Saturday, December 9, 2017

We Celebrated a Great Semester for the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter with a Fabulous Party!

In academic circles this is a very busy time of the year with the end of the Fall semester upon us, final exams ahead of us, and with both faculty and students finishing up numerous projects and classwork. 

At the same time, one needs to celebrate accomplishments of the wonderful community that is the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter! I have had the privilege and fun of being its Faculty Advisor since 2004, which means that I have seen many of our Operations Research and Management Science students graduate with their PhDs and some are even Full Professors now (Dr. Tina Wakolbinger, for example, who was my PhD student and helped to found the chapter in 2004).

This semester, the student chapter hosted spectacular speakers: Dr. Shannon Roberts, Dr. Renata Konrad, and Dr. Dmytro Matsypura, and  began an exciting initiative of establishing a UMass INFORMS youtube channel, which now has two videos of interviews with the latter two speakers. The interviews, thus far, have been conducted by this year's Chapter President, Deniz Besik, and last year's President, Pritha Dutta, with technological assistance in videotaping and video production provided by Rodrigo Mercado and Mojtaba Salarpour. Another highlight this semester was having the chapter recognized with a Magna Cum Laude Award from INFORMS at the Annual Conference in Houston, Texas, October 22-25, 2017!

Yesterday, our wonderful end of the semester party took place at the Isenberg School. The terrific Chapter Officers, led by Deniz Besik, prepared the lovely poster below announcing the party.
In my "spare" time (while chairing a faculty search committee, finishing up two papers and working on another one, plus getting ready for a dissertation proposal defense, in addition to teaching and various other service commitments and writing letters for 5 job candidates), I was getting ready for the party.

I managed to bake some goodies:
and my husband, after spending most of the day at his Engineering School's student design project presentations,  helped to arrange and heat up the pierogies/varenyky and the sausage, which are always very popular. He also helped me to carry the food to the Isenberg School from our car:
The students had extended personal invitations to many faculty and the turnout was fabulous. Since the students are operations researchers, they are also excellent when it comes to the logistics of  procuring various dishes and refreshments for the party and even had a special cake!
Faculty and students  came from my Operations and Information Management Department, including the Department Chair, Dr. Agha Iqbal Ali,  and my colleagues: Dr. Ahmed Ghoniem and Dr. Senay Solak, as well as from the College of Engineering from the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, including Dr. Ana Muriel, Dr. Erin Baker, and Dr. Hari Balasubramanian,  and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and from Computer Science! It was very special to also see Dr. Peter Haas, one of our newest faculty members, who spent decades at IBM, is an INFORMS Fellow, and is now at UMass Amherst!  Given that both Computer Science and the College of Engineering are on the opposite side of the UMass Amherst campus from the Isenberg School, and that it was quite cold yesterday, the great attendance speaks to the special community that the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter is part of and has also helped to build. The students at the party are from the US, Mexico, Turkey, China, Greece, Scotland, Iran, Pakistan,  India, Sierra Leone,  and Iran - a true United Nations.
The camaraderie was fabulous as were the appetites.

A big thank you to the amazing UMass Amherst INFORMS Student  Chapter Officers for such a warm and fun event! Below is one of my favorite selfies ever, thanks to Destenie Nock!
Best of luck to everyone on a great end of the Fall semester and early wishes for a Fantastic New Year!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Great Isenberg Transportation Class Field Trip - Driving Simulator and Human Performance Lab

A few years ago, a student in my Transportation & Logistics class told me that a highlight of his college career was going on field trips in my course. I truly believe that, if at all possible, a course should include such experiences. Scheduling may be an issue, but where there is a will, there should be a way!

Today, the students in  that Isenberg School course of mine had the pleasure of a field trip to the Arbella Insurance Human Performance Lab, which is way across the UMass Amherst campus in Engineering Lab 1. Our wonderful tour guide was Professor Shannon Roberts, who is an MIT and University of Wisconsin alumna, and an expert on human factors.

