PANELIST BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES
Miguel O. Román serves as senior director and chief scientist of climate and environment at Leidos. As part of the Leidos Civil Group, he is responsible for planning, leading, directing, and growing a portfolio of integrated mission capabilities, including earth-observing data and information systems, renewable energy, disaster resilience, and sustainable urban infrastructure. Dr. Román has served in multiple leadership, organizational management, and technical capacities across the federal government, academic, and nonprofit sectors. A leading expert in the field of satellite remote sensing, he has championed translational research, sustainability science, and data-intensive approaches to assessing and addressing climate-related risks. His work is recognized for shedding light on the disproportionate hardships experienced by socially vulnerable and underserved communities following major disasters. A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Dr. Román was recognized by President Barack Obama in 2016 with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). He is also a 2014 Service to America Medal finalist, one of the highest honors for federal employees.
Panel 1: Toward a Better Understanding of Cascading and Compounding Disasters: Characterizing Drivers, Systems, and Relationships
Benjamin Zaitchik is professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. He is an Earth scientist whose work includes study of fundamental atmospheric and hydrological processes, as well as application of this knowledge to problems of water resources, agriculture, and human health. In this context, he leads multiple projects focused on the propagation of climate stresses through complex coupled natural–human systems. Prior to joining Johns Hopkins, Dr. Zaitchik was a research associate at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow at the U.S. Department of State. He is currently president of the GeoHealth Section of the American Geophysical Union; chair of the World Meteorological Organization Research Board Task Team on COVID-19 and climate, meteorological, and environmental factors; and a commissioner on the City of Baltimore Sustainability Commission.
Felicia Jefferson is a tenured associate professor within the University System of Georgia at Fort Valley State University. Her recent publications are in the areas of neurotoxicology, computer science, environmental biology, supply chain logistics in health, artificial intelligence in biology, CRISPR-Cas9 technology, remodeling of the CREST (coupled routing and excess
storage) model in health delivery mechanisms, and the role sleep plays in learning and memory. Dr. Jefferson has served as principal investigator (PI)on seven grants, five of which were federally funded garnering full overhead, and as co-PI on other several other grants. Funds from these grants advance scientific research, train students in technologies, and fund student participation in national conferences and other training opportunities. She was recently commissioned as lead author for a publication from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Negar Elhami-Khorasani is associate professor in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering at the University at Buffalo. Her primary areas of research are performance-based design and resilience assessment of structures and communities under extreme hazards, including structure fires, wildfires, earthquakes, and cascading multihazard events, such as post-earthquake fires. The outcomes of her research enhance safety by developing codes and guidelines, and minimize losses by optimizing mitigation, preparedness, and response strategies. Dr. Elhami-Khorasani is co-chair of the American Society of Civil Engineering/Structural Engineering Institute (ASCE/SEI) Fire Protection Committee and led the Fire Following Earthquake Task Group in charge of publishing a book on procedures for analysis of buildings for post-earthquake fires. She serves as associate editor for Fire Technology by Springer Nature. She is also a member of the resilience committees for fib (International Federation for Structural Concrete), International Association for Fire Safety Science, and the Structural Engineers Association of New York. Dr. Elhami-Khorasani received the 2020 American Institute of Steel Construction Early Career Faculty Award and the Fire Protection Research Foundation Medal. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, Department of Transportation, U.S. Geological Survey, National Fire Protection Association, and ASCE SEI.
Panel 2: Governance Across Events: Decision Making and Policies
Kristen Averyt is senior climate advisor in the Office of Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, where she leads climate planning and policy development for the state. She is also research professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and previously served as president of the Desert Research Institute. Her expertise covers a range of issues including climate change, water resources in the western United States, and the energy–water nexus. Dr. Averyt has a long record connecting science with public policy. She worked in the U.S. Senate as a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Knauss fellow and at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine as a Christine Mirzayan science and technology policy fellow. As a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group I Support Unit, Dr. Averyt was one of many scientists who shared in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Of her honors, she is most proud of the Girls Scouts of the Sierra Nevada Award for Environmental Leadership. She
was recently elected to the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Council, is a senior policy fellow of the AMS, and engages in many other service and board activities.
