Making the Grade: Prof. Yao Receives Great Teacher Award
Professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research
The Society of Columbia Graduates has named Columbia Engineering Professor David Yao the recipient of one of its two Great Teacher Awards.
The Society will present the award to Yao, a professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research, and Cathy Popkin, the Jesse and George Siegel Professor in the Humanities, at the group’s annual dinner Oct. 24 in Low Library. The award has been given annually since 1949 to recognize two great teachers: one from Columbia College and one from Columbia Engineering.
Yao says he is deeply honored by the award.
“I don't see myself as ‘winning’ this award. There must be many of my colleagues who are equally, if not, more deserving of the award.”
The award is given to professors who demonstrate the ability to stimulate, challenge, and inspire students and relate positively to students beyond the classroom. Past recipients from the Engineering School include George Deodatis, Santiago and Robertina Calatrava Family Professor of Civil Engineering; Kathleen R. McKeown, Henry and Gertrude Rothschild Professor of Computer Science; and Shree K. Nayar, T.C. Chang Professor of Computer Science.
Yao says his teaching philosophy includes emphasizing to his students that “learning is more than acquiring knowledge – to pick up new ideas and new perspectives, to develop new ways to approach problems, and to appreciate asking the right question is often much harder than solving a given problem.”
The award adds to Yao’s teaching accolades. In 2009, he received the Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award from the Columbia Engineering Alumni Association.
The Society cited many of Yao’s numerous accomplishments for his selection. Yao holds six U.S. patents in manufacturing operations and supply chain logistics, and has been the principal investigator for numerous grants and contracts from both government and industrial resources. He has authored or co-authored more than 190 scientific publications, books, and edited volumes. His research contributions have been recognized with multiple awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship, an IBM Faculty Award, an IBM Outstanding Technical Achievement Award, and the National Science Foundation's Presidential Young Investigator Award.
Yao has been the principal architect of several academic programs at the Engineering School, including the highly successful master’s degree in financial engineering. His strong commitment to teaching has enabled him to develop and maintain excellent relations with his students both in and out of class.
Yao’s teaching and research interests are in stochastic models, queues, focusing on the analysis, design and control of stochastic systems such as manufacturing systems, supply chains, and communication networks. His strength in these areas has enabled him to do extensive research and consulting work in a highly varied range of applications such as aspects of semiconductor fabrication, inventory and distribution planning, and scheduling and resource management in computer operating systems.
Yao received his Ph.D. in 1983 from the University of Toronto. Shortly thereafter he was appointed an assistant professor at Columbia in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research. From 1986 to 1988, he served as an associate professor at Harvard and returned to Columbia with tenure and promotion to full professor in 1988, attesting to his outstanding qualities as a researcher and teacher.