I am currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering (NPRE) in the Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). I am also an affiliate to Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, School of Information Sciences, and the Illinois Informatics Institute at UIUC.
Being the first woman to attain a tenured professorship in our department is not only a goal achieved but also a step toward equality for all women. My greatest accomplishment, however, is that I have been able to establish Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA) research and education in our department. This path gives students the highly competitive science and skillsets essential to meet the growing demand for risk analysts in diverse fields of engineering, especially nuclear engineering. I am grateful for having been trained by professors who are pioneers of PRA and for the opportunity to train the next-generation of PRA leaders. Our next-generation leaders must begin to think differently, using risk-informed solutions to initiate safe, resilient, sustainable, and socially responsible technological advancements to usher in an era void of technological accidents.
I established the Socio-Technical Risk Analysis (SoTeRiA) Research Laboratory (http://soteria.npre.illinois.edu/ ) at UIUC to advance risk science and applications. SoTeRiA is a multidisciplinary research laboratory that has a proven track record of developing scientific and innovative approaches for risk assessment, risk management, and risk-informed decision-making and regulation. SoTeRiA’s research focuses on improving safety in technological systems such as commercial nuclear power plants while reducing the cost of operations. This scientific work helps create a pathway to enhance the economic viability of the nuclear industry at a time when carbon-free energy resources play a critical role in mitigating climate change.
SoTeRiA’s three key areas of scholarly contributions include: (I) spatiotemporal coupling of physical failure mechanisms with human/social performance and the incorporation of this coupling into PRA using a static-dynamic Integrated PRA (I-PRA) methodology; (II) incorporating big data analytics into PRA, and (III) integrating safety risk and financial risk. These three areas are operationalized in various research projects, funded by national and international funding agencies, and have been reported in SoTeRiA publications (https://soteria.npre.illinois.edu/publications/).
With the desire to create an international think-tank for safety, SoTeRiA has conducted multiple research collaborations, for example, with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to develop risk methodologies for advanced reactors and with the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) to advance simulation models for risk-informed emergency preparedness and response. SoTeRiA’s research studies have also received funding from several national sponsors, for example, from the Department of Energy (DOE) for developing the I-PRA algorithm for the deployment of new technologies in nuclear power plants; from DOE for developing a systematic scenario-based Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) to promote the nuclear fleet sustainability; from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for big data analytics in PRA; and from the nuclear industry for the risk-informed resolution of Generic Safety Issue 191 (GSI-191) and for fire PRA.