Thursday, June 30, 2011

Remembrances from the IEEE Supernetwork Conference in Shanghai

The Proceedings of the 2011 IEEE Conference on Supernetworks and System Management, which took place in Shanghai, China, have now been indexed by IEEE and are online.

I also have a hardcopy of the Proceedings in which my paper, Spatial Price Equilibrium and Food Webs: The Economics of Predator-Prey Networks, written with the "other" Professor Nagurney, appears as the lead article. The editors of the proceedings are: Professors Fu Yuan Xu and June Dong.

The Business School of the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology did a wonderful job providing us with remembrances of the conference, which are featured in the photo above, including a silk scroll of the famous Shanghai Bund.

It's great that the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst has its logo featured on the conference proceedings cover as well as the Virtual Center for Supernetworks that I direct and SUNY Oswego, which was one of the sponsors, and the home institution of Professor June Dong. We also received a lovely laminated photo of all the participants which is now hanging on my office door.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Photos of Views from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

In an earlier blogpost, I wrote about my travels to and from Berkeley, California to attend a meeting of the I3P (Institute for Information Infrastructure Protection) consortium that UMass Amherst and about 2 dozen universities, government labs, etc., are part of.

The meeting took place June 22-23, 2011 at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

We were put up at the Berkeley Lab Guest House, which is located on a mountain overlooking the San Francisco Bay and the views are quite spectacular.

While there, I saw not only wild turkeys (quite a few of them) roaming around and even deer only a few feet away from me.

I will let the photos above speak for themselves. Seeing the early morning fog over San Francisco Bay was magical.

Meeting Great People in Travels to and from Berkeley

As it is often said, the journey is as important as reaching your destination.

When the email arrived from United the night before I was to fly to San Francisco, after my daughter had me watch the movie, The Terminal, with Tom Hanks, I suspected the worst, but I was just being rerouted through DC rather than flying through Chicago. Given the "computer glitch" of last week which resulted in 36 flight cancellations and some negative press plus inconvenience to many travelers, most likely United was still catching up.

When I asked and received aisle bulk head (and exit row) seats and great seat-mates on both legs of my journey (just lucked out) I was more than pleased. On the flight to Dulles from Bradley (Hartford/Springfield) I sat next to a Principal Scientist from a top pharmaceutical company who had gone to URI, Yale, and who had had a postdoc at Dana Farber. He researches anti-viral drugs, and his company provides drugs for free to Africa. The conversation never stopped and the flight was much too short so we exchanged business cards. We even discussed mergers and acquisitions in this industry and how, in his case, luckily, the acquiring company knew to keep the scientific talent and to reward accordingly.

On the flight to San Francisco, I sat next to a college student who had gone for a year to a boarding school in a very isolated wooded location and he was off to a series of techno rave concerts in Las Vegas. His curiosity, love of languages, and travel experiences were fun and refreshing -- we bonded on discussions of what makes Italy so special!

After about 12 hours since leaving my home in Amherst, I arrived in the San Francisco airport only to be told by a taxi driver that the traffic to Berkeley was so bad that he would not take me there (the only other similar experience I had ever had was in Athens, Greece, when a taxi driver refused to take me because I did not have the exact change, despite my pleas to even pay him more).

At this point, I was rather tired, but I figured, why not try another mode of transportation, and since I had never ridden BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) but had heard and read a lot about it, I decided to go that route. I received a nice map at the information desk (but it was missing the crucial link of how to actually to get to the BART station). As I was getting my bearings and trying to figure out in which direction I should march with my luggage I noticed a female with tons of luggage so I just asked her whether she might be a grad student at UC Berkeley. Not only was she a grad student there (working on getting her PhD in Math) and had been traveling for over 24 hours, including taking a 12 hour bus ride from her village in Brazil to the Sao Paolo airport, but her Master's degree advisor in Sao Paolo had gotten his PhD in Applied Math from Brown University and his supervisor (Professor Constantine Dafermos) was the husband of my doctoral dissertation advisor (Professor Stella Dafermos)! We had a wonderful conversation during our journey on BART, despite being in an un-air-conditioned car, during the commuting period. She is being fully supported on a Fulbright scholarship.

