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Urban Planning Professor becomes NSF Fellow

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

LAWRENCE — Ward Lyles, assistant professor of urban planning, has been selected as a Fellow for the Enabling the Next Generation of Hazards & Disasters Researchers Program. The program is funded by the National Science Foundation and is intended to foster the development of scholars who research natural and manmade hazards.

Hazards and disasters research is a critical field of inquiry with major implications for reducing losses of life and damages to property in communities in Kansas and beyond, as well as promoting long-term sustainability and resilience. The importance of the wide field – which spans disciplines as diverse as psychology, engineering, sociology and public administration – is only magnified as communities grapple with the effects of climate change.

“My research seeks to understand how local communities can be more proactive and effective in reducing their risks from hazards like floods, droughts and heat waves,” Lyles said. “We know that steering development out of high-hazard areas like floodplains is the most promising long-term approach to reducing risks. But we need to better understand how to build local capacity and commitment to using land-use planning approaches to create safe development patterns.”

Each of the fellows in the program is paired with two mentors who help advance the fellows’ efforts to produce and disseminate innovative research and to apply for and secure external research funding. Lyles’ mentors are Samuel Brody, professor and George P. Mitchell Chair in Sustainable Cities at Texas A&M University Galveston Campus – and a former fellow in the program — as well as Lori Peek, associate professor and co-director of the Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis (CDRA) at Colorado State University.

“Enabling the Next Generation of Hazards & Disasters Researchers Fellowship Program fosters the development of the brightest hazards scholars who will become the future leaders of the field,” Brody said. “Dr. Lyles was selected from a fiercely competitive field of applicants. He is an ideal candidate, and there is no doubt in my mind that he will one day lead the field of planning as it applies to natural hazards, resiliency and sustainability.”

The fellowship will enhance Lyles' teaching by increasing his own knowledge base of hazards and disasters research from an interdisciplinary perspective. It holds the potential to benefit student learning by further deepening opportunities for students to engage with application-oriented problems that are both timely and relevant to communities in Kansas.

Before joining KU as an assistant professor in 2013, Lyles earned his doctorate from the University of North Carolina from the Department of City and Regional Planning in August of 2012. Previously, he graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison with a master's degree in land resources and from Middlebury College with a bachelor's degree in geology.


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