Administrative Team

We are a team of researchers and educators dedicated to a safer, more sustainable, and peaceful world. The SoTeRiA-IAP increases the use of risk analysis technologies for the improvement of business enterprise performance and safety to protect workers, the public, and the environment.

 Director, Zahra Mohaghegh, Ph.D.

Zahra Mohaghegh, an assistant professor of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering (NPRE) and a faculty affiliate of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, is dedicated to positioning the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a global leader in socio-technical risk analysis. To meet this goal, Mohaghegh, the director of the Socio-Technical Risk Analysis (SoTeRiA) research laboratory ( in NPRE, is advancing Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA).

After completing her postdoctoral research appointment in 2011 at the Center for Risk and Reliability at the University of Maryland, Zahra created a risk management consulting company in Boston. She made the move to academia in 2013 to fulfill her desire to teach and to interact with students through research.  Zahra has diligently worked toward this goal; establishing the SoTeRiA Laboratory, where a multidisciplinary team of students, researchers, and industry professionals are advancing PRA with scientific innovations in two key research areas: (i) spatio-temporal causal simulation of social and physical failure mechanisms, and (ii) the fusion of big data analytics with PRA.

When Zahra joined the NPRE faculty, she transferred a large-scale industry research project sponsored by the South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company to the university. The project involved developing an integrated risk methodology for the resolution of a 20-year, long-standing safety issue in the nuclear industry, Generic Safety Issue 191, which was related to the performance of the emergency core cooling system following a loss of coolant accident. For the last four years, Zahra and her graduate students have been involved in the risk-informed GSI-191 project, which recently gained NRC approval.

In 2015, Zahra became the principal investigator (PI) of a five-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to quantify organizational factors using big data analytics in PRA. In 2017, she became the PI for a three-year DOE grant for enterprise risk management to promote the sustainability of the U.S. nuclear fleet. She is the recipient of the 2016 American Nuclear Society Mary Jane Oestmann Professional Women’s Achievement Award for her innovation in risk analysis, the 2016 Engineering Council Award for Excellence in Advising, the 2015 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research from the College of Engineering, and the George Apostolakis Award in risk assessment. She served as the Technical Chair for the 2013 American Nuclear Society Risk Management topical meeting and as the Academic Chair for the 2017 International Topical Meeting on Probabilistic Safety Assessment and Analysis (PSA 2017) Conference.

Industry Liaison, Ernie Kee

Ernie Kee is a Research Associate Professor in the SoTeRiA Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. He has thirty-five years of experience in light water reactor risk assessment, operations, research, performance evaluation, and maintenance with the South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company (STPNOC). He retired from STPNOC, and served as the technical lead on the STPNOC project, where he managed a team from academia (four universities), industry (three entities), and a national laboratory in a multi-year project to implement Risk-Informed Resolution of the long-standing Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Generic Safety Issue 191. He previously supervised a team of students to develop and implement the methodologies used at STPNOC to evaluate on-line configuration risk. These methodologies implemented quantitative analysis for the NRC Initiative 4b, Initiative 5b, NRC Maintenance Rule, INPO Mitigating Systems Performance Indicators (MSPI), and internal risk measures (Risk Index and Work Week Risk). Mr. Kee also regularly supervises university interns (both graduate and undergraduate) during the summer breaks. His operational experience includes commercial pressurized water reactors and the U.S. Navy applications. His research experience includes experiment design and analysis support using reactor safety codes such as TRAC and RELAP5 for transient analyses on commercial and experimental reactors in the U.S. and abroad. His experience in performance evaluation includes routine field measurements of reactor operating parameters using installed plant instrumentation, plant chemistry data analysis for fuel performance, and special test support for troubleshooting fuel modifications. His maintenance experience includes troubleshooting, corrective maintenance, and overhauling U.S. Navy nuclear submarine mechanical systems. Mr. Kee has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Idaho.


The SoTeRiA-IAP is supported by the SoTeRiA Laboratory Research Team.