Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Once in 500 Years Flood -- Hurricane Irene and Photos of Deerfield

It seems that Manhattan managed quite well during and after Hurricane or "Tropical Storm" Irene. My 92 year old uncle, who lives in mid-Manhattan, and who has survived two World Wars and saw the towers crumble on 9/11, called me today to check on us in western MA. He said that the subways are running in NYC and he has been back to work (what an amazing generation his is) and was disappointed that Lincoln Center canceled its performances this past weekend because of Hurricane Irene.

Western Massachusetts and Vermont continue to feel the impact of Irene with many towns in the latter completely isolated due to flooded roads and downtowns. Power is still out in parts and bridges have been closed and await inspection, if they are not destroyed.

Amherst made it through relatively unscathed. We lost two trees in our front yard and so did some neighbors but the flooding in neighboring towns has been horrendous.

Yesterday, after taking detours to get to work at Deerfield Academy, where my daughter is working as a tour guide this summer, the scenes of flooding were horrific.

Above I have posted some photos of areas of Deerfield Academy in Old Deerfield one day after Irene hit this past Sunday.

Amazingly, there was even a group of National Guardsmen with a Humvee guarding a road off of Old Deerfield, which leads to farmland. Disaster recovery experts were at work plus even families at the Bement School had to be evacuated as well as several ones at Deerfield Academy (even by boat).

A UMass Amherst geoscientist, Professor David F. Boutt, who is an expert on this part of very historic Massachusetts, said that what happened is a once in hundreds of years event.

Tough to see so much of the beautiful landscape under water as well as the farms with corn and potatoes and pumpkins.

We wish all those affected by Irene a timely recovery.

In addition, even the Deerfield Inn suffered flooding and will be closed for several weeks (and this is a busy time with the schools in the area opening up and with the leaf-peepers soon to arrive).

More photos of Deerfield under water can be accessed here.

This morning we received the press release below from Historic Deerfield.

Flooding from Hurricane Irene Causes Museum, Inn Closings

Historic Deerfield Plans to Reopen on Thursday, Sept. 1;

Deerfield Inn and Champney's Restaurant & Tavern Closed

Due to extreme flooding from Hurrricane Irene, Historic Deerfield is closed to the public through Wednesday, August 31, 2011. The museum plans to reopen on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011 at 9:30 a.m.-although three historic houses at the flooded north end will likely remain closed. The Deerfield Inn and Champney's Restaurant & Tavern will be closed indefinitely.

"This kind of severe flooding is rare in Deerfield," said Philip Zea, President of Historic Deerfield. "Luckily our advance preparations on Friday and Saturday helped ensure that the museum houses and collections remained safe."

Not so fortunate was the Deerfield Inn, which sustained major flood damage to the first floor of its annex and to the basement of the main building. It may be several days before the waters recede enough to allow investigators to gain access to these spaces to assess the damage and begin the process of rebuilding. In the meantime, guests have been relocated and reservations are being cancelled for the next two

"Our goal is to reopen the Inn as quickly as possible," said Susan Martinelli, Vice President for Busiess Affairs at Historic Deerfield. "We will not know the full extent of the project until the investigation is completed."

"Aside from the Deerfield Inn, we had water fill the cellars of three buildings," added Zea. "But rivers keep old habits and the Deerfield River has flooded for ten thousand years when the Connecticut refuses to take her water. That's why these fields are so fertile."

Historic Deerfield (www.historic-deerfield.org) plans to reopen on Thursday, Sept. 1, for tours from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information about Historic Deerfield please call 413-775-7214. For more information on the Deerfield Inn and Champney's Restaurant & Tavern, please call 413-774-5587.

Click here for some helpful hints, from scientists, on how to deal with flooded homes!

Analytics for Trucking Featuring Warren Powell in Forbes

Before I even had a chance to glance at our most recent issue of Forbes, my husband called out to me saying that there was an interesting article in it on Calculus for Truckers. As soon as he noted the title, I responded that I bet that the article was featuring research by Professor Warren Powell of Princeton University, and I was right!

The feature article arrived with perfect timing for my Transportation & Logistics course that I will start teaching next week and it is a great read.

As Warren (I will use his first name since he has been a fellow colleague through INFORMS and various Society of Transportation & Logistics activities for a long time) notes in the article, the research of his that Schneider National has been using, dates back to the 1980s. He has also worked with yellow Freight and other major logistics providers.

According to the Forbes article:

What interested Schneider, a full-truckload carrier, was Powell's work in the field of approximate dynamic programming, which is a way to make decisions in the presence of uncertainty. Schneider needed a model that could take into account the nonobvious and sometimes random variables that affect the efficiency of thousands of drivers over weeks of time and at a high level of detail.

It is fantastic that more and more industries are realizing the importance of analytics, coupled with algorithms and simulation, to enable the exploration of policy changes on the entire system.

"The thing that's so powerful is that when someone presses us on the impact of different policy changes, we have the facts, we have the data. We can produce reports and analysis so that if someone else brought in their scientists, they would have to agree," said Ted Gifford of Schneider. "The value is to be able to take these complex business opportunities and give them a good, solid analysis."

It is certainly a fantastic time to be working in analytics and operations research!

Thanks also to Forbes for such great coverage of research that is making such a difference in practice!

Hopefully, the success of such research will enable additional applications of analytics / operations research to various industries at a quickened pace.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Risk-Taking, Innovation, and Steve Jobs

The sun has not yet risen, the power has not failed, and we are awaiting Hurricane Irene, which is to hit landfall in our part of the Northeast sometime today. Hurricane Irene and emergency preparedness have been the center of attention with mass transit shutdowns in Philadelphia, NYC, New Jersey, and Boston, and thousands of flights cancelled and even airports closed as the hurricane barrels up the northeast corridor. Manhattan was eerily quiet yesterday as my uncle, who is in his 90s, related to us, after his walk to Lincoln Center and back to his apartment.

