Joint Centers of Excellence Program

Ellen Czaika

Ph.D. Candidate
Engineering Systems Division
Massachusetts Institute of Technology​

Sustainable Infrastructure Planning Systems

Ellen Czaika is a doctoral candidate at MIT in the Engineering Systems Division. She has two masters of science degrees: in engineering and management from MIT (System Design and Management) and in applied statistics from the University of Oxford. Her bachelors of science is in mathematics with honors in physics from Millsaps College. She has worked as a management consultant for 4 years and as a systems engineer and engineering manager for 5 years. Her research interests include negotiation theory and its uses in system design for sustainability, and conflict resolution and collaboration across organizational boundaries.

Ellen’s dissertation research focuses on how models are used in sustainability negotiations, which she is exploring with two additive cases. The first case is the decision support system that the Sustainable Infrastructure Planning System (SIPS) is creating for decision makers in Saudi Arabia to plan the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s future infrastructure. SIPS is one part of a multi-part research program at the Center for Complex Engineering Systems (CCES) at King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and MIT. Ellen is interested in how the stakeholders use models in their collective decisions.

Ellen’s second case is based on the Paper Recovery Alliance’s quest for a more sustainable post-consumer life for used paper coffee cups. Based on this case, Ellen has authored a negotiation role-play simulation game, The Cup Game. The Cup Game is a 5-party negotiation wherein the parties are trying to design a pilot system to test recycling and/or composting paper coffee cups. Ellen is conducting experiments with the Cup Game to explore the impact that using a model has on the parties’ ability to craft an agreement that optimally meets all parties’ interests and on the parties’ ability to meet a sustainability goal.

Ellen attended the international negotiations on the chemical mercury at the UN in Geneva in January 2013. As part of a graduate student team, Ellen spoke with delegates and attended breakout group meetings and plenary sessions. She blogged and tweeted about the experience. See The delegates adopted treaty text, which has been open for signature since a ceremony in Minamata, Japan, in October 2013. The treaty is expected to enter into force around 2017.