2017 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Elisa Long, UCLA (Anderson)

Elisa Long

Assistant Professor of Decisions, Operations and Technology Management

UCLA, Anderson School of Management

Elisa Long says that what MBA candidates learn from television game show strategy can be applied in careers ranging from credit card fraud detection to airline flight scheduling. Coincidentally, as a contestant on The Price Is Right, this top professor and 2016 Teaching Award winner came off the stage after winning a pair of new cars.

Her primary research integrates epidemiological modeling, economic analysis and decision making under uncertainty, with the aim of assessing the value of health interventions to help policymakers allocate limited resources most effectively. She has constructed mathematical models to simulate HIV epidemics in Russia, India, South Africa, Ghana and the United States, identifying which combination of investments maximizes “bang for the buck.” Among her newest interests is improving patient health literacy.

Long’s first paper on breast cancer, published in JAMA Oncology, examined the controversial question of genetic testing for breast cancer among all women, not just those with known family history. Given that only one in 400 women carry a BRCA mutation, universal testing, at a price of $4,000, poses challenges in terms of feasibility. For this new area of research, Long–also a breast cancer survivor–received the 2015 UCLA Faculty Career Development Award.

Age:” 35

At current institution since: 2013

Education: PhD, Management Science & Engineering, Stanford (2008)

List of courses you currently teach: Data & Decisions

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I am working on developing a model to optimize surgical timing to prevent cancer in women with high-risk genetic mutations. Our goal is to provide an easy to understand tool that can help physicians and patients make informed, personalized decisions in cancer care.

Professor you most admire: My PhD advisor, Margaret Brandeau, is an incredible scholar, mentor, role model, and friend. I hugely credit her with encouraging me to pursue a career in academia.

“I knew I wanted to be a B-school professor when…I took my first b-school class in grad school and saw how interactive the classes are.”

“If I weren’t a B-school professor…I would run for political office. Or become a Jeopardy clue writer.”

One word that describes my first time teaching an MBA class: Exhilarating

Most memorable moment in the classroom, or in general, as a professor: There are so many to choose from, but some favorites include having dozens of students and faculty over to my house to compete in a Rock Band tournament; walking in the MBA fashion show; and using character deaths on Game of Thrones to teach about discrete probability distributions (including a potential negative value from last season). Also, I remember teaching a class the day after my now-husband and fellow professor, Keith Chen, proposed. Several of our MBA students had wagers that it would happen soon because he discussed diamond pricing in his econ class.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? In 2015, I published a Washington Post op-ed about my experience battling breast cancer and the parallels with preparing to go on the game show The Price is Right… and then winning two cars! I wrote the article to share my perspective—as both a patient and researcher—to help other women and families afflicted by the disease. It also inspired me to conduct more research on decision-making in medicine.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? I love hearing from students after they graduate about how they used some concept from class in their professional or personal lives.

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor? Assigning final grades is definitely the least enjoyable part of my job.

What is your favorite business-themed movie and what is the biggest lesson that MBA students could gain from it? Risky Business, because you can never predict where life will take you.

Fun fact about yourself: I have synesthesia, which means I see specific numbers as colors (4 = orange, 5 = red, 6 = blue, and so on).

Bucket list item #1: I have traveled to 6 out of the 7 continents, and just need to get to Antarctica.

Favorite book: 1984, Anna Karenina, The Emperor of All Maladies, and (lately) A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, Barbarian Days by William Finnegan

Favorite movie: I’ve watched the movie Clue a million times and can quote every line. My classic movie knowledge is sadly very limited. I watched Casablanca for the first time last year and I finally understand all the references!

Favorite type of music: Anything except country. Does NPR count?

Favorite television show: The Wire, The Great British Baking Show

Favorite vacation spot: Toss-up between the Galapagos and Tetiaroa, French Polynesia

What are your hobbies? Hiking, swimming, traveling, exploring all the amazing restaurants in Los Angeles

Twitter handle: I’m still a Twitter Luddite

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…unlimited free food and good coffee.”


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