During this period of preparing for Hurricane Irene, and, unlike when the tornadoes hit Massachusetts on Jun 1, 2011, there was sufficient warning, the announcement was made, in case you missed it, that Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple Inc. had stepped down, but had asked to remain on the Apple board as its chairman. He had been fighting pancreatic cancer for two years and had had a liver transplant and the best wishes and accolades streamed from around the globe from leaders, executives, and consumers of Apple's products from the iPod to the iPhone and iPad. Jobs' attention to detail and sense of aesthetics are legendary. He is also the holder of 313 patents according to The New York Times.

Jobs is the consummate innovator and innovation is an elusive talent and quality that has generated much interest in both industry and academia and is essential for economic growth and prosperity. In fact, presently, we at the Isenberg School, are looking to fill a chaired faculty position as the Isenberg Professor, who is to focus on innovation. Innovation has even attracted the attention of nations and, according to John Kao, an innovation expert, and as reported in The Times, the raw materials for innovation, which other nations may be surpassing the US in, include:
  • government financing for scientific research,
  • national policies to support emerging industries,
  • educational achievement, engineers and scientists graduated, and
  • even the speeds of Internet broadband service.
What the US does have, however, and what other countries may lack, and which is essential for a climate for innovation, Mr. Kao notes, is a social environment that encourages diversity, experimentation, risk-taking, and combining skills from many fields into products that he calls “recombinant mash-ups,” like the iPhone, which redefined the smartphone category.

To learn how to become a great innovator, we need look no further than Steve Jobs and, as academics have pointed out: the five traits that are common to the disruptive innovators or what makes up The Innovator's DNA: questioning, experimenting, observing, associating, and networking to search for new ideas. Ceaseless curiosity and willingness to take risks make up their genetic code.

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for showing us how it should be done -- even after your firing from Apple, you rose to lead the company to new heights.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Evacuation Networks and Hurricane Irene -- When Selfish Travel is Actually Unselfish

For the past few weeks I have been busy working on my Transportation & Logistics lectures for the course that I am teaching this Fall at the Isenberg School at UMass Amherst.

In the course, students will be learning about different transportation (and network) behavioral and decision-making principles, including user-optimized (selfish) and system-optimized (unselfish) behavior, and the effects on travel times and costs, and I will also be covering aspects of disaster and emergency preparedness and other timely topics.

Now, we are awaiting Hurricane Irene, and western Massachusetts is forecasted to be in the eye of this hurricane tomorrow afternoon, Sunday, August 28. Governor Deval Patrick has declared a state of emergency as have many other governors of states along the Northeast Corridor of the Unites States where 1 out 5 Americans live.

For the first time in history, NYC, with a population of 8 million, has issued an evacuation order to those living in low-lying areas, which is affecting over 370,000 people, with certain hospitals and nursing homes already evacuated.

Evacuations have also been issued in parts of North Carolina and New Jersey and I was impressed that the Providence Journal (I went to Brown University and we have relatives in Rhode Island) even posted evacuation maps for different localities in Rhode Island!

Maps are, of course, extremely useful as are GPS systems, but neither provides the true picture of what happens when thousands of vehicles flood the roads in the case of an emergency and evacuation since they do not capture congestion. Hence, the roads may be jam-packed as travelers seek to reach points of higher ground inland and safety. Moreover, if everyone uses the "shortest" recommended route, which does not include the travel time due to congestion (the number of vehicles on that road) it may actually become the "longest" one -- dangerous when a hurricane is approaching.

Hence, what should be done, for equity and fairness, interestingly enough (and I have been doing a lot of thinking and research on this topic) is to have the traffic be routed in an evacuation in a user-optimized manner so that all routes have travel times, from each origin to safe destination, that are equal and minimal. This is actually how commuters behave in selecting their cost-minimizing routes of travel and, in an emergency, user-optimization or selfish behavior actually is unselfish!

With the mass transit shutdown in NYC as of noon today, there may be large traffic jams but I am impressed by the attention that has been given to making sure that the subway and train cars are protected. Even tolls (which I also teach about in my course) will be eliminated to assist in the timeliness of evacuations and the flow travel time.

We have stocked up on bottled water, nonperishable food, batteries, and have our flashlights and radios ready as well as our cars filled with gas.

Regions in the Northeast may be without power for as long as a week so one has to be prepared.

We are expecting pounding rain for 10 hours or so with winds up to 70 miles an hour in our area, beginning tomorrow. By that time, only emergency vehicles should be on the roads.

In fact, even our campus is officially closed for 48 hours this weekend.

For more background on our critical infrastructure systems and their resiliency (or not), please see the article, "Fragile Networks: Identifying Vulnerabilities and Synergies in an Uncertain Age," co-authored with Dr. Patrick Qiang, who's recent statement on disasters and rare events, including our recent earthquake and now Hurricane Irene, appears on his university's website.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Will Hurricane Irene Be Like the Hurricane of 1938?

The last time that a major hurricane hit NYC and western Massachusetts was back in 1938, and there is serious speculation that Hurricane Irene now moving up the eastern seaboard may be as bad as the 1938 hurricane (which is being referred to as its Grandma) and, given the increase in population over the past 70 years in the Northeast, its impact even worse.

One has to realize that 63 million people live in the northeast corridor, 20% of the US population!

There is ongoing analysis
as to what may happen to critical infrastructure links, including tunnels and bridges, as well as worst case scenarios.

