Karen Hicklin, Ph.D.  

Karen Hicklin, Ph.D.  
Assistant Professor
Department of Industrial and
Systems Engineering
Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering

Before beginning her faculty appointment, Karen Hicklin, Ph.D., completed postdoctoral training in the department of statistics and operations and department of health behavior in the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research interest include the data-driven approaches to model decision making for health care quality improvement. She focuses on using optimization methods — decision trees, simulation, Markov decision processes and Bayesian decision analysis — to provide solutions and policies for health care delivery. She received her Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from North Carolina State University, her MS in Mathematics and Statistics from Georgetown University, and her BS from Spelman College where she majored in mathematics.

Dr. Hicklin is a member of the Cancer Center’s Cancer Control and Population Sciences research program.

What Are Your Current Research Interests?

My research interests encompass decision making using mathematical modeling of stochastic systems for improved healthcare quality. Currently, we are working on evaluating the cost-effectiveness of multicomponent interventions for colorectal cancer screening using microsimulation. This work aims to understand what combination of interventions are most effective for the population as a whole and for different sub-groups that have historically lower screening rates for colorectal cancer.  

Why Did You Decide to Focus on Cancer?

I am an industrial engineer who focuses on mathematical modeling of healthcare systems and decision making. I completed a postdoctoral fellowship in public health, which was impactful for me to understand how industrial engineering can be complementary to medicine for improved health outcomes. During this fellowship, I found great interest in health disparities and cancer care. Being able to understand how differential care can impact cancer outcomes for vulnerable populations continues to be a passion of mine.  

What Excites You About Your Work? What is Exciting to You About Your Field Right Now? 

I like collaborating with biomedical scientists to continue to grow the field of using optimization and modeling mechanisms to improve health care quality and delivery. Knowing that my modeling techniques can lead to better strategies for achieving health equity really excites me.

What Do You Like to Do Outside of Work? 

I enjoy listening to audiobooks, working on jigsaw puzzles, painting as well as spending quality time with my family, friends and my dog, Bentley.