The purpose of my travel to UC Berkeley was to attend a consortium meeting of the I3P (Institute for Information Protection). I will write more in another blogpost.

As for my journey back from Berkeley, I decided to take a taxi/limo and, would you believe that we stopped in downtown Berkeley where the driver took another passenger (without warning me) and this was so that we could go faster using the car pool lane! Our "passenger," who was riding for free, is an antitrust lawyer who had gone to Smith College and Harvard Law School, and she commutes this way regularly. We dropped her off in downtown San Fran, and then my driver sped off to the airport. She had just finished work on a highly visible antitrust case, and we even talked about digital piracy.

Again, at the San Fran airport, I was called out by United and rewarded with an exit row seat (thank you, United) (perhaps it does not hurt that my college room-mate at Brown is a top-level United stewardess and being a frequent flier has its rewards). My flight from San Fran to Chicago O'Hare was terrific and when I arrived at my gate at O'Hare there was police presence, so we speculated as to whether someone from the FBI's ten most wanted list was being transported through O'Hare. (No luck, but we had our cell-phones and cameras ready and we were probably a day or two too early for this, given the news).

At O'Hare, I met a finance and IT professional who was standing in front of me who began talking about multicriteria optimization -- nothing like a discussion about operations research to make for a fun time. He had gotten his degrees from IIT and UConn. He was puzzled as to why United would not transfer his first class ticket on the 9PM flight to an economy class seat on the 7:20 o'clock flight, given that there was a seat available, and he flies every week! Eventually, he got on my flight with a big smile (the 9PM flight had been delayed for 90 minutes). We arrived at Bradley on time.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

An Ivy League University President Who Loved Math

Today's New York Times, in one of my favorite columns, The Corner Office, has a wonderful interview with Dr. Amy Gutmann, the President of the University of Pennsylvania. I had the pleasure of hearing her speak while I was a Science Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard in 2005-2006.

In the interview, conducted by Adam Bryant, she is asked many questions about her leadership style but what impressed me most about her (besides her energy, intelligence, and elegance that always shine through) :

1. her gratitude to her parents and especially for her father's courage and farsightedness -- he left Nazi Germany for India, and for her mother's survival of the depression, experiences which taught Dr. Gutmann to focus on the long term and not just to react to the next small challenge;

2. how she loved math and emphasized that she was captain of the math team and enjoyed solving puzzles. She thanks her 8th grade math teacher for motivating all kids and quotes Emerson: "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." In addition to enthusiasm, she emphasized the relevance of "hard, smart work," and

3. the importance of communications as a leader, which I completely agree with. She emails, calls people, walks around campus, and drops by her employees' (31,000 worth) offices. She listens and wants to know what motivates people. Employees who are noticed and paid attention to will respond in kind and will produce for the organization.

Dr. Gutmann graduated as the valedictorian of her public high school class in NY and was the first from her school to go to Radcliffe (which has since become part of Harvard). She received her PhD in political science from Harvard, after receiving a Master's from the London School of Economics. Before coming to Penn she was a professor and then Provost at Princeton (who now also has a female President as do Harvard and brown -- all simply terrific leaders). Dr. Gutmann's daughter, Abigail Gutmann Doyle, is now an Assistant Professor of Chemistry, having received her PhD from Harvard, too. By the way, she also was the valedictorian of her high school class.

Read the interview with President Gutmann here and learn from this great leader.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy 100th Birthday to IBM!

Reaching 100 years of age is remarkable for anyone, including a company, so congratulations are in order to IBM, which has reached its first century milestone as a company.

I can say that I grew up with IBM, having used IBM computers (yes, mainframes) as an undergraduate student at Brown University in Applied Mathematics, specializing in Operations Research, and also while a graduate student there. I spent a lot of time at the computing center since I so enjoyed solving those large-scale network problems.

