CITRIS Newsletter for October 2005

Dear Members and Friends of CITRIS,

As the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation continued to play out in Louisiana, Mississippi and indeed all of the Gulf Coast, I called a town hall meeting held at Berkeley’s Sibley Auditorium and simulcast to Merced and Santa Cruz to enable members of CITRIS’ newly formed National Center for Catastrophic Risk Reduction (NCCRR) to brainstorm on a strategy of action and research that we could do to help rebuild in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. The additional destruction brought about by Hurricane Rita has increased the urgency, relevance, and importance of this new center. Of course, we had already had a pledge from the Chancellors of our partner campuses to accept students on a temporary basis from the stricken regions. At the meeting, we began a discussion of planning for the possible catastrophic effects of earthquakes, levee breaks and other catastrophes—both natural and man-made to come up with strategies for mitigating the impact of future disasters of this magnitude both here in California and elsewhere.

Robert Bea with an infrared satellite photo of Hurricane Katrina. Prof.
Bea provided a first hand account of hurricane survival to attendees of
the Town Hall Meeting.
(View larger image)

During the Sept. 8 meeting, professors from UC Berkeley and Merced shared their expertise in everything from offshore drilling and the structural integrity of levees along the Sacramento Delta to organizational behavior in catastrophic events, rebuilding after a disaster, public health, and remote satellite imagery. The town-hall-style meeting included a brainstorming and Q&A session following the presentations. Our response has three elements: 1) to support the infrastructure rebuilding efforts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas (including especially the rebuilding of the oil refinery and pipeline infrastructure, other civic infrastructures, and the reconstruction of private and public spaces); 2) to develop strategies for assessing the threats to infrastructures in California from earthquakes, forest fires, levee breaks, and other catastrophes; and 3) to develop a National Center for Catastrophic Risk Reduction (NCCRR), including elements of command and control and organizational structures to deal with emergency response. Initial details of these appear on our CITRIS website, with much more to come. I am very heartened and hopeful that meaningful progress will be made as a result of these ongoing efforts.

Professor Raymond Seed speaking at the Town Hall Meeting.
(View larger image)
(Photographs by Aaron Walburg)

In addition to an article on the specifics of the efforts being made by CITRIS professors Raymond Seed, Robert Bea, and Karlene Roberts in the first of the three agendas discussed above, in this newsletter, we highlight two of the several other projects addressing homeland security and disaster response already underway here at CITRIS. The Fire Information & Rescue Equipment (FIRE) project being
spearheaded by Professor Paul Wright and several graduate students in the Mechanical Engineering department at Berkeley is a unique, close collaboration with the Chicago Fire Department. By integrating CAD floor plans with sensor networks and interactive displays mounted inside firefighters’ masks FIRE will improve the safety and effectiveness of evacuation and firefighting efforts in high-rise
buildings. This particular effort was in part spurred by the 9-11 attacks and has come to a state of being potentially deployable. The Dynamic Ad-Hoc Wireless Networks (DAWN) project being spearheaded by CITRIS-affiliated researchers at UC Santa Cruz is a partnership with military and industry to pioneer the underlying technology for wireless communication networks that could be used in a rapidly changing environment, such as a battlefield or disaster scene.

Although the past couple of months have been tragic ones for this country, I am encouraged by the commitment and enthusiasm shown by all my colleagues at CITRIS to tackle these challenges and make the world safer in the future. As always, we look forward to receiving your feedback and thank you for your continued interest and support in CITRIS.

Professor Shankar Sastry
Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society

  • CITRIS, along with Berkeley’s Center for Health Research and Tekes, hosted Connections III, a conference on August 11 to discuss the future of wireless and embedded technology in health care.
  • CONSRT, a DARPA-funded nano-opto center with ten professors from six universities, hosted the first Nano-Optoelectronic Workshop (NOW) at UC Berkeley on August 21-23. This workshop brought together researchers of the nano-opto community to network and to present the latest progress in nano-optoelectronic materials.
  • On September 6 an inaugural class of 1,000 students began their semester at UC Merced, the newest University of California campus. UC Merced is the 10th undergraduate campus in the UC system and is the first to be built from the ground up since UC Santa Cruz opened in 1965.
  • CITRIS held a Town Hall meeting
    at the Berkeley campus with live video conferencing to the other UC
    campuses on September 8, ten days after Hurricane Katrina devastated
    the Gulf Coast. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss strategies
    for the re-invigoration and rebuilding of the infrastructures of the
    region. One result of this meeting was the Katrina Recovery Task Force (KRTF).
  • On September 13 the College of Engineering at the UC Berkeley announced the launch of the new CITRIS-affiliated Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology
    (CET), a new academic program and industry partnership that will
    educate the next generation of technical leaders on entrepreneurship in
    a changing, global economy.
  • Floyd Kvamme, co-Chairman of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), spoke at the ASME Nano: Conference 2005,
    which was held at the Berkeley Campus on Sept 14-16. The conference
    focused on state-of-the-art Devices and Systems, Nanoscale Phenomena,
    and Nanomanufacturing.
  • On October 5th, Paul Wright, professor of mechanical engineering and engineering graduate student Will Watts spoke about their development of energy-saving technologies with Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau.
  • CITRIS launched its new web site on October 17. The site provides many new features.
  • Sun Microsystems hosted an event at UC Berkeley on October 27 for students interested in learning about some recent technological innovations.
  • Dr. Horst Simon, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, will be presenting at a CITRIS Seminar Series entitled, “Progress in Supercomputing.” This takes place on October 31 at the Berkeley Campus.