Thursday, July 31, 2014

Amazing Faculty Moves Across the Miles

Have you ever considered making a job change?

In academia, some folks move into administrative posts or may switch departments. Others select to leave their respective college or university to join the faculty or assume another post, perhaps, administrative, at another academic institution. Some may move for a period of time, or permanently, into a government position.

There have been some recent amazing moves by faculty and administrators  - moves that have involved assuming positions thousands of miles away even across the Atlantic.

Two of the most amazing moves I heard about last month at the Optimization, Control and Applications in the Information Age Conference in Chalkidiki, Greece, which was in honor of our dear friend, Distinguished University Professor Panos M.. Pardalos of the University of Florida.

Drumroll, please.

Professor C. Pistikopoulos of Imperial College in London, England, who was one of my hosts, along with Professor Berc Rustem, when I spoke there in April 2007, is joining the faculty of Texas A&M University. Professor E.N. Floudas of Princeton University is also joining Texas A&M University. Texas A&M issued this nice press release. Both are renowned scholars who are experts in optimization with a focus on chemical engineering processes. They are good friends of Professor Pardalos and, yes, they are both Greek.

Texas A&M has recruited these two scholars and two others, including Alan Needlman, who was at Brown U., when I was there, using a fund of $100 million!  This is what oil money can buy!

I had the pleasure of speaking at Texas A&M last October and was hosted by Professor Sergiy Butenko and the great Texas A&M INFORMS Student Chapter. Their hospitality was outstanding!

And speaking,of amazing faculty moves across the miles, and a bit of  "conservation of flow," the new President of Imperial College is none other than the President of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Professor Alice Gast. More info on her can be found here. She will be making "herstory" as Imperial's first female President. Coincidentally, her area of expertise is chemical engineering. And, in case you missed it, the former President of Princeton University (who was Princeton's first female President, and who was born in Canada, as I was), Professor Shirley Tilghman is also now at Imperial College.

Personally, I enjoy having "my feet" on both the North American and European continents and am so lucky to hold a Visiting Professorship at the University of Gothenburg in beautiful Sweden!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Writing Promotion and Tenure Letters

Those not in the academic world, may think that faculty, during the summer, when they are not officially teaching, are not working.

This is a big mistake.

Faculty when not instructing courses are still very involved in research and in service and even working with students.

Since returning from Europe where I spent two glorious months as a Visiting Professor at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, and also traveling and speaking at conferences in Sicily and Greece,  I have been busy working with my doctoral students. Two of my doctoral students recently passed their comprehensive exams in Management Science (a big congrats to Shivani Shuukla and Sara Saberi). I've also revised and resubmitted 3 journal articles, and we are working on several others.

This is also the time when we are busy reviewing papers for journals and are also starting to prepare our materials for courses for the new academic year, which begins in early September.

In addition - and this is quite a time-consuming task - faculty who are at a senior level, typically, the Full Professor level, may be asked to review cases for promotion to Associate Professor with tenure or even promotion to Full Professor. Such requests come from other universities located in the US or in other countries.

This summer I have had 4 requests to evaluate cases, two based at major research universities in the US, one in Sweden, and one in Italy.

Tenure, as academics know, means a "job for life," so it is very important to make sure that the candidate is worthy and, typically, outside reviewers focus on the research contributions of the individual, and, to a lesser degree, on the teaching and service, since those may be harder for an independent outside evaluator to evaluate.

I have served on Departmental personnel committees and am now, again, serving on the School Personnel Committee at the Isenberg School, so I read letters that have been submitted as evaluations of our faculty members' records who are up for promotion.  Usually, the person who is up for the promotion waives her/his rights to see the letters, but not always so.

It takes time to read through the packets which consist of a dossier of the faculty member's cv, several publications, as well as research, teaching, and service statements.

I found it quite interesting that the Swedes pay (actually a good amount) for the evaluation of a promotion packet but this is rare. If my readers are aware of other countries that provide compensation for this professional service, do let me know. Nevertheless, doing this task is an essential professional service.

Of course, it is made easier if the individual you actually know (two of the cases that I am writing up now I know personally). And even easier, if the case is very positive and strong. Then writing a letter of support can actually be a true pleasure.

This past year, I had two of my former PhD students, Dr. Zugang "Leo" Liu and Dr. Trisha Wolley Anderson, receive promotions to Associate Professor with tenure at their respective institutions. They are my 10th and 11th doctoral students to become tenured professors.  Nice to see our great academic family growing and prospering.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Competing on Quality and Supply Chain Networks

Quality was recognized already by Feigenbaum in 1982 as the single most important force leading to the economic growth of companies in international markets. Also, Buzzell and Gale in 1987 in their book, The PIMS Principles: Linking Strategy to Performance, recognized that, in the long run, quality is the most important factor affecting  business unit's performance and competitiveness relative to the quality levels of its competitors.

