For almost 30 years, Vicki Bier’s career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has focused on risk and decision analysis. As a professor of industrial and systems engineering, she has used complex mathematical models to improve nuclear safety and homeland security. She served as department chair for more than five years and has graduated 18 PhD students (thus far).
In 2016, two of those 18 students decided it was time to honor Bier’s contributions to her field with a special conference held in July 2017 in Beijing, China.
Chen (Mavis) Wang, an assistant professor of industrial engineering at Tsinghua University in China, and Jun Zhuang, an associate professor of industrial and systems engineering at the University of Buffalo in New York, organized the International Conference on Risk Analysis, Decision Analysis and Security that Bier kicked off with a keynote lecture.
Half her PhD graduates attended the meeting and eight gave presentations in areas ranging from aviation and railway safety to software reliability. Bier also enjoyed the chance to meet some of her academic grandchildren: those trained by her own former students.
“It was great to learn that I’m having an influence on people I have never even met,” she says. “And I was very happy to hear that many of my students and their trainees are doing important practical work that is making the world a safer place.”