After working in the high tech defense sector and getting my PhD, I was heavilty involved in supercomputing while an Assistant and then Associate Professor at UMass Amherst. I used the IBM supercomputer facility at Cornell, along with other centers at Illinois, and Pittsburgh, which were all then funded heavily by NSF (what a glorious time that was) and even got to serve on the National Allocations Committee at the Cornell Supercomputing facility.

IBM had an initiative at that time to feature one week workshops in Lech, Austria (and I had heard even in Monaco, but I did not get invited to those) and I was an invited speaker in two of them -- on Computational Economics and on Computational Finance. The speakers would get picked up at the Zurich airport and then driven through the Alps to this magical resort where we had not only views and amazing food but light brown cows with bells wandering around and waking us up in the early morning. We even got a chance to meet some top IBM executives. IBM no longer has such workshops, but perhaps the company will reinstitute them.

We all know about IBM PCs and have IBM to thank for them, as well, and, more recently, the great Watson supercomputer and its Jeopardy win.

IBM continues to innovate and to reinvent itself as a company, and is fcusing now on providing services and customer solutions, and I applaud it on its huge milestone. This article from USA Today has more on what reaching this milestone means.

Another reason that I am personally fond of IBM is because of its employees who are not only colleagues in one of my primary fields -- operations research and analytics, but who are also really terrific people.

Since we regularly host speakers through our UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, we have had the pleasure of hearing from many IBM greats, including Dr. Brenda Dietrich, who is an IBM Fellow and the leader of its Business Analytics and Math Sciences research activities, and Dr. Robin Lougee-Heimer, as well as Dr. Grace Lin, formerly of IBM.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Congrats to the Bruins!

I was in Boston yesterday and one couldn't help but notice all the Bruins hockey shirts that the fans were wearing. We did see one brave soul wearing a Canucks shirt.

Now it is official and the Bruins have captured the Stanley Cup with their win against the Canucks in Vancouver in the seventh game with a shutout score of 4-0!

Although I was born in Canada and am the mother of a figure skater and not of a hockey player, one can't help but be swept up by the celebrations in Massachusetts. Besides, as my daughter says, why can't the Canadians think of more appropriate names for their teams?

The Boston Globe has a great article on the Bruins' win and what it means for the fans -- bringing the Stanley Cup back after 39 years.

Boston will have the parade to honor the Bruins on Saturday at 11AM so be sure to watch it, either in person or on television.

Tonight we will be back at a skating rink since our daughter is preparing herself for another skating competition.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New President of Amherst College is Dr. Carolyn A. Martin

As some of you know, Dr. Anthony "Tony" Marx, has left the Presidency of Amherst College, to become the President of the New York Public Library. His son goes to school with my daughter.

It has just been announced that Dr. Carolyn A. Martin, who is the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Madison, will be the new President of Amherst College. She spent 25 years at Cornell. She will be the first female President of Amherst College, which began admitting females only in 1975.

Interestingly, The New York Times noted that she is a scholar of German literature, which is exactly the area that the UMass Amherst Chancellor, Dr. Robert Holub, is an expert on (and he also received his PhD from Wisconsin).

Cornell has Posted the Videos of Professor Isard's Memorial and Symposium

On April 29, 2011, Cornell University was the site for the Memorial Service and Symposium in honor of Professor Walter Isard, who passed away last year at age 91. Professor Isard was the founder of regional science and peace science and a great friend and mentor to many.

I was to speak at the Symposium but because of bad weather in the US my flights on USAIR were cancelled.

Nevertheless, my presentation was delivered by my former student and colleague from SUNY Oswego, Professor June Dong. The above photos were kindly provided by Professor Dong.

Cornell, through the efforts of Professor Kieran Donaghy, who helped to organize the special day, has now posted the videos of both the morning memorial service and the afternoon symposium.

I spent the better part of last Saturday viewing the videos and was touched by the reflections of colleagues from around the world, by the presentations of several of his grown children (he and his wife had had 6 and then adopted 2 more). When on holidays with his children, who would cart along a trailer with a piano so that he could provide music

The music provided at the end of the memorial by Professors Donaghy, T. John Kim of the University of Illinois Urbana, and Jean Paelinck, who is now a Distinguished Visiting Professor at George Mason University, without any rehearsals, I might add, was touching.