So, why are we seeing so many examples of quality failures?

Recent shocking examples have included  revelations, as reported by Bloomberg News, that consumers in both China and Japan of hamburgers, chicken nuggets and other products that they bought from some of the world’s best-known food chains -- including McDonald’s Corp. (MCD) and Yum! Brands Inc. (YUM)’s KFC and Pizza Hut -- were made with spoiled meat.The meat came from a Chinese unit of OSI Group Inc., which is based in Illinois and is a global food processor. Allegations have included also that meat that was dropped on the ground was then scooped up and processed further. 

Or what about the case of Takata Corp., which is the world's second largest supplier of airbags for automobiles. There are ongoing recalls called for by four Japanese car manufacturers and even BMW since the airbag inflator may rupture and injure passengers and may also catch on fire.

And as K.R. Karu eruditely wrote on the Sparta Systems blog on the topic of supplier quality management (and lack thereof): A few years ago, a single supplier of a peanut based ingredient single handedly impacted the entire peanut based food industry.  This company supplied a contaminated ingredient that was used by over 390 separate companies in nearly 4,000 different peanut products, including peanut butter, candies, oils and more.  The results were over a billion dollars in losses to the industry, with peanut butter sales dropping by more than 25%, regardless if the ingredient was used in the product or not.  More important than these financial losses was the danger to the consuming public.  Over 700 people were made ill by this contamination, and there were 9 confirmed related deaths.  The supplier was forced to close their doors, and criminal charges were brought against the executives of this company.

The biggest asset of any company is its reputation and quality failures, as we are seeing now even with General Motors, and the faulty ignition switch, can have lasting impacts and affect the bottom line because of costly recalls.

Quality management and how to compete on quality in a supply chain context are topics that we have been deeply researching over the past several years. Whether it is food or pharmaceuticals or consumer goods such as cars or high tech products, we all want and deserve for our hard-earned cash to have the quality in our products that we expect and have paid for.

Our first paper on product quality, in which we considered a single firm, with a focus on pharmaceuticals, with multiple manufacturing plants and multiple possible outsourcers, was: Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Networks with Outsourcing Under Price and Quality Competition, Anna Nagurney, Dong Li, and Ladimer S. Nagurney, International Transactions in Operational Research 20(6): (2013) pp 859-888. In this paper we captured the cost of disrepute, or the cost associated with a firm's reputational loss due to inferior quality. In this paper the demand for the product was fixed at the various demand markets.

In the next paper, which we have just revised, and expect to hear good news on soon, A Supply Chain Network Game Theory Model with Product Differentiation, Outsourcing of Production and Distribution, and Quality and Price Competition, Anna Nagurney and Dong Li, we captured competition among multiple firms who compete in quantities and quality and also have the options of outsourcing the production and delivery of their products, which are differentiated by brands. Here, again, we assumed fixed demands and also included the cost of disrepute.

In the paper, A Dynamic Network Oligopoly Model with Transportation Costs, Product Differentiation, and Quality Competition, Anna Nagurney and Dong Li, Computational Economics 44(2): (2014) pp 201-229, which was just recently published, we demonstrated how firms adjust their quality levels and quantities over time through a dynamic adjustment process until an equilibrium is achieved. The consumers now respond to the quality levels and quantities of the products through the prices that they are willing to pay for the differentiated products.

And, in a paper, just published last week, Equilibria and Dynamics of Supply Chain Network Competition with Information Asymmetry in Quality and Minimum Quality Standards, Anna Nagurney and Dong Li, Computational Management Science 11(3): (2014) pp 285-315, we investigated, in a supply chain network context, the impacts of information asymmetry. If producers know the quality of their products, but consumers only know the average quality, what can happen? This kind of quality information asymmetry was introduced (but not in a supply chain context) by George Akerlof in his famous lemons paper in 1970 (which was rejected 3 times by journals and finally published and he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2001 for this work). Akerlof's paper is: "The market for `lemons': Quality uncertainty and the market mechanism," Quarterly Journal of Economics, 84(3), 488-500. Akerlof shared the Nobel with Professor Joseph Stiglitz and Michael Spence. In our paper, we show how critical it is for policy-makers to work together on the imposition of minimum quality standards so that the do-gooders don't get cheated in terms of profits and so that consumers also don't lose out.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Thanks to the National Science Foundation for Great Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program

I returned around 1AM from Colorado where I had spent a few days visiting my daughter who is taking part in a 10 week National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at the University of Colorado Boulder.

