Taking on Global Challenges with Game-Changing Technologies.

Disaster Lab supports the development, demonstration, and deployment of innovative technologies that solve the biggest problems the world faces today. From climate-related disasters, pandemics, novel energy solutions, and beyond - we get these technologies in front of potential adopters and collaborators in order to move the ball forward.

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Renewable Energy

Innovations in renewables, energy storage, and energy mobility continue to emerge from the private sector and labs throughout UC Berkeley and around the world. Disaster Lab aids in the testing, integration, and adoption of world-changing energy technology in collaboration with end-users and experts.

Disaster Lab is currently assessing energy storage technologies,  mobile options for energy generation on the go, and energy monitoring systems needed to build a more resilient power grid.

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Energy Technology Development Projects

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Sustainable Development

Disaster Lab recognizes the growing need for housing, construction, and improvements to our infrastructure across California and the world. We believe that this development should be done sustainably, equitably, and be designed to be resilient in response to a changing climate and the increased frequency of natural disasters.

We work with developers, constructors, startups, and researchers to advise and evaluate innovative methods and tools that change the way the world thinks about the future of infrastructure.

Construction Materials and Technology Projects


PEER-UC Berkeley Lab

Disaster Lab is facilitating research projects in partnership with Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center to find new applications for upcycling recyclable materials, such as expanded polystyrene.

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Fire Resistant Building Materials

As fire risk continues to grow, Disaster Lab studies and advocates for the utilization of the best available materials for infrastructure to protect families, communities, and property from the threat of fire.


Gridware and Powerlines

Gridware is deploying a powerline integrity monitor on power poles in high fire-risk areas in the United States. We facilitate research and data collection opportunities for their technology team.

100506-N-6070S-819 Gulf of Mexico (May 6, 2010) -- Dark clouds of smoke and fire emerge as oil burns during a controlled fire in the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. Coast Guard working in partnership with BP PLC, local residents, and other federal agencies conducted the "in situ burn" to aid in preventing the spread of oil following the April 20 explosion on Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit Deepwater Horizon. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Stumberg/Released)

Pollution and Remediation

Disaster Lab leads environmental remediation and habitat restoration for industrial, residential, agricultural, and coastal sites.

At its core, our goal is to assist, support, and enable the recovery of areas that have been degraded, damaged, or destroyed due to natural or man-made disasters, ultimately, preventing further pollution and degradation of our environment. Disaster Lab does this work in collaboration with researchers, governments, and innovative technology companies focused on this space.

Environmental and Ecology Projects 


FIRE Foundry 

Dr. Azwell is a founder of the FIRE Foundry program. The program’s objective is to establish a science and technology-savvy, community-oriented wildfire prevention workforce, by providing job training and skills development for underserved, underrepresented, and underfunded community members in Marin County and the surrounding Bay Area. Recruits that need full-time work carry out defensible space work with Marin Fire and Conservation Corps North Bay.

FIRE Foundry is currently in its pilot year and is preparing for the second cohort of soon-to-be firefighters to kick off their own path to a sustainable wage career in fire service.

Deploying Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV) in Tubbataha Reefs National Park, Boracay Island, and Bolinao

Tubbataha Reef National Park is a nature reserve and no-take Marine Protected Area in the Sulu Sea.  Coral reef health in the reserve has declined over the past three decades due to dynamite fishing, cyanide fishing, and collection of desirable aquarium fish, along with damage from the casting of large anchors (White and Palaganas, 1991).  While the reef system’s remote location reduces coastal externalities, its distance from land means that it is more difficult to monitor and protect, and there are limitations on the Tubbataha Management Office’s ability to effectively monitor and prevent violations of MPA policies.

Disaster Lab works with the University of the Philippines and the Philippine-California Advanced Research Institutes in order to utilize USVs for environmental monitoring and maritime surveillance in the marine park.

Obtain high-resolution spatial and temporal data of physicochemical parameters during the dry and wet months of the year, specifically:

a. Characterize surface water properties and circulation patterns within the park especially during off-season months

b. Demonstrate surveillance capabilities of ASV by performing regular transects of Jessie Beazley Reef.

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Disaster Technology: Creating Innovative Solutions to Environmental Change


In this course, students will learn about how innovative technologies are used to detect, prevent, and manage environmental disasters, such as those used to detect and mitigate wildfires. Students will learn about the technology gaps that exist at every level of disaster response, and how new solutions can help experienced individuals from industry, government, and beyond become more effective at preventing and managing disasters. By understanding the stakeholders, end-users, and problems involved, students will utilize the Berkeley Method of Entrepreneurship and Lean Methodology to ideate and innovate potential solutions.

Portrait of Dr. Thomas Azwell

Disaster Lab is led by:

Dr. Thomas Azwell

Dr. Azwell is an experienced research professional with a Master's in Science Education and a Doctorate in Environmental Science from the University of California, Berkeley.  He is skilled in corporate sustainability, technology innovation, and entrepreneurship, environmental remediation, and restoration.

Dr. Azwell's work gives students, researchers, and faculty the opportunity to collaborate with industry experts to ideate and innovate new technical solutions to solving some of the world's most pressing environmental problems.

Lab Manager for Disaster Lab:

Sukh Singh

Sukh leads the demonstration and independent evaluation of tech-related to the detection, mitigation, and remediation of disasters. He also manages Innovation Challenges - opportunities for student teams to tackle technology gaps identified by first responders with mentorship from industry partners for the lab.

Sukh is also on the development team for the FIRE Foundry, a workforce development program built in collaboration with Marin County and Marin Fire Department focused on bringing underrepresented groups into fire service careers. At FIRE Foundry, he has the pleasure of preparing the next generation of firefighters and creating opportunities for them to master state-of-the-art tools and technology that will be integral as they ascend in their careers.

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Visiting Scholars

Disaster Lab works with the world’s leading researchers, faculty, and labs in order to prepare independent evaluations for various technologies having to do with disaster detection, tracking, mediation, and response.

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Joshua Dimon Ph.D

Josh has experience across the globe in documenting and tackling the inequities caused by climate change and large energy projects that lack oversight.  He focused his PhD research at UC Berkeley on these questions in the context of Mozambique and Bangladesh.


Kaitie Penry

Kaitie is the University Program Director for the National Security Innovation Network. Kaitie leads NSIN projects and brings Department of Defense opportunities to students at Cal and universities across Northern California.

Research Affiliates

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Michael Gollner Ph.D

Michael is faculty in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Cal. He leads the Fire Research Lab where his team tackles an array of problems having to do with fire science and combustion.

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Alasdair Cohen Ph.D

Alasdair is faculty in the Environmental & Water Resources Engineering Program at Virginia Tech, and serves as Research Director for the Berkeley/China/Virginia Tech Program for Water & Health.

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Ritwik Gupta

Ritwik serves as Principal AI Scientist at the Defense Innovation Unit where his research is focused on efficient machine learning for humanitarian assistance and disaster response. He's currently pursuing a Ph.D at UC Berkeley.

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Alice Agogino Ph.D

Mechanical Engineer, Product Design Concentration Founder, and Head Advisor, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.

Research Assistants

Disaster Lab also works with talented UC Berkeley students to facilitate the creative processes and innovations happening within the lab.

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Kyle Zhao

Kyle studies Chemistry at UC Berkeley and works as a Research Assitant at the Disaster Lab. Kyle utilizes technologies such as high-performance liquid chromatography and NMR spectroscopy to prepare, analyze, and study plant-based therapeutics.

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