UVA Engineers are working with a multidisciplinary team in two pan-university institutes tackling global challenges.

The huge societal challenges of global infectious diseases and a rapidly changing climate are now key transdisciplinary focus areas at the University of Virginia under two newly established, pan-University institutes.

The UVA Environmental Resilience Institute and the Global Infectious Diseases Institute will each bring together top researchers from a range of disciplines at UVA to tackle some of the biggest problems facing society.

The University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science will play key roles in each institute.

The Resilience Institute is aimed at accelerating solutions to urgent social-environmental challenges such as coastal flooding and storm impacts in coastal regions, as well as energy and water security. This will require collaborative research where human, natural and infrastructure systems converge.

UVA Engineering will contribute its recognized expertise in developing novel platforms that can be used to understand the structure, interdependencies, vulnerability and resilience of complex infrastructure networks. Andres Clarens, associate professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, is helping to lead the new institute. His lab focuses on developing the technical and policy knowledge needed to reduce the impacts of engineered systems on the environment with a focus on sustainable energy systems and carbon dioxide emissions. This includes developing novel materials and methods that can be used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions during energy production.

UVA Engineering also has established its new Link Lab for cross-disciplinary work in cyber-physical systems, which includes new “smart” sensors, information technology and networked infrastructure to provide early warning and ways to minimize disruption and damage. Jonathan Goodall, associate professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, who also is on the institute steering committee and serves as assistant director of the Link Lab, is focused on developing intelligent systems that could help cities better manage their stormwater infrastructure. Further, Goodall delves into the social barriers to adoption of engineering solutions such as smart stormwater systems. Overcoming those barriers requires just the interdisciplinary approach the Resilience Institute will take.

The Resilience Institute will be led by a professor from the University’s Department of Environmental Sciences, the first department of its kind in the country, and will include faculty from UVA Engineering and nine other UVA schools, as well as the University’s Data Science Institute. UVA Engineering and its Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering will help lead the institute.

The Global Infectious Diseases Institute will address three major 21st century concerns: diarrheal disease in children, pandemic threats and the most resistant and urgent infectious organisms known as superbugs.

The Institute will take an interdisciplinary approach from the identification and diagnosis of disease to intervention to evaluation to understand the mechanisms of disease and intervene medically, socially, and through policy. The Institute will involve faculty and students from the UVA schools for engineering, medicine, arts and sciences, public policy, education, nursing, business and law.

Roseanne Ford, professor of Chemical Engineering, and Jason Papin, professor of Biomedical Engineering, are on the steering committee for the new Institute. Ford’s research focuses on the application of chemical engineering principles to problems in microbial ecology. The aim is to develop a fundamental understanding of mechanisms underlying microbial behavior, which will provide insights for future technological innovation. Papin’s Computational Systems Biology Lab uses computational and experimental approaches to characterize biological systems relevant to human disease.