Towards to Safer Infrastructure


Professor Saurabh Amin joined the MIT faculty in 2012. “Coming to MIT from Berkeley, they are somewhat different cultures, but very similar academic environments for cross-disciplinary research,” he says. In 2019, Amin earned tenure in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, where he teaches classes including 1.208 (Resilient Networks) and 1.020 (Engineering Sustainability: Analysis and Design). Recently, he launched a new first-year discovery subject, 1.008 (Engineering Solutions to Societal Challenges).Amin’s research at MIT has continued to apply principles of systems theory, including game theory and optimization, to determine the best ways to maintain resiliency in systems. “The angle which I have pursued is of applied theory, applied in the sense that I draw my hypotheses and models, which are in these areas of transportation, electricity, and water,” Amin says. “Then I consider various kinds of failure situations, from attacks to failures resulting from natural events or disasters. In 2020, Amin started to pursue two new collaborative projects: one on pandemic-resilient urban mobility and another on hurricane-resilient smart grid operations.

To assess such correlated disruption scenarios, Amin finds ways to abstract these problems into mathematical representations, using methods developed in systems and control theory, optimization, and game theory. That then allows him to use tools developed by these disciplines to develop new ways to understand the potential failure mechanisms in infrastructure systems and propose solutions to plan for and respond to them.


Professor Saurabh Amin

Part of the analysis involves studying the best ways of allocating limited resources when restoring vital water, power, and transportation systems, for example after a hurricane or earthquake has caused multiple simultaneous failures over a wide area. Key questions include: Where are the key points where sensor systems should be installed, and which shutoffs and switches can best provide system resilience under different scenarios? What type of response capabilities are needed to restore the system functionality as quickly as possible? Using game theory in this work, he says, “to me is a nice interplay between the way in which the humans, as operators of infrastructures and users of infrastructures, or even as the attackers to these infrastructures, would behave and interact with this network. And how, on the other hand, the sensing and control systems, which is a more of an automated part, not the human part, can be implemented to make it more robust.”

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