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Viterbi Faculty Directory

Ali Abbas

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Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering and Public Policy


  • 2004, Doctoral Degree, Management Science and Engineering, Stanford University
  • 2004, Doctoral Degree, Electrical Engineering, Stanford University
  • 2002, Master's Degree, Industrial Engineering, Stanford University
  • 1998, Master's Degree, Electrical Engineering, Stanford University


Dr. Ali E. Abbas is Professor (with Tenure) of Industrial and Systems Engineering and Professor of Public Policy, a joint appointment between the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the USC Price School of Public Policy. He also served as the Director of the Neely Center for Ethical Leadership and Decision Making, and previously directed the USC Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE).

Before joining USC, Dr. Abbas was the Art Davis Faculty Scholar in the Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to his time at the University of Illinois, Dr. Abbas was a lecturer in the Department of Management Science and Engineering, Stanford University, where he also earned his Ph.D. in Management Science and Engineering, Ph.D. minor in Electrical Engineering, M.S. in Engineering Economic Systems and Operations Research, and M.S. in Electrical Engineering.

The recipient of multiple awards from the National Science Foundation for his work, Dr. Abbas's research focuses on decision analysis, risk analysis, multiattribute utility theory, and data-based decision making. He is widely published in books, journals, and conference publications, and has shared his expertise through television appearances, TEDx and other invited talks. He is also associate editor and editor for a wide range of journals including Operations Research, Decision Analysis, IISE Transactions, Decision, and Entropy.

He is author of numerous books including “Foundations of Multiattribute Utility” by Cambridge University Press and is Co-author of “Foundations of Decision Analysis” with Ronald Howard at Stanford University. He is also editor of numerous books including Books “Improving Homeland Security Decisions” with Detlof von Winterfledt and Milind Tambe, and the forthcoming book “Next Generation Ethics and Decision Making” by Cambridge University Press.

Dr. Abbas regularly teaches courses on decision analysis, and has taught numerous executive education courses at a variety of institutions, such as Stanford University, BP, Southern California Edison and numerous other institutions. In addition to his academic career, Dr. Abbas is founder, president, and CEO of Ahoona Corp, a decision making social network that has several thousand users around the world. He has been on the Advisory Boards of Hedgestreet Inc., a binary futures exchange, and is a board member of the Decision Education Foundation, a volunteer nonprofit organization that empowers youth to make better decisions about their lives. Dr. Abbas also has extensive consulting and management experience.

Research Summary

• Decision analysis (broadly defined)
• Utility theory (risk aversion).
• Multiattribute utility theory.
• Probability encoding.
• Behavioral decision making
• Risk analysis for Homeland Security (Broadly defined)
• Risk measures and valuation of risky assets.
• Investment science.
• Information theory (applications to Management Science).
• Systems engineering
• Constructing value functions for engineering design
• Data-based decision making
• Bayesian Networks, Boolean Networks, Neural Networks.

A Sample of Some Publications

Howard, R. A., & Abbas, A. E., Foundations of Decision Analysis; Prentice Hall; 2015.

Abbas, A. E. 2018. Foundations of Multiattribute Utility; Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Edited Books
Abbas, A. E., Tambe, M., & von Winterfeldt, D. 2017. Improving Homeland Security Decisions; Cambridge University Press.

Topical Editor, Decision Analysis area of John Wiley Encyclopedia of Operations Research and Management Sciences. 2009-2011

Co-Editor, Twenty Fifth International Workshop on Bayesian Inference and Maximum Entropy Methods in Science and Engineering, American Institute of Physics. 2005

Invited Guest Editor
Abbas, A. E, J. W. Pratt, D. E. Bell, R. A. Howard, K. McCardle, J. Weyant. Schmedders. Operations Research, Special Issue honoring Kenneth Arrow. Forthcoming.

Abbas, A. E, Decision Analysis, Special Issue on Decision Analysis and Social Media. Forthcoming.

Invited Papers
Abbas, A. E. and S. Holmes. 2004. Invited Paper. Bioinformatics and Management Science: Some common tools and techniques. Operations Research, 52(2), 165-190.

