Industrial engineering, operations research, and systems engineering are fields of study intended for individuals who are interested in analyzing and formulating abstract models of complex systems with the intention of improving system performance. Unlike traditional disciplines in engineering and the mathematical sciences, the fields address the role of the human decision-maker as key contributor to the inherent complexity of systems and primary benefactor of the analyses.
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Valerie Thomas is the Anderson Interface Professor of Natural Systems in the School of Industrial & Systems Engineering, with a joint appointment in the School of Public Policy.
Dr. Thomas's research interests are energy and materials efficiency, sustainability, industrial ecology, technology assessment, international security, and science and technology policy. Current research projects include the environmental impacts of biofuels and electricity system policy and planning. Dr. Thomas has been invited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy to serve as a member of the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee. From 2004 to 2005, she was the American Physical Society Congressional Science Fellow. Dr. Thomas was a Member of the U.S. EPA Science Advisory Board from 2003 to 2009, and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and of the American Physical Society.
From 1986 to 1989, she was a post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. From 1989 to 2004, she was a Research Scientist at Princeton University, in the Princeton Environmental Institute and in the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies, and was a Lecturer in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Dr. Thomas received a B. A. in physics from Swarthmore College and a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Cornell University.