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She was born in 1948 in Dakar, Senegal. She holds a BS in mathematics and physics from Aix-Marseille University in 1968, MS and Engineering degrees in applied mathematics and computer science from the Institut Polytechnique de Grenoble, France, in 1970; a Masters degree in Operations Research from Stanford in 1972 and a Ph.D. in Engineering-Economic Systems, also from Stanford, in 1978.
She held first the position of Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at MIT, and then Professor in the Stanford Department of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management, from 1991 on. She has been Chair of the department since 1997. In 1999, she was named Burt and Deedee McMurtry Professor in the Stanford School of Engineering. She is also a Senior Fellow of the Stanford Institute for International Studies.