My students found the lab (one showed up 48 hours early but made it today) and were surprised to see a car inside the lab. I had told them about the great work of the lab, which was established in the 1980s and the long-time Director was Professor Don Fisher. The research of the lab focuses on driver behavior and safety. Its impact has been immensely positive - an example being Distractology 101.

Professor Don Fisher, among his numerous earned accolades, was the first ever (inaugural, that is) speaker in our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker series, which we started back in 2004.

Since the students in my class include both Operations and Information Management majors as well as Industrial Engineering majors, the experience was not only educational but also fun. All students (except for one who was worried about getting dizzy) got a chance to drive the simulator or be a passenger, which is a real car, courtesy of Ford (a big shoutout to Kevin Koswick, who is an Isenberg alum, an Exec at Ford, and who was in the first class that I ever taught at UMass Amherst!).
The students also heard from Dr. Roberts of the fascinating ongoing studies, some of which focus on young drivers, since they are especially prone to accidents. She was even throwing out a carrot for students to participate as subjects on the driving simulator. I was surprised that there are only about 20 such systems in the US for research.

Many great questions were asked by my students. With so many dynamic changes in transportation, this field never fails to fascinate! And the research conducted at the Human Performance Lab has relevance to auto companies, insurance companies, various suppliers in the auto global supply chain, as well as departments of transportation, and even driver education operators.

Thanks to Professor Shannon Roberts for sharing her research experiences, including hands-on ones, with my students.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Great Time Speaking on Cybersecurity at the University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Commerce

The message came from Mary Magrogan, the INFORMS Director of  Membership, Subdivisions,  and International Programs, in mid-September, asking me whether I would be able to speak at the University of Alabama sometime in November. A request had come from the INFORMS Student Chapter there through the INFORMS Speakers Program, which I am a huge fan of (and we, at UMass Amherst, have also availed ourselves of this wonderful program). INFORMS covers the cost of travel (if needed) and the host covers on-site expenses, including overnight lodging, if necessary,

Even though I am more than the usual "busy," since I am also chairing a faculty search in my department, I very quickly agreed to this kind invitation and the date for scheduled talk was this past Friday, November 17. This would be my first time in Alabama, and the Department of Information Systems, Statistics and Management Science at the Culverhouse of Commerce has such distinguished faculty, that I was very excited about this speaking engagement and visit. Plus, I am a huge proponent of INFORMS Student Chapters, and wanted to support the University of Alabama one.

My amazing host was Dr. Karthik Murali, who is now the Faculty Advisor to this INFORMS Student Chapter. Dr. Burcu Keskin had served previously in this capacity for 10 years. Dr. Murali not only drove me from Birmingham to Tuscaloosa and then back to the airport but also arranged for a very rich visit and experience.

Below is a photo of Dr. Murali with the Alabama INFORMS Student Chapter officers.
I had the pleasure of having breakfast with Dr. Murali Friday morning at the Hyatt Regency in Birmingham, which I highly recommend.
My schedule included meetings with faculty and another highlight was a one hour meeting with several officers of the University of Alabama Student Chapter. I very much enjoyed hearing from the students the kind of research that they are doing and to answer their question, which ranged from selection of research topics to time management. I loved their enthusiasm and energy!

Then it was time for my talk and, amazingly, some of the students had anticipated what I might mention in my presentation.

I have posted my slides here. Usually, when I am asked to give a presentation I will provide a list of topics and ask the host to select one; cybercrime and cybersecurity was the winner! The audience had fabulous questions, which will lead to more research on this very timely topic.

Then it was time for lunch and, would you believe, while it was cold and rainy back in Amherst, Massachusetts, we got to dine al fresco at The River Restaurant with a great view and even better food!
The lunch with Dr. Burcu Keskin, Dr. Sharif Melouk, and Dr. Mesut Yavuz was simply fabulous!

Afterwards, I could not resist being photographed against a backdrop of red roses with Dr. Keskin.
I have known Dr. Keskin for quite a while now, since she is a contemporary of my former doctoral student, Dr. Tina Wakolbinger, and both of them received the INFORMS Judith Liebman Award! In fact, they wrote the document on how to run a successful student chapter. They are true leaders in the profession now.

