Engineering the firearm ecosystem: Research on media coverage and firearm acquisition in the aftermath of a mass shooting

Lecture / Panel
For NYU Community

US map made of guns


Maurizio Porfiri, PhD
Institute Professor, Director of Center for Urban Science and Progress
NYU Tandon School of Engineering


Firearm-related harms are a pressing societal problem that imperils America’s health and prosperity. The US leads high-income countries in both firearm homicide and suicide rates, with almost forty thousand firearm-related deaths in 2017, surpassing motor vehicle-related deaths for the first time. Fundamental understanding of the causal relationships among potentially contributing factors, such as firearm prevalence, state legislation, media exposure, and perceptions of firearm safety is needed. In an engineering sense, these factors are linked in complex and dynamic ways.  Prof. Porfiri’s tram investigates the firearm ecosystem on three different scales. On the macroscale, research illuminates cause-and-effect relationships between firearm prevalence and firearm-related harms. On the mesoscale, they explore the ideological, economic, and political landscape underlying state approaches to firearm safety. And on the microscale, his research delves into individual opinions about firearm safety.  He integrates the three scales into a data-driven probabilistic model of the firearm ecosystem to afford predictions of the system evolution.

Prof. Porfiri received M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Engineering Mechanics from Virginia Tech, in 2000 and 2006, respectively. He also earned a “Laurea” in Electrical Engineering (with honors) and a Ph.D. in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from Sapienza University of Rome and the University of Toulon (dual degree program), in 2001 and 2005. He has been on the faculty of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department since 2006, when he founded the Dynamical Systems Laboratory Biomedical  Science. Dr. Porfiri is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). He has served in the Editorial Board of several top-ranking journals in his field, including the ASME Journal of Dynamics systems, Measurements and Control, and the  IEEE Transactions on Network Science and Engineering, Mathematics in Engineering, and Mechatronics. He is the author of over 400 journal publications, including papers in Nature, Nature Human Behaviour, and Physical Review Letters. He was included in the “Brilliant 10” list of Popular Science in 2010 and his research featured in major media outlets, such as CNN, NPR, and Discovery Channel.