CIRI’s Tien works with Rockefeller Foundation to create more resilient City of Atlanta

December 4, 2018



CIRI’s Iris Tien, assistant professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, has been chosen to co-lead a Discovery Area Working Group for the City of Atlanta, through the Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) program.  Cities chosen to participate in 100RC are provided the requisite resources to develop a “roadmap to resilience” along physical, social, and economic axes, according to the group’s website.  The City of Atlanta’s particular set of challenges revolves around the impact of inadequate transportation infrastructure on other critical infrastructure sectors, as they are interdependent on each other.

Tien’s interdisciplinary background and prior work with CIRI have equipped her to co-lead the 100RC working group, which aims to “strengthen and maintain infrastructure and promote community preparedness.” Tien’s expertise includes analysis of water distribution systems and their connections with read more…

CE’s Tien Invited to National Academy Frontiers in Engineering Symposium

October 30, 2018



The School of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Iris Tien has just returned from two days of meetings and idea-sharing with some of the nation’s most promising young engineers.

Organized by the National Academy of Engineering, the Frontiers of Engineering symposium gathers what the academy calls “exceptional” engineers from 30 to 45 years old to facilitate “cross-disciplinary exchange and promote the transfer of new techniques and approaches across fields in order to sustain and build U.S. innovative capacity.”

This year’s US Frontiers of Engineering was hosted by MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts. About 100 outstanding early career engineers met for an intensive 2-1/2 day symposium to discuss cutting-edge developments in four areas: Quantum Computers, the Role of Engineering in the Face of Conflict and Disaster, Resilient and Reliable Infrastructure, and Theranostics.

It’s a highly competitive and prestigious invitation extended to fewer than 100 people this year, according to the academy. It’s also the second consecutive year Tien has participated in the meeting; for 2018, she helped organize the session on resilient and reliable infrastructure. Invited participants for 2018 included three other early career professors from Georgia Tech, as well as rising stars from companies like Medtronic, Microsoft and General Motors.

This is the second Frontiers symposium Tien has attended this year; she attended the Japan-America Frontiers of Engineering earlier this summer.

Tien, Lee win top paper award at Resilience Week 2018

September 4, 2018




Two Georgia Tech researchers have won the first-place paper award in infrastructure at Resilience Week 2018 for their work using a variety of data sources to better understand and design infrastructure systems.

It’s the second consecutive year that Iris Tien and one of her students have won a top paper award at the conference, which focuses on making critical infrastructure — like power, water, transportation — and communities more reliable and secure.

The paper by Cynthia Lee and Tien detailed work using data from sensors, crowd-sourcing and other sources to improve what Tien called “situational awareness” for these critical systems.

“The paper showed how different sources of data help us understand these systems better, and how we might design systems with different characteristics that are more resilient,” said Tien, an assistant professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“A key to this is also considering interdependencies between multiple systems.”

The Resilience Week symposium would seem an ideal venue for Tien’s work understanding those interdependencies. The annual gathering of researchers and scientists from public agencies, universities and private industry focuses on uncovering the hidden connections of critical systems to more effectively mitigate the impacts from disaster and improve recovery.

National Academy invites Tien to Japan-America Frontiers symposium




June 27, 2018

Iris Tien has just returned from a gathering of a few dozen of the most promising young engineers from the United States and Japan, thanks to an invitation from the National Academy of Engineering.

The 2018 Japan-America Frontiers of Engineering symposium invited 60 early career engineers for two days of intensive conversations about emerging technology in water treatment, bionics and prosthetics, smart structures and materials, and advanced artificial intelligence.

“It was a great opportunity to bridge across the two countries and see how Japanese and American researchers approach common research challenges,” said Tien, an assistant professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She said the conversations allowed the group “to explore how different approaches — e.g., machine learning and systems-level analyses — apply across areas of engineering.”

read more…

ASCE picks Saini for Ammann Research Fellowship




February 21, 2018

Ph.D. student Ajay Saini has earned the support of the American Society of Civil Engineers for his work on structural reliability and resilience.

