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Management Science and Engineering
Summer 2023 Newsletter
MS&E's strategic direction
Since its inception, MS&E has been an interdisciplinary department. This newsletter describes how we’re conceptualizing the department’s work, and how our research tackles societal problems.
In this issue:
 • Research themes
 • Stories & voices
 • Awards & recognition

Explore articles, podcasts, videos, and more in this issue of the MS&E Newsletter.
Our lead story: MS&E's four research themes
During a recent round of strategic planning, one faculty member remarked how MS&E is unique in academia. While a typical academic department is organized around the disciplines of its faculty, he said, MS&E is organized around societal problems—regardless of the disciplinary approaches used to solve them.

In light of that unique quality, MS&E identified four overlapping themes that our research addresses:
  • AI and data science
  • Computational social science
  • The future of organizing
  • Informing policy decisions
The themes often intersect and span multiple research areas within the department, a nod to our interdisciplinary strength. Below, we explore the themes and share examples of work happening within them.
Four overlapping research themes | Image by Jim Fabry
Artificial intelligence and data science
A majority of MS&E faculty conduct research that intersects with AI, machine learning, and/or data science. Ben Van Roy, for example, is a leading expert in reinforcement learning, a core element of modern AI (he spoke on the topic at Reunion last fall).

Other faculty like Aaron Sidford specialize in optimization, which is fundamental to machine learning. Several are involved in Stanford’s data science initiative, as well as the Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI).

The work of MS&E alums exemplifies this theme as well. Eric Horvitz (PhD '90) recently examined the safety and accuracy of GPT-4 in a clinical care setting. He also gave a Tanner Lecture on AI and human values. More philosophically, Ralf Seifert (PhD '00) wrote about why the so-called “4th Industrial Revolution” has been slow to start.
Computational social science (CSS)
Showcasing our interdisciplinary strength, CSS refers to the study, design, and deployment of algorithms in social systems. This theme often overlaps with others, particularly AI & data science, but places particular emphasis on the interface between such technologies and the people, institutions, and organizations they impact.

Take, for example, Ashish Goel’s work on deliberative democracy. When 700 California residents gathered virtually to deliberate policy choices in depth, their deliberations took place on the Stanford Online Deliberation Platform, designed by Goel and his team. As a testament to the interdisciplinary nature of CSS, this work also fits into the themes of AI and informing policy decisions.

In another project, Ramesh Johari recently co-authored a study of how to reduce the societal costs of traffic by gathering data on driver behavior, trip attributes, and drivers' tolerance for commuting, which could then be used to optimize pricing.
The future of organizing
This theme encompasses many aspects of organizing and specifically focuses on increasingly digital and algorithmically-infused organizing.

Faculty like Arvind Karunakaran and Melissa Valentine study the impact of technological change in organizations. A forthcoming paper by Karunakaran, along with Hatim Rahman (PhD '19) and Tim Weiss (a former postdoctoral scholar in MS&E), examines experimentation on gig workers. Meanwhile, Valentine spent this year as the first-ever HAI sabbatical scholar and discussed her research on AI in the workplace in this profile.

The future of organizing includes mechanism design, a specialty of several MS&E faculty, including Itai Ashlagi, Irene Lo, and Amin Saberi (who also spoke at Reunion). Lo received a grant to set up a Technology & Racial Equity Field Incubator that will map the problem space in this area, identify key interventions, and build the nascent field of research. This theme also includes research on platforms, such as work by Kathleen Eisenhardt and Riitta Katila.
Informing policy decisions
MS&E research informs policy, from how to minimize the spread of disease—e.g. Giovanni Malloy (PhD '22) modeling chronic wasting disease in deer—to how to regulate businesses. A recent study by Riitta Katila and Sruthi Thatchenkery (PhD '16) has implications for policymakers who want to stimulate economic growth via innovation: The two don’t always go hand-in-hand.

Another area of impact is energy and environmental policy. Jill Grey Ferguson, a PhD student advised by John Weyant, devised a way to simplify applications for California’s energy incentive programs. Wyatt Pontius (MS '19, BS '19) is creating the “modern operating system” for industrial recyclers. And Kenneth Gillingham (PhD '11, MS '06) proposed reforms to federal coal policy to benefit both the climate and taxpayers.

Our research also informs national security policy. Professor Emeritus Siegfried Hecker draws on 30 years of experience, including visits to North Korean nuclear facilities, to inform a discussion of opportunities and consequences in a new book.
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Your opinions needed
Help us plan for upcoming Reunion events and share how you’d like to be involved with the department:

Complete the survey here.
Lifetime achievement
Diversity, equity, and inclusion
Ethics and social good
  • A course taught by Adjunct Lecturer Jack Fuchs helps students rely on principles and values to guide them through difficult situations.

  • Samuel Beskind (MS '22, BS '22) devotes his new podcast, Built for Earth, to learning from planet-focused innovators (Apple, Spotify).
Management research
Student research
Summer reading (and listening) list
portrait photos of three students who participated in the MS&E undergraduate diversity in research program
The Costanoa senior project team likened venture capital investments to bets on horse racing (left to right: Ashley Kwon, Ashley Jepson, Emily Smith, Sean Bai) | Image generated by an AI application
On the shoulders of giants
  • Join us as we celebrate MS&E’s legacy through oral histories, this time featuring Professor Emeritus William Perry, who describes his experiences in international security, arms control, and strategic defense, as well as his journey to Stanford and beyond.
  • Jacob Choi (MS '18) shares why he chose MS&E, how his education has impacted his career, and advice for current students. He also visited campus to give one of several alum-hosted career sessions.

  • In an interview intended for kids, Son Ca Vu (BS '10) shares how her work makes it easier for almost anyone to develop mobile apps with AI-powered tools.
portrait photos of three students who participated in the MS&E undergraduate diversity in research program
Six new episodes of Stanford MS&E: Stories & Voices | Images courtesy of (left to right): JC Chien, Kelly Devens, Jeff Hanson, Shreya Mantha, Isabelle Rao, Brian Reed
Students & alums
Management Science & Engineering
Stanford School of Engineering
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Stanford, California 94305
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