Dr. Barbara Minsker Awarded NSF Grant to Address Infrastructure Inequities

Dr. Minsker, along with Dr. Janille Smith-Colin and Dr. Eric Larson, will develop a research and community engagement plan to address infrastructure needs that impact residents’ well-being

Dr. Barbara Minsker researching infrastructure inequities

A team of SMU Lyle researchers have been awarded a one-year, $145,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to address infrastructure inequities in Dallas.

The research team includes Principal Investigator Dr. Barbara Minsker, Bobby B. Lyle Endowed Professor of Leadership and Global Entrepreneurship, along with Co-Principal investigators Dr. Janille Smith-Colin, assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Dr. Eric Larson, associate professor of Computer Science.

“We’re trying to understand how infrastructure affects well-being in neighborhoods,” said Dr. Minsker, a nationally recognized expert in environmental and infrastructure systems analysis. “By gathering data from residents about how they use infrastructure and how it impacts their everyday lives, we can better predict how they’ll be affected by changes to that infrastructure.”

The Smart and Connected Community planning grant will design a smart toolkit that combines crowd-sourced data and ideas, machine learning, social and infrastructure network analysis, agent-based modeling, and community-engaged infrastructure decision making to improve neighborhood equity and well-being.

Residents would also be able to use apps to share feedback about their experiences. The design of the toolkit will be accomplished through workshops, interviews, and focus groups.

“Driving through Dallas, you see people with wheelchairs or moms pushing strollers in the street because sidewalks are not available,” Dr. Minsker said. “In low-income areas, it’s very common to see a busy road running right through the middle of the neighborhood. Historically, residents didn’t have the political power to fight it."

An Infrastructure Dashboard Prototype built by Dr. Minsker and a team of SMU researchers and computer science students, which analyzes neighborhood data to identify infrastructure deserts, will be part of the toolkit. The analysis found 62 infrastructure deserts in Dallas that are deficient in areas such as sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian trails, community gathering places and more. In the toolkit, the Dashboard is expected to evolve to predict how different infrastructure scenarios in neighborhoods may affect those who live there. 

“We want to learn from residents about all the places that are unsafe and how it is affecting their lives,” she said. “These are the stories that will help guide infrastructure investments.”

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Award No. 2332339. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.  



About the Bobby Lyle School of Engineering
SMU's Lyle School of Engineering thrives on innovation that transcends traditional boundaries. We strongly believe in the power of externally funded, industry-supported research to drive progress and provide exceptional students with valuable industry insights. Our mission is to lead the way in digital transformation within engineering education, all while ensuring that every student graduates as a confident leader. Founded in 1925, SMU Lyle is one of the oldest engineering schools in the Southwest, offering undergraduate and graduate programs, including master’s and doctoral degrees.

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