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We have assembled a team of some of the most productive and active hazards and disasters researchers in the nation. The team spans academic disciplines and experiences, and has a keen interest in disciplinary and interdisciplinary research, teaching, and service to the field. We invite you to review this page and consider how your interests might mesh with those of one or more more of our mentors.

Lead Institution: North Carolina State University

Thomas A. Birkland

NC State University

Tom Birkland is the William T. Kretzer Professor of Public Policy at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where he works in the School of Public and International Affairs. Before joining NCSU he was an associate professor and director of the Center for Policy Research at the University at Albany, SUNY. He has received three grants from the National Science Foundation for research on problems related to hazards and has written and edited two books and several articles on this subject. His first NSF-funded project resulted in a book, Lessons of Disaster. His second funded project was a collaboration with a graduate student in which system dynamics models are developed and applied to explain the policy dynamics of flood mitigation. His most recent NSF SGER is examining the impacts of the 2004 South Asia tsunami and Hurricane Katrina on the tourist sectors in Thailand and the Gulf Coast. His work has also been published in Social Science Quarterly, Journal of Public Policy, American Behavioral Scientist, and Natural Hazards Review, among others. He is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. He served as program officer for the NSF’s Infrastructure Management and Hazard Response (IMHR) program in 2006. Dr. Birkland was a fellow in the first Enabling Project, and was a member of the advisory committee for the second Enabling Project. He is both pr0ject lead and a member of the mentoring team for the third offering of this project.

Kristin O'Donovan

Project Assistant

Kristin O'Donovan is a doctoral student in Public Administration at NC State University.



Samuel Brody

Texas A&M University

Sam Brody is an associate professor of environmental planning in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning at Texas A&M University. He is the director of the Environmental Planning and Sustainability Research Unit, co-director of the Center for Texas Beaches and Shores, and a faculty fellow in the Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center. Brody’s research focuses on environmental planning, spatial analysis, environmental dispute resolution, climate change policy, and natural hazards mitigation. He has also worked in both the public and private sectors to help local coastal communities to draft land use and environmental plans. He was a fellow in the second round of the Enabling project, and is the recipient of an NSF Career award.

Tom Cova

University of Utah

Tom Cova is an associate professor and director of the Center for Natural and Technological Hazards at the University of Utah. His research interests are in hazards, transportation, and geographic information science, with a particular focus on evacuation analysis, planning, and management. He has received funding from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Transportation. His research on developing new codes for safe development in fire-prone communities has been incorporated into the National Fire Protection Agency’s Standard for the Protection of Life and Property from Wildfire. He is currently the co-PI on an NSF-funded project to study protective-action decision making in wildfires. He holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in geography from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a B.S. in computer science from the University of Oregon. He was a fellow in the second round of the Enabling project.

Rachel Davidson

University of Delaware

Rachel Davidson is an associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Delaware. Her research is in the area of natural disaster risk modeling, with a focus on civil infrastructure systems. It involves developing new methods to better characterize the impact of future natural disasters, and to use that understanding to support decisions to help reduce future losses. Davidson’s research builds on her background in structural engineering and risk analysis, and uses Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and many systems engineering concepts and methods, such as simulation, optimization, and statistics. Her research has been supported by six awards from the NSF, including a Career award, and has appeared in journals such as Risk Analysis, Journal of Infrastructure Systems, IEEE Transactions on Power Systems, Earthquake Spectra, and Reliability Engineering and System Safety. Dr. Davidson holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering from Stanford University.

Robin Dillon-Merrill

Georgetown University

Robin L. Dillon-Merrill is an Associate Professor in the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. Professor Dillon-Merrill seeks to understand and explain how and why people make the decisions that they do under conditions of uncertainty and risk. This research specifically examines critical decisions that people have made following near-miss events in situations with severe outcomes (i.e., hurricane evacuation, NASA mission management, etc.). Her past research in risk has included supporting the Department of Energy’s selection of a new tritium supply facility, aiding NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in decision making for the Mars Exploration Program, and developing a quantitative decision support tool for the management of software project resources based on an analysis of both the information system and the design. She has received research funding from the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Department of Defense. She has served as a risk analysis and project management expert on several National Academies Committees including the Review of the New Orleans Regional Hurricane Protection Projects. From 1993-1995, she worked as a Systems Engineer for Fluor Daniel, Inc. She has a B.S./M.S. from the University of Virginia in Systems Engineering and a Ph.D. from Stanford University. 