There was no time for a tour (and the U. of Alabama was getting ready for another football game) but I did get to see the Dean's boardroom and room next door, both of which were so elegant.
I give many talks but believe that this is the first time I have seen multiple chandeliers in a Business School!

A big shoutout also to the MIS faculty, some of whom are in the photo above, for taking the time to speak with me on their multiple exciting initiatives in cybersecurity! And, of course, it was special to hear them mention some of my MIS colleagues at the Isenberg School.

Although I did not get a chance to see Dr. Jim Cochran (who is now an Associate Dean) and was recently elected an INFORMS Fellow, as well as Dr. Emmett Lodree, who was out of town, I felt that they were there with me "in spirit."

Many thanks also to Dr. Mesut Yavuz, Dr. Nick Freeman, and Dr. John Mittenthal (who is the academic grandson of the one and only Professor George Dantzig, and his advisor at the U. of Michigan was Dr. John Birge, the new Editor of Operations Research) for taking the time out of their very busy schedules to meet with me individually. This department is interviewing candidates for 7 faculty positions and they also, like UMass Amherst, have this week off as a Thanksgiving holiday break.

The journey to the airport took  a while because of the traffic. It was interesting to see the Charlotte airport at 10PM packed with travelers  (my connection from Birmingham) and I arrived back in Amherst at 1:30AM Saturday morning.

A BIG thanks to Dr. Karthik Murali, to his colleagues, to the University of Alabama INFORMS Student Chapter, and to the INFORMS Speakers Program  for such a delightful visit and speaking engagement.

And, I leave you with a photo that I took early Friday morning of the Galleria Mall that was attached to the hotel, complete with a festive carousel and holiday decorations.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, and safe and enjoyable travels!

And, one day, I may blog on a fascinating international businesswoman from Alabama that I sat next to on my flight from Charlotte to Birmingham. We had such an amazing conversation that we exchanged hugs upon departure.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Becoming an Operations Research Newsmaker Through the Media

A few years ago, at the INFORMS Charlotte conference, there was a terrific (I am a bit biased, I admit) panel entitled: Becoming an O.R./Analytics Newsmaker, that I even wrote a blogpost on because I thought the tips on dealing with the media were definitely worth preserving and sharing,

Joining me, as panelists, were: Jack Levis of UPS, Dr. Margaret Brandeau of Stanford, and Dr. Sheldon Jacobson of the University of Illinois. The panelists have had experience with major news outlets, including the Associate Press, radio shows, TV programs, and documentaries. Barry List, the Communications Director of INFORMS at that time, had organized the panel and Peter Horner, the Editor of OR/MS Today, was also present. The panelists are all (now) INFORMS Fellows.

What I have learned, in addition, since that panel, based on experiences that I have had is:

1.  You never know when you might be contacted by the media, so always be prepared. It might be for a story that a journalist needs to finish with a tight deadline. When I was at Oxford University as a Visiting Fellow, for example, and in London to give a talk at Imperial College in June 2016, I received a message late at night from a journalist in Canada, who had heard of the talk on cybersecurity that I had given at the University of Waterloo and wanted my impressions on ransomware. We had a phone conversation and his article was published before midnight.

2. Sometimes you may have to wait weeks for an interview, as I recently experienced. First, I was asked if I was available to be interviewed on disaster management at 11:30PM on the same night that I was flying back from our INFORMS conference in Houston (October 25, 2017) so I, graciously, declined. There were some negotiations for another time and, this past Wednesday, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Terry Gilberg, who is the host and Executive Producer of the radio show Think!America. That interview aired this past weekend and it is 22 minutes into last Saturday's show, which can be accessed here. She was intrigued by the article I had written in The Conversation: Response to natural disasters like Harvey could be helped with game theory and wanted me on her show.  I enjoyed the interview a lot and she even followed up with a nice phone call to my Isenberg School office!

In late August I was interviewed by Angela Kokott for her radio show in Calgary, Canada, also on my research with collaborators on disaster relief and game theory.