The society selected Saini for its O.H. Ammann Research Fellowship in Structural Engineering this year. He said he’ll use the funding to finish his doctoral research with Assistant Professor Iris Tien building a model that optimizes structural reliability in the short and long term, accounting for seismic risks, degradation over time, and the effects of climate change.

“It is great to be recognized by ASCE, and it definitely will help with my professional career,” Saini said. “It is also added responsibility and motivation and a great recognition of the research we are all doing here as a research group at Tech.”

Saini said he became interested in mitigating earthquake risks for structures as an undergraduate, but it wasn’t until he took a class from Tien that he became interested in broader risk assessments.  read more…

Atlanta’s Airport Disaster Sounds Aviation Alarm Bell



By John Donovan  |  December 19, 2017

When the lights went out at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2017, darkness fell quickly over the world of commercial aviation.

Location, Location, Location

“I think that [problem] was kind of highlighted in this instance. [Backup systems] often are located in the same spot,” says Iris Tien, a professor at Georgia Tech who earned her doctorate in civil systems engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. “This just showed this might not be the best design system.”  read more…

Airport’s Blackout Could Cost More Than Apologies




By Ross Terrell, Tasnim Shamma  |  December 18, 2017

The blackout at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Sunday may have cost more than peace of mind.

Iris Tien, an engineering professor at Georgia Tech, said Georgia Power and airport officials should look at ways to make sure the power units are more equipped to handle an emergency like this.

“Something that comes out of this event and other events we’ve seen is that you need to have not only these functionally separated but these geographically separated back-up as well,” Tien said.

Tien said designing a power grid to withstand a fire looks different than building one to handle a natural disaster like a hurricane.

Georgia Power officials said the investigation into what happened could last through the end of the week. Officials say it will be a lengthy process before the main system is fully repaired.

Atlanta power outage a ‘wake-up call’ for nation’s airports



By David Wickert and J. Scott Trubey  |  December 18, 2017

The fire that shut down power at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport was a wake-up call for airports across the country, experts say. Though the airport and Georgia Power are still investigating the cause, aviation experts questioned why the parts of the backup electrical system serving the airport were located so close to the main power system – close enough that both were disabled by a single fire.

“In the 40 years or so the airport has been here, we’ve never had anything like this happen,” airport communications director Reese McCranie said.

Iris Tien, an assistant professor of civil engineering at Georgia Tech, has studied redundant electrical and other systems. She said there needs to be a balance between keeping backup systems close enough to make repairs easy and far enough away to make sure they can’t be compromised along with the main system.

Cost is also a factor.

“You have to be redundant while still being financially feasible,” Tien said.

“The redundant systems we put in place we believe would have covered a power outage,” McCranie said. “Because of yesterday’s power outage, we’re reviewing that very closely. We’re looking at possible remedies.”

Tien, Johansen win Resilience Week top award for paper on vulnerabilities of interdependent infrastructure




October 19, 2017

Iris Tien and Ph.D. student Chloe Johansen won a top award at the Resilience Week 2017 conference for their paper on analyzing the vulnerabilities of interdependent infrastructure.

Using Atlanta’s water and power systems as a case study, Tien and Johansen presented their probabilistic approach to modeling interactions between infrastructure systems including how to identify critical components and weak spots. Their paper won the first-place award in the resilient critical infrastructure category at the conference in September.

“The paper is related to the work I am doing in modeling interdependent critical infrastructure systems. It specifically looks at the City of Atlanta systems where we are able to do some unique validation with real events,” said Tien, an assistant professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.  read more…

Tien invited to join nation’s brightest young engineers at 2017 Frontiers of Engineering symposium




June 23, 2017

The School of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Iris Tien will travel to Connecticut this fall for two days of meetings and idea-sharing with some of the nation’s most promising young engineers.