Given that it is not unreasonable that the NYC subway system could be knocked out, Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that the NYC mass transit system is being shut down at noon tomorrow, Saturday, August 27. In addition, residents of NYC have been advised to stay indoors from Saturday at 9PM through this Sunday 9PM.

Hundreds of flights have already been cancelled by Jet Blue airline alone. For the first time in NYC, evacuations have been ordered in parts of NYC by Mayor Bloomberg.

For more updates on transit shutdowns and thousands of flight cancellations click here.

Also, since the Northeast corridor is roughly at sea level, the transportation infrastructure along it from roads, rails, airports, etc., can be severely affected by Hurricane Irene. Just think, where does one even shelter all the trains and planes?

Coincidentally, on a recent shuttle trip to catch a flight at Bradley airport, my driver brought up the 1938 hurricane, which he had survived, and he worked for years as a civil engineer. He had told me that people have forgotten about the devastation that resulted. I located some photos of the flooding, etc., on one of our local news websites.

Obviously, we have started to prepare for Hurricane Irene, and unlike the tornados (another "rare" event) that swept through western Massachusetts on June 1, 2011, we have much more time to do so!

The most recent book that I co-authored, Fragile Networks: Identifying Vulnerabilities and Synergies in an Uncertain World, with Dr. Patrick Qiang, provides metrics for the identification of which transportation (and other critical infrastructure) network links (and nodes) are the most important.

It appears that many state and local governments are doing a good job in notifying citizens and in preparing for this emergency. In the meantime, make sure that you take care of your family members and watch out for the well-being of your neighbors.

Hurricane Irene and College Moving In (or Out) Day

Hurricane Irene is coinciding with moving in day for many colleges in the Northeast of the US so there has been quite a lot of decision-making and schedule reshuffling going on.

Some colleges have moved the arrival date up to tomorrow, Saturday, August 27, while others have gone as far as closing campuses until Tuesday. In any event, the college orientations in the Northeast I-95 corridor will clearly need to engage in some disruption management and refocusing.

The Boston Globe is reporting on what colleges from Harvard to various UMass campuses are doing in light of Hurricane Irene, which is to hit Massachusetts this Sunday. NYU has delayed its arrival day for students from Sunday until Monday, according to The New York Times, which is also reporting that certain hospitals and nursing homes in NYC in low-lying areas have begun evacuations today. New York City's Health Commissioner, Dr. Thomas A. Farley, was chairman of the community health sciences department at Tulane University when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005.

According to The Boston Globe: At least one college was planning to weather the storm with very few changes to its original plan. Andrew Klein, the Dean of Student Affairs at Anna Maria College, a small liberal arts school in the Worcester suburb of Paxton, said the school would start classes Monday as scheduled. As for its 285 freshmen, orientation was still on.

A university in western Massachusetts, Westfield State, is taking a completely different approach and its President, Dr. Dobelle, has issued a statement saying that all students must vacate the campus, beginning today, Friday at 4PM, through Tuesday morning.

Remember the proverb: Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Revolutionizing Math Education Through Operations Research and Applications

What if Math was taught through Applications?

Sol Garfunkel, the executive director of the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications, and David Mumford, a professor emeritus of Applied Mathematics at Brown University, argue in an OpEd piece in today's New York Times that math education in the US needs serious "fixing."

Dr. Mumford taught for years at my alma mater, Brown University, from which I happen to have 3 degrees in Applied Math, with my PhD specialty in Applied Math being Operations Research. (A sidebar -- I also have a degree from Brown in Russian Language and Literature).

In the OpEd, How to Fix Our Math Education, they note the wide-spread of alarm in the US about the state of math education, and argue that the sequence of math courses that students (obviously, not all) take in high school, i.e., algebra, geometry, and calculus should be replaced by a sequence of applied math courses, focusing on finance (I teach in a finance and operations management department at the Isenberg School of Management), data, and basic engineering. They argue that math and science should be taught and learned together and the data course would focus on data-gathering from sports to medicine.

Garfunkel and Mumford state:
In math, what we need is “quantitative literacy,” the ability to make quantitative connections whenever life requires (as when we are confronted with conflicting medical test results but need to decide whether to undergo a further procedure) and “mathematical modeling,” the ability to move practically between everyday problems and mathematical formulations (as when we decide whether it is better to buy or lease a new car).

This sounds like Operations Research to me.

I would argue that a course on modeling and optimization should be included (with an overview of computing) and then students could select among a spectrum of courses in applications of their interest -- whether sport (by the way, the Isenberg School of Management also houses the McCormack Department of Sports Management), transportation & logistics, the environment and sustainability, and even the modeling and analysis of social networks!

Nevertheless, Garfunkel and Mumford have begun the conversation on a most important topic -- how to entice and capture the interest of high schoolers in quantitative literacy and math modeling and to sustain it.

By the way, Dr. Mumford received the National Medal of Science from President Obama in 2010. One of my former colleagues at UMass Amherst, Dr. Val Haensel, did as well, and the dinner at the Chancellor's house that I was invited to for the celebration, I will always remember. Val became a special friend and when I received the Chancellor's Medal for my research, he and his wife came to the dinner that followed. The then Provost, Dr. Cora Marrett, now at NSF, also joined us, and a dear friend, Dr. Kei May Lau, who is now a Professor in Hong Kong.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Where Were You When the Earth Moved?

As many of you are probably hearing (or have even experienced it), there was an earthquake registered at 5.9 that hit the Virginia area today in mid-afternoon.

I was busy (as I have been for the past days) working on my lectures for my Transportation & Logistics course that I will be teaching this Fall at the Isenberg School. This is one of my absolutely favorite courses to teach and, given all the news in this sector, I was enjoying incorporating new material into my lectures and course handouts.

