Northwestern Events Calendar


NUTC Seminar: "A Universal Methodology for Learning Cascading Failure Dynamics in Interdependent Networks" - Cynthia Chen, University of Washington-Seattle


When: Thursday, November 16, 2017
4:00 PM - 5:15 PM Central

Where: Chambers Hall, Lower Level, 600 Foster St, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: No charge for admission / open to the public

Contact: Diana Marek   847.491.2280

Group: Northwestern University Transportation Center

Category: Academic


Northwestern University Transportation Center presents:

"A Universal Methodology for Learning Cascading Failure Dynamics in Interdependent Networks"

Cynthia Chen
Professsor, Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of Washington-Seattle
Director, THINK (Transportation-Human Interaction-and-Network Knowledge) Lab

A modeling framework to infer the cascading failure process that leads to the observed cascading failure outcomes is proposed and tested in simulation-based case studies. With only the failure time of each node given, the proposed methodology demonstrates the capability of learning the underlying failure propagation mechanisms, and reconstructing the cascading failure process in both case studies. Considering the diverse failure propagation mechanisms involved in the two cascading failure instances, the proposed methodology presents a potential channel to modeling, understanding and controlling cascading failures in a variety of networks.

Cascading failures are a universal phenomenon in all types of networks, but methodologies devised to learn their dynamics so far are mostly domain-constrained and demonstrate limited universal applicability. This paper tackles this issue from a reverse perspective of how cascading failures happen: it takes cascading failure outcomes as inputs and seeks to infer the failure propagation process that gives rise to the outcomes, instead of the reserve way as the prevalent approaches do. Since cascading failure outcomes are commonly observed and share similarities among different systems, we envision that this approach presents universal applicability to different systems, and will potentially unify cascading failure research across disciplines.


Cynthia Chen is a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington, Seattle (UW). At UW, she directs the THINK (Transportation-Human Interaction-and- Network Knowledge) lab ( where she and her students study the sustainability and resilience of a city through the lens of human beings’ interacting with the physical infrastructures and the built environment. The work of THINK lab is highly interdisciplinary, drawing on the latest methods and ideas in disciplines from social and natural sciences to engineering. Dr. Chen graduated from University of California, Davis with a PhD in civil and environmental engineering in 2001 and prior to joining UW, she had taught at City College of New York as an assistant professor from 2003 to 2009. Dr. Chen has served on a variety of TRB (Transportation Research Board) committees including for example, Travel Behavior and Values and Travel Survey committees. She has published over 50 peer-reviewed articles ( and her work has been supported by many federal and local agencies. She is an associate director of the USDOT-supported TOMNET (Teaching Old Models New Tricks) center ( and an associate editor for Transportation ( Since December 2016, Dr. Chen has also been serving as the program director leading the Civil Infrastructure Systems (CIS) program ( for the National Science Foundation.



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