Organized by the National Academy of Engineering, the Frontiers of Engineering symposium gathers what the academy calls “exceptional” engineers from 30 to 45 years old to facilitate “cross-disciplinary exchange and promote the transfer of new techniques and approaches across fields in order to sustain and build U.S. innovative capacity.”

It’s a highly competitive and prestigious invitation extended to only 82 people this year, according to an academy news release.

“My research is highly interdisciplinary, and at the symposium, I am looking forward to connecting with colleagues across engineering,” said Tien, an assistant professor in the School.

read more…

WABE Closer Look: Manchester Bombing; I-85 Lessons; And More

May 24, 2017


Wednesday on “Closer Look with Rose Scott and Jim Burress:”

18:01: Dr. Iris Tien, an assistant professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, tells us what lessons can be learned after the reconstruction of the collapsed Interstate 85 bridge




Tien (center) with Jim Burress (left) and Rose Scott (right) after Tien’s interview on Atlanta’s infrastructure on the WABE program “Closer Look with Rose Scott and Jim Burress.” WABE is Atlanta’s NPR station.

Awards recognize CEE’s top scientists, researchers, teachers and staff members




November 14, 2016

The School of Civil and Environmental Engineering recognized excellence in research, teaching and staff support at the School’s annual awards ceremony Nov. 14.

Karen and John Huff School Chair Reginald DesRoches handed out 17 awards to students, faculty and staff along with Ted Russell, chair of the School’s awards committee. The committee decided whom to honor based on the nominations of their colleagues or faculty advisers.

The committee will forward many of the School-level honorees for consideration in the Georgia Tech awards programs this spring.

This year’s winners:




Iris Tien
Bill Schutz Junior Faculty Teaching Award

Recognized for her excellence in classroom teaching, evidenced by high scores from students on end-of-course surveys and recommendations from numerous colleagues.

Pipeline Blast Highlights Oil’s Achilles’ Heel

The Colonial Pipeline network’s most recent accident reminds us that our fossil fuel infrastructure is vulnerable

By Matt Smith  |  November 3, 2016  |  Sierra Magazine


Colonial Pipeline fire | Photo courtesy of the Alabaster Fire Department

An explosion that sent a column of smoke towering over the Alabama hills has Southeastern cities bracing for possible price spikes and gasoline shortages for the second time in six weeks.

The Monday afternoon explosion has again shut down the 5,500-mile Colonial Pipeline network, which funnels fuel from Houston to New Jersey—showing the extent to which America’s fossil fuel infrastructure is vulnerable.

“I think the effect may be pretty immediate, given the volume that goes through that pipeline,” said Dr. Iris Tien, an assistant professor of civil engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. “One of the shortcomings of our infrastructure is we don’t have a lot of redundancy when it comes to these gas pipelines, so we rely on very few sources for a lot of our supply.”  read more…

Failing infrastructure: We can’t fix it all, so Chloe Johansen’s research will help us prioritize




October 20, 2016


Ph.D. student Chloe Johansen, third from left, brainstorms with her group members on an October morning. Their group is part of the Scheller College of Business’ Technological Innovation: Generating Economic Results program (TI:GER). Johansen is working with two business students and two Emory University law students to commercialize her Ph.D. research. She’s trying to create software to model the behavior and interdependence of infrastructure systems. The group members are, left to right, Scheller MBA student Greg Van Volkenburg, Emory law student Ruohong Yao, Johansen, MBA student Chris Bergman, and law student Victoria Sparks. (Photo: Joshua Stewart)

America’s infrastructure systems are in terrible shape and getting worse.

That’s been the refrain from the American Society of Civil Engineers since its most-recent infrastructure report card found virtually all of the nation’s systems for moving people, energy, commerce, waste are falling apart.

The organization estimates we’ll need to spend $3.6 trillion — with a “t” — by 2020 just to repair or replace what’s failing.