Some of the materials included facts about recent disasters since I am very interested in transportation and critical infrastructure network robustness and resiliency.

Then, I felt my chair "moving" and I thought, at first, that maybe it was just electric signals pulsing through my body since I had been typing and editing lectures since 4AM this morning (OK, with one break for lunch and another one for a long walk, since I do some of my best thinking while moving). I thought that my muscles were just suffering from typing fatigue.

I felt somewhat unsettled and actually needed to stretch, so I went out for another walk only to be told by a colleague of mine, Professor Don De Groot, who is a Professor of Civil Engineering and an expert on structures, who happened to be bicycling by, of the big news -- that the Washington DC area had been hit by an earthquake! The tremors had even reached Massachusetts.

According to The Washington Post, the White House, the Pentagon, and Union Station shook and had to be evacuated!

Amazing that it could be felt all the way in Amherst, Massachusetts! I wonder whether President Obama and his family felt the tremors on the Vineyard in eastern Massachusetts, where they are now vacationing.

I have been to Japan several times to speak at conferences and there I got used to my hotel bed moving at night from minor quakes.

With the tornado that hit Massachusetts on June 1, 2011
, the summer has certainly given us some unusual experiences.

In 2011, there have been nine $1 billion weather disasters in the US.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

If the Stakes are So High, Why Do Math Errors Still Occur?

I have always been fascinated by numbers. I find them beautiful and incredibly useful, when used correctly. Numbers and math, together, are a language through which we can express ourselves and make sense of the world around us. Coupled with technology and computers, algorithms enable us to get information at our fingertips at the speed of electrons, and drive the scheduling and execution of complex processes in transportation and logistics, energy, healthcare, and finance.

As a student at Brown University, in the dual degree (ScB & AB) program with majors in Applied Math and Russian Language & Literature, respectively, I would spend hours in the Sciences Library working through math problems (when I wasn't devouring economics books in the Rockefeller Library). I always had a fascination with networks, optimization, and game theory and solving those tough word problems plus modeling systems and computing solutions to them. I figured that, if I could work through all the problems in the various texts, I would be prepared for those exams and I was -- perhaps scholarship students just know that they have to work harder.

Another aspect of math that I love is that many answers are either right or wrong and I appreciate that kind of clarity and objectivity in what may be a very nuanced world. Now my passion has become my career as a researcher and writer and educator.

The Numbers Guy also has a fascination with numbers and writes a blog and column for the Wall Street Journal. His focus is on a critical theme -- how numbers are used, and abused. He holds a degree from Yale in Math and Physics and his column is always thought-provoking and illuminating.

He got in touch with me this past week, since he was working on a column as to why math errors persist in high-stakes situations, even in the computer age. With the dramatic and costly errors both in the UK and the US lately regarding high-stakes economics data, analysis, and policy impacts, his latest blog posting and column are a must read and you can read my take on what has been happening.

Perhaps we need an organization such as the National Transportation Safety Board for Data and Analytics Quality and "Safety?!"

Friday, August 19, 2011

Teaching Improves Research in STEM Fields

In an intriguing study published in the August 19, 2011 issue of Science, entitled, Graduate Students’ Teaching Experiences Improve Their Methodological Research Skills, researchers, using a performance rubric, compared the quality of methodological skills demonstrated in written research proposals for two groups of early career graduate students (those with both teaching and research responsibilities and those with only research responsibilities) in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields at the beginning and end of an academic year. They found that students who both taught and conducted research demonstrate significantly greater improvement in their abilities to generate testable hypotheses and design valid experiments. Their conclusion: These results indicate that teaching experience can contribute substantially to the improvement of essential research skills.

The Chronicle of Higher Education ran an interesting commentary on this study, Want to Be A Good Researcher? Try Teaching.

The article noted that one might expect similar conclusions in the social sciences and quoted several economists and studies.

Our doctoral students at the Isenberg School of Management are required to show competency in teaching before receiving their PhDs, which is, typically, demonstrated by their teaching of two undergraduate courses.

This also helps them on the job market, assuming that they pursue an academic career, as many of them do.

Now, with this study, our Management Science PhD students can further reap the fruits of their labors.

And, as I wrote in my earlier post, the Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman suspected this all along!

Why Teaching is Essential According to the Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman via Mick Trick and Scenes of Princeton

The new academic year is approaching and there is a sparkle in the air.

During the summer, academics are engaged in many activities but they do most of their teaching during the school year.

Professor Mike Trick of CMU, a fellow blogger in OR, has a fabulous post on the meaning of teaching by none other than Professor Richard Feynman, the renowned Nobel Laureate in physics, whose books are a must read, including his Surely, you must be joking, Mr. Feynman!

My favorite part of the riposte, with which I fully concur, is: The questions of the students are often the source of new research. They often ask profound questions that I’ve thought about at times and then given up on, so to speak, for a while. It wouldn’t do me any harm to think about them again and see if I can go any further now. The students may not be able to see the thing I want to answer, or the subtleties I want to think about, but they remind me of a problem by asking questions in the neighborhood of that problem. It’s not so easy to remind yourself of these things.

So I find that teaching and the students keep life going, and I would never accept any position in which somebody has invented a happy situation for me where I don’t have to teach. Never.

You may read Mike Trick's full post here with longer quotes from Feynman. It certainly will put educators in a spirit for tackling all the surprises and new experiences that each new academic year brings. Thanks, Mike, and thank you, Richard Feynman, now in the heavens!

And since Richard Feynman, in his piece on reflections on teaching, is musing about his time at Princeton in the 1940s, above, I have posted photos of Princeton University, which we recently visited on another college trip chaining tour. The dark classroom above is where Einstein (another physicist who needs no introduction) lectured and where the information session took place. Our tour guide was fabulous and was originally from central Massachusetts and attended a public high school.

