Fellowship to Aid UCSB Student in Studying Population Activity

Research Could Help in Evacuation Emergencies, Resource Allocation

In recognition of research in modeling and simulation resolution for homeland security, Kriste Henson, a doctoral student in the geography department at the UCSB, has recently been awarded with three prestigious grants and fellowships.

Henson’s doctoral work will be funded by the Eisenhower Graduate Fellowship from the United States Department of Transportation, which provides her $35,500. Along with this fellowship, she has been awarded a Geography and Regional Science Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation, and a Doctoral Dissertation Grant from the University of California Transportation Center, which is a research center meant to expand transportation research.

Heather Evans
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Heather Evans

Henson’s work focuses on a new methodology for simulating the movements of individuals and populations. She is creating a template of population activity that can be applied to any urban or rural area in the United States.

The template simulates where people are at specific times of day so that resources could be allocated optimally in the event of an emergency. It’s like simulating every single person in Santa Barbara as a function of who they are and the environment in which they move,” explained Kostas Goulias, UCSB geography professor and Henson’s faculty adviser, in a written statement.

As a member of the technical staff in Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Decisions Applications Division, Henson works on projects dealing with homeland security. Henson is developing a Structural Equations Model (SEM), which is a statistical technique meant to measure changes in relationship variables. This is based on sociodemographic information collected from a national household survey, land use, transportation infrastructure, and accessibility measures.

Homeland security applications require fine modeling and simulation resolution in time and space to represent human activity and travel behavior,” said Henson in the press release. “Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Transportation Analysis Simulation System is an activity-based transportation system that has the ability to simulate movements of individuals around a network on a second-by-second basis. At the core of the system are ‘synthetic’ schedules that are formulated based on activity and travel diaries.”

The key advantage to Henson’s method is going one step further and creating a model that’s applicable to every city,” said Goulias.

Henson will complete her Ph.D in 2009 and plans on continuing her work at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Suzanne Heibel is an Independent intern.

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