Saturday, April 19, 2014

Phishing is Like Fishing - A Fitting Finale to Our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series

Where has the academic year gone?

We are now in the final weeks of a very busy semester and yesterday we had the pleasure of hosting my colleague, Dr. Ryan Wirght, of the Operations & Information Management Department, in our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series, which the students of this award-winning chapter, help me to organize.

This year we hosted 6 speakers, including Dr. Michael Fu of the Smith School at the University of Maryland, Dr. Les Servi of MITRE (both of whom I saw at the recent INFORMS Analytics Conference in Boston), as well as Dr. Mary Helander of IBM (who, coincidentally, was involved in helping to organize the same conference in terms of speaker selection), as well as Dr. Eric Gonzales, a recent great addition to the UMass Amherst faculty, who had been at Rutgers,and Dr. Adams Steven, another colleague of mine, who received hid PhD from the Smith School last year.

Yesterday, was the grand finale, since it was the last speaker of our academic year!
 Dr. Wright's talk was on: “Towards a Behavioral Model of Online Deception Detection."

The audience consisted of students from the Isenberg School of Management and the College of Engineering as well as faculty. Dr. Wright began his lecture with an overview of the cybersecurity failures at both Target and Adobe and associated financial and reputational costs and took us on a journey of how to build a human firewall to combat such attacks. 

He shared with us his research, which is behavioral, and includes experiments (often with undergraduates as subjects),  and findings, published in top IS journals, on phishing and human susceptibility and vulnerability, along with effective response training, including mindfulness training. The insights garnered are fascinating. Needless to say, the audience had many questions, always a sign of an outstanding speaker and presentation. 

Top lesson:  be aware and think before you click on a "suspicious" link. Don't use technology mindlessly.

I took the following photos of  Dr. Wright lecturing yesterday and with some of the audience members. Given that it was a Friday, and Monday is Patriot's Day here is Massachusetts, which is a holiday, plus the day of the running of the Boston Marathon, we were so pleased that the talk attracted a standing room only audience.

And, yes, the second photo below, illustrated an analogy between phishing and fishing - think of that url as a "hook."

I always say, you have a great topic and speaker, you promote it appropriately, and we did, and they will come!

I have written tips on organizing a successful Speaker Series, which you can accessed here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Year of Blue and Gold

Today we marked the one year anniversary of the horrific Boston Marathon Bombings.

This day in western Massachusetts is filled with strong winds and torrential rains as though nature is crying, too, for the 3 lives lost, the over 260 injured, and for our community being transformed.

It is a year of blue and gold with Boston Strong becoming a symbol and mantra for resilience.

These are the colors of the Boston Marathon finish line
 the colors of One Fund Boston,
 and also the colors of Boston Strong.
A friend and colleague of mine, Dr. Alla Kammerdiner, who is Ukrainian, and who I saw last February at a conference at the University of Florida and whose session on cybersecurity I spoke at at the INFORMS Minneapolis Conference (and we were videotaped)., ran the Boston Marathon last year and I wrote about her experience on this blog.

I reached out to her this past week as the anniversary was approaching. She will be returning to Boston and will be running the 2014 Boston Marathon next Monday.

My first language is also Ukrainian and today's USAToday cover highlighted both the anniversary and the events in the country of my parents:
The Ukrainian flag is featured below and when I see the Boston blue and gold banners I am always reminded of Ukraine and the will of its people to be free despite what seem to be insurmountable challenges. The blue stands for the blue of the sky and the gold for the color of the fields of grain since, for many years, Ukraine was known as the breadbasket of Europe.
And this year, as in the two previous years, whenever I return to the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, where I am a Visiting Professor of Operations Management,  I am surrounded by blue and gold with the Swedish flag unfurled on many stately occasions and even the trolley flying what, to me, looks like the Ukrainian flag.
For all those out there, never give up your dreams of freedom and thanks for all the acts of courage and integrity!

Latest Newsletter from the Supernetwork Center is Now Online

Spring has arrived in New England with warm temperatures and the snow has finally melted.

It has been a very busy couple of months at the Supernetwork Center at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.

It is a privilege to serve as the Center's Director and to work with such great students and colleagues.

The latest edition of The Supernetwork Sentinel is now out and it is filled with news about various events, including conferences, accolades, upcoming activities,  and highlights of our latest research and teaching activities.
The full newsletter can be downloaded here. 