For more on summer college tours, you can read the article in The New York Times, after which my comment appears, followed by a comment from none other than Dr. Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, the former President of both the University of Hartford and George Washington University, who did wonderful things for both of these academic institutions.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Higher Quality at Lower Prices -- An Agreement for Generic Medicines that Must be Passed

Many of the greatest successes of the field of Operations Research have resulted in policy implementations and the alteration of the status quo, sometimes even through regulations supported by quantifiably convincing mathematical models and data.

In terms of healthcare, the leading work of our colleague, Professor Ed Kaplan at the Yale School of Management, in needle exchange programs to reduce AIDS, immediately comes to mind.

When it comes to healthcare, some of the major issues that we are faced with in our country today are twofold: high costs and (low) quality, with an associated component being questionable availability whether of healthcare providers or even medicines or service, in general.

Healthcare is so important that the only way in which we may be able to guarantee change is through legislation. During times such as these, when our medical nuclear supply chains have exhibited shortages of critical diagnostic radioisotopes, and when cancer drugs cannot be obtained by patients who need them for their survival, we are clearly in a medical crisis.

We wrote the OpEd piece: Viewpoint: Passage of American Medical Isotope Production Act of 2011 will help ensure U.S. nuclear medicine supply chain, and today's editorial in The New York Times: A Deal to Get Cheaper and Safer Drugs argues that lawmakers must quickly approve legislation that would ensure fees from generic drug manufacturers that would enable regular inspections of out of country manufacturing plants to ensure safety, and let's not forget about availability, as I have written about passionately on this blog.

The understanding of our complex global healthcare supply chains, and associated policy making, must be based on rigorous mathematical modeling and analysis that capture the network economics aspects as well as multicriteria decision-making to ensure quality but at reasonable cost. Operations researchers, with their multidisciplinary training, as well as mindsets, and collaborative networks, are leading the way.

It is imperative, however, that we, as researchers, educators and members of professional societies, get the news out about research that can make a difference.

Some of our relevant research on multitiered, multicriteria supply chain networks:

Supply Chain Outsourcing Under Exchange Rate Risk and Competition
Zugang Liu and Anna Nagurney, Omega 39: (2011) pp 539-549.

Global Supply Chain Network Dynamics with Multicriteria Decision-Making Under Risk and Uncertainty
Anna Nagurney and Dmytro Matsypura, Transportation Research E 41: (2005) pp 585-612.

Multitiered Supply Chain Networks: Multicriteria Decision–Making under Uncertainty
June Dong, Ding Zhang, Hong Yan, and
Anna Nagurney, Annals of Operations Research 135: (2005) pp 155-178.

Some of our research on healthcare supply chains, specifically:

Medical Nuclear Supply Chain Design: A Tractable Network Model and Computational Approach
Anna Nagurney and Ladimer S. Nagurney (2011)

Multiproduct Humanitarian Healthcare Supply Chains: A Network Modeling and Computational Framework
Anna Nagurney, Min Yu, and Qiang Qiang (2011)

Supply Chain Network Operations Management of a Blood Banking System with Cost and Risk Minimization
Anna Nagurney, Amir H. Masoumi, and Min Yu, Computational Management Science: (2011), in press

Supply Chain Network Design of a Sustainable Blood Banking System
Anna Nagurney and Amir H. Masoumi, in Sustainable Supply Chains: Models, Methods and Public Policy Implications, T. Boone, V. Jayaraman, and R. Ganeshan, Editors, Springer, London, England, 2011, in press.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On Being a Proud Academic Mom

When your children surprise you by doing something unexpected and wonderful, they certainly make a mother proud.

I have been smiling all morning since I heard that a group of my former students at the Isenberg School, all of whom received their PhDs in Management Science from UMass Amherst, co-authored a paper, which has now been accepted for publication.

I was the chair of their doctoral dissertation committees.

Yes, we in academia, consider genealogy, especially of the academic kind, to be important; see a recent blogpost and links on this.

Not only is the topic of the paper so timely -- that of closed loop supply chains (CLSCs) -- but the team is made up of four, Assistant and Full Professors, who hail from the states of Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, and Washington.

The paper, The Closed-loop Supply Chain Network with Competition, Distribution Channel Investment, and Uncertainties, Qiang Qiang, Ke Ke, Trisha Anderson, and June Dong, has been accepted in the journal, OMEGA.

In this paper, the authors developed a CLSC network model, consisting of raw material suppliers, manufacturers, and retail outlets. The demand of the retailers was satisfied either by newly manufactured products or by remanufactured products which were deemed comparable to the new ones in function and quality. The consumers were indifferent in their demand for either products.

The authors assumed that the manufacturers collected the recycled product directly from the demand market, similar to the operations of Hewlett-Packard and Xerox Corporation regarding printer cartridges.

The model has a sufficient level of complexity to capture the major environmental and behavioral as well as pricing issues, while, at the same time, being both theoretically sound and computable (very important for practice and analytics).

In the paper, the authors note that:

The volume of waste is growing at an alarming rate and environmental recovery is an option that is underutilized since firms are unsure how to mitigate the ambiguity surrounding economic performance. By providing clarification of reverse supply chain issues, and firms re-examine their recovery efforts, the environmental benefits can be pronounced, for example, reducing landfill space, reducing air pollution, and leveraging the earth’s natural resources, to name a few. Equipped with our model, one can “fine- tune” the parameters to study the behaviors of different decision makers in the CLSC, which also can generate some implications for the policy maker.

