Dr. Fred S. Roberts, CCICADA Director

FredRobertsFRED S. ROBERTS is a Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at Rutgers University, where he is a member of seven graduate faculties, in Computer Science, Mathematics, Operations Research, Computational Molecular Biology, Quantitative Biomedicine, Industrial and Systems Engineering, and Education.

He has served as Director of CCICADA since its founding in 2009, and previously served as Director of the Center for Dynamic Data Analysis (DyDAn), the predecessor DHS University Center of Excellence to CCICADA, from 2006 to 2009. CCICADA is a US Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence that uses multidisciplinary methods of advanced data analysis, simulations, mathematical modeling, and information-driven decision making to address natural and manmade threats to safety and security.

In January 1996, Roberts was named the Director of DIMACS, the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science. DIMACS, with administrative offices at Rutgers, was founded as one of the original National Science Foundation Science and Technology Centers and is a joint academic-industry partnership with 15 partner organizations and over 325 affiliated scientists. Roberts served as DIMACS Director until September 2011, when he became Emeritus Director and Senior Advisor. He led DIMACS to an international reputation in such areas as mathematical epidemiology, computational molecular biology, algorithmic decision making, and data science in homeland security, in addition to enhancing its traditional stature in discrete mathematics and theoretical computer science.

Roberts is a former member of the Board on Mathematical Sciences and Applications of the National Academies, and a former member of National Science Foundation advisory committees on International Research and Education, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, and Environmental Research and Education. He has been on the Steering Committee for the World-Wide Program Mathematics of Planet Earth and the Scientific Advisory Committee to the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). He helped create and co-chaired the NJ Universities Homeland Security Research Consortium and served on the Secretary’s epidemiology modeling group at the Department of Health and Human Services, the NJ Governor’s Health Emergency Preparedness Advisory Council, and the NJ Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force Planning Group.

Roberts is the author of four books, editor of 25 additional books, and author of more than 210 scientific articles. His work deals with a wide variety of topics, including mathematical models in the social, biological, environmental, and epidemiological sciences, and of problems of communication, transportation, and homeland security; utility, decision making, and social choice; sustainability; the theory of measurement; socially responsible algorithms; data science; applications of combinatorics and graph theory; and precollege education.

Roberts’ first book, Discrete Mathematical Models, with Applications to Social, Biological, and Environmental Problems (1976), has been called a classic in the field, and was translated into Russian in 1986. It reflected his interests in applications of mathematics to the social sciences, to environmental problems, and to the life sciences – all interests that have continued throughout his career. His second book, Graph Theory and its Applications to Problems of Society (1978), continued his emphasis on the uses of mathematics to address critical problems facing our planet. Measurement Theory, with Applications to Decisionmaking, Utility, and the Social Sciences (1979), arose from Roberts’ interests in mathematical psychology, and in particular the foundations of measurement in areas such as preference, utility, and noise. This book, widely considered the most readable introduction to the theory of measurement, was republished in 2009. Applied Combinatorics, originally published in 1984, explores graph theory, counting, combinatorial designs, combinatorial optimization, and other topics, with a unique emphasis on applications of these topics. It has been updated, rewritten, and expanded several times, including 2009 and 2023, and translated into Chinese. His recent edited books include the first book on maritime cyber security, Issues in Maritime Cyber Security, in 2017, a book on Mathematics of Planet Earth in 2019, a book on Resilience in the Digital Age in 2021, and a 2022 book Mathematics for Action: Supporting Science-based Decision-making, emphasizing the use of mathematical tools to address the 17 United Nations sustainable development goals. This last book has been translated into French with a Vietnamese translation under way.

In homeland security, Dr. Roberts has worked on stadium and large venue security, resource allocation, cyber security, container inspection, sensor management for nuclear detection, transit security, early warning of disease outbreaks, behavioral and other responses to natural and human-caused disasters, supply chains, and the homeland security aspects of global environmental change. He has worked with DHS components such as the Coast Guard, CBP, FEMA, CISA, TSA, and USCIS, with other federal agencies such as DOT, HHS, and CDC, and with state, local, and regional agencies such as NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, NJ Transit, NJ State Police, NJ Department of Health, and Port Authority of NY/NJ.

Roberts-led projects on stadium and large venue security prepared best practices that are on the DHS website and have been widely used by venues in the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, NHL, MLS and other professional sports leagues. The research produced new results about use of walkthrough metal detectors in real-life venue situations that led to modifications in NIST WTMD standards; led to invitations to give a lecture to an NFL-wide Security Summit and to make a presentation at a Big Ten Emergency Management and Special Events Conference involving league security directors; and an invitation to provide testimony at a Congressional hearing on stadium security after Super Bowl XLVIII. He directed pioneering work on maritime cyber security, which led to the first major conference and first book on that topic, a joint university-Coast Guard initiative on it, and an invitation to give a keynote lecture at a NATO conference. He put together a large team that prepared a ground-breaking simulation of the world’s busiest bus terminal, the Port Authority bus terminal in New York City, that is usable for planning and decision making about crowd management and emergency evacuation. Roberts worked with the Coast Guard to develop new tools for assignment of boats and aircraft to boat and air stations, and this work led to saving the Coast Guard an estimated $120M over a 20-year period. It also led to a “best paper award” for a joint university-Coast Guard article. When the COVID pandemic hit, Roberts developed and led a DHS University Centers of Excellence Initiative on supply chains during COVID, including a series of eight workshops. That in turn led him to direct a series of projects on modeling and simulation of disruptions to supply chains in information and communications technology, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, solar arrays for communication satellites, and the maritime domain, and the study of mitigations to lower the impact of disruptions. The maritime disruptions project led to another best paper award.

Among his honors and awards, Professor Roberts has been the recipient of a University Research Initiative Award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Commemorative Medal of the Union of Czech Mathematicians and Physicists, and the Distinguished Service Award of the Association of Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computation Theory. He is a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society. He also received the NSF Science and Technology Centers Pioneer Award in a ceremony at NSF and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Paris-Dauphine.

See Roberts’ web page

Live Science interview with Roberts