Thanks for the wonderful support from around the world. Working with the Supernetwork Team pushes research, teaching, and service to new heights because of great teamwork and thee associated synergy.

The next edition of The Supernetwork Sentinel will be out in the summer.

For all editions of our newsletter please visit the newsletter page on the Supernetwork Center website.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Photos from Emergency Sheltering Exercise and the Best of Town and Gown

Yesterday, several students from the Isenberg School of Management  spent the late afternoon with me at the Mullins Center in Amherst where an emergency sheltering exercise was being conducted involving hundreds of volunteers, including many students (kudos to nursing and others), and multiple organizations such as UMass Amherst and the Medical Reserve Corps of Hampshire County.

Some of my students are overnighting there on cots to learn from the experience and since they work as interns in emergency preparedness or have been fire fighters. We were especially interested in this well-timed major emergency preparedness exercise since I am teaching a course this semester at the Isenberg School on Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare.  Mr. Jeff Hescock, who was one of five guest lecturers in my class, and who is the Director of  UMass  Emergency Management and Business Continuity was one of the leaders of this fascinating sheltering exercise.

The Mullins Center is usually the venue for basketball and hockey games as well as major entertainment events and to see it transformed into a shelter that could serve as a refuge after a natural disaster, such as a tornado or winter storm (and we have had our share of these as I have written about many times on this blog and in various OpEds).

Two of my students and I, along with town officials, such as our Town Manager, John Musante, and our Fire Chief (it was great to see them both and my students were impressed), received a grand tour from an Amherst Public health official who was wonderful.
The photos that I took at this special community event that I have posted here illustrate the scope of planning involved. The setup began at 1PM with the shelter opening at 3PM to simulate a real-life sheltering response to a natural disaster. Since those who are being sheltered become a society for a time period safety and rules are important.
There were registration desks upon entry and those who had volunteered to be "victims" had tags given to them describing their injuries which were made to look quite authentic.

The Mullins Center had an area with cots, an area for dining, and the menu looked quite great.

Since showers are located there, it is an excellent facility for an emergency shelter and it has such a large space. There were rooms for additional medical treatment and for emotional support. We also saw an ambulance inside with a very realistic victim lying on a stretcher which added to us seeing the scale and magnitude of sheltering (and planning involved),

This emergency sheltering exercise involved not only adults but also children as well as animals and the attention to detail was truly remarkable.  Children had their own area which was supplied with books, activities, and toys.

Cats were separated from dogs, who were in crates and there was an exercise area for the latter and a radio was playing for the former. We were escorted by Ms. Carol Hepburn, who is Amherst's Animal Control Officer and a legend. She used to visit our neighborhood quite often back in the day.
There was also an area for exotic animals including the dragon in the above photo. An exercise area for animals was constructed outside of the Mullins Center featured in the photo below.

We spoke with a variety of the volunteers from organizations such as the Red Cross and the Medical Reserve Corps as well as the animal care individuals who came with their trucks from central MA and from the Berkshire area.

There were even dogs to assist those who needed emotional assistance and reassurance. The adorable, huge Newfoundlander came with his owner and handler from Rhode Island.

 I look forward to hearing from a student later today on how the overnight experience went. He had packed up a big sleeping bag with a pillow and snacks and was prepared. The Medical Reserve Corps also had, for distribution, backpacks with First Aid kits, flashlights and a formd in a folder on which one could write critical information to keep handy.

I congratulate all involved on this very important exercise which demonstrates the best of town and gown cooperation!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Design and Analysis of a Content-oriented Internet

Yesterday,  I marched down the hill from the Isenberg School of Management with my three doctoral students to attend the Distinguished Faculty Lecture given by Professor James Kurose of the Computer Science Department at UMass Amherst.

The title of his lecture, which was given in the Massachusetts Room of the Mullins Center to a standing room audience, was "Design and Analysis of a Content-oriented Internet."

Professor Kurose was introduced by Provost James Staros and Dean Steven Goodwin and our Chancellor, Dr. Subbaswamy,  was in attendance as well as our VCRE Mike Malone.