Nothing can make a Mom prouder than when her "children" soar!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why the Shortages of Drugs and Medicines in the Global Supply Chain and What We Are Doing to Help

You may have been reading the recent news about the shortages of certain drugs and medicines that are essential to the survival of the patients, including cancer patients, that so desperately need them.

From an article in the USA Today, and recent articles in The New York Times, including one that highlighted that 75% of the drugs in the US are generic ones with the majority being produced abroad in plants that are rarely inspected, it is clear that we are in a crisis situation.

Of the 34 generic cancer drugs on the market, as of this month, 14 were in short supply. They include drugs that are the mainstay of treatment regimens used to cure leukemia, lymphoma, and testicular cancer.

Indeed, according to Ezekiel Emanuel, writing in The Times: In 2004 there were 58 new drug shortages, but by 2010 the number had steadily increased to 211 and these numbers include noncancer drugs as well.

How can this be happening in the richest and most technologically advanced country in the world, with leadership in medical know-how?

How horrific that patients, whose treatments and very survival depend on such drugs, cannot procure them in a timely manner?

In a recent paper of ours, Multiproduct Humanitarian Healthcare Supply Chains: A Network Modeling and Computational Framework, Anna Nagurney, Min Yu, and Qiang Qiang, we discuss the issues of shortages of various drugs and vaccines, including the leukemia drug, cytarabine, and how to design and redesign supply chains so that medicines are delivered to those who need them. In the paper, we state that:

Despite significant advances in supply chain management in terms of both methodology and application, healthcare supply chains, and, in particular, humanitarian health care supply chains have not received the needed attention. In particular, humanitarian healthcare supply chains have many unique characteristics. For example, as pointed out in the introduction section of the handbook published by the Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization (2001), ``The various stages in the flow of supplies from their point of origin to the moment they reach their recipients -- whether they be the organizations managing the emergency or the actual beneficiaries of the assistance -- are a chain made up of very close links. How any one of these links is managed invariably affects the others. Supply management must therefore be the focus of an integral approach that looks at all the links in the sequence and never loses sight of their interdependence ...". Therefore, an appropriate framework for healthcare humanitarian supply chains must capture the entire relevant network.

In this paper, as well as in some of our earlier studies, whether on supply chains for critical need products, supply chains under demand and cost disruptions, or supply chains with outsourcing, our goal is to optimize within the constraints. By developing analytical, transparent tools, one can capture the major issues and can then evaluate how to redesign the networks so that those whose lives depend on drugs and medicines can get them when they need them. We must put in place the proper incentives for decision-makers to guarantee the sustainability of our humanitarian healthcare supply chains.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Swimming with the Sharks and Dynamics of Predator-Prey Networks

When I heard the news that the beaches in Chatham (Cape Cod) were closed recently because of shark sightings, of course, the movie Jaws came to mind and memories of our trip to San Diego last week as well.

On the northern beaches not only did we see seals, in camouflage, resting on the large rocks, but a fisherman had caught a shark (see photos above) which was also "resting" on the pier off of which I had earlier admired some magnificent surfers and further down lifeguards in training.

Although the trip, as I have written about, was not to a conference, seeing a predator-prey network in action of the fisheries variety, only a day after I had corrected the galleys for our paper, while in San Diego (can academics ever take a day off-line?) Dynamics and Equilibria of Ecological Predator-Prey Networks as Nature’s Supply Chains, in Transportation Research E, I experienced the immediacy and wonder of nature and research in action.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Our Blood Supply Chain Paper is Now Published and Reflections on Dr. Bernadine P. Healy -- RIP

I was struck by the recent death of Dr. Bernadine P. Healy, who not only was the first female head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) but also was the second female (after Elizabeth Dole) to head the American Red Cross and did so during 9/11.

She recently passed away at the age of 67 and had an amazing career as a researcher (over 200 papers), educator, and top administrator both in academe, including Johns Hopkins University, as well as the above-noted major organizations.

She was also a wife and mother to two daughters.

The New York Times ran an obituary on her, as did many other leading newspapers and, despite some controversial decisions, she clearly brought attention to women's health care and the importance of teamwork in organizations.

Our first blood supply chain paper, in which discussions with the Red Cross were essential and are acknowledged, entitled,Supply Chain Network Operations Management of a Blood Banking System with Cost and Risk Minimization, has now been published by the journal Computational Management Science. With it, we honor her memory.

Dr. Frank Collins, the present Director of the NIH, in his moving tribute to Dr. Healy, acknowledged her words, which she made during an NIH exhibit on pioneering women doctors:

All of us, I believe, in our hearts are humanitarian. And how wonderful to be in a career that in almost any dimension of it—whether you're the doctor at the bedside, or the scientist in the laboratory, or the public health doc tracking down the latest epidemic—that you are doing something that is pure in its fundamental purpose, which is helping another human being.”

Thank you, Dr. Healy, for your gutsy leadership and R.I.P.

We hope that, through research and education, we can also make a difference.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Supernetwork Analytics -- Paying for the True Cost of Transportation and Negative Externalities

How many of us realize the true costs of the impact of our driving on others?

Of course, those of us who work on networks and transportation regularly compute costs of operating various systems (system-optimization) as opposed to figuring out which is the best route of travel from an origin to a destination (user-optimization). Typically, the costs that we consider in such applications reflect time or a monetarization of time and costs of fuel consumption and since the classical work of Beckmann, McGuire, and Winsten's (1956) book, "Studies in the Economics of Transportation," we also include congestion, which is a negative externality and what, in economics and beyond, refers to the negative impacts of one's activities.

Increasingly, we are also utilizing generalized costs, which, for example, can include other costs such as the emissions generated and many of us have worked on the price of anarchy, relevant to congested networks from transportation to the Internet.

