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April 20, 2017

Personal Mention

Baruch FischhoffIn a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, "Understanding Decisions: The Power of Combining Psychology and Economics," Baruch Fischhoff and his co-author Wändi Bruine de Bruin show how collaborations between psychologists and economists lead to a better understanding of decisions than either discipline can on its own. Fischhoff is the Howard Heinz University Professor in the Institute for Politics and Strategy and Department of Engineering and Public Policy, and Bruine de Bruin is professor of behavioral decision making at Leeds University Business School, who received her Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon. Read more.

Nitsan ShaiNitsan Shai, the Carnegie Mellon Student Employee of the Year, was named the Pennsylvania Student Employee of the Year by the National Student Employment Association. He was presented with both awards at the Student Employee Appreciation Lunch on April 12. Nitsan works for Academic Development as a leader, mentor and student supervisor of the SI/EXCEL programs and was nominated by Jessica Owens. Nitsan is an electrical and computer engineering major from Palo Alto, Calif. He will earn his bachelor’s degree this May.

Juan Jorge SchafferObituary: Juan Jorge Schäffer, a professor of mathematics at Carnegie Mellon, died Feb. 12. He was 86.

Schäffer was born March 10, 1930, in Vienna, Austria. He completed his undergraduate studies in Uruguay and his doctoral studies in Switzerland, where he obtained doctorates in electrical engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and in mathematics from the University of Zürich in 1956. In 1957, Schäffer returned to Uruguay to teach engineering and mathematics at the Universidad de la República in Montevideo before coming to Carnegie Mellon in 1968. He joined the Carnegie Mellon faculty as a professor of mathematics, a position he held until his death.

His research focused on functional analysis and differential equations and on geometry in the setting of infinite dimensional spaces. Emeritus Professor of Mathematics David Owen credits Schäffer’s own prodigious penchant for problem solving and eagerness to answer mathematical questions for inspiring students to use mathematical tools to solve everyday problems. His seminars became an important component of the popular mathematical studies course, and the principles taught in the course have shaped students’ learning far beyond their years at Carnegie Mellon.

Schäffer's passion for history led him to develop a history of mathematics course at the Mellon College of Science. In an oral history interview with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Oral History Branch, he told the story of his family and his life, from his escape from Nazi-occupied Austria to his career as a mathematician.

A lover of languages, he was fluent in English, Spanish, French, German and Portuguese. He and his late wife, Inés, hosted international visitors to Pittsburgh, and he also was a volunteer translator for international patients at Pittsburgh hospitals and for the University of Pittsburgh’s Dr. Thomas Starzl, a pioneer in transplant surgery.

Schäffer is survived by his son, Alejandro; daughter-in-law, Beth; and grandson, Daniel. Read the full obituary.