Michael A. Sprayberry is senior advisor for emergency management at Hagerty Consulting. A proven leader and emergency manager with a career of public service spanning 42 years, Mr. Sprayberry served the Division of Emergency Management in the State of North Carolina for more than 15 years in various leadership roles, including as division director and deputy homeland security advisor, as well as leading the state’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency. During his tenure as director, Mr. Sprayberry led the State Emergency Response Team’s response and recovery efforts for 19 state-declared disasters and 13 federally declared disasters, including Hurricane Florence, now known as North Carolina’s “Storm of Record.” As director, he also served as vice chair of the state’s Emergency Response Commission and as a member of the state’s Radiation Protection Commission. In the last 4 years, Mr. Sprayberry has led North Carolina’s recovery efforts from major hurricanes, winter storms, earthquakes, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Mr. Sprayberry served as president of the National Emergency Management Association from 2017 to 2018. He has received numerous awards, including two departmental Secretary’s Gold Circle Awards and the North Carolina Emergency Management Association Colonel William A. Thompson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Emergency Management. Before joining state government, Mr. Sprayberry honorably served in the United States Marine Corps and North Carolina Army National Guard for more than 25 years; he is a proud member of the North Carolina National Guard Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame.
Steven P. French is professor of city and regional planning at Georgia Institute of Technology, where he focuses on sustainable urban development, natural hazard risk assessment, and urban information systems. Dr. French has been principal investigator or co–principal investigator on more than 70 research projects, and is the author or coauthor of 4 books and more than 25 refereed journal articles. He has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of the American Planning Association, Journal of Planning Education and Research, Journal of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association, and Earthquake Spectra. Dr. French has served as visiting professor of resources planning in the Civil Engineering Department at Stanford University and is a fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners.
Susan Cutter is Carolina distinguished professor of geography at the University of South Carolina, where she directs the Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute. Her primary research interests are in the area of disaster vulnerability and resilience science, including how vulnerability and resilience are measured, monitored, and assessed. She has authored or edited 14 books—mostly recently, Hurricane Katrina and the Forgotten Coast of Mississippi, published
by Cambridge University Press—and more than 150 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. Dr. Cutter has mentored more than 50 masters and doctoral students and has led field teams to study long-term recovery from hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Matthew, as well as the October 2015 South Carolina floods. She has provided expert testimony to Congress on hazards and vulnerability, was a member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force team that evaluated the social impacts of the New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana Hurricane Protection System in response to Hurricane Katrina, and was a juror for the Rebuild by Design competition for Hurricane Sandy reconstruction. Her policy-relevant work has received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and many other state and national agencies. Dr. Cutter serves on many national advisory boards and committees, including those of NSF and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. She chaired the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committee that authored the 2012 seminal report, Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative. Dr. Cutter serves as coexecutive editor of Environment and associate editor of Weather, Climate, and Society, and is a member of several boards, including the advisory board of the Journal of Extreme Events and the editorial board for Natural Hazards. She is also serving as editor-in-chief for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Natural Hazard Science. Dr. Cutter is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and is past president of the Association of American Geographers and of the Consortium of Social Science Associations. She held the MunichRe Foundation chair on social vulnerability through the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security, and received the Decade of Behavior Research Award. In 2010, Dr. Cutter received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of American Geographers. And, in 2015, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway, and was elected as a foreign member of the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters.
Panel 3: Mitigating Impacts: Developing Solutions and Avoiding Unintended Consequences
A.R. Siders is assistant professor at the University of Delaware in the Disaster Research Center, the Biden School of Public Policy and Administration, and the department of Geography and Spatial Sciences in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. Previously, she served as an environmental fellow at the Harvard University Center for the Environment, a legal fellow at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, and a presidential management fellow with the U.S. Navy. Her research focuses on climate change adaptation decision making and evaluation: how and why communities decide when, where, and how to adapt to the effects of climate change and how these decisions and decision-making processes affect outcomes such as risk reduction and equity. Her current projects focus on adaptive capacity, managed retreat, and adaptation equity. Ms. Siders believes adaptation is opportunity and that ambition, if not audacity, is necessary in dreaming of and planning for a better future.
Hussam Mahmoud is George T. Abell professor in infrastructure in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado State University (CSU) and is director of the Structural Laboratory. Previously, he served as manager of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying’s Earthquake Laboratory at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Prior to arriving at UIUC, he was a research scientist at Lehigh University, working on assessment and repair of deteriorated infrastructure. Dr. Mahmoud’s research program has three major thrusts: assessing community resilience and recovery of infrastructure and socioeconomic institutions following extreme events with a focus on climate-driven hazards; quantifying building damage to extreme single and multiple hazards; and evaluating deteriorated infrastructure, such as bridges and underwater systems. He has authored more than 250 publications and has given more than 100 presentations including 70 invited talks at national and international conferences. Dr. Mahmoud has chaired and served on numerous technical committees, including the American Society of Civil Engineers committees on fire protection and on multihazard mitigation. His research has received media coverage through citations and interviews in numerous venues, including Nature Climate Change, Smithsonian Magazine, The Independent, Business Insider, and CNN.