What if there was a computerized financial and telecommunications system that could quantify the true cost of using our transportation networks? Such a system might actually provide a powerful feedback loop to alter individuals' driving behavior and might even motivate them to switch to more environmentally friendly modes of travel, such as public transportation, bicycles, or even one's feet.

While traveling recently in San Diego on, yes, 8 lane highways (each way), I was stunned by the passing on the right, on the left, but overall quite decent drivers although the wide spans of highways made me yearn for the northeast of the US (weather notwithstanding). There was limited public transit in sight and we spent 6 days there.

The Netherlands has begun an experiment, which demonstrates supernetworks (networks of networks) in action. Various vehicles, including cars, were installed with high technology to track vehicle movements in order to calculate not only the distance traveled, but also the fuel efficiency of the vehicle, the associated emissions, plus the expected "business" of the roads, as well as the wear and tear of the vehicle on the roads (very cool but more on this aspect later).

Other factors that I might include would be the number of passengers traveling (of course, the greater the number the greater impact on fuel consumption but a lightening of the congestion).

The New York Times reported on this experiment in a recent article, Netherlands Meter Plan Links Gas Pedals to Wallets, from Eindhoven, which, interestingly, is the location of a fellow research group on supernetworks, and our Virtual Center for Supernetworks is planning on hosting a visiting scholar from that group this Fall.

My research team has been working on sustainable transportation for many years now and in my Sustainable Transportation Networks book I describe many different policies to alleviate congestion and emission including marketable pollution permits, emission and congestion tolls, etc. The book is focused on transportation whereas our Environmental Networks book emphasizes models and algorithms to enhance sustainability on a macro scale.

Now for the clincher, as my students in transportation and logistics know, we can construct link tolls and they will always be nonnegative, but path tolls can be constructed that take on negative values (think of subsidies and one of my favorite ones is that children in strollers and their caretakers ride free on busses in Stockholm, Sweden, which I even took advantage of when we lived there with our daughter and the busses are so comfortable and handsome).

So, as someone who is extremely frustrated by the low quality of road infrastructure in the area of Massachusetts that I live in, would the government pay the vehicle operators for the wear and tear on their vehicles (plus their anatomies) if such a supernetwork system were to be installed in the US?

Infrastructure matters and with the right public and private partnerships we should be able to make the US a model for transportation and logistics but in whose lifetime?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Uncertainty Quantification -- the Theme at SAMSI This Year

Uncertainty is something that we deal with in our daily lives.

When it comes to mathematical modeling, analysis, and algorithms, which are used in complex decision-making, the design of systems, and the operation of networks in the modern world, as well as the understanding of the environment and resources, uncertainty is a reality but may be challenging to quantify.

This year, the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute (SAMSI), which is a partnership of Duke University, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the National Institute of Statistical Sciences, in collaboration with the William R. Kenan, Jr. Institute for Engineering, Technology and Science, has as its theme: Uncertainty Quantification.

SAMSI is part of the Mathematical Sciences Institutes program of the Division of Mathematical Sciences at the National Science Foundation.

SAMSI is organizing a yearlong series of events under this theme and I am delighted to be taking part in its Engineering and Renewable Energy Workshop next month.

I have been asked to deliver a keynote entitled, Sustainability, with a focus on methodology.

The program leaders are a great group consisting of:

As the SAMSI website emphasizes: The intellectual content of computational modeling comes from a variety of disciplines, including mathematics, statistics, probability, operations research, and computer science. Despite a wide diversity in methodology and applications, there are a variety of common challenges in developing, evaluating and using complex computer models of processes.

It should be a very exciting year at SAMSI. I look forward to engaging with various thought leaders on this topic.

A Great Coach Who Cares -- Thank You!

There is a terrific article (with photo) about my daughter's figure skating coach, Ms. Suzy McCaughtry, in the Keene, NH newspaper.

The smiles on Ms. McCaughtry, and two of her figure skaters at the San Diego skating arena at the recent 2011 State Games of America, say it all.

She accompanied three of her skaters to this national athletic event across the country and coached and supported them through so many events, resulting in 14 medals in 15 events!

Thanks to a truly great coach who does it with character and incredible style.

As a professor and a skating mom I recognize this great teacher and mentor who makes the sport of figure skating fun.

Model Trains in San Diego

Since I teach and do research in transportation and logistics as well as in networks, whenever I travel, I garner experiences, adventures, and "stories" for my students.

After the State Games of America, an athletic competition extravaganza, which took place in San Diego recently, at which my daughter competed in figure skating, it was time to take in a few of the sites. For me, a Sunday in a city exploring museums is one of my favorite activities.

Since my husband was traveling with us, it would have been remiss not to visit the San Diego Model Railroad Museum in gorgeous Balboa Park, which we did. He has a collection of model trains that he has collected during our world travels to conferences, which adds to the trains that he and his father collected in years past.

Also, I have written about model trains and operations research on this blog.

The above photos were taken at the model railroad museum, which is situated in a stunning building.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Photos of Figure Skating at the State Games of America in San Diego

For this event, I did not have to prepare a presentation but, instead, came to support my daughter who was competing in figure skating at the 2011 State Games of America in gorgeous San Diego, California. She had qualified by medalling at the Bay State Games in Williamstown, MA, this past winter.

She competed in 4 events and medalled in each and brought back 2 silver medals and 2 bronze ones. Security at the San Diego Airport was rather taken aback by the medals that kept on setting off the machines but let us through (and, thank goodness, we could carry on her figure skates because if they had gotten lost there would have been a major problem).

This figure skating competition was most enjoyable due to the excellent organization, great venue, and events such as artistic, interpretive, light entertainment, among others.

