ESD Research Domains


Energy and Sustainability

  Extended Enterprises
  Health Care Delivery
  Critical Infrastructures

Research projects

  News Items


ESD Research Approaches


Humans and Technology

  Uncertainty and Dynamics
  Design and Implementation
  Networks and Flows
  Policy and Standards



Critical Infrastructures

ESD researchers address the challenge of improving the effectiveness of national infrastructures, including those providing electric power, transport, and communications. Over the next 50 years, a billion more people worldwide will enter the middle class, mainly in the cities of the developing world—creating the need for the development of infrastructures to meet these demands in sustainable ways. ESD research in the domain of critical infrastructures include cross-domain views; comparative architecture and the factors affecting them; new models that include both the technical and social complexities; and new, large-scale simulation techniques allowing the combination of quantitative and qualitative data.

Research Projects:

Congestion for the Configuration of Airport Networks and Airline Networks
MIT Portugal researchers are working to utilize a new network model of two regional airport systems—one E.U.-wide and the other U.S.-wide— that combine mathematical optimization with a stochastic and dynamic queuing theory approach. Using these network models, this research project will explore impacts of distribution of traffic among alternative types of airports and the incidence of delays on airlines and on passengers. Read more.

High-Speed Rail
Under the high-speed rail research, two inter-related MIT Portugal projects focus on critical elements to the successful implementation of high-speed rail in Portugal and elsewhere. One project aims to develop new lifecycle costing models and infrastructure and risk management programs to effectively derive design and maintenance strategies for high-speed rail infrastructures and operations. The second project aims to develop a generalized global risk assessment for the HSR network, enabling the effective consideration of technical and natural hazards risks in project assessment and management. The objective is to create robust decision models for proactive risk management. Read more.

Change Propagation Analysis in Complex Technical Systems
This research develops and applies change propagation analysis methods and extended prior reasoning through examination of large data sets from industry. One such data set at Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems included 41,500 change requests, spanning eight years during the design of a complex sensor system. The research used graph theory to define how specific network relationships of connected “parent,” “children,” and “sibling” changes are resolved over time and mapped to various subsystem areas. Read more.

Real-Time Predictive Human Supervisory Control Models of Team Collaboration
Research at the Humans and Automation Lab (HAL) focuses on the multifaceted interactions of human and computer decision-making in complex socio-technical systems, such a air traffic control, disaster first response, and military command and control. Researchers aim to build models of behaviors able not only to recognize the current state of a team supervising automation in real time, but also to predict future states of this team. Read more. For more information about the variety of HAL research projects regarding the interface of humans and technology, click here.

New Approaches to Accident Modeling and System Safety
ESD researchers are developing new, more powerful accident causality models and risk management techniques that can handle the complexity of today’s technical and social systems. Using systems and control theory as the mathematical foundations and a causality model (called STAMP) that expands traditional models, the researchers are constructing computational models of the static (structural) and dynamic aspects of complex, socio-technical systems to provide information about potential risks. Read more.

Real Options in System Design
This research focuses on the development of valuable flexibility in designs. Conceptually and professionally, this work lies midway between standard engineering (which does not consider design flexibility in any detail) and financial real options analysis (which does not look at design). ESD’s research team has developed a “screening model” approach to the core problem of identifying the system elements that should be flexible in order to increase value. Read more.

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News items:

Joseph Sussman quoted in article about recent traffic jams in Boston (The Boston Globe - August 25, 2009)

John Hansman quoted in USA Today article on air traffic delays (August 23, 2009)
Joseph Sussman quoted in article about Chinese railroad industry (BusinessWeek - June 17, 2009)

Safety Program Stalled at 3 Airlines” (The Washington Post – December 31, 2008)

MIT researchers help improve wave power systems” (December 16, 2008)

Fewer delays expected for holiday travel” (USA Today – November 26, 2008)

Airline passengers: Be sure to pack patience this summer” (USA Today – May 13, 2008)

Clogged airports: A plan to cut N.Y.C. air traffic” (Christian Science Monitor – October 23, 2007)

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Reflections on the Big Dig
Frederick P. Salvucci
Engineering Systems Symposium 2004
View on MIT World.

Building Resilient Infrastructure to Combat Terrorism: Lessons from September 11th
The Technology and Policy Program Homeland Security Technology and Policy Seminar
Rae Zimmerman, Professor of Planning and Public Administration at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service; Director of the Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems (ICIS)
View on MIT World.

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Moving Millions: Transport Strategies for Sustainable Development in Megacities
Fred Moavenzadeh, M.J. Markow

Perspectives on Intelligent Transportation Systems
Joseph M. Sussman

Airport Systems: Planning, Design, and Management
Richard de Neufville, Amedeo Odoni

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Drawing on systems and control theory, optimization and economics, Prof. Hamsa Balakrishnan’s research focuses on the development of mechanisms to allocate
airport and airspace resources.
MIT Sloan
MIT School of Science
MIT School of Humanities