Michel Ballings, the James and Joanne Ford Faculty Research Fellow and an assistant professor of business analytics and statistics in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business, was recently appointed an Amazon Visiting Academic. He is the university’s first faculty member to participate in the program, in which faculty work with Amazon to apply their research methods to complex technical challenges in addition to their university work.
“I am honored by this appointment, and it is a great pleasure to be collaborating with the outstanding team at Amazon,” Ballings said. “I enjoy working with great people on hard business problems and making the journey from developing ideas to building prototypes to moving solutions to production.”
He will coach junior scientists and review technical and scientific work materials, engaging with managers, product managers, engineers, researchers and scientists.
Ballings’s initiative is part of a much larger undertaking. The Amazon Visiting Academic program is currently exploring applications in areas such as machine learning, computer vision, data science, natural language processing, robotics, economics, optimization, statistics, quantum computing, sustainability, operations research, I/O psychology, social sciences, environmental science, horticulture, and water conservation.
To attain the opportunity, Ballings had to meet Amazon’s rigorous qualifications. Amazon Visiting Academics must hold a doctorate, be connected with an academic or research institution, have performed five or more years of research, be published in top-tier peer-reviewed conferences or journals, hold an established track record in an applied science discipline and routinely apply knowledge from other disciplines, possess significant leadership capabilities in scientific or technical research projects, and be able to communicate and build consensus with both technical and nontechnical audiences.
Mike Galbreth, head of the business analytics and statistics department, said the appointment is a great opportunity for Ballings. “We are thrilled that Amazon recognizes Michel’s contributions to the discipline and wants to collaborate with him in this fashion,” he said. “As our students and corporate partners have known for some time, Michel is a world-class thought leader in this space, and he has an exceptional ability to apply his deep technical expertise to real-world problems.”
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