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Research

I enjoy research that engages with international, national, and local actors, different planning systems and processes, and requires comparative assessments. I have conducted research in nine countries in the Global North and South on broad issues ranging from homelessness to comprehensive master planning

I also use a broad  variety of methodologies and combine them creatively and in innovative ways to get at the heart of the research problem . For example, I was an ethnographer experiencing the working culture of 26 people, but also have used big data, over 21 million tweets, to explore global perception about a sporting mega-event.

By exploring a variety of planning topics, I primarily focus on urban transformations through three lenses: (1) extreme events such as hazards, disasters, pandemics, sport mega-events, wars, (2) transportation, and (3) social media. For recent topics please take a look at the Extreme Events Research Group

I am always interested in exploring new ideas, interesting challenges, and innovative work opportunities across the globe in any aspect of urban and regional planning. 


Areas of Expertise and Interest
 

Extreme Event Cities

Cities around the world endeavor to adapt to global forces and transform in the process. 

Most of my current work explores how planner and policy makers bid, plan, and implement ideas for legacies by way of mega-events like the Olympic Games, the World Cup, and the World's Fairs. Staging mega-events has become a popular strategy for governments to transform their cities. In the pursuit of these mega-event transformations, some legacies (urban impacts) have turned into gems for cities, others have turned into unwanted remains. I explore the contexts in which mega-events stimulate new investments in local infrastructures, e.g. accommodations, athlete villages, etc. that remain as tangible legacies in hosting cities and in which mega-events work against the interests of  local stakeholders. In providing policy recommendations, my goal is to leverage the opportunities these mega-events bring to regions for sustainable outcomes.

I am also interested in how extreme events, like tsunamis, hurricanes, or pandemics require cities to prepare and recover. 

  • Evacuation Planning: Disasters in the past have cost many lives primarily of the urban poor. In planning evacuation and analyzing shelter options especially for those who have no access to car or a family network to rely on, my work focuses on exploring public transport options and developing their management in expectation of natural hazards.
  • Disaster Prevention: Coastal regions are exposed to a large number and range of natural hazards, whereas many of their characteristics make their populations particularly vulnerable to the hazard’s impacts. Specifically populations residing in poorly developed areas within cities, and directly along the coast are likely the first to be affected by the hazard’s impacts with the least resources to protect themselves (poor access to cars, poor housing conditions, limited evacuation routes). The goal of the research is to identify potential shortfalls in disaster preparedness and phrase policy recommendations to protect vulnerable populations.
 
Currently, I am one of the supervisors for an undergraduate research project:

Germany's mega-events

Project Title: Mega Event Bid Legacy in Germany

Funding Source: Provost undergraduate research initiative, Michigan State University

Project Location: Munich, Berlin, Hamburg, Essen, and Hannover.

With the recent referendum that did not pass for the Hamburg Summer Olympic Games in 2024, we investigate the legacy of failed and successful bids for five German cities that have had a chance to host mega events and how the political climate of Germany affected these bids. 


Transport Planning 

Currently, I am the Lead-PI for three Transport projects in Michigan. 
  • Assessing Michigan's Public Transport System (2014-2018)We are conducing a survey with 80 transit agencies across Michigan to assess the current transit system, benchmark it against best practices in the industry, and provide recommendations on how to achieve those.
  • Measuring Customer Satisfaction of Transit Riders (2016-2018)We are measuring customer satisfaction of various transport modes across Michigan.
  • Inter-city travel in Michigan (2018-2019)We are analyzing travel patterns of inter-city riders across Michigan.

I am a also pursuing several other grant opportunities. If you are interested in helping me conduct research, please email me. 

Social Media 

Currently, I am exploring the impact of twitter to sway political discourses of urban development. I use case studies in Boston, MA and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Completed Research Projects (selected)

 

Boston Olympic Bid Planning

Project Title: Olympic bid planning

Funding Source: Salary replacement during sabbatical by Boston 2024 Partnership Inc.

Project Locations: Boston

The goal of my research was to explore how an Olympic Bidding Committee develops plans for the Olympic Games, how it strategizes over site locations, communicates with stakeholders, and deals with anti-opposition movements.


The South Korean Mega-Event Grand Slam

Project Title: Mega-Events and Mega-Ambitions: South Korea’s Rise and the Strategic Use of the Big Four Events

Funding Source: Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore (https://lkyspp.nus.edu.sg/)

Project Locations: Seoul, Taejon, Pyeongchang, and various World Cup cities in South Korean & Japan

The goal of our research (Lead PI: Yu-Min Joo, co-PI: Yooil Bae) was to understand how South Korea's politicians strategically used mega-events to further the country's agenda and strive to global fame. We published our findings.


Rio de Janeiro's legacies of hosting mega-events

Project Title: Urban Impacts of Megaevents: A Case Study of Rio de Janeiro

Funding Source: Provost undergraduate research initiative, Michigan State University

Project Location: Rio de Janeiro

The project examined urban change associated with transportation networks, land use, urban redevelopment, housing, population relocation and social change as affected by megaevents, using a case study of Rio de Janeiro.  Rio de Janeiro is an excellent study for several reasons, including its development status and holding three megaevents in a short period (Olympics 2016, World Cup 2014 and Pan American Games 2007).  Through field observations, document analysis, and interviews, the research identified the influence that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) brought to the urban planning processes employed by Rio de Janeiro, and analyzed the anticipated Olympic and World Cup impacts on Rio’s urban form, function and development. 


