Professor earns highest honor in the field of decision analysis

// Industrial & Systems Engineering

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Industrial and Systems Engineering Professor Vicki M. Bier has earned the 2016 Frank P. Ramsey Medal from INFORMS Decision Analysis Society (DAS). The award is the highest honor in the field of decision analysis, with only one person winning each year.

The award recognizes Bier’s ability to bridge decision analysis and risk analysis, her analytical mind and practical mindset, and her rigorous answers to problems of great societal importance and impact, such as counterterrorism and nuclear safety.

Bier earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematical sciences from Stanford University in 1976, and her PhD in operations research from MIT in 1983. After working with Pickard, Lowe & Garrick doing risk analysis for the nuclear industry, Bier joined the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering in 1989.

Bier has made a significant impact on the department through her work as chair from 2011-2016, and as director of the Center for Human Performance and Risk Analysis since 1995. During her career, she has supervised 17 doctoral dissertations, and written more than 100 research publications (including four books and edited volumes, and more than 60 journal articles).

Bier is one of the nation’s leading engineering experts on homeland security, having served as a consultant to the Federal Aviation Administration, a special-term appointee in the Infrastructure Assurance Center at Argonne National Laboratory, and a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Committee for the Environmental Protection Agency. Her research lays a theoretical foundation for decisions regarding the allocation of defensive resources.

The Frank P. Ramsey Medal was created to recognize distinguished contributions to the field, including internal contributions, such as theoretical or procedural advances in decision analysis, or external, such as developing or spreading decision analysis in new fields. Throughout her career, Bier has provided many, including accurate application of decision and risk modeling in nuclear safety and risk-benefit analysis, groundbreaking research in homeland security as well as her leadership with INFORMS DAS as a council member, then president-elect, president and past president.

The medal is named in honor of Frank Plumpton Ramsey, a Cambridge University mathematician who was one of the pioneers of decision theory in the 20th century. His 1926 essay, “Truth and Probability” (published posthumously in 1931), anticipated many of the developments in mathematical decision theory later made by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern, Leonard J. Savage, and others. Ramsey medalists are recognized for having made substantial further contributions to that theory and its application to important classes of real decision problems.