It was great to see so many family members and friends supporting the athletes.

Above are some photos taken at the San Diego rink and outside.

A fabulous time was had by all and special thanks go to my daughter's amazing figure skating coach, Ms. Suzy McCaughtry, who traveled to San Diego to support her 3 skaters who were competing there. Might I add that, in total, they brought home more than a dozen medals, but, more importantly, they supported one another and had a fabulous time.

More info on the history of the State Games can be found here.

Photos from the Integrated Risk Management in Operations and Global Supply Chains Conference in Montreal

Above are some photos taken at the INTRIM (Integrated Risk Management in Operations and Global Supply Chains) Conference that took place at lovely McGill University in Montreal, Canada recently.

I had the pleasure of speaking on our research on Medical Nuclear Supply Chain Design at this conference.

Many thanks to the organizers for putting together such an interesting set of presentations, all delivered in a single track, along with delicious coffee breaks, lunches, etc.

I especially enjoyed the originality of the problems that are being tackled and the challenges faced by industries in capturing system-wide risk.

As for photos of Montreal taken while I was there, click here.

Following Up on Mike Trick's Post and Congrats to ITOR and Its Editor, Celso Ribeiro!

I must say that when someone has worked really hard on the editing of a journal, it is gratifying when that work is acknowledged in a meaningful and substantive way.

We heard from the Editor of the journal, International Transactions in Operational Research (ITOR), Dr. Celso Ribeiro, that ISI (Web of Knowledge) has accepted International Transactions in Operational Research into the SSCI, the SCIE, Current Contents: Engineering, Computing and Technology, and Current Contents: Social and Behavioural Science with coverage from the 2009 volume. The journal should receive its first Impact Factor in the 2011 JCR, released next year.

ITOR is published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of IFORS, the International Federation of Operational Research Societies.

Mike Trick wrote an informative post on this news in which he congratulates Celso on this achievement and I fully concur. As an Associate Editor of this journal, I can attest to the hours that Celso spends communicating even on weekends to make sure that the papers are handled in a professional and timely manner.

Great job by a terrific editor and also a wonderful group of fellow Associate Editors.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

University Press Release on Our Blood Supply Chain Research

The University of Massachusetts Amherst has issued a nice press release on our research on blood supply chains.

It is really exciting when theory, modeling, and computations all come together synergistically to contribute to an application that can help humanity.

It is also special when the research is done with students who are passionate about the topic.

The press release: UMass Researchers Seek Improvement in Blood Supply Chain.

Blood is a critical life-saving product that is frequently in scarce supply. Blood service operations are also a key component of the health care system all over the world. The U.S. averages 38,000 blood donations daily, but the supply is frequently two days away from running out. Blood is also perishable and estimates are that 8 percent becomes outdated and goes to waste.

Blood supplies are used in activities other than life-saving emergency care, and have an impact on whether hospitals can perform elective surgery and other non life-threatening procedures. The cost of each unit of blood has also been increasing in recent years, a factor in overall health care costs.

We built a model for a regionalized blood banking system consisting of collection sites, testing and processing facilities, storage facilities, distribution centers, as well as points of demand, which include hospitals.

The paper that describes the modeling and computational framework, co-authored with my doctoral students, Amir H. Masoumi and Min Yu, Supply Chain Network Operations Management of a Blood Banking System with Cost and Risk Minimization, will appear in Computational Management Science.

The Fashion Supply Chain Management Book is Now Available

Today I received my copy of the book, Fashion Supply Chain Management: Industry and Business Analysis, a photo of which is above. The book was edited by Professor Tsan-Ming Choi and it is a stunning volume with sections on Mathematical Modeling Research, Quantitative Empirical Research, and Exploratory Study and Case Research.

The publisher is IGI Global in Hershey, PA.

The full list of chapters and their authors can be found here.

Our contribution to this book is the first chapter,

Fashion Supply Chain Management through Cost and Time Minimization from a Network Perspective (pages 1-20),
Anna Nagurney (University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA), and Min Yu (University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA)

Scenes from Montreal Including Bicycles

I am back from a wonderful conference at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where the weather was delightful until we were ready to board the puddle jumper airplane (where each passenger gets her own aisle and window seat). A red alert was issued because the sky had turned black and the grounds crew can't be out on the tarmac if there are lightning strikes within 5 miles.

Although we had boarded the Air Canada plane, our pilot let us take a vote (how civilized) as to whether we wanted to wait on the plane before the alert was lifted or to go back to the waiting area. Luckily, the pilot's vote had more clout (the vote was split and one passenger was neutral) so we marched back in, caught some dinner, and two hours after the scheduled departure time we were off and had a bumpless flight.

I had spoken to my husband earlier and there had been a hailstorm in Amherst with our yard almost white.

Montreal is an amazing city and I managed to get a good deal of walking in -- caught a parade on Saturday of "twins," with one duo dressed up as a bride in white and a bride in black, and with bagpipers and even bands of twins -- very festive and fun.

What impressed me, as well, was the number of bicyclists, even around 6:30AM, with nice bicycle lanes and bicycles to rent (a bit like Paris).

However, this past Sunday, a tunnel collapsed around 9:15 AM (the Ville-Marie) tunnel and 15 tons ended up on the ground with, amazingly, no injuries. There has been a lot of pres recently about the bad state of infrastructure in Montreal due to salting of the roads and bridges in the winter resulting in deterioration of the infrastructure and insufficient funds invested for maintenance and repair. I heard that this is rather "local" to Montreal, however, and having been to Toronto and Waterloo last April was impressed by the quality of the roads there.

The last photo above is of the red alert light at the Montreal airport outside of our gate.