I learned a lot from the speakers at the afternoon symposium and thank Professor June Dong for delivering my presentation! Luckily, she lives only about an hour away from Cornell and drove there.

Some of the many highlights:

Professor Geoff Hewings of the University of Illinois Urbana noted three things that he had learned from Walter Isard:

(1). Make your dreams a reality -- Just Do It (even if your institutions create roadblocks).

(2). Do high quality research -- Stand Out.

(3). Take care of the next generation.

Professor David E. Boyce, who is both an INFORMS Fellow and a Regional Science Association International (RSAI) Fellow, read a letter from Professor Martin Beckmann, in the morning. In Boyce's afternoon remarks on travels with Isard he noted how much Isard, when going to conferences, also liked to make time for visiting zoos (this made me smile) and when asked as to why, he said that the Nobel prize winner, Leontieff, also liked zoos. Karen Polenske of MIT, who also spoke, was a former student of Leontieff's at Harvard and reflected on how Isard, while at MIT, used to rollerblade to teach his classes (not a myth but the truth). I even learned of a book of Isard's from Professor Adam Rose of USC on ecological economic analysis, which I promptly ordered through Amazon.

Professor Isard, through his indomitable spirit, intellect, and organizational skills, built a community, which spans the globe, and he left so many friends. When I gave a seminar at Cornell, and was hosted by Professor Donaghy, on April 1, 2009, he showed up to my talk.

Also, I learned my lesson -- never take a USAIR flight that requires a connection in Philly. At least USAIR reimbursed me for the cancelled flights.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Do Women Scientists Have to be Made of Steel or Titanium?

As I noted in an earlier blogpost, the 2011 World Science Festival, which concluded last week in NYC, had a feature event on Women in Science.

Gina Kolata of The New York Times, brought together several of the women scientists that had taken part in the Spotlight: Women in Science event for a roundtable in which she posed questions to them about the challenges that they had faced, their successes, and asked them for advice that they would offer to their daughters regarding science.

In the Q&A, one heard of the support that institutions need to provide for scientists to be able to do their work and one point specifically resonated with me. Dr. Joy Hirsch, who is a neuroscientist at Columbia, stated: There is one very important component here that is worth raising, and I think that is the need for institutional procedure and commitment to bring women on board. When I was at Yale, I was the chairman of the Status of Women Committee for a long period of time. During that time Yale as an institution had a major commitment to raise the visibility and the numbers of women, and we did exactly as you described without a compromise at all in quality. It is not that we just teach our women to be self-promoting and to be excellent. We must also, I think, take the responsibility of teaching our institutions to be receptive and proactive and even aggressive in this manner.

I have written about the demands that universities put on female academics in terms of service. Isn't it time that universities also start to seriously promote their achievements?!

Also, these top female scientists emphasized the importance of visibility in the profession and of traveling and speaking at conferences, etc. I concur and early on in my career would even fund travel out of my own pocket. Now I have reached a point in my career that much of my travel is funded by sponsors and organizations.

It will be interesting to see whether daughters of female scientists elect to go into science or will "generations be skipped," given that they see how hard their mothers have worked and are working. Then again, we have chosen to have such amazing lives in which no two days are the same, the travel brings you to fascinating places and you get to meet such interesting people, and to work on problems that truly challenge you.

And, yes, as they concluded, we do need to be made of titanium and not just steel.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

What Was in the Heavy Package from China?

Virtual communications are terrific but receiving a heavy package at your door that has traveled thousands of miles and comes as a complete surprise is something special.

Such an experience happened to me yesterday and above is a photograph of the contents of the padded package from China. The inscription reads: PAKDD 2011 With gratitude to Professor Anna Nagurney for her keynote speech at the conference.

