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Adapting in the Face of Failure: What is Resilience Engineering?

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How do we plan for a future that we cannot predict? 

This critical question is ever-present in the mind of a resilience engineer. In a world that seems to face constant threats to our major systems, we look to resilience engineers to ensure their regular function following a failure. Resilience engineering is about how a system recovers and performs, not solely how it stays safe.

All major systems like healthcare, infrastructure and manufacturing are susceptible to accidents, disasters or other events that cause malfunction. It’s the job of the resilience engineer to adapt in the face of failure. Let’s first begin by unpacking the definition of resilience engineering. 

What is Resilience Engineering? 

Resilience engineering “emphasizes improving a system’s capability to bounce back from disruptive events quickly to offer a desired level of performance after the disruption.

Differing from reliability engineers who focus on keeping systems functioning cost-effectively and safely in their lifespan, resilience engineers focus on ensuring systems function correctly before and after changes or disturbances. 

By recognizing that not all random events are preventable, resilience engineers look to mitigate the consequences of undesirable events, rather than trying to prevent them. Take, for example, occurrences of natural disasters. Their adverse impacts are massive, yet unpredictable. Resilience engineering then seeks to build and modify systems so that they can recover in a timely fashion and return to optimal performance after a natural disaster. 

What Does a Resilience Engineer Do? 

As mentioned previously, resilience engineers are needed across a variety of sectors. There are three strategies in practice that resilience engineers are concerned with: 

  1. Preparedness
  2. Timely response
  3. Rapid recovery 

Resilience engineers focus on building resilience frameworks and strategies for their organizations and businesses. They must be data-driven and possess great attention to detail. 

Because of the specialized nature of resilience engineering, professionals in the field can hold several unique job titles. Below are a few examples of careers resilience engineers can pursue:

1. Disaster Recovery Engineer

Disaster recovery engineers formulate disaster recovery plans for organizations or businesses that ensure the functionality of operations in the event of a disaster. They regularly test and evaluate backup systems to ensure optimal functioning. 

Average salary: $100,649 

2. Climate Resilience Engineer

Climate resilience engineers conduct risk assessments for climate-related hazards including floods, wind, heat, sea level changes and other various climate change factors. As a part of the risk framework, climate resilience engineers also formulate hazard analysis and vulnerability analysis for the systems they oversee.

Average salary: $108,524

3. Flood Resilience Engineer

Similar to a climate resilience engineer, flood resilience engineers focus on optimizing infrastructure to withstand and perform optimally in the event of a flood. They are often charged with maintaining building codes and standards proposals that focus on flood hazards. 

Average salary: $86,088

Find Your Niche in Resilience Engineering at Vanderbilt 

Vanderbilt School of Engineering’s master of engineering in Risk, Resilience and Reliability prepares professionals to enter the diverse field with the knowledge and skill sets to address, prevent and account for failure head-on. 

Uniquely designed to develop expertise and leadership in making informed decisions that properly account for uncertainty and risk, Vanderbilt University’s M.Eng. in Risk, Reliability and Resilience (RRR) engineering trains innovators in the cutting-edge methodologies to enhance quality, efficiency, safety, security and environmental protection. 

Learn more about the expanding field of resilience engineering in our interactive resource: The Future of Risk Analysis, Risk Engineering, and Risk Management

Want to hear more about our expanding program? Request more information to get in touch with our graduate admissions team. 

Keep reading about this expanding field —
The Future of Risk Analysis, Risk Engineering, and Risk Management: Machine Learning, Uncertainty Analysis, and Digital Twins.

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