Enter Chloe Johansen, a School of Civil and Environmental Engineering Ph.D. student working in Assistant Professor Iris Tien’s research group.

read more…

Tien wins award for helping bring engineering concepts to middle school science lessons




August 29, 2016


Iris Tien, left, with Gwinnett County middle school teacher Kathylee McElroy and Jamila Cola after Tien and McElroy won awards for their collaboration on engineering lesson plans for McElroy’s science classes. They’ve been working together for two years through a program made possible by the National Science Foundation Partnerships for Research, Innovation, and Multi-Scale Engineering. Cola is the director of that program.

Georgia Tech’s K-12 outreach program has recognized Assistant Professor Iris Tien for her work helping some Atlanta-area middle school students learn about engineering.

Tien has been working with Northbrook Middle School teacher Kathylee McElroy to incorporate engineering concepts into McElroy’s science lessons. The collaboration won Tien and McElroy 2016 Paul A. Duke GIFT Action Plan Achievement awards earlier this month from Georgia Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC).

“It is important to expose students to engineering concepts early, including ideas about risk and hazards, and building civil engineering structures to withstand those hazards,” said Tien, whose work includes risk assessment and decision-making under uncertain conditions.  read more…

Building Infrastructure, Building Communities

By Iris Tien  |  July 19, 2016

INSS SLS Photo TienA neighborhood on the Westside of Atlanta, an example of the premise that has been stuck in Iris Tien’s mind recently: how the infrastructure civil and environmental engineers build — or the lack thereof in areas like this — influences the surrounding community. (Photo: Iris Tien)

It has been more than a month since the Integrated Network for Social Sustainability (INSS) Conference, organized in part by Serve-Learn-Sustain (SLS) at Georgia Tech, and the topics we discussed still stay with me. As a civil engineer, what has specifically stuck with me, and what I think will continue to color how I think about social sustainability, is the vital role of civil infrastructure in building communities.  read more…

National Academies Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable (GUIRR): Critical Infrastructure Security

GT DC Buzz




GT in DC  |  Prepared by Lewis-Burke Associates LLC  |  February 29, 2016

Click for full text of National Academies-published Meeting-in-Brief (pdf): Critical Infrastructure Security: The Role of Public-Private Partnerships

On February 24, Iris Tien, Assistant Professor at the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, participated in a panel discussion on threat and impact modeling, at the National Academy’s Critical Infrastructure Security event in Washington, DC.  read more…

Tien invited to Arab-American Frontiers Symposium on sensing technology and applications




October 1, 2015

Some of the world’s brightest scholars gather in Saudi Arabia in December to talk about the latest advances in sensing technologies and networks.

The School of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Iris Tien has been invited to join them.  read more…

Tien wins NSF funding to improve reliability of our interdependent infrastructure



September 17, 2015

GT CEE Tien_cropThe National Science Foundation has awarded Iris Tien $499,920 for a three-year project that will develop new computer models of infrastructure systems and the connections between them.

The idea is to create a model that can be used for any infrastructure system — water, power, transportation, or communications, for example — and takes into account each component of the system as well as how the system interacts with other infrastructure.

The result will be software that can help utilities make real-time decisions and even automatically adjust how infrastructure operates to account for problems.

“Infrastructure systems are very critical to a functioning society, how we go about our day-to-day lives. They’re critical for the security of our country and for being able to be productive and healthy and safe,” Tien said. “As these systems are subject to more and more hazards of different types, it’s really important for us to be able to model these systems properly and to be able to make decisions about how we manage these systems so they perform better under different adverse conditions.”


read more…

NSF invests $20 million to enhance resilience of critical infrastructure

NSF-logoPress Release 15-108  |  September 14, 2015

Infrastructure must outsmart disruptions to continue delivery of essential goods and services

Americans rely upon critical infrastructure systems to provide services such as clean water, electricity, transportation and healthcare. These systems are becoming increasingly interconnected, while our demands on them and the hazards they face grow.

To address our nation’s critical need for more resilient infrastructure and enhanced services, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has invested $20 million in new fundamental research to transform infrastructure, from physical structures to responsive systems.

read more…

Leading the Way in Women Engineering Faculty




Number of COE Women Faculty Puts Tech at the Top Nationally

The relatively low proportion of women in academic science and engineering has been the topic of numerous recent books and reports but as Bob Dylan sang “the times they are a changing.”

