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Contact Information: Tanya Klein Public Relations 973-596-3433

Researcher Receives Grant To Study Creativity in the Response To Two Terrorist Attack

David Mendonça, PhD, an associate professor in the department of information systems at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), has received a $700,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study creativity by first responders following the 2001 World Trade Center attack and the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

"Disasters routinely create non-routine situations,” Mendonça said. “History repeatedly teaches us that both effective planning and an ability to improvise are needed in emergency response.”

Mendonça, who is the lead investigator on the project, is working with two sociologists—Gary Webb of Oklahoma State University and Carter Butts of University of California at Irvine—to improve understanding of creative decision-making during emergency response.

Their analysis will draw upon the radio communications and dispatch logs produced during the response to the events. These and other materials (such as interviews conducted with response personnel) will be used to construct a description of the relationship between thinking, acting and communicating following each disaster.

“Recollections of decisions made in crises can leave out important details,” said Mendonça. “By examining actual records of communication and decision-making processes, we have a chance to develop a fuller, more accurate understanding of the response to large-scale disasters.”

The project is also intended to lead to recommendations about how to better use information technologies for collecting and analyzing data from response activities.

“We hope that our work also leads to improvements in how information technology can support organizations in learning from their response to disaster, thus contributing to their ability to plan effectively for future disasters,” said Mendonça.

The project builds on Mendonça’s previous work on creative decision-making in the restoration of power and telecommunications infrastructures in New York City after 9/11, along with studies of the use of information technology in post-disaster recovery operations following Hurricane Katrina.  Mendonça’s work has also been supported by a CAREER grant from NSF, an award intended to recognize outstanding junior faculty in science and engineering.

NJIT, New Jersey's science and technology university, enrolls approximately 10,000 students pursuing bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in 120 programs. The university consists of six colleges: Newark College of Engineering, College of Architecture and Design, College of Science and Liberal Arts, School of Management, College of Computing Sciences and Albert Dorman Honors College. U.S. News & World Report's 2012 Annual Guide to America's Best Colleges ranked NJIT in the top tier of national research universities. NJIT is internationally recognized for being at the edge in knowledge in architecture, applied mathematics, wireless communications and networking, solar physics, advanced engineered particulate materials, nanotechnology, neural engineering and e-learning. Many courses and certificate programs, as well as graduate degrees, are available online through the Division of Continuing Professional Education.