How extremely thoughtful of the organizers of the PAKDD2011 Conference in Shenzhen, China to thank a keynote speaker in this way and to take the time and effort to have such a gift produced and mailed!

My keynote speech on Supernetworks: Opportunities and Challenges for Decision-Making in the 21st Century can be viewed (and heard) using different media here and the presentation, in pdf format, can be downloaded here.

As a Finance colleague of mine at the Isenberg School said, before I brought the beautiful engraved crystal creation (see photo above) to my office yesterday, we, in the Western world, should learn how to thank and recognize our speakers as the Chinese do!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Germany Reports that Sprouts Were the Source of the E. Coli Outbreak

In a recent blogpost, I wrote about global food supply chains, food safety, and the outbreak of a severe "rare" form of E. Coli in Europe with the epicenter in northern Germany, which has now killed 29 and sickened nearly 3,000.

Today, Germany has concluded that bean sprouts grown in Germany were the source of the E. Coli although it has not been able to identify this particular strain at the source, that is, at the farm(s). According to The New York Times, tests conducted on the sprouts produced only negative results. The decision to blame the sprouts was based on interviews with patients and even restaurant chefs where people had eaten bean sprouts, since it was deemed that those infected were nine times more likely to have eaten bean sprouts than those who had not.

Clearly, further supply chain forensics are needed to be able to fully trace the path(s) that this vegetable product took from the farms to the plates where it was consumed.

Could it have been the trucks that were used for distribution? Or, perhaps, handlers or processors of the sprouts that contaminated the produce? Many questions still remain.

The mystery is not yet solved and until it is more illnesses and deaths can be expected.

Supply Chain Networks and Quick-Response Production under Uncertainty

In the paper, Supply Chain Outsourcing Under Exchange Rate Risk and Competition, Zugang Liu and Anna Nagurney, Omega 39: (2011) pp 539-549, we explored supply chain outsourcing decision-making under exchange rate uncertainty and competition. The paper recently made the Top 25 Hottest Articles in Decision Sciences (at number 5).

We then became interested in supply chain flexibility and associated decision-making in quick-response industries, such as fast fashion, toys, consumer electronics and personal consumers, as well as industries associated with merchandise for holidays and special events.

The result is a network modeling and computational framework that integrates stochastic programming and variational inequalities for supply chain decision-making with global outsourcing and quick-response production under demand and cost uncertainty. Our model considers multiple off-shore suppliers, multiple manufacturers, and multiple demand markets. The complete study is reported in our paper,
Supply Chain Networks with Global Outsourcing and Quick-Response Production Under Demand and Cost Uncertainty, Zugang Liu and Anna Nagurney.

Specifically, using variational inequality theory, we formulated the governing equilibrium conditions of the competing decision-makers (the manufacturers) who are faced with two-stage stochastic programming problems but who also have to cooperate with the other decision-makers (the off-shore suppliers). Our theoretical and analytical results shed light on the value of outsourcing from novel real option perspectives.

Our results reveal important managerial insights for supply chain decision-makers who are faced with decisions regarding outsourcing and quick-response production under demand and cost uncertainty:

1). For manufacturers who do not have quick-response production capability, rising demand uncertainty will increase the value of outsourcing. However, for risk-neutral decision-makers who have quick-response production capability, rising cost uncertainty will reduce the value of outsourcing.

2). Manufacturers with quick-response production can expect higher average profit and lower risk than their competitors who do not have such capability. However, these manufacturers may not have a higher chance to beat their competitors in terms of profit when the demand uncertainty is low. Moreover, they may have lower profits if the demand turns out to be at normal levels.

3). The prevalence of quick-response production will reduce the benefit.

4). Manufacturers without quick-response capability should understand that they can still be indirectly and negatively affected by the cost variations of quick-response production through market competition.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

New York City and Fashion Supply Chain Management

I recently spent a few days in New York City and stayed at our favorite hotel on the Upper West Side, The Excelsior, which is across from the Museum of Natural History. As appropriate to one of the themes of the 2011 World Science Festival, which took place in NYC, June 1-5, I basked in both Art and Science.

