Feb. 28-March 13, 2003
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A day in the life of Yacov Haimes
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On Alert: Be cautious, be calm
A day in the life of Yacov Haimes
Photos by Andrew Shurtleff
In his Olsson Hall office, Professor Yacov Haimes reviews class notes.

By Charlotte Crystal

Haimes teaches a class inthe Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering building at U.Va.
Photos by Andrew Shurtleff
Haimes teaches a class inthe Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering building at U.Va.

What does a professor do all day?

To those living and working outside of academe, the life of a faculty member can be mysterious. Professors don’t have to clock in or clock out. They may stroll in to work at 10 in the morning or leave their offices at 4 in the afternoon. They can mow the lawn in the middle of the week. They get the summers off. They may only teach one or two classes a semester. Many earn well over the average Virginia salary of $32,431 (per capita personal income in 2001) even as they complain about the state’s budget squeeze, hiring freeze and raises put on hold.

So, what do they DO anyway?

No two schedules are alike, and the expectations and responsibilities of younger faculty members working for tenure differ somewhat from those of established, tenured professors — in levels of stress, if not in workload.

Still, at U.Va., a research university with a national reputation, expectations of faculty members are high. There is a heavy emphasis on undergraduate teaching, which means extensive reading to be able to write weekly lectures; time spent in the library, archives or laboratory to conduct research; compiling and analyzing research results for peer-reviewed journals or books to advance knowledge in a particular field; holding office hours for students who need help with class work or career advice; meeting with other faculty members and administrators; attending conferences to keep up with advances in the field and presenting research findings to colleagues; writing recommendations for undergraduates who want to go to graduate school; reviewing the work of graduate students preparing doctoral dissertations; writing grant proposals to obtain funding for research.

Haimes speaks with graduate students during a group session in Olsson Hall.
Haimes speaks with graduate students during a group session in Olsson Hall.

Yacov Haimes, the Lawrence R. Quarles Professor of Systems and Information Engineering, and director of the Center for Risk Management of Engineering Systems at U.Va.’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, offers a good example of a U.Va. professor who does it all – he teaches undergraduates, advises graduate students, participates on school committees, seeks outside funding for research, presents research results to his colleagues, and still makes time for community service and family. Here’s a typical day in his life.

5 a.m. Rise. Check e-mail.

5:30 a.m. Eat breakfast.

5:45 a.m. Exercise in home gym.

6:55 a.m. Leave for Boar’s Head Sports Club for weekly tennis game with a friend.

7:30 a.m. Tennis game cut to an hour from usual hour and a half because of upcoming meeting.

9:10 a.m. Meet in Olsson Hall Room 111-A with dissertation committee for Joost Reyes Santos. Santos explains the work he has done for his doctoral dissertation in systems engineering – he has developed a method by which investment portfolio managers can calculate the impact of a terrorist attack on various business sectors to minimize potential investment losses.

10:55 a.m. Santos and other students leave the room while committee deliberates.
11 a.m. Santos returns to smiles and handshakes. Committee reports its unanimous approval of his work.

11:05 a.m. Meet in office, Olsson Room 112-A, with four systems and information engineering professors to decide which research projects coming up at the state and federal levels are worth pursuing. In particular, the U.S. Department of Defense has solicited research proposals to address growing concern over the security of its computer system as increasing numbers of outside contractors tie in. Other projects worth following include those at: the Virginia Department of Transportation, which needs to protect information on bridges and tunnels; and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which needs to police imports and protect the integrity of the domestic food industry.

12:15 p.m. Meet with Della Dirickson, Haimes’ unflappable assistant, on a broad array of administrative topics: copying sections of the Bioterrorism Act; renewal of Haimes’ University parking pass; approval of new stationery design; recommendation that Barry Horowitz be asked to attend a risk analysis conference in late November in Palo Alto, Calif.; signature of papers as chairman of the department’s graduate student committee; discussion of reorganization of office bookshelves; discussion of improved lighting in the office; final review of plans for a project steering committee meeting the center would lead the next day in Charlottesville. “I can’t get any creative work done at the office,” Haimes says.

Writing proposals, papers, reports — it’s all done on evenings and weekends. Yet we’re here eight to nine hours a day.”

12:35 p.m. Leave for Rotary Club International meeting in the Boar’s Head Inn’s Arbor Room. Past president of the Albemarle County Rotary Club, Haimes believes in the importance of the Rotary mission: “Public service above all.”

1:45 p.m. Return to the office. Prepare class materials. While many lectures use Power Point presentations, today it’s transparencies on an overhead projector. Rod Shirbacheh, graduate student in systems and information engineering and teaching assistant for the class, stops by.

1:55 p.m. Leave for Olsson Room 005 for undergraduate class on systems engineering. The class is required for systems majors, but other engineering students who want an understanding of systems principles are also enrolled.

2 p.m. Teach Systems 201, “Systems Engineering Concepts,” which starts promptly on the hour. Haimes explains a problem and demonstrates how to solve it, scribbling equations on the green chalkboard as 60 or so students – about twice as many men as women — slouch in their seats.

2:55 p.m. Give the next homework assignment to students, newly alert and scribbling in notebooks: Using the concepts just taught in class, construct an inventory of your choice with one state variable and three periods to determine the optimal procurement policy.

3:15 p.m. Invite three of the top 201 students to the office. Make them “an offer they can’t refuse” – paid summer internships to conduct research relating to risk analysis plus admission to a five-year B.S./M.S. degree program in systems and information engineering. Because the students are American citizens, they can participate in ongoing terrorism-related research projects, for which U.Va.’s systems and information engineering program has received research funding from several federal agencies. “You can choose what you work on,” Haimes tells the students. “Find out where your heart lies. You’ll be working 40 hours a week on this and if you like what you’re doing, you’ll excel.”

3:30 p.m. Answer questions from one of these students regarding the lecture.

3:35 p.m. Talk again with Dirickson about administrative details.

3:40 p.m. Return to Olsson Room 111-A for discussion of fourth-year students’ capstone project, which involves designing a software program to protect the nation’s meatpacking industry against bioterrorist attack — one of three capstone groups Haimes supervises this semester.

5 p.m. Meet again in office with faculty members — Barry Horowitz, past president of defense contractor MITRE Corp. and professor of systems and information engineering; Jim Lambert, research assistant professor in systems and information engineering; Stan Kaplan, visiting professor of systems and information engineering, and risk assessment and analysis consultant for Bayesian Systems Inc. Discuss strategy regarding the submission of U.Va.’s research proposal to the DOD’s $50 million Midas II program that concerns security for the DOD’s computer system.

6:30 p.m. Leave for home, stopping by Kinko’s to pick up copies of a report needed for a meeting the next day.

8 p.m. Dinner with family.

8:20 p.m. Phone call from daughter in California about grandson’s trip to emergency room that day.

8:30 p.m. Write mid-term exam for the Systems 201 class.

9 p.m. Begin packing for a trip the next day to a conference in Santa Barbara, Calif., on risk-based decision-making. Haimes plans to present a paper to a national gathering that will include scholars, consultants and government officials.

9:30 p.m. Relax with latest issue of Time magazine.

10 p.m. Lights out.


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