Assistant Professor Filippo Radicchi has been awarded a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant from the National Science Foundation to establish a research and education program devoted to studying critical infrastructures from the perspective of network theory.
The $500,000 grant will focus on how physical networks, such as transportation, water, food supply, communications, and power generation and transmission, interact to deliver their assets as efficiently as possible. Transactional and relational infrastructures, such as financial and trade networks, also enter into the equation to serve as the backbone for modern society.
“The research supported by this award aims at increasing our understanding of critical interdependent infrastructures, such as communication networks, power grids, and transportation networks,” Radicchi says. “These are fundamental assets for our society, yet we are not able to fully protect them.”
Radicchi’s goal is to develop a unifying network theory by studying interdependence among critical infrastructures using tools and methods from statistical physics of networks. The groundbreaking approach aims to use real-world data and analysis to better understand how the various systems interact. By building the framework for how the systems mesh, formulas can be developed to provide intervention for catastrophic failure of infrastructures due to extreme events, such as a terrorist attack or natural disaster, or cascading failures following an initial small-scale problem.
The interdependence of the systems increases the vulnerability of the system, and a better understanding of the network could help improve the speed of restoration due to a disruption. Previous work on the subject has been done using theoretical studies of coupled random network structures instead of real-world data.
From an educational standpoint, the CAREER award will integrate undergraduate and graduate courses that will be dedicated to the network theory of critical interdependent infrastructures.
“I am excited about Filippo's CAREER award,” says Fil Menczer, a professor of computer science and informatics and the director of IU’s Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research (CNetS). “The vulnerabilities that originate from interactions between multiple critical infrastructure networks, such as the power grid and the Internet, are receiving increasing attention. Filippo's research will provide a much-needed, solid, quantitative, theoretical foundation to understand the complexities of these interconnected systems. This work is necessary to make networks of networks more robust, thus mitigating the risks of critical failure.”
Radicchi earned a Master’s of Science in Physics from the University of Rome and holds a Ph.D. in Physics from Jacobs University Bremen in Germany. He was honored with the first-ever Junior Scientific Award of the Complex Systems Society at the European Conference on Complex Systems in Lucca, Italy, in 2014, and he is a member of the Center for Complex Systems and Networks Research (CNetS).
“I am very happy to receive the award as it represents a great start for an exciting line of investigation,” Radicchi says.
The Faculty Early Career Development Program supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through research, excellent education and the integration of education and research. The aim is to help build a foundation for a lifetime of leadership by gaining experience in combining the educational and research aspects of a study. The award ranks among the most prestigious handed out by the NSF.