I had a chance to go to the Guggenheim, which will soon be celebrating its 40th anniversary, to see the Frick Collection, and the Cooper and Hewitt Smithsonian Museum of Design, which had a breath-taking exhibit on over one hundred years of Van Cleef and Arpels jewelry. Also, my family and I got to see several of our relatives and my daughter got together with a friend from her prep school (while strolling in Central Park they were recognized by another friend of theirs who was in town from Connecticut to see The Museum of Natural History). Of course, we also headed over to Broadway and Times Square to view the pedestrian plaza where I had been filmed back in freezing March for the PBS production American Revealed for a segment on Transportation and the Braess paradox and even Basketball!

NYC never fails to captivate and we walked for miles and enjoyed not only Central Park but also the hustle and bustle of NYC and the amazing sights, sounds, energy, people, fashion (high as well as fast) and live theater.

Speaking of fashion, I am delighted that the preface to the Fashion Supply Chain Management: Industry and Business Analysis book is now online. This book, in which we have the leading chapter, Fashion Supply Chain Management Through Cost and Time Minimization from a Network Perspective, is edited by Dr. T.-M. Choi, and will be released next month.

Above I have posted some photos that were taken this past week in NYC, which depict scenes that show the beauty and elegance of this great city. I must also commend the taxi drivers, whose navigation and driving skills are terrific (at least in mid-Manhattan) and we made it to Penn Station just in time to catch the Metro North train.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Food Safety in Global Supply Chains

What is more important than the air we breathe and the food that we eat?!

The news coming from the European continent is shocking with 18 deaths reported, and close to 2,000 suffering from a rare E. Coli bacteria that officials believe was in the food supply, most likely in raw vegetables (cukes, tomatoes, and lettuce have been prime suspects, although the specific strain has not been found in the vegetables), with the majority of the illnesses being traced to northern Germany, specifically, Hamburg.

At this time of the year, when spring is in the northern hemisphere and the consumption of produce is up, to have hundreds hospitalized with severe kidney malfunctions is horrifying.

I travel a lot and enjoy the local, fresh cuisine whenever possible and who would expect such food-borne illnesses in such a highly developed country as Germany? A Swede has died after traveling to Germany and there are supposedly several in the US, also who traveled to Germany, now ill. We actually heard about this major health calamity from the owner of one of our local farms who has a wonderful soft ice cream stand, since she has relatives in that part of Germany, before the news even reached the major western media.

Food safety is essential as is food traceability. Dr. Mary Helander who spoke on a research panel on food safety recently at the INFORMS conference at UMass gave a brilliant talk on the topic in our Speaker Series and you can access her presentation here, which I wrote about on this blog. Ironically, shortly after her talk, there was an outbreak of E. Coli poisoning in hamburgers in the US.

A few years ago, I was on the doctoral dissertation of a student, Mr. Diogo M. Souza Monteiro, whose dissertation was entitled, Theoretical and Empirical Analysis of the Economics of Traceability Adoption in Food Supply Chains. He is now a professor in England, and visited us last Fall. He had also been a student in one of my Management Science classes in which we used my Network Economics book and had done a very nice project on vertical integration in food supply chains. He also cited several of our papers on supply chains and risk management in his dissertation. His dissertation advisor, Professor Julie Caswell, served on a major FDA panel on food safety and risk.

What is happening in Europe now regarding the food supply is turning into a major international incident since countries are refusing produce from certain countries.

I was invited to give keynotes at two different conferences in China that took place last week. Reading about food safety issues there as well as pollution gave me serious pause (you probably have seen the articles on watermelons exploding there due to injected chemicals, the milk being adulterated, and I stop here) and I was advised not to travel there. One of my keynotes in Shenzhen was delivered via videotape. Now, interestingly, Chinese scientists, from Shenzhen, are helping German scientists, to decipher the genetic code of the rare E. Coli bacteria! According to The New York Times, this Chinese laboratory said that the contagion had been caused by a “new strain of bacteria that is highly infectious and toxic.”

