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Cynthia Chen

Faculty Photo

Interim Chair of Industrial & Systems Engineering

Civil & Environmental Engineering

Industrial & Systems Engineering


Cynthia Chen is an internationally renowned scholar in transportation science and directs the THINK (Transportation-Human Interaction and Network Knowledge) lab at the UW. The work at THINK lab is at the intersection of human behavior and the system within which individuals and businesses operate. More specifically, THINK lab research unpacks complexities found at different scales of an urban system from micro-level individual behaviors, to meso-scale interactions formed as the result of individual behaviors, and to macro-scale system behaviors that propagate through a single network or multiple networks. Cynthia has published over 60 peer-reviewed publications in leading journals in transportation and systems engineering including Transportation Research Part A-F and Omega, as well as interdisciplinary journals such as PNAS. Her research has been supported by federal agencies such as NSF, NIH, APAR-E, NIST, USDOT, and FHWA as well as state and regional agencies. Cynthia served a two-year assignment from 2017-19 as the Program Director of Civil Infrastructure Systems, CMMI (Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation) division with the National Science Foundation. She is an associate director of TOMNET (Center for Teaching Old Models New Tricks), a USDOT-funded Tier 1 University Transportation Center led by ASU. She is also an associate editor of two leading journals: Transportation Science, and Service Science and is on the editorial board of Sustainability Analytics and Modeling. 


  • Ph.D., University of California, Davis
  • M.S., New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • B.A., Nan Kai University, China

Previous appointments

  • City College of New York

Research Statement

The THINK (Transportation-Human Interaction and Network Knowledge) Lab, directed by Cynthia Chen, studies the sustainability and resilience of a city through the lens of human beings interacting with the physical environment. We generate new knowledge and insights for use in city planning, infrastructure development and policy design. Our research results facilitate real-time disaster response and recovery efforts. Our work is highly interdisciplinary, drawing on the latest methods and ideas in disciplines from social and natural sciences to engineering.