About CatModeling Center


“Catastrophe Modeling” (or “CatModeling”) is a science born in the insurance sector to indicate a rigorous probabilistic approach to study natural disasters and their consequences. When insuring against rare events, it is not possible to base premiums on statistics of historical claims, which is how traditional actuarial science operates. Instead, accurate physics-based and mechanistic models integrate the limited available data, while accounting for the uncertainties. Recent trends see CatModeling applied beyond natural disasters, to infrequent events like epidemics, financial crises, and political unrest. The insurance sector plays two crucial roles to support our communities: (1) before disasters occur, it facilitates risk communication, providing immediate monetary value to retrofit and mitigation interventions, in the form of lower premiums or access to more policies; (2) after disasters it is responsible for a growing share of the financial resources that fuel recovery. The sector is experiencing strong growth, and our graduate students with competence in this field are aggressively pursued by the industry. Our team has worked on this topic since 2015, focusing on natural disasters and epidemics, and established a “CatModeling Coordination Network” centered at Lehigh. Through this group, we will (1) continue to advance world-class research on resilience of interdependent infrastructure systems against natural disasters; (2) continue to advance world-class research on CatModeling of epidemics; (3) expand the scientific conversation on insurance equity; and (4) train the workforce of this exploding sector for which there is currently no degree program.

Target of the center

The ultimate goal of the program is to establish an interdisciplinary Catastrophe Modeling Center at Lehigh, a first in the Nation, which will advance this research program in parallel with its educational component. We see a growing interest for this field in industry and academia: our students with these competences are aggressively pursued. The work that we started in past years has given us an advantage over our peer institutions, and the establishment of a recognizable center in this field will offer more visibility to our scientific accomplishments and will allow Lehigh to consolidate its position as a leading university in this topic that we expect to become one of the major areas of interest in the next decade.

Why us

To the best of our knowledge, there is no academic department, degree program, or research center explicitly on CatModeling in the Nation. There are indeed centers focusing on infrastructure resilience or disaster research, but they do not combine probabilistic approach and role of the insurance sector as primary components. Moreover, they tend to focus only on some aspects of the problem: for instance, only on the hazard modeling, or only on the infrastructure risk, or only on the socio-economic consequences. The CatModeling paradigm forces scientists and analysts to embrace a holistic approach and investigate every relevant aspect of the problem. While the academia is developing many building blocks (disaster response optimization, resilience, seismology, epidemiology, etc.), the initiative on connecting the pieces has been almost entirely left in the hands of industry. We want to leverage our expertise at Lehigh and our connections with the top players in the industry to establish the first academic Center on CatModeling, spanning all its aspects, rigorously establishing it as a discipline (across engineering, math, social sciences, computer science, economics, natural sciences, and population health), and pushing its boundaries to applications that start with natural hazards, include health-related threats, and go well beyond, to events like mass migrations and cybersecurity, which are considered major challenges in the insurance sector today

Join Us

Interested in joining our research team? Dr. Bocchini’s group is almost constantly recruiting talented and motivated students, from the USA and any other country. If you are interested, please visit our recruitment page.