Interview with Jessica Newlin

Where is pyhasse a good tool for? Jessica Newlin is answering questions about her work today and in the past.

Jessica NewlinJessica Newlin

Rainer Brüggemann: What actually are you doing scientifically?

Jessica Newlin: I have several projects going on currently. I have been monitoring a bridge site in detail. This bridge structure was threatened by processes in the stream channel that it was crossing. A mitigation project was implemented in the stream channel to improve the safety of the structure. I am monitoring and modeling the adjusted stream channel processes to determine the success of the mitigation project with a goal of developing improvements for stream channel mitigation design at bridge crossings. I also have started a new project investigating river temperature variation in the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and its tributaries. (This river runs right by the Bucknell University campus where I work.) Water temperature can be a very good indicator of water quality in a watershed system. We are just beginning a major data collection effort for this project, but our goal is to advance the understanding of the interaction of water temperature with surface flow, watershed properties, groundwater influence, and climate. We also hope to collaborate with ecologists, biologists, and resource managers as our findings could have implications for them as well.

Rainer Brüggemann: Is partial order still relevant for you?

Jessica Newlin: While I am not currently using it, I have it as a tool that I do see potential uses for as my research directions progress. As a researcher in river and stream hydraulics, I am investigating network systems and how various properties of the system vary in space and time. In this sense, I am still dealing with multiple-indicator data sets. While some of my work is an effort to understand basic processes and interactions with these systems, I always have an eye toward how our natural and built systems can be maintained for maximum benefit to society and the natural environment. Therefore, prioritization tools are critical for resource management decisions.

Rainer Brüggemann: Even if “no” concerning your answer. You worked successfully about applications of partial order on the stability of bridges. I think this is an extremely good example how partial order can be used instead of deterministic engineering modeling. Am I right?

Jessica Newlin: Correct. The hydraulic stability of bridges crossing streams is a large resource management problem. The success of mitigation procedures has varied and there are too many sites to fix given the limited available resources. As we attempt to continue to move toward building and maintaining more resilient infrastructure while also maintaining a resilient natural environment, ranking of action priorities will continue to be important. I can see similar applications of partial order to the determination of the state of our built and natural environments as well as to the determination of maintenance priorities.

Rainer Brüggemann: Could you briefly explain, why you as an engineer used a partial order approach instead of conventional approaches??

Jessica Newlin: The partial-order approach allowed for more transparency regarding the different aspects that might make the bridge-stream crossing undesirable. Instead of combining an indicator score for all of these aspects into a single index value that is then used to prioritize the bridge-stream crossings, the partial-order approach looked at rankings of the sites based on each of the individual indicators. It was attractive to me to be able to maintain the indicator-level data yet still prioritize sites in terms of which sites needed mitigation. This also allowed additional analyses that would not have been possible if all of the indicator data were combined into a single number.

Rainer Brüggemann: What is your feeling when you are crossing a bridge

Jessica Newline: generally? I’m fine crossing bridges. Where I live in central Pennsylvania, there are only small bridges to cross so you’re not on them long enough to think about it!

Rainer Brüggemann: the bridge in Minnesota, which failed around 2009?

Jessica Newline: I don’t think I’ve ever been on this bridge! But generally, the longer thebridge is – the more relieved I am when I am across to the other side.

Rainer Brüggemann: Imagine you get 1000000 US Dollars for research. What would you like to do?

Jessica Newline: Wow! That is actually a tough question... I would love to be able to continue with large-scale field data collection studies. A large budget for research would enable me to get some of the best equipment and student/post-doc help to collect valuable data. This would free up to much needed time for me to dig into the data analysis portion of the projects and model simulation. I am excited about the data analysis but I spend a lot on my time on the river and in the streams right now. (When the weather is nice, I can’t really complain about that though…!)

Rainer Brüggemann: I’m often asked what is recommendable literature if somebody likes to get first experiences with partial order. Do you have some ideas for recommendations?

Jessica Newlin: I was introduced to the partial order approach when I happened to take Dr. Patil’s course at Penn State University while I was a Ph.D. student. So my most frequently-used reference for basic information is Patil and Taillie (2004), “Multiple indicators, partially-ordered sets, and linear extensions – multi-criterion ranking and prioritization,” Environmental and Ecological Statistics 11, 199-228.

Rainer Brüggemann: Our last workshop about applied partial order in Florence was really nice and motivating. The next workshop will probably be in Luxemburg, 2017. Is there a chance that you can be a participant? The European audience does not know much about your work concerning bridges. Hence, even if you are actually doing research in other fields, it could be very interesting to hear about your successful application.

Jessica Newlin: Thank you for the invitation. I will have to see when the time comes. Juggling family and academic life is full of surprises!

Rainer Brüggemann: We thank for the interview!

Jessica Newlin: Thanks for the opportunity!