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Floske Spieksma appointed professor of Stochastic Decision Theory

As of 1 June, Floske Spieksma has been appointed Professor at the Mathematical Institute in Leiden. Her field of study is Stochastic Decision-Making. Within this field, researchers develop mathematical techniques to analyse and improve processes within organisations. ‘As a professor, I hope to safeguard Stochastic Decision-Making at Leiden University.’

Spieksma is the first female Programme Director in the field of Mathematics in the Netherlands. She started studying Spanish in Leiden and changed to Mathematics halfway through. ‘I missed the equations,’ she explains. Spieksma graduated cum laude and obtained her PhD in 1990. She is pleased to become a professor now. ‘Moreover, there are not that many full-time female maths professors in the Netherlands yet.’

Well-considered choice for Leiden

After six months as a postdoc in Berkeley in the US, Spieksma returned to Leiden. And she stayed. 'I could have joined Econometrics at two other universities, but I really wanted to research decision-making at a Mathematics department. That is why Leiden was the obvious choice. I did have to get a five-year KNAW grant for this. That has succeeded.'

Decision-making popular with students

Decision science is relevant and topical, Spieksma thinks. She has therefore worked hard to further develop this discipline in education. There are several courses in this field within both the bachelor's and the master's programme. Not only the courses themselves are popular, but the subject of decision making is also popular as a graduation topic. 'Since 2010 I have supervised more than hundred bachelor's and master's theses.’

Research into machine learning and combinatorial game theory

Frank van der Duijn Schouten, who was scientific director of the Mathematical Institute during the appointment of Spieksma, is happy. 'As education director of the Mathematics programme, Floske forms the backbone of the education programme at MI,' says Van der Duijn Schouten. And in her research in the field of Markov decision theory, she is constantly making new links with emerging research areas, such as machine learning and combinatorial game theory.'

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