Gender diversity has become more valued among college faculty and the College of Engineering has been aggressive in trying to address women’s underrepresentation in the faculty as well as student ranks. The proportion of engineering doctoral degrees earned by women has risen considerably in the past several decades and with it has come opportunities to recruit more women to faculty positions. Today, Tech is the number one producer of women engineers in the country and a leader in female engineering faculty.

Tien_WomenFacultyGTMeet some of our “Women in Engineering” faculty members who are changing the world with their research as well as the face of engineering.

Dr. Iris Tien

How would you explain your research?

My research is in creating new ways to model and assess the reliability of complex civil infrastructure systems, including water, energy, communications, and transportation systems. The goal is that flexible and sophisticated models combined with data from a variety of sources will help us make smarter decisions in how we manage these systems so they perform better when bad things happen.

read more…

Why Georgia Tech: Questions with Iris Tien

GT Office of Faculty Affairs



By Amelia Pavlik  |  February 10, 2015

Tien_WhyGTIris Tien is an assistant professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Tech. Recently, the Office of Faculty Affairs had the opportunity to learn more about Tien and her time at Tech. Here’s what she said.

Tell us a little about your research.

I develop new ways to model and assess the reliability of civil infrastructure systems, including water, power, and transportation systems. The goal is to help us make smarter decisions in how we design and manage these critical systems, so they perform better under adverse conditions. What can we do, for example, read more…

10(ish) questions with new faculty member Iris Tien




September 30, 2014


Iris Tien is the newest member of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering faculty, joining the school this fall after completing her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. She took a few minutes recently to talk about her work and why it’s important to her.

Q: I was reading a little bit about your background and I saw you started out in medical research when you were an undergrad studying civil engineering. How did that happen?

A: I’m not your most traditional civil engineering person. read more…

Research Profiles – Iris Tien

It’s easy to forget that consequences, even unintended ones, sometimes can be positive.

After Hurricane Katrina closed universities in New Orleans, UC officials offered students a chance to spend fall semester of 2005 at various UC campuses, including Berkeley.  Their only motive was humanitarian. But the gesture affected students, including at least one at UC Berkeley, in unanticipated ways.

Iris Tien was an undergraduate then. As a resident assistant, responsible for two floors of an eight-floor dormitory, she was responsible for converting dormitory lounges into bedrooms and hosting events to help the New Orleans students feel at home.

Fast forward seven years. As a 24-year-old civil and environmental engineering graduate student in UC Berkeley’s Civil Systems Program, Tien is modeling complex infrastructure — research that might someday be used to determine weak spots in bridges, highways and water systems, including the kinds of levees that broke under the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina.

As the U.S. grapples with declining infrastructure and tight budgets, Tien’s work could prove particularly useful.  Last year, the American Society of Civil Engineers reported that the poor condition of our highways, railroads, bridges and transit systems cost $130 billion in 2010 alone.  To bring infrastructure back to minimum standards, the U.S. would need to invest $846 billion over nine years, or $94 billion per year.  Yet partisan politics is keeping investment at a minimum.

It’s no wonder that Tien’s research on infrastructure cost-saving is getting attention. read more…

2012 Fellows Reception

By Dick Corten, slideshow by Peg Skorpinksi  |  March 21, 2012

It was not hard for a good time to be had by all. The atmosphere was convivial, the mood was celebratory, there were plenty of people to talk to, and — always a priority for grad students — there was food. And not only that, the food was good.

The occasion was the Berkeley Distinguished Graduate Fellows Reception, an annual event, held this year in the banner-festooned auditorium of International House read more…

Graduate students take their research to the Capitol

By Nicole Freeling  |  March 15, 2012

To many people, graduate student research is a little-known corridor in the halls of higher education. To some it is perceived as a mysterious side nook in the ivory tower, where esoteric research is conducted for obscure ends.

