Business information technology professor Christopher Zobel is a member of the Virginia Tech team that recently received a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to establish a graduate education and research program in disaster resilience and risk management.

Zobel’s research focuses on humanitarian logistics and developing a better understanding of supply chain resilience.

He and other faculty members on the multidisciplinary team will teach a series of seminars and facilitate a regular speaker series.

Along with completing coursework in their home departments, the master’s and doctoral student trainees will collaborate on projects from the program’s two main research thrusts: hazards and physical impacts, and socioeconomic impacts and recovery, which Zobel will co-lead.

Students will also get the opportunity to build on their own research and coursework through summer internships and workshops on stakeholder interaction and engagement.

Disasters evolve from natural or man-made hazards, Zobel said, and can have “cascading effects on individuals, communities, governments of all levels, economies, and ecosystems.”

Zobel and other team members note that disasters are very complex events that require leaders in academia, government, and industry to have deep interdisciplinary understanding and cultural sensitivity in order to effectively prepare for and respond to them. The team stresses the need for proactive policies, smart planning, and active engagement of communities and stakeholders — all critical factors in limiting the potential impacts of a disaster.

Zobel said more than 30 faculty in six colleges are involved in the training effort, which is connected to larger university-wide initiatives in the areas of global systems science, integrated security, intelligent infrastructure and human-centered communities, and policy.

–Sookhan Ho