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NRF Fellowship to ASE Assistant Professor Dr. David Lallemant for urban risk and disaster analysis

05 Mar 2018

We congratulate Dr. David Lallemant on being one of the few successful applicants for the highly competitive NRF Fellowship. The NRF Fellowship is awarded annually to “outstanding researchers of any nationality, in any discipline of science and technology, who are in an early stage of their careers and ready to take on their independent research”. Dr. Lallemant received the NRF Fellowship for a project on Urban Risk & Disaster Impact analysis, an increasingly important area of research, with high relevance to the South East Asia region.
“Hazards may be natural, but disasters are not” explains Dr. Lallemant. Indeed, disasters only occur when people and infrastructure are exposed and vulnerable to natural hazards. It is therefore the combination of hazards, exposure and vulnerability that creates disaster risk. The motivation for Dr. Lallemant’s NRF research proposal is a deep concern for the pace at which disaster risk is increasing due to increasing hazards (driven by climate change), which is further compounded by particular dynamics of exposure and vulnerability. Dr. Lallemant has an extraordinarily broad experience in urban disaster analysis, with hands on experience from post-disaster assessment in the field, high level post disaster management and academic expertise in earthquake engineering, statistics and modeling. As a consequence, his research spans from his base in engineering and analysis to society and policy aspects of urban risk and disaster analysis.

Dr. Lallemant developed an interest in the effects of natural disaster early in life. In fact, it almost seems like urban disaster research chose him. He grew up in Northern Thailand, living along the river which regularly flooded the city. Subsequently, a family holiday to the Indian South-Eastern coast happened to coincide with the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. These experiences led him to pursue a degree in engineering from MIT (2007), followed by a Master’s degree in earthquake engineering at UC Berkeley, which he completed in 2010. When the Haiti earthquake struck that same year, he was recruited by the World Bank to assess damage to buildings. What was meant to be a three-week job turned into two years of living and working on post-disaster recovery in Haiti.

With his experiences from Haiti still fresh in mind, Lallemant took up a Ph.D. in Structural Engineering at Stanford University, with a focus on urban disaster risk and resilience analysis. Having witnessed the impact that natural disasters can have on cities and their people, his research focused on understanding and quantifying the processes that lead to extreme vulnerability. His work also led to advancements in the statistical processes through which disaster risk is calculated. In parallel with his PhD research, he stayed involved in post-disaster response and recovery, in particular in New Zealand and Nepal, which suffered from earthquakes in 2011 and 2015 respectively.
Back at Stanford University Lallemant received his Ph.D. and went on to establish the Stanford Urban Resilience Initiative in 2015. With this wealth of experience under his belt, Dr. Lallemant is now preparing for his next goal: to build a Remote Sensing and Artificial Intelligence Lab for Disaster Analytics here in Singapore.

In brief, his work here will consist of two main parts. The first involves developing methods for dynamic urban risk analysis, which will provide tools to understand disaster risk trajectories as they relate to dynamics of hazard, exposure and vulnerability. The risk profile of cities -particularly Asian cities- is rapidly changing due to climate change, urbanization, and new patterns of vulnerability. The development of time-dependent risk analysis models that can account for such dynamics will enable us to anticipate future trends in risk and guide our cities towards a more resilient trajectory. The second part of his research focuses on developing rapid post-disaster assessment methods to better support disaster-response and recovery decision-making. Remote sensing, artificial intelligence and predictive modeling will all play a big part in Dr. Lallemant’s research and lab. Interestingly, while Lallemant’s work looks at the technical quantitative analysis of risk, he also strives to integrate the social and political dimensions of risk into his research. As he says, “since the impact of disasters reflect social inequalities, so do our tools and methods need to account for such if we are to build more resilient and equitable communities.”

Visit the Lallemant group webpage to learn more and see work opportunities: