On April 3rd, Northeastern University launched the opening of it’s new Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex, which houses research facilities to research topics ranging from coastal resilience to computer science to civil engineering. ISEC was designed to address complex modern challenges that require multi-disciplinary research, ranging from anti-bacterial resistance to the challenge of creating a more resilient society.
Dr. Stephen Flynn, Founder and Director of the Global Resilience Institute (GRI), presented at the opening, and discussed the need for an interdisciplinary approach to bolster resilience in an interdependent world. He highlighted risks posed by the increasingly connected nature of modern society, and the vulnerability of interdependent networks and systems to cascading failures. As everything from our cars to our infrastructure become more closely tied to one another, shocks from one event, such as a natural disaster or disease outbreak, will be felt across sectors, or even across the globe. Superstorm Sandy served as a prime example. Dr. Flynn pointed out that the failure of the transportation system caused the closure of the stock market, prevented sick patients from accessing medical services like dialysis, and undermined recovery efforts. He also noted that the effort to increase resilience against shocks requires a interdisciplinary approach, from engineers designing physical structures that can “fail gracefully, recover nimbly, and adapt going forward,” to economists and business leaders that can design incentives to help scale and sustain resilient practices.
Dr. Flynn addressed how the Global Resilience Institute will address these issues, pointing out that GRI analyzes resilience at three levels: individuals, systems, and communities. GRI engages all nine colleges at Northeastern University to conduct research that addresses resilience challenges. GRI also maintains partnerships with a variety of international organization,s ranging from the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany to Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.