On February 17, David McLaughlin, a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and the director of the Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA) at the College of Engineering, spoke about Chasing Storms Across Disciplines during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. McLaughlin gave his presentation during a symposium entitled "Dynamics of Disasters: Harnessing the Science of Networks to Save Lives," organized by Anna Nagurney, the John F. Smith Memorial Professor at the Isenberg School of Management. The symposium took place between 3:00 and 4:30 p.m. in Room 208 of the convention center.

As Mclaughlin summarized his talk, “Shifting weather patterns and changing demographics increase our vulnerability to weather hazards. How should we roll-out new technology for better storm response? Can we afford to deploy the latest technology everywhere? Who should pay? These questions reflect the mix of socio-technical issues we need to grapple with as we seek to enable a more effective response to hazardous weather events.”

Last April, McLaughlin gave a UMass Amherst Distinguished Faculty Lecture entitled "Chasing Interdisciplinarity While Chasing Tornadoes" and was also awarded the Chancellor's Medal, the highest honor bestowed to faculty by the campus.

The symposium was organized by Nagurney to focus on the dynamics of disasters, through the prism of mathematical modeling and the science of networks, to address such issues as prediction, communications, response and recovery, and the resiliency of evacuation networks. This symposium was intended to be accessible to a general scientific audience and communicated the effectiveness of a multidisciplinary approach for the investigation of critical real-world phenomena.

“The number of disasters is growing as well as the number of people affected by disasters, with accompanying societal and economic losses as vividly demonstrated by Superstorm Sandy and Hurricanes Katrina and Irene,” wrote Nagurney. “The understanding of the dynamics of natural or man-made disasters is, hence, a problem of great importance globally. However, due to the inherent nature of disasters, there are complex challenges: the critical infrastructure, including the transportation, logistical and communication systems, may have been severely negatively impacted and their functionality compromised; there is a short time window in which to respond with the critical needs products, which must be delivered in order to prevent loss of life and human suffering, and there may be great uncertainty due to the disruptions, among other complications.”

The 2013 AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston highlighted the “unreasonable effectiveness” of the scientific enterprise in creating economic growth, solving societal problems, and satisfying the essential human drive to understand the world in which we live. (February 2013)