Wael El-Dakhakhni

Wael El-Dakhakhni

Director, McMaster Institute for Multi-hazard Systemic Risk Studies (INTERFACE); Professor, Department of Civil Engineering

Flash floods. Blackouts. Data breaches. How can society better respond to disasters? Wael El-Dakhakhni believes the answer lies in mobilizing knowledge related to systems thinking.

As Director of the McMaster Institute for Multi-hazard Systemic Risk Studies (INTERFACE), he aims to translate his knowledge of multi-hazard and system-level vulnerability to usable tools. These tools will help a wide range of stakeholders anticipate, and even prevent disasters from happening.

“A city is a combination of many networks all interacting and affecting each other. If the power goes out, there’s no energy, then there are no traffic lights, and transportation will be halted. Most city networks are interconnected and interdependent,” explains El-Dakhakhni.

El-Dakhakhni has collaborated with subject matter experts on various areas of research including, engineering physics, electrical, water resources, structural and earthquake engineering, to develop a simulation platform that evaluates links between the built and natural environments and predicts the cascading impacts of catastrophes. Currently, he is working on a simulation platform for the City of Hamilton’s critical infrastructure networks.

“It’s very difficult for one discipline to tackle the cascading effects of a disaster. We want experts to come together and speak a common language so that we can correctly predict what might go wrong and build safeguards to prevent disasters that may happen.”

One day, El-Dakhakhni hopes to create a simulation platform for the whole country, a project that could take decades to complete. To encourage his students to have the same ambitious approach to their research, he helps them link their education to real societal challenges.

He also creates opportunities for students to develop their interpersonal skills through internships, networking, and public speaking at conferences.

“I want to create job-ready employees for future jobs, not just jobs that are available now.”