3. In many cases (such as 2 above) one may not get questions ahead of time so you have to be creative and anticipate the kinds of questions that you might be asked. Always be ready with one or two strong takeaway messages!  In contrast, last July, while I was a Summer Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, I was interviewed for the Matt Townsend Radio Show on Infrastructure Spending. One of the producers had sent me sample questions ahead of time and I was really pumped. The script was not very closely followed, but it did provide a framework. Townsend, as Gilberg and Kokott, are fabulous interviewers - very dynamic and provocative and I enjoyed these interviews tremendously.

4. And last winter, after my article: Uncertainty in blood supply chains creating challenges for the industry was published, I was contacted by our local NPR radio station for a segment: America's Blood Economy. My interviewer was Karen Brown and you get read the interview transcript here. 
For this interview, I had to show up in the recording studio, which was on caampus and very convenient.

5. A few years earlier, after  speaking on a panel at the AAAS meeting in Washington DC, I was contacted by a journalist in Italy and ended up talking about the Braess paradox on Italian radio! 

You can see from the above examples (and I have more, including experiences on TV shows and documentaries that I have been part of), that if you share your Operations Research in print outlets or even give good talks, news can be picked up by media outlets. So, do keep that great research going and try to disseminate it further since that is how you can broaden the impact.

Your university might also be able to help or sometimes even the publisher of the journal in which your exciting research has appeared but, honestly, it is also up to you. And, it can be very rewarding, fun, and also a great way in which to grow professionally.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Wildfire Fuel Management and Operations Research: Fabulous Talk by Prof. Dmytro Matsypura from Australia

This has been a truly amazing week!

We not only celebrated the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter receiving the Magna Cum Laude Award from INFORMS at the recent conference in Houston, but we also hosted  Dr. Dmytro Matsypura from the School of Business at the University of Sydney in Australia!

Dr. Matsypura was my former doctoral student at the Isenberg School and received his PhD in 2006, with a concentration in Management Science. He is now a tenured Senior Lecturer (equivalent to a tenured Associate Professor) and has been recognized for his exceptional teaching with awards.  He is also a Center Associate at the Supernetwork Center at the Isenberg School. Below is the notice for the talk that he delivered yesterday which was outstanding!
Dr. Matsypura spoke on his latest research on a topic of great relevance -- that of wildfire fuel management. The talk was based on an article with the same title, which is literally, "hot off the press" and published in the European Journal of Operational Research, volume 264(2), 2018, pp. 774-796.  The article was co-authored by Professor Oleg A. Prokopyev of the University of Pittsburgh, and an undergraduate student of Matsypura's: Aizat Zahar, who is from Malaysia and has since graduated.

Dr. Matsypura had the audience at the edges of their seats as he spoke about the number of wildfires in the past year in the US, and in Canada (over 50,000 each with millions of hectares burned) and how the model he constructed with Prokopyev and Zahar can assist in prescribed burning, while taking into consideration not only the biology of the fuel provided by the vegetation in the region, but also zones, and how often the prescribed burning takes place. He described in a very eloquent and commanding way the nonlinear equations underlying the model and how they can be linearized; how  graphs can be used to represent zones in a region, and the role that network interdiction plays. I absolutely loved the way in which he presented different objective functions that the authors had explored and how this impacted the solutions as well as the computational results. In addition, he described a heuristic that was very effective.

Dr. Matsypura noted that there are very few papers in this area and even mentioned that we can learn a lot from aborigines as to how to do prescribed burning. Australia has been doing prescribed burns for 30-40 years now and the goal is to burn on purpose so as to remove "fuel" and to do it sustainably.

He made some very quotable statements including one of my favorites - how we sometimes may need "less complexity - more usability."

The paper I am sure will be very highly cited and he has already spoken with practitioners in both Australia and the US (Montana)  on the results that he has obtained. His talk was an example of how a passion for an important application can drive great Operations Research in terms of model and methodological advances.

