by Dr. Cynthia Chen, Professor
The THINK (Transportation-Human Interaction-and- Network Knowledge) Lab studies the sustainability and resilience of a city through the lens of human beings interacting with the physical environment. We generate new knowledge and insights for use in city planning, infrastructure development and policy design. Our research results facilitate real-time disaster response and recovery efforts. Our work is highly interdisciplinary, drawing on the latest methods and ideas in disciplines from social and natural sciences to engineering.
More specifically, THINK lab’s research activities center on unpacking the complexities across
scales, from micro-level individual mobility behaviors, to meso-level social tie networks formed
as the result of space and time-based individual behaviors, and macro-level system behaviors
that propagate through multiple networks. Below are some sample questions that THINK lab
researchers are interested in answering:
1. What underlying mechanisms characterize behaviors across different scales?
2. How can we best leverage interactions within and between infrastructure systems and social systems to support sustainability and resilience?
3. How do cities evolve over time and reemerge from a disaster?
4. How do individual travel patterns play a role in forming networks, which then facilitate cascading spreading patterns of socially desirable (e.g., adoption of a new technology such as electric cars) or undesirable outcomes (e.g., sedentary lifestyles)?
The word “THINK” characterizes THINK Lab research activities:
We conduct research for the purposes of knowledge discovery, self-enlightenment and contribution to the society. It may take years to fully understand it. While paper publications are important, immediate outcomes on our journey for knowledge discovery, we do NOT conduct research only for the purpose of publications. We believe that when we conduct research truly for the purpose of uncovering the unknown, our potentials are boundless. A truly fruitful research career can be both joyful and painful—joyful, because when new insight is learned, that moment of joy is indescribable and embarking a research career means that we take on a lifelong journey dotted with moments of joy; painful, because often times, we can also walk on a path that takes long hours, and is lonely and full of struggles. It is exactly this combination of loneness, struggles and moments of joy that defines our research life and makes our work fun. Having walked a slightly longer journey than most of you, I have a few suggestions for you:
What you would learn by working with me: aside from learning the technical skills that will facilitate you to perform some sophisticated research tasks, some of the most important capabilities you shall learn (which will benefit you for life, even if you decide not to conduct research or move out of the field of transportation) are below: