Cynthia Chen, Ph.D. (University of Washington, Seattle)

Join NCTSPM for this Transportation Speaker Series event, featuring Dr. Cynthia Chen, Associate Professor in Transportation Engineering at the University of Washington, Seattle. Dr. Chen will be speaking on the topic of "From warnings to awareness and actions: Understanding resilience through the lens of human activities". 

The coastal areas of the United State, especially those densely populated, are increasingly threatened by hurricanes at North Atlantic. Understanding how the general public responds to a disaster warning is critical for improving preparedness and mitigating hurricane impacts. Existing efforts in understanding warning responses are mostly based on the assumption that the process of warning responses involves a psychological stage (public awareness) and a behavioral stage (public actions) in a linear, sequential fashion. However, there is little empirical evidence supporting this assumption. We introduce a network-based approach to detect public awareness and actions, and characterize how warning responses evolve from warnings to public awareness and public actions. Changes in online-social-interaction patterns and human mobility patterns are established as metrics of public awareness and public actions respectively, and we employ various network structures (e.g. motifs and assortativity) to quantify online social interactions and human mobility from a life-cycle perspective. This methodology is applied to the case of Hurricane Sandy in New York City, utilizing vast amount of Twitter records and publicly available transportation data including subway ridership and detailed taxi trip records as the gateway toward understanding public awareness and public actions. Our findings reveal that public awareness and public actions could potentially occur during the same time interval, or the previously assumed linear, sequential process may not be universally true. Implications of our findings on disaster research effort and relevant policy making are discussed.

Cynthia Chen is an associate professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington, Seattle (UW). She received her PhD in civil and environmental engineering from the University of California, Davis in 2001. Prior to joining UW, she taught for six years from 2003 to 2009 in the City College of New York as an assistant professor. She directs the THINK (Transportation-Human Interaction and Network Knowledge) lab at the UW, and the research conducted at the lab centers around three inter-connected themes: travel behavior (aka human mobility) analysis, resilient infrastructures, and their intersections. Studying these related themes allows her group to explore the sustainability and resilience of a city through the lens of human beings interacting with the physical environment. The knowledge and insights generated can be used in city planning, infrastructure development and policy design. She has published 50 peer-reviewed journal publications in leading journals in transportation, urban planning, public health and infrastructure systems. Her research has been supported by both federal (NSF, NIH, APAR-E, NIST, FHWA) and state agencies (state and city DOTs and regional MPOs).

Date and time: 
Thursday, April 21, 2016 - 11:00am
Location of Event: 
Georgia Tech, Mason Building, Room 1133

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