Heier Stamm earns NSF CAREER award for study of coordinated response efforts in public health emergencies
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Jessica Heier Stamm, left, assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, meets with undergraduate researcher Eunice Varona. | Download this photo.
MANHATTAN — Having studied humanitarian and public health supply chain systems for much of her career, Jessica Heier Stamm, Kansas State University assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, recognizes that it's going to take multidisciplinary research to solve multi-stakeholder problems.
In a public health emergency, such as the influenza pandemic that hit the U.S. in 2009 and 2010, stakeholders and decision-makers from numerous organizations must coordinate their response efforts — a complicated task, even under nonurgent circumstances.
Heier Stamm has been granted a five-year, $500,000 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program, or CAREER, award to conduct research that will help industrial engineers and public health officials coordinate efforts to improve disaster preparedness and response. The award funding also will support her efforts to integrate research and education.
Using cooperative game theory and optimization, Heier Stamm will develop mathematical models that accurately and realistically address the needs of public health disaster response supply chain systems. The state of Kansas will serve as her initial case study as she examines response strategies for emergencies such as serious infectious disease outbreaks, natural disasters and bioterror attacks.
While optimization models are used frequently in commercial supply chains, no existing models directly apply to coordination challenges currently faced by public health and humanitarian sectors.
"We can't build useful optimization and game theory models for humanitarian and public health supply chains by ourselves," Heier Stamm said. "We need to actually engage with stakeholders to understand the current system and what future systems might look like."
That's where her interdisciplinary research approach comes in. Heier Stamm plans to gather information directly from the stakeholders through interviews, surveys and focus groups, which will require training and collaboration from experts in other fields.
Her ultimate goal is to bridge the gap between theory and practice through an iterative process of development, testing and revision. The work is expected to lead to mathematical models and research methods that can be applied in other public health and humanitarian supply chain systems.
Integrating research and education also will be a focus of Heier Stamm's work supported by the CAREER award. She will develop an interdisciplinary learning community that engages middle, high school, undergraduate and graduate students; faculty; and practitioners to address disaster supply chain coordination challenges.
"When I discuss the ways I use industrial engineering for disaster relief," Heier Stamm said, "the most common reaction is a mix of surprise and excitement: 'I didn't know industrial engineers can do that!'"
"We are proud the NSF has recognized Jessica's potential as an outstanding engineering researcher and educator with this CAREER award," said Bradley Kramer, head of the industrial and manufacturing systems engineering department.
"I expect her work to have a great impact on the world through the students she attracts into engineering and those she teaches and mentors, as well as through the application of her research results to improving humanitarian logistics," Kramer said.
The NSF's CAREER Program is one of its most prestigious awards for supporting early career faculty who effectively integrate research and education within the context of their institution's mission. Heier Stamm is the fourth Kansas State University faculty member — and the third from the College of Engineering — to receive a CAREER award so far this year. Faculty recognition and awards, including CAREER awards, are an important part of Kansas State University's plan to become a Top 50 public research university by 2025.