This was my first time in Boulder and I loved the vibe there, the natural beauty, the friendliness of the people, and, of course, the University of Colorado. I had been to Colorado multiple times for both conferences and visiting relatives but this was my first time in Boulder.
 

The specific project that my daughter, Alexandra, is working on is: Emissions Consequences of Shale Gas Production in the Rocky Mountain Region.  She is being hosted by Professor Jana Milford, who has both a a PhD and a law degree - impressive! In essence, she is quantifying the emissions associated with fracking but not only in terms of production but also in terms of delivery, which I think is very cool. One of my passions is sustainable supply chains and energy systems but more from the math modeling, game theory and optimization perspectives.

The National Science Foundation funds a number of REU sites around the US.  One has to apply for these and they are wonderful opportunities for undergraduates to become deeply engaged in research. Typically, about 10 or so students are part of an REU program. Now at Boulder there is both an environmental REU taking place as well as a physics one, and my daughter, who loves science - the hard kind - geological science - is involved in the environmental sustainability REU.

The students also get to visit other research sites, go to local conferences, do a lot of on-site field work and data analysis, meet students from around the country, and enjoy living and growing in a new environment.

Needless to say, she loves Boulder and is very grateful for the scientific experiences that she has had because of this great National Science Foundation program.

Boulder reminds us a bit of the Pioneer Valley, with Amherst, Northampton, and Deerfield at the core,  but on a much more majestic scale with the Rockies as a backdrop and with many high tech firms having research outlets there. I love just listening to the conversations as you walk on Pearl Street or sit in the numerous cafes. I heard "analytics" multiple times.

And another aspect of an REU is exploring a new location so, along with some new friends, my daughter climbed Grays Peak, a 14,000 foot mountain, quite the achievement.

I have sponsored about a dozen of undergraduates at the Isenberg School of Management under an REU supplementary grant that I had as part of a previous National Science Foundation grant.  Students worked in my Supernetwork Lab for Computational and Visualization, which is part of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks that I founded in 2001 and direct. And one of those students, Christina Calvaneso, who graduated back in 2003, was recently recognized by the Isenberg School of Management, with a Young Alumna Business Leadership Award.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Summer Edition of the Supernetwork Center Newsletter is Out

We are delighted to announce that the 2014 summer edition of The Supernetwork Sentinel, the newsletter of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst,  is now available.

As the Director of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks, it is always a pleasure to produce this newsletter and to share it with our many center supporters, colleagues, and collaborators.

Its been a very exciting couple of months and, as I always say, it takes a great team to accomplish as much as we manage to do, and to have such an enjoyable time doing it whether it entails research on supply chains,  transportation systems, or the Future Internet Architecture, known as ChoiceNet that we have been researching with funding provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF), giving invited talks around the world, visiting various universities, and/or always mentoring and guiding our students!

The latest  summer edition as well as all of our previous newsletters can be found on the Supernetwork Center newsletter page. These newsletters are available for download in pdf format.

The next edition of The Supernetwork Sentinel will be in the Fall.

Thank you for your support!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Soccer Won - the 2014 World Cup

After Germany beat Argentina in the 2014 FIFA World Cup final today with Germany being crowned the champion of this monthlong competition in which 32 countries competed with their soccer teams, I took a walk.

I needed to process this World Cup, which I think was the best ever in terms of the drama, athleticism, surprises, and outcome. I have written two previous posts on this World Cup.

Seeing Gotze score with an amazing goal for Germany with the result that Germany won 1-0 against Argentina in overtime was quite special. The ball he bounced off his chest and then kicked it into the net.

During my walk I ran into one of my wonderful colleagues at the Isenberg School of Management, Professor Mzamo Mangaliso, with whom I always enjoy conversing. After discussing the game and the outcome he said to me: "Anna, soccer won!"

I thought that was such an astute comment that it inspired me to write my third and final post on this World Cup.

It kept us mesmerized and in suspense for a month. I watched games while in Europe - in Sweden, Italy, and Greece, and then many more upon my return to the US.

What also impressed me today was realizing that the three heads of governments of countries who were so visible today - Germany, Argentina, and Brazil, the wonderfuul host of this World Cup, are all women. Now, isn't that terrific?!

It was great to see Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany,  supporting the German team from the stands in her bright red suit jacket with gold buttons and then congratulating the players and the coach when they received the 18 karat gold trophy and individual gold medals. Also, the President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, was present at the award ceremony today, and Brazil deserves congratulations on the success of this World Cup. Finally, the President of Argentina is Cristina Fern├índez de Kirchner and although Argentina did not win, its team captain, Lionel Messi, received the Golden Ball award and others were honored as well.