Utility Theory
Abbas, A. E., & Hupman, A., On the use of utility functions in engineering design; Systems Engineering; Forthcoming.
Abbas, A. E., & Bell, D. E., Ordinal One-Switch Utility Functions; Operations Research, 63(6), 1411 - 1419; 2015.
Abbas, A. E., & Sun, Z., A Utility Copula Approach for Preference Functions in Engineering Design; ASME Journal of Mechanical Design, 137(9), 094501; 2015.
Abbas, A. E., & Sun, Z., Multiattribute Utility functions satisfying Mutual Preferential Independence; Operations Research, 63(2): 378-393; 2015.
C. Valicka, R. A. Rekoske, D. M. Stipanovic, and A. E. Abbas. Multiattribute Utility Copulas for Multi-objective Coverage Control, Paladyn, Journal of Behavioral Robotics 5 (2014), pp. 12-34.
Sun Z and A.E. Abbas. 2014. On the Sensitivity of the Value of Information to Risk Aversion in Two-Action Decision Problems. Environment, Systems and Decisions. Special issue on Value of Information (34) 24-37.
Stipanovic D, Valika C and A.E.Abbas. 2014. Control Strategies for Players in Pursuit-Evasion Games Based On Their Preferences. International Game Theory Review 16(2) 144-164.
Abbas, A. E. and J. Chudziak. 2013. One-Switch Utility Functions with Annuity Payments. Applied Mathematics and Computation, 219(14), 7699-7710.
Abbas, A. E. N. Bakir, G. Klutke, Z. Sun. 2013. The Effects of Risk Aversion on the Value of Information in Two-Action Decision Problems. Decision Analysis, 10(3) 257–275.
Abbas, A. E. 2013. Utility Copula Functions matching all Boundary Assessments. Operations Research, 61(2) 359-371.
Abbas, A. E and D. E. Bell. 2012. One-Switch Conditions for Multiattribute Utility Functions. Operations Research, 60(5) 1199-1212.
Abbas, A. E. 2012. Valuing Changes in Investment Opportunities. Operations Research, 60(6) 1451-1460.
Abbas, A. E and D. E. Bell. 2011. One-Switch Independence for Multiattribute Utility Functions. Operations Research, 59(3) 764-771.
Abbas, A.E. 2011. The Multiattribute Utility Tree, Decision Analysis, 8 (3), 180-205.
Abbas, A.E. 2011. Decomposing the Cross-Derivatives of a Multiattribute Utility Function into Risk Attitude and Value, Decision Analysis, 8 (2), 103-116.
Abbas, A. E. 2011. General Decompositions of Multiattribute Utility Functions. Journal of Multicriteria Decision Analysis, 17 (1, 2), 37–59.
Abbas, A. E. 2011. Risk-Adjusted Martingales and the Design of Indifference Gambles. Theory and Decision 71(4) 643-668. Online first, April 4th 2010.
Abbas, A. E and J. Aczél. 2010. The Role of some Functional Equations in Decision Analysis. Decision Analysis, 7 (2), 215–228.
Abbas, A. E and J. Matheson. 2010. Normative Decision Making with Multiattribute Performance Targets. Journal of Multicriteria Decision Analysis, 16 (3, 4), 67–78.
Abbas, A. E and I. Hahn. 2010. Measuring Risk Aversion in a Name-Your-Own-Price Channel. Decision Analysis, 7 (1), 123–136.
Abbas, A. E. 2009. Multiattribute Utility Copulas. Operations Research, 57 (6), 1367-1383.
Abbas, A. 2009. Invariant Multiattribute Utility Functions. Theory and Decision, Special Issue on Foundations of Utility and Risk, FUR, 68 (1, 2), 69-99.
Abbas, A. E. , J. Aczél, J. Chudziak, 2009. Invariance Formulations for Multiattribute Utility Functions under Shift Transformations. Results in Mathematics, 54, 1-13.
Abbas, A. E, R. Bordley and J. Matheson. 2009. Effective Utility Functions from Organizational Target-Based Incentives. Managerial and Decision Economics, 30, 235-251.
Abbas, A. E. 2007. Invariant Utility Functions and Certain Equivalent Transformations. Decision Analysis, 4 (3), 17-31.
Abbas, A. E. 2007. Moments of Utility Functions and Their Applications. European Journal of Operational Research, 180, 378-395.
Abbas, A. E. 2006. Maximum Entropy Utility. Operations Research, 54(2), 277-290.
Abbas, A. E and R. A. Howard. 2005. Attribute Dominance Utility. Decision Analysis 2(4), 185-206.
Abbas, A. E. and J. E. Matheson. 2005. Normative Target-Based Decision Making. Managerial and Decision Economics, 26 (6), 373-385.
Matheson, J. E. and A. E. Abbas. 2005. Utility Transversality: A Value-Based Approach; Journal of Multicriteria Decision Analysis, 13, 229-238.
Abbas, A. E. 2004. Entropy Methods for Adaptive Utility Elicitation. IEEE Transactions on Systems, Science and Cybernetics, 34 (2), 169-178.

