Photo of Nan Li

Artificial intelligence & robotics

Nan Li

Novel scheme for urban resilience management with integrated system modeling approaches and big data analytics

Year Honored


With great cities, come "great" problems. In order to prepare for unpredictable natural disasters and crises, it is extremely important to find new solutions for urban construction and development.

In 2013, the Rockefeller Foundation pioneered the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) initiative to help more cities become resilient against physical, social, and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. Two Chinese cities, Huangshi and Deyang, were selected. Together with famous cities like Paris, New York and London, they were set to look for and define the future of a resilient city. In this highly impactful initiative, Nan Li, the main contact for the only 100RC global platform partner in China, was one of the most prestigious scholars who understood how Chinese cities could become more resilient.

"Professor Li has a profound understanding of Urban Resilience. He also broke the boundaries between Information Technology, Civil Engineering, and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) to quantify risks for city leaders to make informed decisions – decisions that will change millions of urban inhabitants' lives," 100RC program manager Alan Zhuang said highly of Li's contribution.

Li received his bachelor's degree in Construction Management at Tsinghua University and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at the University of Southern California. He is currently an associate professor at the Department of Construction Management and the Director of the Institute of Sustainable Urbanization at Tsinghua University.

The research group that Li is leading focuses on the planning, development, and management of resilient cities and communities. By introducing the "Build Back Better (BBB)" philosophy to the traditional Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) domain, he proposed a new perspective on "System of Systems in Trio Spaces" as a transformative analytical framework for urban and community resilience, and ultimately established a novel scheme for urban resilience management built on integrated system modeling approaches and big data analytics.

At the building scale, Li's innovative research achievements include designing algorithms for localizing and tracking humans at building emergency scenes based on heterogeneous ambient sensor data fusion and mining, revealing the underlying mechanism of spatial cognition and wayfinding decision-making of individual evacuees, and developing a high-fidelity crowed evacuation simulation and prediction model.

At the urban scale, Li's contributions include the development of a complex network-based approach for assessing disaster impacts and performing resilience scenario evolution in critical urban lifeline systems, and the investigation of complex statistical physical characteristics of extreme event-induced perturbation of urban human mobility patterns, and dynamics of such human mobility perturbation over entire timespan of extreme events.