THE MAGAZINE

One Lab’s Mission: Resilience Research

By Lilly Chapa

This can be done by first identifying the critical systems that are needed, such as security, transportation, communications, and health. For each component, researchers must figure out how to make those systems better able to adapt to, respond to, and recover from the hazards that may confront them.

“We have to be focused on first understanding these systems and then designing into them the ability to better withstand the risk that’s likely to confront them,” Flynn explains. “We must understand the hazard, testing things [until they] break, and reverse engineering how we can design them so they can take that punch and not fail. Things do fail, and that shock can be overwhelming. The key is, how do we recover the system and the essential function as quickly as possible?”

Flynn compares it to the response to cybersecurity threats. The traditional security focus has been heavily adversary-centric, focusing on who presents a threat and how they can be kept from causing harm. On the other hand, those in the cybersecurity world are concerned about hackers, but they don’t try to understand them and prevent them from hacking, Flynn explains.

Instead, they try to understand the Internet and its weaknesses, which helps them develop sustainable strategies to stop cyberattacks. This approach should be brought into the physical security realm, and that’s what the Kostas Institute is trying to do, Flynn says.

Although Hajjar and his team primarily work through grants, he says there are a variety of elaborate partnerships and projects planned for the Kostas Institute in the future.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for everyone involved,” Hajjar says. “The research we’re doing here at Northeastern is highly relevant, and through these kinds of partnerships we can have outstanding use-inspired research that meets the needs of the federal government, the needs of the industry, and vice versa.”

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