Dai named Leon C. Welch Professor in Engineering

The Cornell Board of Trustees has elected Jim Dai as the Leon C. Welch Professor in Engineering.

The Cornell Board of Trustees has elected ORIE Professor J.G. “Jim” Dai as the Leon C. Welch Professor in Engineering. 

Dai joins Sid Resnick, David Ruppert and David Shmoys as chaired professors in ORIE.  Resnick is the Lee Teng-Hui Professor in Engineering, Ruppert the Andrew Schultz Jr. Professor of Engineering and Shmoys is the Acheson/Laibe Professor of Business Management and Leadership Studies. Being named a chaired professor is the highest academic honor Cornell bestows.

Dai, who came to Ithaca from the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has worked for more than 20 years on stochastic models arising from communications, manufacturing and service systems. He received B.A. and M.S. degrees from Nanjing University and a Ph.D. from Stanford University, all in mathematics. He has been named a full professor at Cornell.

Dai is an elected Fellow of both the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. His work ranges across a variety of applications that entail randomness experienced over time.

For example, he has looked at rules for staffing customer call centers to provide both quality (short waiting times) and efficiency (high utilization of staff), taking into account the possibility that some fraction of callers will abandon the system if they have to wait too long. He recently developed and validated a mathematical model that can be used to test strategies for reducing the time that emergency room patients have to wait for a bed once it is known that they must stay in the hospital. He is principal investigator on a National Science Foundation grant to model systems that incorporate a network of processing capabilities, such as large web server farms and semiconductor wafer fabrication facilities.

All of these problems have required Dai to develop deep new mathematical techniques in order to create and characterize models that represent them.

Dai’s chair is named for Leon C. Welch, who received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell in 1906. As an undergraduate he played semi-professional baseball during the summers to help pay his college expenses. Following a long and distinguished career as an engineer and businessman, he retired in 1947 as Vice President of the Standard Oil Company of Indiana. In 1956, as a result of his involvement with the University Council and his friendship with Dean of Engineering S.C. Hollister, he made provisions in his will to endow a professorship in the Engineering College. He died in 1962, and the endowment passed to Cornell following the death of his wife, Edith Packard Welch, in 1966. The previous Leon C. Welch Professor was Mike Todd, who retired from the School of Operations Research and Information Engineering at Cornell last year.

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