Food safety in global supply chains will require not only technology but also the cooperation among all the stakeholders from producers and distributors to consumers as well as regulators. In the meantime, people are very afraid and will continue to be until the source(s) of this severe outbreak is found.

Rest in Peace, Dr. Rosalyn Yalow, Nobel Laureate

As I was growing up in Yonkers, New York, I read The New York Times at every opportunity.

While I was a student at Yonkers High School and in college at Brown University, I would periodically come across articles on the amazing scientist, Dr. Rosalyn Sussman Yalow, who had been born in NYC. She passed away on May 30, 2011, in NYC at age 89.

Her parents never finished high school, but she went on to graduate magna cum laude from Hunter College and then struggled to get accepted for graduate school. When she applied to a midwestern university (I won't mention the name but you can find it here and times have changed somewhat since I was recruited by the same one a few years back for a tenured faculty position) to further her studies in physics, the university wrote back to her professor: She is from New York. She is Jewish. She is a woman. If you can guarantee her a job afterward, we’ll give her an assistantship. This could not be guaranteed, so she was rejected.

Despite being hurt by this rejection, she got a job as a secretary at Columbia University and with World War II opening up academic opportunities for women, she received a teaching assistantship at the University of Illinois in Urbana in engineering. She was the only female teaching fellow/faculty member out of 400! She received her doctorate in nuclear physics in 1945, moved back to NYC, where her incredible scientific career with discoveries in radioimmunoassay, with her collaborator Dr. Berson, continued.

Many new, creative ideas are met with resistance. According to The Times, scientific journals, at first, rejected her research with Berson on insulin antibodies. She did not forget this experience and included the rejection letter in her Nobel prize lecture. She received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1977, only the second woman at that point to have been awarded this major accolade. Speaking to schoolchildren several years after receiving the Nobel about the challenges of a life as a scientist, she said, Initially, new ideas are rejected. Later they become dogma, if you're right. And if you're really lucky, you can publish your rejections as part of your Nobel presentation.

Although Berson predeceased her, and, hence, could not share the prize with her, she named her lab after him, so that his name would appear on her publications afterwards. Yalow was not only a great scientist but also a great person.

This week, the 2011 World Science Festival (WSF) is taking place in NYC, and I hope to catch a part of it, since it is an amazing set of 50 events over 5 days. One of the themes this year, and Yalow would have been pleased, is Women in Science.

Some highlights of my experiences at the 2009 WSF can be found here.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Academic Genealogy Surprises Continue -- Back to Newton and Even Galileo Thanks to Mike Trick

Those of us in Operations Research are well aware of the heritage of our discipline, which includes such luminaries as the physicist Phillip Morse, and, as a distinct discipline, originates in the 1940s.

Many of us are curious about other students that have had the same doctoral dissertation advisor since networks in academia and beyond are important.

While I knew that the doctoral dissertation advisor of my dissertation advisor, Stella Dafermos, was F. Thomas "Tom" Sparrow, my academic genealogy trail ended there.

It was not until I received email messages from fellow OR blogger and CMU Professor Mike Trick that I found out that his advisor's, advisor's advisor was also Tom Sparrow, so we are academic cousins! Mike received his PhD from Georgia Tech while I received mine from Brown University.

In another recent blogpost, Mike, being the serious scholar and researcher that he is, traced our heritage back to Sir Isaac Newton, who needs no introductions to any living scientist, but, wait, there is more ...

While not technically his advisor in the current sense, the most important advisor to Newton was Isaac Barrow, the discoverer of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus.

Barrow, in turn, studied under Vincenzio Viviani, who studied under Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei, who is considered the father of modern physics.

Looking back in OR/MS Today, I found Great Moments in HistORy by Saul Gass and the second item mentions none other than Newton!

We clearly need to enthusiastically celebrate our scientific roots with our disciplinary brothers and sisters, including physicists.

When Rare Events Happen -- Tornadoes in Massachusetts!