We first welcomed him with a dinner on Thursday evening.
On Friday, Dr. Tony Butterfield, who had been the PhD Program Director at the Isenberg School, when Dmytro matriculated, stopped by to give him a hug.
We also managed to take the photo below in the Supernetwork Lab with several of my Doctoral Student Center Associates, including Deniz Besik and Mojtaba Salarpour.
The turnout for his talk was excellent and it even made the UMass Amherst homepage!
I was surprised and delighted when even Professor Amir H. Masoumi, also a former doctoral student of mine, and an Isenberg PhD alum, who is now a Professor at the School of Business at Manhattan College in NYC, showed up! And there was even a guest from the United Nations in NYC.
We then took Dr. Matsypura to lunch at the UMass Amherst University Club, where the food and conversation were terrific. Dr. Masoumi also joined us as did my doctoral students, including Pritha Dutta.
And, in the afternoon, Professor Jose M. Cruz, of the School of Business at UConn, stopped by the Supernetworks Lab. Jose was also one of my doctoral students and a contemporary of Dmytro's and is a great friend of his.
This was a talk and a visit to remember - inspiring, energizing, and very impressive. The UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter also conducted a video interview with Dr. Matsypura and when it gets posted we will certainly let you know!

Thanks to an Isenberg School of Management PhD alum and Supernetwork Center Associate whose research and teaching are making a big impact and difference!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Supernetwork Team Shines at INFORMS Conference in Houston

This past week was a whirlwind with the INFORMS Annual Meeting taking place in Houston, Texas, October 22-25, 2017. There were almost 6,000 conferees and the conference, which took place less than two months after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, one to remember.

It was also very special since 12  members of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks at the Isenberg School of Management that I serve as a Director of were there to present papers, chair sessions, accept an award, and enjoy technical talks, business meetings, and many social events.

Last Sunday, I gathered a group of Supernetwork Center Associates, who had arrived in Houston,  for dinner al fresco at the restaurant Pappadeux, which is right next to the Convention Center.
Kudos to Professor Dmytro Matsypura who travelled all the way from the University of Sydney in Australia to present his work! Eight of my former PhD students, along Isenberg School UMass Amherst PhD alums, were there, plus two of my present doctoral students: Pritha Dutta and Deniz Besik. The PhD alums are now professors at great institutions: in addition to Dr. Matsypura, Dr. Jose M. Cruz is at UConn's School of Business, Dr. Amir H. Masoumi is at the School of Business at Manhattan College, Dr. Patrick Qiang is at Penn State, Dr. Sara Saberi is at the Foisie School of Business at WPI, Dr. Min Yu is at the Pamplin School of Business at the University of Portland, Dr. Dong "Michelle" Li is at the College of Business at Arkansas State University, Dr. Shivani Shukla of the University of San Francisco, and Dr. Trisha Anderson is at the School of Business at Texas Wesleyan University.

I am so proud of my former (and present) doctoral students who are so professionally active and engaged and whose work in both research and education is making a big difference.

I have posted 7 of the presentations that we gave at INFORMS Houston on the Supernetworks Center site since we have had multiple requests.

It was thrilling to see my book with Dr. Michelle Li displayed at the Springer booth at the Exhibition area, along with the latest issue of the Journal of Global Optimization in which Dr. Min Yu, Deniz Besik, and I have our paper on supply chain capacity competition and outsourcing, which Deniz presented at the conference.
Dr. Michelle Li, Dr. Yu, and I also heard last Friday that our paper that Dr. Li presented on Monday on consumer learning in differentiated product markets was accepted for publication in the journal Omega. We could not have asked for better timing!

Below is a photo taken after the session on Networks and Supply Chains that I organized of the speakers and several members of the audience who are a part of our great Supernetworks Team!
Our presentations included ones on freight and sustainability, cybersecurity investments, game theory and disaster relief, closed loop supply chains, and even blood supply chains and game theory!
Another highlight was getting together at the WORMS lunch and, of course, having our UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter receive the Magna Cum Laude Award from INFORMS!
We all returned energized and brimming with new ideas and also a strengthened sense of community.

Thank you INFORMS for holding the conference in Houston, despite the uncertainty and the associated challenges. It is a conference to be very pleasantly remembered!