Jamie Kruse

East Carolina University

Jamie Kruse is nationally recognized for her research in experimental economics and the economics of wind hazards. Before joining the faculty at East Carolina University as founding director of the Center for Natural Hazards Research, she was a professor of economics at Texas Tech University and a research associate of the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center. She was in charge of the Wind Damage Economics Research Thrust of the NIST/TTU Cooperative Agreement for a Wind Mitigation Initiative. Prior faculty appointments include the Department of Economics and the Institute of Behavioral Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder, as well as the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. Her wind-related research encompasses micro- and macroeconomic measures of windstorm damage; willingness to pay to mitigate high-consequence, low-probability events; relationship between risk perception and mitigation behavior; market value of mitigation measures; and risk management. Dr. Kruse’s research within the economics discipline covers applied microeconomic theory, regulation, industrial organization, risk analysis, and experimental economics. She holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Arizona.

David Mendonça

New Jersey Institute of Technology

David Mendonça is an associate professor in the Information Systems Department at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. His research is concerned with modeling and supporting decision making by individuals and organizations, particularly in emergency response situations. His most recent research is focused on how emergency response organizations seek and process information (information foraging) under post-disaster conditions, on how individuals within emergency response organizations assemble and execute decisions under post-disaster conditions, and on cognitively grounded support for decision makers situated within emergency response organizations. Dr. Mendonça has worked with FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Port of Rotterdam (Netherlands), and Consolidated Edison. This work has been supported by four awards from the NSF, including a Career award in 2004. His research has been published in Decision Support Systems; IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics (Part A); Communications of the ACM; European Journal of Operational Research; and other journals. He is a member of IEEE, the Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences (INFORMS), the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and the Cognitive Science Society. He has a Ph.D. in decision sciences and engineering systems from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, an M.S. in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University, and a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Gary Webb

Oklahoma State University

Gary Webb is an associate professor of sociology at Oklahoma State University, where he is affiliated with the Center for the Study of Disasters and Extreme Events. He is currently working on two research projects funded by the National Science Foundation. One involves a study of improvisation among first responders to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the 2001 World Trade Center attacks; a collaborator in this project is David Mendonça, another of the mentors on this proposal. The other project examines the governmental response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, focusing on organizational and structural barriers in using the Incident Command System. Additionally, he is conducting research on the role of public- and private-sector organizations in the production and concealment of environmental risks. He has published in the International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, Natural Hazards Review, Environmental Hazards, Social Science Journal, and Sociological Focus. He is currently the secretary-treasurer of the International Sociological Association’s Research Committee on Disasters. Dr. Webb holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Delaware, where he was a research assistant at the Disaster Research Center.

Project Advisors
William Anderson

National Research Council, National Academies

Bill Anderson has been on the staff of the National Research Council at the National Academies since August 2001. He is associate executive director in the Division on Earth and Life Studies and director of the Disasters Roundtable. From June 1999 to June 2001, he served as senior advisor in the Disaster Management Facility in the Infrastructure Division at the World Bank while on leave from the National Science Foundation (NSF). For more than 20 years he held various positions at NSF, including program director, section head, acting division director, and senior advisor. While at NSF, he was responsible for developing disciplinary and multidisciplinary natural hazards research programs that included the social sciences, and for providing oversight for such large-scale research activities as the NSF-funded earthquake engineering research centers and the cooperative program on wind engineering. During his career with the federal government, Dr. Anderson also held concurrent assignments with the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President and the Department of State. Prior to his appointment at NSF, Anderson was associate professor to full professor of sociology at Arizona State University. He also taught at Ohio State University and Kent State University. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from Ohio State University. While at Ohio State, he served as field director at the Disaster Research Center, where he directed teams conducting research on the impacts of natural and technological disasters in the U.S. and abroad. Anderson currently serves on the advisory board of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), headquartered at the University of Maryland, and on the executive advisory board of the Mid-America Earthquake Center, headquartered at the University of Illinois. He is the co-author of two books, and the author or co-author of numerous research monographs, reports, and professional journal articles.


Colorado State University

Lori Peek is an assistant professor of sociology at Colorado State University. Her research focuses on the social impacts of disasters for vulnerable populations, including religious and ethnic minorities, women, and children. She has studied the backlash against Muslim Americans that followed the September 11 attacks, as well as the consequences of displacement for children and families following Hurricane Katrina. Dr. Peek is the associate chair for research projects for the Social Science Research Council Task Force on Katrina and Rebuilding the Gulf Coast. She is also a National Institute of Mental Health Research Education in Disaster Mental Health Fellow. Dr. Peek earned a Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she worked as a graduate research assistant at the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center.