Joshua DeFlorio is chief of resilience and sustainability at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ). He leads a team that focuses on ensuring that the aviation, port, urban rail, tunnel, bridge, terminal, and real estate facilities called for in the agency’s capital plan are designed and delivered to be both environmentally sustainable and climate resilient. Prior to joining PANYNJ, Mr. DeFlorio was national practice lead for risk and resilience at Cambridge Systematics and served as a senior project manager in the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s Ports & Transportation group. He is a chapter author on the Fifth National Climate Assessment and serves as a member of the New Jersey Interagency Council on Climate Resilience, created by Governor Murphy.
Panel 4: Strategies to Effectively Apply Solutions
Christopher Zobel is R. B. Pamplin professor of business information technology in the Pamplin College of Business at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. His primary research interests include disaster operations management and humanitarian supply chain resilience. Dr. Zobel has published more than 100 articles in archival journals and academic conference proceedings, and his work can be found in outlets such as the Journal of Operations Management, Production and Operations Management, Risk Analysis, Decision Sciences, and the European Journal of Operational Research. He is currently co–principal investigator on several National Science Foundation (NSF) grants that involve characterizing and quantifying multidimensional disaster resilience. Dr. Zobel is also one of the founding faculty
members of the NSF research traineeship graduate program on disaster resilience and risk management, located in the Center for Coastal Studies at Virginia Tech.
Gabrielle Brazzil is senior equity practitioner, project manager, and cofounder of the Equity Center of Excellence with WSP, a global engineering consulting firm. She specializes in equity services for public projects, supporting public agencies in developing operational and cultural practices to adopt and sustain equity, and project delivery services to guide equity goals and outcomes. Ms. Brazzil’s experience spans transportation, housing, and water projects through work with Bay Area Rapid Transit, Caltrans, Southern California Area Council of Governments, and city departments of public works and power and water nationally. She trains and collaborates with technical experts and decision makers to integrate equity into funding prioritization, data analysis, scenario development, and public engagement. In 2021, Ms. Brazzil was honored with the Emerging Leader of the Year Award from the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO). She is vice president of the Northern California chapter of COMTO, advancing opportunities for people of color in the industry and awarding scholarships to underrepresented students to usher in new, representative talent. She also serves as equity chair on the Transport Oakland board, a policy advocacy organization in her home base of Oakland, California.
Lisa Churchill is a climate change expert and founder of Climate Advisory, a certified women’s business enterprise that focuses on climate risk and resilience strategies. She has 25 years of experience in the engineering and architectural fields, and deep expertise in leading climate resilience initiatives for public- and private-sector clients. Ms. Churchill has worked with numerous municipalities, ranging from larger urban areas, such as Washington, DC, and Boston, Massachusetts; large asset owners and operators (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Logan International Airport, Mass General Brigham); and private clients (real estate investment trusts and tech companies); as well as smaller communities and nonprofits. She has presented on climate at a congressional briefing and at the Pentagon, has taught classes at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of New Hampshire, is a regular contributor to industry-leading research, and has been an invited speaker at national and international forums on climate resilience. Her training as a paleontologist with a focus on mass extinctions has given her a unique perspective on the characteristics of resilient systems. Ms. Churchill is also coeditor of Climate Change and the Built Environment, published in 2022 by the American Council of Engineering Companies, which outlines key trends and emerging innovations in the field.
Shanna McClain is disasters program manager for the Applied Sciences Division at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She also manages NASA’s Global Partnerships portfolio and the Socioeconomic Assessments Initiative. Prior to working at NASA, Dr. McClain worked as a visiting scientist with the Environmental Law Institute on issues relating to environmental migration, displacement, conflict, and peacebuilding. She also worked
for the joint United Nations Environment Programme/Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Environmental Emergencies Section on issues relating to complex, cascading, and protracted disasters and crises. Her graduate research was focused on the integration of climate change adaptation, disaster preparedness and response, and resilience into multilevel governance frameworks of international river basins.