Elisa Stefaniak profile picture

Elisa Stefaniak

Research Scholar

Biodiversity, Ecology, and Conservation Research Group

Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program

Research Scholar

Exploratory Modeling of Human-natural Systems Research Group

Advancing Systems Analysis Program


Elisa Stefaniak is a postdoc researcher jointly associated with the Biodiversity, Ecology, and Conservation Research Group in the IIASA Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program and the Exploratory Modeling of Human-Natural Systems Research Group in the IIASA Advancing Systems Analysis Program. She is currently working on vegetation model development as part of the RESIST project.

She originally started her career in Computer Science with a focus on algorithmics and machine learning. She interned at FactSet Ltd. in London, UK, developing user interfaces and database connectivity tools. She however soon learned that her interests lie primarily in biological systems and more specifically in mathematical and computational biology. The increase in the amount of biological data requires searching and applying new methods from disparate fields to help understand it and new interdisciplinary uses of mathematics and computing can, therefore, support research on the interfaces of the natural and human world, a most challenging and fascinating area of study.

Stefaniak recently completed her PhD in Mathematical and Computation Biology on Modeling optimal plant carbon storage. Between her PhD submission and taking up the postdoc position at IIASA, she worked with industry to provide research services involved in crop pathogen resistance through the use of genomic data science and with the Government of New South Wales in Australia on analyzing biodiversity credit offset sites.

She has worked in both applied and basic science. Her applied work focuses primarily on working with industry to provide computational and data science services as well as education. Some of the highlights of her work include her current project on characterizing pathogen-resistance mutations in crop DNA, her work with Geneious software to help curate immunological data, and her work with the JBA Trust on expanding AR Sandbox software to aid in public and industry awareness of natural flood management techniques.

Her academic work, on the other hand, has primarily focused on expanding basic science. In her PhD thesis, inspired by approaches in economics and engineering, she made innovative use of optimal control, maximum entropy, and model predictive control to study how plants use and allocate carbon to deal with uncertainty and stress, such as droughts or cold. Her thesis is currently under examination. She previously completed a master’s by research at the University of Lancaster in the UK, where she worked on macroeconomic modeling in plants (focusing on carbon flux) in an effort to apply economic models of growth to the changes in energy use and acquisition in forest ecosystems.

Last update: 19 JUL 2023


Stefaniak, E., Tissue, D., Dewar, R., Hofhansl, F. , Joshi, J., & Medlyn, B. (2023). Optimality Theory informed Carbon Storage Allocation under drought. In: 2nd Workshop Carbon Allocation in Plants - Advances in carbon allocation and acquisition, 20-21 NOVEMBER 2023, Versailles, France.