The fireworks following the final game were magical in Rio.

The World Cup brought the world together for a month and kept us entertained and surprised.

That is the power of sport and of soccer.

Until the next World Cup.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Living in a Nonlinear World

This past week there have been two big events marking milestones in the lives of major contributors to our understanding of nonlinear phenomena - one very sad and one happy.

I heard the sad news via a tweet by Professor Laura McLay @lauramclay - Professor Harold Kuhn of Princeton University passed away on July 2, 2014 at the age of 88.  The Nobel laureate Al Roth of Stanford wrote this tribute to this co-founder of nonlinear programming and brilliant game theorist, who, interestingly, was a mathematician but had an appointment in Princeton's Economics Department.
Photo above of Harold Kuhn, courtesy of Princeton University

Anyone working, on, researching, or learning about our nonlinear world is aware of the powerful tool of nonlinear programming and the renowned Kuhn-Tucker optimality conditions, now commonly referred to as the Karush-Kuhn-Tucker or KKT Theorem. Dick Cottle of Stanford wrote a wonderful history of these scientific discoveries which can be read here.

Although I never met Karush, Kuhn or Tucker, my first academic interview when I was finishing my PhD in Applied Math at Brown with a specialization in Operations Research, was at SUNY Stony Brook, and I was interviewed by Al Tucker's son, Al Tucker, Jr., so, of course, we talked about his father. Al Tucker passed away in 1995.

This very same week, on July 5, 2014 we celebrated the 90th birthday of Professor Martin Beckmann, the only surviving author of the classic 1956 book, Studies in the Economics of Transportation, who was on my doctoral dissertation committee at Brown University.

I wrote about Beckmann's milestone birthday on this blog and sent his a special card. More information on this classic, including a special festchrift I organized at a previous INFORMS conference in San Francisco can be viewed here.
 The photo above was taken of Beckmann and me at Northwestern University a few years ago.

The massive impact of this book, which formalized what we now commonly refer to as user-optimization and system-optimization to capture different behaviors on congested network systems, with a focus on urban transportation networks, was summarized in our paper, A Retrospective on Beckmann, McGuire and Winsten’s Studies in the Economics of Transportation  David E. Boyce, Hani S. Mahmassani, and Anna Nagurney,  Papers in Regional Science  84: (2005) pp 85-103.

In their book, on page 59, they stated:  “Demand refers to trips and capacity refers to flows on roads. The connecting link is found in the distribution of trips over the network according to the principle that traffic follows shortest routes in terms of average cost. The idea of equilibrium in a network can then be described as follows: ... the existing traffic conditions are such as to call forth the demand that will sustain the flows that create these conditions.” And, as we noted in the paper, That these authors  succeeded to formulate and extensively analyze a nonlinear optimization problem whose optimality conditions correspond to this statement (and related behavioral assumptions) was an enormous advance in the rigorous modeling of network traffic, a result never before achieved for urban traffic, and most unlikely for any complex system involving interactions of human behavior with technology. Moreover, they provided a parallel model and analysis for the case of cost-minimizing (now called system optimum) flows in a congested traffic network.


Boyce published an article in the journal Economics of Transportation last year: "Beckmann's transportation network equilibrium model: Its history and relationship to the Kuhn–Tucker conditions."

Below I depict congestion on a link where the travel time or cost is an increasing function of the flow.

 

Congestion is a huge problem in the US an beyond. As I noted in my TEDX talk at UMass last November:  Congestion costs continue to rise:  the cost of congestion has risen from $24 billion in 1982 to $121 billion in 2011 in the United States. The average commuter spent an extra 38 hours traveling in 2011, up from 16 hours in 1982. In areas with over 3 million persons, commuters experienced an average of 52 hours of delay in 2011. In 2011,  2.9 billion gallons of wasted fuel -- enough to fill 4 New Orleans Superdomes.

 
Congestion is neither a new phenomenon - it even occurred in ancient Roman times during which time of day chariot policies were used to ameliorate congestion.


Information on some of the most congested roads in the US is available here.

More data can be found in the always fascinating Texas Transportation Institute's Urban Mobility report.

Neither is congestion, and associated nonlinearities, limited to urban transportation systems, but they also arise in freight systems, electric power generation and distribution networks, and the Internet!

And, importantly, if the user travel cost on a link is fixed, then, both user-optimizing solutions coincide with system-optimizing ones, so the (in)famous Braess paradox cannot occur!
 
Many, many thanks to Kuhn, Tucker, Karush, and, of course, to Martin Beckmann for providing us with some of the tools to model and better understand our nonlinear world!