The MIT Humanitarian Response Lab develops humanitarian leaders through graduate coursework, practical projects and simulation training. Graduate coursework is concentrated in logistics and supply chain management; and MIT collaborates with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and the Tufts Feinstein International Center to support the broader Humanitarian Studies Initiative. Students in the Response Lab build on coursework by conducting relevant research projects for companies, NGOs and governmental bodies. Finally, MIT actively facilitates simulation training with organizations like the UN Logistics Cluster.

The MIT Humanitarian Response Lab has a passion for placing students in the field and putting ideas into practice. Each course incorporates guest speakers and exercises drawn from field experience; and the Response Lab strives to connect students with internships and other field-based engagements. All research projects involve partners from the government, NGO and or private sectors; and researchers remain involved with partners through implementation challenges. Finally, the Response Lab aims to build capacity within the MIT community to play a productive role in supporting response actions.


MIT 4.270, Innovation for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief

4.270, a new interdisciplinary course, explores innovative solutions for disaster relief and preparedness through both design and engineering.  Case studies and interactive exercises are used to provide an overview of large-scale disaster relief issues, including response communities, operating environments, logistics and technical challenges.  Projects will be developed through case studies and hands-on design exercises, emphasizing the importance of system-oriented, sustainable design.  Technical topics will include sensing, communications, power systems, and data analysis.  We will also incorporate special experts from relevant relief organizations such as the US’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Red Cross. (Open to graduate and undergraduate students.)

MIT SCM.283, Humanitarian Logistics

SCM.283 explores how logistics management principles apply when responding to humanitarian crises. After an overview of humanitarian operations, class sessions dive into the strategies, technologies, and management approaches organizations use for effective logistics performance. Class sessions combine interactive presentations, case discussions, and guest speakers. All students participate in a team project that utilizes data and information directly from sources such as the UN, U.S. government, and NGOs. (Open to students from MIT, Harvard, and Tufts.) 

MITx Online Course

CTL.SC2x Supply Chain Design covers all aspects involved in the design of supply chains for companies and organizations anywhere in the world. The course is divided into four main topic areas: Physical flow design, Supply chain finance, Information flow design, and Organization/Process design. 

MIT Independent Study Credits

Graduate and undergraduate students receive credit for participating in Response Lab projects. One team of students, for example, worked together to support a U.S. government sponsored needs assessment following the Haiti earthquake.

Harvard Humanitarian Studies Initiative

The Humanitarian Studies Initiative is a two-week seminar for graduate students in essential crisis management skills. The MIT Humanitarian Response Lab provides the logistics curriculum for the course and facilitates logistics meetings during an immersive, weekend simulation. For more information, please visit the Harvard Humanitarian Academy and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

MIT Degree and Research Programs

Supply Chain Management (M.Eng., 1 year)

Students in MIT’s 10 month Supply Chain Management graduate program may focus their research on supply chain issues in the humanitarian sector. For example, students have written theses on the optimal warehouse design for aid organizations, how to measure the effectiveness of disaster relief efforts, and how to implement supply chain management software within the humanitarian sector.

Technology and Policy (S.M., 2 years)

Students in MIT's Technology and Policy graduate program haved focused their research on issues in the humanitarian sector. To complete their degree program, students are required to have technical depth (e.g. supply chains, optimization, networks) and a domain of application (e.g. relief, development).

Supply Chain and Logistics (Ph.D.)

Students in the Supply Chain and Logistics doctoral program, as offered by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, can focus their research on various aspects of engineering systems, supply chain management, and operations research in application to resource constrained settings. 

Post-Doctoral Research

The Lab has hosted various post-doctoral researchers and fellows pursuing research in conjunction with the stated aims of the group. Researchers and fellows have proposed new projects, and joined existing projects.

International Collaborations

UN Logistics Cluster Training

The MIT Humanitarian Response Lab participates in the Logistics Cluster's Logistics Response Team (LRT) Training, when available. The LRT is run by the United Nations World Food Programme for logisticians from various humanitarian organizations. The LRT training is a week-long simulated emergency designed to build experience and strengthen partnerships among emergency response professionals. MIT researchers have helped to facilitate the training, playing roles, running exercises, and -- most importantly -- learning from the other participants and from the training itself.

MIT Global SCALE Network

The MIT Global SCALE (Supply Chain and Logistics Excellence) Network is an international alliance of research centers dedicated to the development and dissemination of global innovation in supply chain and logistics. The SCALE-affiliated Zaragoza Logistics Center in Spain, has run a graduate course in humanitarian and global health supply chains, and supports research groups in both humanitarian logistics and global health supply chains.