Professor David D. Yao Elected to the National Academy of Engineering

David D. Yao, the Piyasombatkul Family Professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), one of the highest professional distinctions awarded to an engineer. Yao was cited for his leading scholarship and research of stochastic systems and their applications in engineering and service operations. Announced Feb. 5, the NAE has elected 67 new members and 12 foreign members, bringing its total U.S. membership to 2,263 and foreign members to 221.

—Photo by Eileen Barroso

"I am deeply grateful for the kindness and generosity of many colleagues at Columbia and elsewhere in helping me throughout my career," said Yao. "Much as I feel extremely honored by this election, I am also profoundly humbled by the very thought of being part of an institution of men and women whose monumental achievements and accomplishments—like those of many at Columbia Engineering, current and past—I always look up to in awe."

NAE membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice, or education, including significant contributions to the engineering literature, and to the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education.

“I was delighted to learn that David’s significant contributions in stochastic systems have been recognized by the National Academy of Engineering,” said Mary C. Boyce, Dean of Engineering and Morris A. and Alma Schapiro Professor. “His work in complex networks and optimization has been ground-breaking and widely applied in many industries. This is a well-deserved honor and we are all immensely proud of his achievement.”

Yao is a leading researcher and scholar in stochastic systems and applied probability, focusing on resource control and risk management issues in application areas such as health care, financial services, and supply chains. 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. He is a fellow of the Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences and of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, as well as chair of the Data Science Institute's Center for Financial and Business Analytics. Yao has received multiple awards from IBM, including the Outstanding Technical Achievement Award and IBM Faculty Award.

In 2012, Yao was named the inaugural holder of the Piyasombatkul Family Professorship of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research. A Guggenheim Fellow and a recipient of the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation, Yao joined Columbia Engineering in 1983 after earning his PhD in industrial engineering 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, the Society of Columbia Graduates, in 2012, awarded Yao with a Great Teachers Award.

Yao joins Dean Boyce and many other Columbia Engineering colleagues who are NAE members; most recently elected, Professors Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic (Biomedical Engineering) in 2012 and Mihalis Yannakakis (Computer Science) in 2011.

—by Melanie A. Farmer

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