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Resilience Engineering

Margaret Kurth

I am a young professional currently residing in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.  My professional interests include water management and decision making, risk communication, ecosystem restoration, social wellbeing and resilience, and more recently, a blossoming interested in emergency management.

I work as a research engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) as a practitioner of risk and decision science. The ERDC is one of the most diverse engineering and scientific research organizations in the world, conducting research and development in support of federal agencies, state and municipal authorities, and with U.S. industries through innovative work agreements. In general, my projects seek to balance economic, environmental and social outcomes by developing novel approaches to traditional problems and emerging risks. For the past 5 years I have been working to advance the concept of resilience into practice across a wide diversity of domains and disciplines. 

Although an abundance of effort has moved the needle on resilience assessment, there continue to be gaps in the research that are barriers to moving resilience thinking into the decision making realm. I believe one essential question is how resilience should be formulated such that it can enter into analysis and as an objective that can be traded-off with others (i.e., balanced with risk reduction, efficiency, and other objectives). In the absence of analytical resilience formulations, the objective cannot enter the decision space and therefore, decision makers (especially in our risk-averse world) will maintain the status quo.

This small slice of the “resilience world” presents many opportunities for interesting inquiry, as it blends disciplines while also requiring context-specific framing. I have already begun some work in this arena, e.g., 1) in comparing life cycle costs of building component designs along risk and resilience metrics and 2) in trading-off risk and resilience in multi-objective, sensor-enabled stormwater management. I hope to find additional cases for exploring trade-offs, e.g., designing for recoverability; opportunities that emerge from adjusting our tolerable risk thresholds; decisions that minimize regret under uncertain futures; and others.

The 4TU Resilience Engineering Centre’s interdisciplinary approach to resilience research is crucial for finding solutions to cope with emerging and systemic threats to society. I will work with the centre to advance solutions to these research gaps and foster collaboration between our organizations.