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Mathematician and astrophysicist Tamás Budavári, associate professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics, models the universe to understand how galaxies cluster. But in recent years, he’s aimed his expertise at a different problem: Baltimore City’s more than 14,000 vacant and abandoned properties, which attract crime and lead to lower property values.

“One of the things we hope to do is to help city planning and housing officials analyze the history of every property and reconstruct the state of contiguous rowhomes,” Budavári says.

In a recent study published in Journal of Planning Education and Research, he and his team took a different approach: using what he calls “the language of math” to look at what could best improve quality of life in communities affected by blight.

“Instead of focusing only on how to demolish the greatest number of decrepit buildings, our goal was to optimize the happiness of city dwellers, [while working] within a given budget [for the city],” says Budavári.

City officials were part of the study team and will continue to work with Budavári’s team as they expand this novel approach to urban planning to include options that combine demolition with rehabilitation, development, the addition of green spaces, and more.

This story was excerpted from The Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering Magazine. You can read the complete story here.