Faculty Research Projects

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Faculty in the Urban Informatics Program at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs conduct applied interdisciplinary, use-inspired research that often crosses college boundaries and is shaping the world in which we live. Through the collection and analysis of data, faculty have created a tradition of high-impact research, education and engagement with communities of practitioners in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

Dan O'Brien

Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Criminology and Criminal Justice; Co-Director, Boston Area Research Initiative

Dan O’Brien is associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, and co-director of the Boston Area Research Initiative. His work focuses on the ways that researchers, policymakers, and practitioners can work together to leverage modern digital data (i.e., “Big Data”) to better understand and serve cities. His own work focuses on the behavioral and social dynamics of urban neighborhoods, particularly those that directly impact a place’s future upward (or downward) trajectory.

Dietmar Offenhuber

Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs

Dietmar Offenhuber is associate professor at Northeastern University in the fields of art and design and public policy. He holds a PhD in urban planning from MIT, masters degrees from the MIT Media Lab and TU Vienna. His research focuses on the relationship between design, technology, and governance. Dietmar is the author of the award-winning monograph Waste is Information (MIT Press), works as an advisor to the United Nations and published books on the subjects of urban data, accountability technologies and urban informatics.

Alicia Sasser Modestino

Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Economics; Associate Director, Dukakis Center

Alicia Sasser Modestino is an Associate Professor with appointments in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and the Department of Economics at Northeastern University. Since 2015, Dr. Modestino has also served as the Associate Director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy. Dr. Modestino’s current research focuses on labor and health economics including changing skill requirements, youth development, healthcare, housing, and migration.

Kristian Kloeckl

Associate Professor of Art + Design, School of Architecture

Kristian Kloeckl is Associate Professor at Northeastern University in the Department of Art + Design and the School of Architecture. He holds a PhD in Product and Communication Design, and a Master degree in Industrial Design. His work is guided by an interest in exploring meaningful ways to disclose the potential of technological innovations by developing novel application scenarios and solutions as well as interface and interaction modalities to form valuable connections between people, objects, space, and the digital data layers that increasingly pervade our environment.

Ryan Wang

Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Ryan Qi Wang is assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northeastern University, associate research director on social media of the Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI), and faculty affiliate of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs. He studies the interplay between urban informatics and urban, infrastructure, and social resilience. His research focuses on two interrelated areas: human movement perturbation under the influence of natural and manmade disasters (collaborating with UC Berkeley, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech), and geosocial networks in big cities (collaborating with Harvard University).

Student Research Projects

As a student, you will have the opportunity to work closely with our researchers and test some of the tools and concepts developed in the classroom.

Antonio Vázquez Brust

MS Urban Informatics '17

Antonio Vázquez Brust, or Tony, is an Argentinean urban planner and information technologist who spent the first ten years of his professional career designing and maintaining large-scale computer systems. After completing his Master of Science in Urban Informatics in May 2017 with a perfect GPA of 4.0, Tony returned to Argentina to launch a new Data Lab at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella’s School of Government, and to work as an urban data science consultant for the think tank CIPPEC.

While at Northeastern, Tony collaborated with the Boston Area Research Initiative, conducting original research at the intersection of urban science and public policy. he used big data to identify indicators of gentrification, track them across time, and assess their impact. The goal of this project was to capture insights that might shed light on the gentrification process, as well as to obtain a full set of indicators that might be shared with policymakers. Tony maintained a blog about his original research at the intersection of urban science and public policy.

Seeing Boston Neighborhoods through Administrative Data

The course blog for "Big Data for Cities"

Cities generate gigabytes of data on a daily basis that describe patterns, but that valuable information isn’t inherently ready to be turned into knowledge. It takes particular skills to figure out how to organize datasets, make them accessible and interpretable.

That’s what students are learning in “Big Data for Cities,” an introductory course to the M.S. in Urban Informatics. They are learning data management, how to use R Statistical Software – a free program for statistical computing and graphics – and they are working with real datasets made available by the Boston Area Research Initiative. Over the years these have included data provided by multiple local municipalities, including Boston and its neighbors, as well as data gathered from social media and internet platforms.

Students maintain a course blog about their research. Read their blog here.

Kit Miller

Miller, a second-year student in the M.S. in Urban Informatics, is conducting a fire risk assessment of Boston using public data from the city. He is digging into the Tax Assessor’s database, Boston Fire Department records of blazes from 2011 to 2015, and datasets based on non-emergency (311) and emergency (911) calls developed by Dan O’Brien, co-director of the Boston Area Research Initiative. Using the 911 records, Miller calculated a “medical emergency” score for individual addresses by taking the number of medical emergencies reported in one year from an address and adjusting it for other factors.