Start Center - Strategic Analysis, Research & Training Center
START Center



Each quarter, one of START’s faculty members talks with our research assistants about their career path, and the factors behind the decisions they made that led them to where they are. This quarter, START’s Faculty Focus was Dr. Abraham “Abie” Flaxman.

Abie describes his career with the Institute for Health Metrics (IHME) at the University of Washington (UW) as being “in the right place, at the right time”. He was a “classic” math major that impressed his undergraduate teachers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1996 – 2000, where professors and mentors often confused his applied mathematical skills for what was developing in the computer science realm (theoretical computer science, at least). Taking his interest further, Abie decided to go directly into his PhD at Carnegie Mellon University from 2000 – 2006 in Algorithms, Combinatorics, and Optimization, a program join between math, computer science, and the business school. Following his PhD, Abie took a post-doc position at Microsoft, working with the Theory Group at Microsoft Research. After two years in this role, Abie decided he wanted to use his talents for something that he found more purposeful than theoretical puzzle solving.

Abie decided to try shifting his work into global health and came to IHME a year after its inception, where impassioned researchers were working to create what is now known as the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study. This study analyzes thousands of data inputs from all over the world and creates a “tree map” that summarizes the composition of disease burden globally by country, age, and time. His move to IHME began what has become a career in research and academia.

With the newfound popularity of Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems for mass usage, Abie is a supporter of safe and effective AI use within academia. In reflecting on his career, Abie calls attention to the importance of leaning into your work’s purpose and keeping the “Why?” into it. In addition to being an Associate Professor of Health Metric Sciences at IHME at the UW, Abie has worked with the START Center as a content expert in modeling since 2022.

Dr. Abie Flaxman joined the Center as a faculty mentor in summer 2023.