Professor Erin Baker of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has been approved by the university system’s Board of Trustees to receive the Armstrong Professional Development Professorship. The Armstrong Professorship was established in 2001 with an endowment of $850,000 by John and Elizabeth Armstrong of Amherst and a $650,000 matching grant from the University of Massachusetts President’s Distinguished Professorship Initiative. It is awarded for a three-year period “to a faculty member who is at the beginning of his/her career and has demonstrated substantial achievement and great promise in his/her area of teaching and research.”
Baker is the director and principal investigator of the UMass Offshore Wind Energy Program (Wind Energy IGERT), created in 2011 through a $3.2-million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT). The purpose of the program is to create a community of researchers who understand the technological challenges, environmental implications, and socioeconomic and regulatory hurdles of offshore wind farms. Baker is also the director of the Energy, Environment, and Economic Decision-Making Lab.
As MIE Department Head Sundar Krishnamurty summarized Baker’s credentials when she won the College of Engineering 2016 Outstanding Senior Faculty Award, “Professor Baker is a world-recognized leader in her field of energy economics. Over the years, she has demonstrated an outstanding record of accomplishments in her research field, as evidenced from her research funding, scholarly publications, and presentations, and the honors and awards that she has received.”
Krishnamurty added that “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.”
Three previous recipients of the highly sought-after Armstrong Professorship were David McLaughlin, a faculty member in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and the current associate dean for student affairs and administration, George Huber of the Chemical Engineering Department, and Paul Dauenhauer of the Chemical Engineering Department.
The purpose of the Armstrong Professorship is to provide financial support and encouragement for a young faculty member in the College of Engineering. “The amount of effort required to get proposals out is huge,” John Armstrong said when he established the professorship. “This [professorship] was to supplement young faculty in their research. This is an investment in young careers.”
The Armstrongs are major supporters of the College of Engineering, and UMass gave them Honorary Alumni Awards in 2003 and the President’s Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the university, in 2004.
The Armstrongs moved to Amherst in 1995 after John Armstrong completed a 30-year career with IBM that included positions as vice president for science and technology and director of research. John Armstrong has served on the College of Engineering Dean's Advisory Committee, the UMass Amherst Foundation, and the Electrical and Computer Engineering Advisory Committee. He also was a presidential appointee to the National Science Board, chaired the governing board of the American Institute of Physics, and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Elizabeth Armstrong has co-chaired the Hampshire County United Way de Tocqueville Society campaign and has been a founding member of the Emily Dickinson Board of Governors.
In addition to her $3.2 million NSF IGERT award, Baker has a number of other impressive funding sources. In 2010, she received a large 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 rather than the exception. In 2008, she received a prestigious NSF Career Award for her innovative research designed to assist federal officials identify the most cost-effective energy technologies for carrying out the nation’s climate-change policies. She has also been the PI on the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates site award, the Co-PI on a NOAA grant, and the PI on a contract from the European Research Council.
One measure of the impact of Professor Baker’s work can be found by the citations of her work in a wide-range of scholarly publications such as Science, Nature, Climate Change, and Journal of Economic Theory (plus Environmental Science & Technology, Technological Forecasting And Social Change, Energy Policy, Energy Procedia, Energy Economics, and Global Environmental Change), among others. In 2009, she won the Campbell Watkins Energy Journal Best Paper Award from what is generally considered the leading journal in the field.
In addition, based on her reputation as an authoritative figure in the area of innovative decision analytic approaches, Professor Baker has been invited to serve on the editorial boards of several leading journals in her field, including Energy Economics, Decision Analysis, and IEEE Transaction Engineering Management.
Baker earned her B.A. from the University of California Berkeley in 1986 and her M.S. (1998) and Ph.D. (2002) from Stanford University. (July 2017)