Baker Named to Armstrong Professional Development Professorship

Erin Baker
Erin Baker

Erin Baker, professor of mechanical and industrial engineering and an internationally recognized expert in energy and economics, has been named the John A. and Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professional Development Professor. The Board of Trustees approved the appointment on June 20.

The professorship is a three-year award to a College of Engineering faculty member who has demonstrated substantial achievement and great promise.

Baker studies the application of operations research methods and economics to decision-making under conditions of uncertainty, as well as its applications to energy and the environment.

She is director and principal investigator of the UMass Offshore Wind Energy Program, created in 2011 through a $3.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT). The program is meant to create a community of researchers who understand the technological challenges, environmental implications and socioeconomic and regulatory hurdles of offshore wind farms. So far, the program has brought together 29 Ph.D. students from six campus departments.

Baker is also director of the Energy, Environment and Economic Decision-Making Lab.

Sundar Krishnamurty, head of mechanical and industrial engineering, summarized Baker’s credentials as a world-recognized leader in energy economics when she won the College of Engineering 2016 Outstanding Senior Faculty Award: “Overall, professor Baker has been the principal investigator on peer-reviewed awards totaling more than $5 million, with Co-PIs from a broad set of departments around campus. Professor Baker’s research productivity includes at least 35 refereed journal publications, 47 conference presentations, 19 invited workshop presentations, and 24 invited lectures.”

Her work is cited in a wide-range of scholarly publications including Science, Nature, Climate Change, and Journal of Economic Theory (plus Environmental Science & Technology, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Energy Policy, Energy Procedia, Energy Economics, andGlobal Environmental Change).

Among her numerous honors: In 2010, she received an NSF Science of Science & Innovation Policy award to study how best to choose a portfolio of technology policies in a world where uncertainty is the rule; in 2009, she won the Campbell Watkins Energy Journal Best Paper Award from what is generally considered the leading journal in the field; and in 2008, she received an NSF CAREER Award for her innovative research designed to help federal officials identify the most cost-effective energy technologies for carrying out the nation’s climate-change policies.

Based on her reputation as an authoritative figure in innovative decision analytic approaches, Baker has been invited to serve on the editorial boards of leading journals in her field, including Energy Economics, Decision Analysis, and IEEE Transaction Engineering Management.

Before joining UMass Amherst in 2002, Baker earned her bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley and her master’s and doctorate in engineering economic systems and operations research from Stanford University.

The Armstrong professorship was established in 2001 with an endowment of $850,000 and a $650,000 matching grant from the UMass President’s Distinguished Professorship Initiative.

The three previous recipients of the Armstrong professorship were Paul J. Dauenhauer, former associate professor of chemical engineering; David McLaughlin, electrical and computer engineering and the director of the Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere Engineering Research Center, and George Huber, former professor of chemical engineering.