Zahra Mohaghegh, an assistant professor of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering (NPRE) and a faculty affiliate of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, is dedicated to positioning the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a global leader in socio-technical risk analysis. To meet this goal, Mohaghegh, the director of the Socio-Technical Risk Analysis (SoTeRiA) research laboratory (http://soteria.npre.illinois.edu) in NPRE, is advancing Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA).
After completing her postdoctoral research appointment in 2011 at the Center for Risk and Reliability at the University of Maryland, Zahra created a risk management consulting company in Boston. She made the move to academia in 2013 to fulfill her desire to teach and to interact with students through research. Zahra has diligently worked toward this goal; establishing the SoTeRiA Laboratory, where a multidisciplinary team of students, researchers, and industry professionals are advancing PRA with scientific innovations in two key research areas: (i) spatio-temporal causal simulation of social and physical failure mechanisms, and (ii) the fusion of big data analytics with PRA.
When Zahra joined the NPRE faculty, she transferred a large-scale industry research project sponsored by the South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company to the university. The project involved developing an integrated risk methodology for the resolution of a 20-year, long-standing safety issue in the nuclear industry, Generic Safety Issue 191, which was related to the performance of the emergency core cooling system following a loss of coolant accident. For the last four years, Zahra and her graduate students have been involved in the risk-informed GSI-191 project, which recently gained NRC approval.
In 2015, Zahra became the principal investigator (PI) of a five-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to quantify organizational factors using big data analytics in PRA. In 2017, she became the PI for a three-year DOE grant for enterprise risk management to promote the sustainability of the U.S. nuclear fleet. She is the recipient of the 2016 American Nuclear Society Mary Jane Oestmann Professional Women’s Achievement Award for her innovation in risk analysis, the 2016 Engineering Council Award for Excellence in Advising, the 2015 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research from the College of Engineering, and the George Apostolakis Award in risk assessment. She served as the Technical Chair for the 2013 American Nuclear Society Risk Management topical meeting and as the Academic Chair for the 2017 International Topical Meeting on Probabilistic Safety Assessment and Analysis (PSA 2017) Conference.