Project Title: Global exposure through mega events: tracking big data about the Olympic Games



Pandemics

Project Title: Historical analysis of Pandemic Influenza

Funding Source: National Institute of Health (awarded to S. Chandra)

Project Locations: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh

The goal of our research was to uncover how the influence pandemic of 1918/1919, also called the Spanish flu, evolved, diffused and spread across South-East Asia. Based on our analysis, we also developed a density threshold at which point the virulence of a pandemic should determine evacuations of urban populations. 


Infrastructure Development through Delhi's Commonwealth Games

Project Title: GIS-analysis of infrastructure developments (transport and housing)

Funding Source: Extreme Events Research Group

Project Location: India

The project examined the type and speed of infrastructure development in Delhi in the run-up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games. It also researched implications for urban ecosystems and disadvantaged population groups. 



World Cup

Project Title: World Cup Transport Legacies - the case of South Africa

Funding Source: CASID International Development Grant Program

Center for Advanced Study of International Development (http://casid.isp.msu.edu/)
Project Locations: Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban

The goal of this research is to evaluate the transport legacies the South African FIFA World Cup has brought to the country. South Africa, as the first country on the African continent, has successfully staged the FIFA World Cup 2010. Given that South Africa has been actively pursuing the so called mega-event strategy ((Burbank, Andranovich, & Heying, 2001) = promotion of tourism and fostering economic growth through mega events)), evidenced by the FIFA world cup and repeated bids for the Olympic Games, it is essential for the country to draw valuable lessons for future South African mega-events, so as to leverage their opportunities in a sustainable and climate resilient manner.

 

 

Michigan's High Speed Rail

Project Title: The High Speed Rail between Chicago and Detroit—The road to Michigan’s recovery?

Funding Source: IPPSR recipient of the MAPPR grant

Institute for Public Policy & Social Research (http://www.ippsr.msu.edu/)
Project Locations: Detroit, Dearborn, Ann Arbor, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo

The Midwest Regional Rail Initiative (MMRI) is a plan to implement a high-speed rail network in the Midwestern United States, using Chicago as the hub. Planned routes stretch across Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. A Milestone for Michigan's recovery could be an upgrade to a high-speed railway line of the existing Amtrak route called Wolverine, connecting major Michigan centers, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo to the Midwestern train network. Therefore, Governor J. Granholm announced on August 24th 2009, that Michigan had applied for $832 million in federal stimulus money for a high-speed rail link between Detroit and Chicago. This proposal seeks to explore the expected impacts of the rail route improvements on the community level around rail stations in the top five cities in Michigan expected to draw the most passenger numbers: Detroit, Dearborn, Ann Arbor, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. It will test the expected ridership and identify local incentives on how to increase the ridership and sustain its growth in the long-run. Furthermore, the researchers will explore on how to best leverage the local investments for sustainable communities.

 

City Transformations: the Olympic Games

Project Title: Planning for Mega Events - a Model of Urban Change
Funding Sources: Presidential Fellow MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), IOC fellow (International Olympic Committee), Australian Centre for Olympic Studies at UTS (University of Technology, Sydney) 
Project Locations: Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens

My study is about opportunities for revolutionary developments in urban transport. Often, we think of transport and urban development as an evolutionary process, yet there exist a few opportunities for cities to revolutionize their transport system within a short timeframe of only 10 years. Prime examples for such opportunities are mega events. Based on my hypothesis that mega event owners exercise a decisive influence on urban and transport planning through the requirements they impose on cities, the challenge inherent to leveraging the mega event opportunity is the alignment of transport provisions for staging a world-class event with the metropolitan vision by using the mega event as a tool for desirable change.

In my study I examine the dynamics of the urban-change process in the run-up to mega events by analyzing the potential clash between the event owner’s requirements and the development of transport strategies pursued by four cities, which have hosted the largest mega event of all – the Summer Olympic Games. The Olympic cities in my research are Barcelona (1992), Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000), and Athens (2004). I comparatively analyze the extent to which each city did or did not align the planning of preparations for the mega event with the metropolitan strategies for long-term urban and transport development. Through field observations, document analysis, and interviews, I identify the influences the International Olympic Committee (IOC) brings to the transport planning process of metropolises, analyze the Olympic impacts, and finally propose a causal model linking IOC influences and urban transport outcomes.

I find that the influence of IOC produces a similar pattern of urban and transport change. I explain further why and under what conditions the event requirements can function as catalysts for transport investments, integration of transport systems, upgrades of institutional coordination, and management capacities. If planned effectively, event transport strategies can bring significant long-term enhancement in regional mobility.

Existing theories of urban development do not fully capture the interdependencies among factors operating before, during and after mega events. My research suggests that the IOC is a powerful agent in local urban and transport planning that guides cities towards similar urban change in the run-up to the Olympics. To leverage mega event opportunities for transport, I provide policy recommendations on the alignment of event transport requirements and metropolitan strategy. Given the high investment costs and associated risks, city governments should catalyze their endeavors for improved metropolitan transport through the city’s bid that can ultimately enhance metropolitan transport for users on a daily basis.

 

 
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