As my UMass colleague in Engineering and an expert on tornadoes, Dr. Stephen Frasier, said yesterday, as tornadoes swept Massachusetts, beginning with the western part, where we live, what happened was a pretty big system and was uncharacteristic. The terror and shock that many felt were definitely real during a surreal evening.

I was home, having left my office at UMass Amherst, and we were getting ready to pick up our daughter from Deerfield, about 12 miles from Amherst, where she has final exams this week. Propitiously, I checked one of our local news channels online only to see in big bold letters that there was a tornado warning for our area. Needless to say, we who live in western MA, pride ourselves on getting through grueling winters with blizzards and when tornadoes strike elsewhere say that, in New England, we don't have to deal directly with such extreme events -- until yesterday.

The weather reports late yesterday afternoon continued to warn us of extreme weather -- storms with lightning, high winds, and tornadoes over the next couple of hours and many TV programs were preempted.

I was reminded of Nassim Taleb's book, The Black Swan, on rare events. Taleb had held a faculty appointment in my department a few years back and worked with my Finance colleagues.

We called our daughter (thank goodness for cell phones in emergencies, cancer risks notwithstanding) and told her that she would be picked up a bit later. Ultimately, she made it home and then, after dinner, drove herself to skating (she is a competitive figure skater, among other sports that she truly loves) while her parents were glued to the TV (itself quite the rare event). A tornado had, indeed, struck the city of Springfield and West Springfield, about 4:30PM (and to add to the anxiety, only 24 hours before, my husband and daughter had been precisely in that general area getting her fitted for new figure skates). The black funnel cloud was shown on TV and then the images of the devastation and the people wandering around in shock, with trees downed, cars smashed, and our major medical center, Bay State, in "disaster" mode with emergency vehicles trying to reach people. There were power outages, gas leaks, and many workers were stuck in their offices and unable to get home plus a big truck was overturned on a major bridge and traffic was at a standstill.

As my daughter drove herself home from skating at the Mullins Center at UMass at around 8PM she noted that the sky had turned yellow and the sun had a pink aura. The sky in our neighboring towns of Hadley and Northampton had turned a greenish black.

The tornadoes continued eastward.

As for emergency notification, the UMass Amherst campus had sounded its emergency warning sirens throughout the late afternoon and my doctoral students had stayed in their lab, which is, luckily, in the basement (but it is gorgeous) of the Isenberg School. Since there was so much lightning our wired computers at home were off so we did not read the email warnings until the horrific evening was over.

Dr. Frasier, whom I have blogged about, since my husband worked with him and his radar research group while on sabbatical at UMass, does fantastic work with his research group in tracking tornadoes. However, typically, the tornadoes that they chase are hundreds of miles away from Massachusetts, in places where there is a ready occurrence of them, such as in Oklahoma. Also, Frasier said that he wasn't chasing tornadoes yesterday because it's typically too difficult because of the number of trees in the Amherst area.

You may view videos of our terrifying evening here.

When my daughter got back safely from skating she also was glued to the TV news and said that the images reminded her of Katrina.

Even The New York Times is reporting on the deaths and devastation and our Governor, Deval Patrick, has declared a state of emergency.

We have all acquired a greater sense and a much deeper appreciation of the power of nature after our experiences yesterday and understand, more than ever, what our fellow citizens in Tuscaloosa and Joplin have experienced.

More on the science behind forecasting tornadoes and networks of radars can be found here.

Even our senator, John Kerry, is calling what transpired a once in a hundred years weather event.

However, and, amazingly, although the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield was one of the evacuation centers, one of its rooms still was the venue for the Minnechaug High School prom yesterday (and my daughter confirmed that she had been receiving text messages yesterday evening that a friend of hers, through skating, was already there and had been driven by her parents).

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The 2011 Summer Supernetwork Newsletter is Now Online!

It certainly has been an extraordinary semester with new initiatives, exciting research, as well as terrific conferences.

The 2011 Summer edition of The Supernetwork Sentinel, which is the newsletter of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks and its Laboratory for Computation and Visualization is now available and can be downloaded, in pdf format, here.

Thanks to all who have supported our research and activities!