Naveen Jindal School of Management doctoral candidate Blair Flicker recently earned three important awards for his research into human-computer interaction in business.
Flicker, who is pursuing a PhD in management science with a concentration in operations management, focuses on understanding the value of human decision-makers in business — as opposed to using fully automated policies — and identifying the best ways to integrate human insight with decision-making software.
In July, he won the 2017 Behavioral Operations Conference Best Presentation award for a discussion of his work focused on how to model managerial insight and incorporate it into decision-support tools.
In May, his work was recognized by the National Science Foundation when he received a $23,000 NSF Dissertation Award for “Integrating Managerial Insight and Optimal Algorithms,” a project he is working on to develop a model to study how a business can best connect human decision insights with technology.
Flicker, who is assistant provost for academic affairs at UT Dallas, said he will use the money to pay research participants to take part in economic games designed to study decision-making and to travel to research conferences where he will share his findings.
Flicker also received a $10,000 Golden Key Graduate Scholar Award earlier this summer. Golden Key is an all-discipline international honors society with a UT Dallas chapter. He was required to submit a description of his research, career goals and the “Integrating Managerial Insight” project.
Flicker’s interest in operations management and his research grew out of his experience in computer science and psychology. He earned a BS in computer science and a BS in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006.
“Computer science is about solving problems, but the thing that intrigues me is solving the right problems. Fundamentally, computers are just tools to help humans – to build better tools I had to really understand people. This led me to get a degree in psychology,” he said.
He and his then girlfriend, Kimberly, now his wife, came to UT Dallas, where he earned an MBA in 2012, and she earned both an MS in Healthcare Management and an MBA.
“When I came here, I found this field of operations management, and I was surprised to see parallels to computer science,” Flicker said. “There’s an interesting overlap, so after I received my MBA, I decided I was serious about academia, and I wanted to become a professor.”
Flicker’s faculty advisor is Dr. Elena Katok, Ashbel Smith Professor of Operations Management and co-director of the Center and Laboratory for Behavioral Operations and Economics, who has worked with him for the past three years.
“The type of research he does is very innovative,” she said. “When he won the Behavioral Operations Conference Best Presentation award, he competed against about 15 other presentations. He is a very strong presenter, and he’s committed to his research.”
Flicker is a Eugene McDermott Graduate Fellow and said the program has played a major role in allowing him to pursue his research and to be successful.
In addition to recruiting top talent to UT Dallas, the program, founded in 2014 with a gift from Mrs. Eugene McDermott, provides research funding so that fellows can stay focused on science, not fundraising.
Reena Schellenberg, director of the program, said Flicker’s achievements are a testament to the mission of the program, to attract brilliant scholars to study at UT Dallas and to provide them with resources to facilitate top-quality research.
“In both his personal excellence and his powerful use of the fellowship’s resources, Blair exemplifies the McDermott Fellow,” Schellenberg said. “National Science Foundation funded research is the gold standard of academic excellence. When UT Dallas students compete at this level, it showcases the intellectual strength of our university and helps it gain recognition as a world class research institution.”
— Glenda Vosburgh