University Of Michigan's Robert Smith Is Recipient Of First Altarum/ERIM Russell D. O'Neal Professorship of Engineering

November 24, 2003

ANN ARBOR, MI — November 24, 2003 — Dr. Robert L. Smith, Engineering Professor at The University of Michigan, recently became the first recipient of the Altarum/ERIM Russell D. O’Neal Professorship of Engineering. This endowed professorship is one of the highest honors that the University’s School of Engineering can award to a faculty member.

The endowed chair position was made possible through a financial gift from the nonprofit Altarum Institute, the successor institution to the former Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM). At the request of Altarum, the chair was named for former ERIM/Altarum Trustee Emeritus, Dr. Russell D. O’Neal in recognition of his extraordinary commitment to building Altarum, and ERIM before it. Consistent with a strategic vision O’Neal helped to articulate before his death in 2000, Altarum today is an advanced informatics company that creates new knowledge from complex dynamic systems and applies that knowledge, in the form of decision support tools, to the national security, healthcare, transportation and environmental arenas.

“Altarum and its predecessor organizations have deep, historic roots to the University of Michigan. The endowed chair position awarded to Dr. Smith is also, in part, a way of saying thank you to the University and the Ann Arbor community for helping to plant the seeds for what has become one of the nation’s fastest growing nonprofit institutions,” said Ken Baker, Altarum’s President and CEO.

“This endowed professorship is a way for the Altarum family to look back and to look forward,” said Baker. “We look back in grateful recognition of the lifelong commitment Russ O’Neal had to making technology work for the good of society. Altarum is a direct beneficiary of nearly two decades of his wisdom and his vision in this regard. And we look back in gratitude to the University of Michigan as a birthing place for what we are today. We also look forward to enabling the important research of Dr. Smith. We see Dr. Smith as providing Altarum and the University an excellent opportunity to accelerate the flow of innovation – from ground-breaking basic research to real-world technical solutions that serve society.”

"I am honored that Altarum has generously provided the financial support to create this endowed professorship,” said Dr. Smith. “The recognition by Altarum of the importance of Operations Research in improving the design and operation of increasingly complex systems is extremely gratifying and I hope will help build new bridges between the University and Altarum.”

Dr. Smith received his Ph.D. in Engineering Science from the University of California at Berkeley where he held a National Science Foundation (NSF) Fellowship. He holds a bachelors degree in Physics from Harvey Mudd College and an M.B.A from Berkeley.

In addition to being the recipient of the first Altarum/ERIM Russell D. O'Neal Professorship of Engineering at the University of Michigan, Smith has also been honored with the Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award from the University of Michigan, the College of Engineering Research Excellence Award, an Outstanding Teacher Award from the Michigan Student Assembly, and a National Science Foundation Fellowship. He is a Fellow of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences.

Dr. Smith is Director of the Dynamic Systems Optimization Laboratory at the University of Michigan. The Laboratory research is directed toward the modeling and analysis of dynamical systems over time. He is also the UM Thrust Leader for Manufacturing Systems for the General Motors Collaborative Research Laboratory in Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing at the University of Michigan. Dr. Smith worked earlier at Bell Laboratories in the Network Planning Department where he developed models and algorithms for optimal routing of communications traffic. He is currently project director on five NSF Grants in global and infinite horizon optimization within the Operations Research and Manufacturing Enterprise Systems Programs of the National Science Foundation. Dr. Smith is a Past Associate Editor of Management Science, Chairman of the 2003 Dantzig Dissertation Prize Committee, and is the author of nearly eighty peer- reviewed publications.

Contact Information
Ken Schwartz


Altarum Institute ( integrates objective research and client-centered consulting skills to deliver comprehensive, systems-based solutions that improve health and health care. Altarum employs more than 400 individuals and is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with additional offices in the Washington, DC, area, and Portland, Maine.