ment of Civil and Envi­ron­mental Engi­neering, who directs the Sus­tain­ability and Data Sci­ences Lab­o­ra­tory at North­eastern. They were aided by teaching assis­tants Devashish Kumar and Evan Kodra, who are cur­rent and former doc­toral stu­dents in Ganguly’s lab, respectively.

Flynn helped facil­i­tate the part­ner­ship and has also fos­tered exten­sive rela­tion­ships among the owners and oper­a­tors of major infra­struc­ture such as Mass­port, where he serves as a member of its Secu­rity Advi­sory Council.

Flynn and Gan­guly cred­ited the stu­dents for their hard work and for pro­ducing inno­v­a­tive ideas to address resilience. “Our stu­dents, Mass­port, and Pro­fessor Gan­guly and I all came away from this class learning some­thing new,” Flynn said.

Mass­port recently looked at the resilience of its crit­ical facil­i­ties at an asset-​​level and our stu­dents took a more system-​​level approach,” Gan­guly added. “The idea is not nec­es­sarily if a spe­cific bridge will col­lapse in the event of a major hur­ri­cane, but instead how to assure the main­te­nance of crit­ical func­tion­ality such as mobility and com­mu­ni­ca­tions and whether a quick recovery is possible.”

The stu­dents con­sid­ered five resilience fac­tors: cas­cading inter­de­pen­den­cies across mul­tiple infra­struc­ture sec­tors; antic­i­pa­tory engi­neering design; met­rics and finan­cial incen­tive struc­tures; gov­er­nance across juris­dic­tional or orga­ni­za­tional bar­riers; and novel capa­bil­i­ties and appli­ca­tions. Engi­neering and public policy stu­dents worked together in groups and were assigned one of five life­lines: fuel, water, elec­tricity, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, or transportation.

Three of the groups—transportation, elec­tricity, and a mod­er­ator group—presented to Mass­port senior man­agers in December, when the course was winding down. Those stu­dents did such an impres­sive job that the offi­cials asked to see all the stu­dents’ projects.

What we were hoping to present was a bigger pic­ture sce­nario,” said Charles Simpson, SSH’14/MS’16, who was part of the fuel group. “We went beyond just Mass­port and were able to look at the providers of the fuel sources and what vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties they may have.”

Stu­dents in the Col­lege of Engi­neering and the Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties were enrolled in the course. Simpson noted the impor­tance of taking an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary approach to exam­ining resilience by bringing together the per­spec­tives of both engi­neering and public policy stu­dents. “Public policy stu­dents would focus more on the ‘why’ of an idea, while engi­neering stu­dents would focus on fixing a spe­cific problem,” he explained.

While the course mate­rials were all avail­able online, the class dis­cus­sions were ani­mated by role-​​playing nego­ti­a­tions, or war games, moti­vated by Ganguly’s Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions pro­gram on cli­mate change and its impacts on infra­struc­tures and policy. Pre­sen­ta­tions by Mass­port offi­cials and their con­tractor Kle­in­felder helped infuse realism into the negotiations.

The stu­dents’ projects also build on the Kostas Institute’s mis­sion to expand the capacity of com­mu­ni­ties, crit­ical sys­tems, and infra­struc­ture to with­stand, respond to, and recover from man­made and nat­ural cat­a­stro­phes. Secu­rity is a pillar of Northeastern’s use-​​inspired research model, along with health and sustainability.

 -By Joe O’Connell

More Stories

Photo of the Capitol Building at night

High stakes for politics, SCOTUS in 2018

01.04.2018
Photo of the crashed truck that was used in the October 31st attack in Manhattan.

Weaponizing Language: How the meaning of “allahu akbar” has been distorted

11.08.2017
Northeastern logo

Why I love studying Spanish

05.29.20
Uncategorized