Robert Bixby earned his B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley (1968) and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Operations Research from Cornell University (1971 and 1972). He began his career as a mathematics instructor at Cornell in 1971, then joined the faculty at the University of Kentucky as assistant professor of mathematics. In 1974, he spent a year as visiting assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, then returned to Kentucky, where he was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1976. Bixby spent the next year as visiting associate professor at Cornell before moving to Northwestern University in 1977. In 1983, Bixby joined the Rice University faculty as professor of computational and applied mathematics, with periodic leaves to teach at major research institutes and universities in Bonn, Berlin, and Augsburg, West Germany.