Tessa Swanson

she/her/hers · PhD Student · Industrial and Operations Engineering · University of Michigan

I am a PhD student advised by Dr. Seth Guikema in the Industrial and Operations Engineering department at the University of Michigan. I research methods to model complex systems for understanding and addressing urban resilience, particularly via transportation applications. I believe equitable access to opportunities and resources is key to climate change adaptation, disaster mitigation, and sustainability. I seek to evaluate and design infrastructure solutions that address disparities in access to enable resilient communities.

In addition to the IOE department, I am enrolled in the Urban Informatics certificate program through the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Prior to arriving at Michigan, I worked for two years as a transportation planning consultant for Steer, Inc. in Boston, MA. I received my undergraduate degree from the Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences department at Northwestern University in 2016.


University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Doctor of Philosophy
Industrial and Operations Engineering

Graduate Certificate in Urban Informatics

August 2018 - July 2023 (expected)

Northwestern University

Bachelor of Science
Industrial Engineering & Management Sciences

Minors in Religious Studies and Transportation & Logistics

September 2012 - June 2016


An Open Data Approach to Analyzing Healthcare Access

URP 535: Urban Informatics

Accessibility involves not only reasonable travel time between places, but the availability of services when demanded within that reasonable travel time. When it comes to healthcare, this demand can be recurring or urgent and lack of access puts patients at risk. This project seeks to present a more holistic approach for identifying areas with poor access to healthcare based both on the supply of healthcare provision and the ability to reach that provision for the Detroit metropolitan area. OpenTripPlanner's routing tool enables large scale travel time evaluation by travel mode between origins and health care providers, the locations of which are available through the CMS National Provider Index Database. Using these openly available resources as well as Texas A&M University Geoservices for all geocoding, this project will assess Detroit MSA populations' access to healthcare providers by evaluating the ratio of providers to population at varying time intervals. This access metric will be evaluated by travel mode to show how access differs for drivers versus transit-dependent populations.

September 2019 - December 2019

Volunteer Engagement in the Age of Analytics

A Case Study with the American Red Cross, Greater Chicago Region

Working in the Humanitarian Logistics lab at Northwestern University under Professor Karen Smilowitz, I developed a partnership for supporting operations at the American Red Cross in Greater Chicago. In my first few months of research, I immersed myself in the organization’s disaster response processes and data, which empowered me to identify improved volunteer engagement as a strategy to increase disaster response rates. I initiated an innovative human-centered approach to detect metrics for better response outcomes. These metrics involved descriptive analytics for measuring engagement based on sparse and disparate data sources, from which I developed quantitative methods for balancing conflicting objectives of the organization to serve both clients and volunteers. I designed models that could predict volunteers’ responses, indices for reliability, and a dynamic scheduling platform to incorporate these algorithms with the volunteer user interface. This research culminated in a presentation at the INFORMS 2014 annual meeting as a finalist in the Doing Good with Good Operations Research student paper competition, where my team won second place, competing primarily against Ph.D. students. I am most proud of the partnership I cultivated between Northwestern and the Red Cross, continued through the interdisciplinary course “Analytics for Social Good” taught by Professor Smilowitz, which offers opportunities for students to learn tools for implementing creative ideas for social impact.

June 2013 - December 2014

Leadership & Service

Awards & Recognition

  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow - 2018-2021
  • Young Professionals Travelling Fellow - IEEE Intelligent Transportation Systems Conference, Auckland, New Zealand - 2019
  • IEMS Department Award - Northwestern University McCormick School of Engineering - 2016
  • 2nd Place - Doing Good with Good OR Student Paper Competition - INFORMS, San Francisco, CA - 2014
  • Murphy Scholar - Northwestern University McCormick School of Engineering - 2012-2016


Hobbies include (but are not limited to) skiing, walking around cities, running in the woods, sitting in public libraries, live music, not-too-hot yoga, data visualization (maps!), listening to podcasts, backpacking, reading fiction, sharing movies, playing viola, & making playlists with friends 🙃.