Probability Encoding
Budescu, D, A. Abbas, L. Wu. 2011. Does Probability Weighting Matter in Probability Encoding? Journal of Mathematical Psychology, 55 (4), 320-327.
Abbas, A. E, D. V. Budescu, R. Gu. 2010. Assessing Joint Distributions with Isoprobability Contours, Management Science, 56 (6), 997-1011.
Abbas, A.E. 2009. A Kullback-Leibler View of Linear and Log-Linear Pools. Decision Analysis, 6 (1) 25-37.
Abbas, A. E., Budescu, D.V, Yu Hsiu-Ting, Haggerty, R. 2008. A Comparison of Two Probability Encoding Methods: Fixed Probability Wheel vs. Fixed Variable Values. Decision Analysis, 5 (4), 190-202.
Abbas, A. E. 2006. Entropy Methods for Joint Distributions in Decision Analysis. IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, 53 (1) 146-159.

Decision Analysis in Systems and Engineering Design
Bayesian Inference: Demand Estimation, Auctions, High Speed Machining
Hupman A, Abbas, A and T. Schmitz. 2014. Incentives in high speed milling. Forthcoming in Journal of Manufacturing Systems.
Sun Z, Hupman A, Ritchey H, and A.E. Abbas. 2014. Bayesian Updating of the Price Elasticity of Uncertain Demand. IEEE Systems Journal (Forthcoming)
Karandikar, J., Traverso M, Abbas, A., and Schmitz, T. 2014. Bayesian inference for milling stability using a random walk approach. ASME Journal of Manuf. Science and Engineering (Forthcoming)
Karandikar, J., Schmitz, T., and Abbas, A. 2014. Application of Bayesian Inference to Milling Force Modeling. ASME Journal of Manuf. Science and Engineering (Forthcoming)
Karandikar, J, Tyler, C., Abbas, A., and Schmitz, T. 2014. Value of information-based experimental design: Application to process damping in milling. Precision Engineering (Forthcoming).
Karandikar, J., Abbas, A., and Schmitz, T., 2014, Tool Life Prediction using Random Walk Bayesian Updating, Journal of Machining Science and Technology, 17/3: 410-442
Karandikar, J., Abbas, A., and Schmitz, T., 2014, Remaining Useful Tool Life Predictions in Turning using Bayesian Inference, International Journal of Prognostics and Health Management (Forthcoming)
Karandikar, J., Abbas, A., and Schmitz, T., 2014, Tool Life Prediction using Bayesian Updating, Part 1: Milling Tool Life Model using a Discrete Grid Method, Precision Engineering 38(1), 9-17
Karandikar, J., Abbas, A., and Schmitz, T., 2014, Tool Life Prediction using Bayesian Updating, Part 2: Turning Tool Life using a Markov Chain Monte Carlo Approach, Precision Engineering (Forthcoming)
Karandikar, J, T. Schmitz, A. E. Abbas. 2012. Spindle Speed Selection for Tool Life Testing using Bayesian Inference. Journal of Manufacturing Systems, 31, 403-411.
Karahan N, and A. E. Abbas. 2011. Measuring Consumer Impatience and Time Preference in a Repeat Bid Name-Your-Own-Price Channel. IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, 99 (1), 1-14.
Schmitz, T, Karandikar, J, Kim, N, and A. E. Abbas. 2010. Uncertainty in Machining: Workshop Summary and Contributions. ASME Journal of Manufacturing Science and Engineering 133(5).
Gupta A, and A. E. Abbas. 2008. Repeat Bidding on Internet-Based Multiple-Item Name-Your-Own-Price Auctions. IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, 55(4) 579-589.
Zapata, R, T. Schmitz, M. Traverso, A. E. Abbas. 2009. Value of Information and Experimentation in Milling Profit Optimization. International Journal of Mechatronics and Manufacturing Systems, 2 (5, 6), 580 – 599.
Abbas, A., L. Yang, R. Zapata, and T, Schmitz. 2008. Application of decision analysis to milling profit maximization: An introduction. Int. J. Materials and Product Technology, Vol. 35 (1/2), 64-88. Special Issue on Intelligent Machining.


  • 2015 Informs Decision Analysis Society: Decision Analysis First Runner up Best Publication Award 2013
  • 2015 Informs Decision Analysis Society: Decision Analysis Second Runner up Best Publication Award 2013
  • 2013 INFORMS Decision Analysis Society of INFORMS: Decision Analysis Best Publication Award 2011
  • 2013 INFORMS Decision Analysis Society: Decision Analysis First Runner up Best Publication Award 2011
  • 2012 National Science Foundation: Inaugural National Science Foundation I-Corps Award
  • 2012 Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Art Davis Faculty Scholar Award
  • 2009 Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Outstanding Teaching Award 2009
  • 2009 Fun Fact: My Erdos number is "Erdos 2" : Only 500 people ever existed with a lower Erdos number.
  • 2008 National Science Foundation: National Science Foundation CAREER Award
  • Daniel J Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering
  • USC PRICE School of Policy Planning and Development

  • OHE 310R
  • Olin Hall of Engineering
  • 3650 McClintock Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90089
  • USC Mail Code: 0193

Contact Information
  • (213) 740-5073
  • aliabbas@usc.edu


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