On March 14, a delegation of 20 graduate students and deans traveled to Sacramento to give lawmakers a very different perspective: that of graduate student research as central not only to the future of the University of California, but to that of the state and the nation as well.  read more…

Intern profile – Iris Tien

This is a series of profiles featuring interviews with some of this year’s crop of summer interns at HP Labs.

We continue the series with an interview with Iris Tien who was recruited by the Services Research Lab.

A Bay Area native, Iris Tien gets to stay with her parents in Cupertino while interning at HP Labs’ Palo Alto campus.  “It’s good, actually!” she assures us, “plus I get to bike to work about twice a week.”  Usually, Tien lives over in Berkeley, where she’s entering her fourth year as a PhD student in Systems Engineering at the University of California.  She attended UC Berkeley as an undergraduate, too, majoring in Civil and Environmental Engineering.  When she’s not crunching numbers, Tien enjoys playing basketball and tennis, listening to opera, and making jewelry.

HP: What have you been working on during your internship?
I’ve been working with Zainab Jamal and Fereydoon Safai in HP’s Services Research Lab as part of the Marketing Optimization Project. Specifically, I’ve been looking at HP customer data and relating it to how HP spends its online marketing resources.  I’m interested in understanding how the channels through which people arrive at the HP Shopping site – like search, coupons or email — impact what different customers do.

HP: Can you tell us what you’ve found out?
Well, a lot of this is proprietary, but read more…

Nathaniel Butler, Audra Nemir, and Iris Tien Win NSF Scholarships

Nathaniel Butler and Audra Nemir, graduate students in Environmental Engineering, and Iris Tien, graduating CEE undergraduate entering the Civil Systems program in fall 2008, received National Science Foundation Scholarships.  Nathaniel’s adviser is Professor James Hunt.  Audra’s adviser is Professor Lisa Alvarez-Cohen.  Iris’s adviser with be Professor Steven Glaser.

Congratulations, Nathaniel, Audra, and Iris!

Iris Tien and Jenna Wong Awarded Chancellor’s Fellowships

Two graduating CEE seniors, Iris Tien and Jenna Wong, were awarded Chancellor’s Fellowships. Chancellor’s Fellowships are given to exceptional students of outstanding achievement who are entering a Berkeley doctoral program. Iris will enter the Civil Systems program and Jenna will enter the Structural Engineering, Mechanics and Materials program.

Congratulations, Iris and Jenna!

Multidisciplinary Research

The University of California, Berkeley is one of the world’s premier research universities, maintaining a dynamic environment in which top-notch researchers create and freely disseminate the very best scholarly contributions and scientific discoveries. Berkeley is consistently rated among the very best institutions for the quality and breadth of its research enterprise, the scholarly distinction of its faculty, and the excellence of its Ph.D. programs.

Berkeley researchers — many of them leading experts in their fields — are dispersed among more than 130 academic departments and more than 80 interdisciplinary research units. The Berkeley research enterprise spans the full spectrum of the discovery process — from basic research that fuels remarkable, and sometimes unforeseen, breakthroughs to applied, late-stage projects that offer actionable solutions to real-world problems.

Pop Quiz

If your department were a car, what car would it be?



Iris Tien, CEE sophomore

A pickup truck because it’s very practical and can carry around a bunch of construction materials.

Senior Send-Offs Commence: Academy Orchestra Concert

By Jina Lee  |  March 8, 2003

Two young talented musicians, both Phillips Academy seniors, captivated the packed audience in the Cochran Chapel last Friday night with their passionate performances. The concert also showcased the results of the hard work and dedication of the orchestras and ensembles over the course of the term.  read more…

Welcoming Faces

By Michelle Ku  |  September 1, 1999

For a new sixth or seventh grader, life at a middle school can be a frightening prospect. But the Cupertino Union School District is taking steps to quell these fears.

This year, all four middle schools are implementing WEB–Welcome Every Body–an orientation program that helps students transition and acclimate themselves from elementary school to the middle school environment.  read more…