Professor Kurose began his lecture by saying that he is "A Teacher" and provided us with an overview of the major developments in communications from the telephone to packet switching to the Internet. He emphasized that the Internet is a Network of Networks and, since I founded and direct the Supernetwork Center at UMass,  I liked hearing this very much. Supernetworks are networks of networks and our research at the center has advanced both methodologies and the modeling and solution of applications ranging from multimodal transportation networks to complex supply chains and to now envisioning a Future Internet Architecture (FIA), which is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and which we are working on with Co-PIs at multiple universities.  Our FIA is known as ChoiceNet.

Professor Kurose emphasized that "Content is King" and stated that Cisco is predicting that, by 2017, 80-90% of the Internet traffic will be for videos, TV streaming, peer to peer, etc. He noted that consumers don't care where the content comes from as long as we get it.

Everything used to be wired but now there are more wireless devices than wired ones connected to the Internet. There are also millions of access networks - for example, at UMass we would first be connected to that network.

He also spoke about the challenges that Netflix faces and that researchers in the Computer Science Department are working on. Some of my students and I had had a preview of this topic just the day before in my Management Science doctoral seminar on Variational Inequalities, Networks, and Game Theory, since a Computer Science professor and one of his doctoral students have been sitting in this course of mine and it has been terrific to have them. We had heard the day before about how Netflix is unsure of where to position movies (store them) and makes multiple copies in multiple locations - this may reduce the speed of delivery and also add to network congestion plus storage costs - topics I have spoken about.

Afterwards there were great questions, even from our Chancellor - not surprising since he is a physicist!

I commented that the Netflix problem reminded me of a problem in humanitarian logistics (another course that I am teaching this semester) in terms of the positioninng of supplies and also mentioned our FIA project ChoiceNet, which will allow consumers to select not only content but the mode of delivery which could include less congested paths with consumers willing to pay for such enhanced services as we say  "pay with their wallets."

Indeed, in our ChoiceNet project, which we already have multiple papers on, we draw comparisons with supply chain networks and freight delivery systems and recognize the importance of network economics, game theory, and operations research. Professor Kurose, after my comments, did note that I was in OR and mentioned  "facility location." I have a good idea as to how to model the Netflix problem and solve it. He also mentioned that 2 out of the 5 NSF FIA [projects had UMass Amherst contributors, which is wonderful!

After his fabulous talk - clear why he has received multiple teaching awards research recognitions, I took the photo below of him with my doctoral students.

We essentially closed up the reception since there were so many interesting faculty and graduate students to talk to from Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and even Political Science!

Professor Kurose  has been at UMass Amherst for 30 years and over the next 30 we can continue to ask him many questions that his talk inspired.

I remember, back in 2005, sharing the stage with him at the Bowker Auditorium, when both of us were amongst the 12 faculty being recognized with a new award, which is now given annually - the Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Research and Creative Activity.

Great to have the opportunity for my doctoral students in Management Science to meet him yesterday!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Choosing a Speech Topic and the Winner Is - Our Outstanding UMass Amherst Students

I enjoy giving talks, from seminar and conference presentations to keynotes in exciting locations around the world and these are, typically, of a technical nature.

I also enjoy giving talks to audiences such as at the World Science Festival or at  the NYTimes EnergyforTomorrow Conference or at the AAAS Annual meetings. The audiences at such venues are always fabulous

Certain special occasions also call for a "speech" whether at a graduation commencement or at an honor society induction or, perhaps, a banquet of some sort.

Today I had the honor and privilege of being the Guest Speaker at the UMass Amherst Campus Center Auditorium at the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society Induction ceremony. Professor Don Katzner of our Economics Department had invited me close to a year ago. Since I enjoyed the ceremony last year so much I agreed. Phi Kappa Phi, according to its website was founded in 1897 at the University of Maine, Phi Kappa Phi is the nation's oldest, largest, and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines.

I have given commencement speeches both at an undergraduate Isenberg School commencement at the Mullins Center and also at the Graduate Ceremonies at the School of Business, Economics and Law in Gothenburg, Sweden (on two different occasions).

Selecting a topic of one's speech is very important because it provides a focus for one's thoughts and creates the overall architecture of the talk. The topic should be on a theme that you are really excited about.and the audience would also enjoy listening to.  In the case of the event today,  the audience consisted of student inductees, some of their family members and friends, and a few faculty members.  And there was also a time limit.

I thought about various titles during several walks (I get some of my best ideas while walking or traveling) and I had a big smile on my face when I nailed it down. I was going to speak on Our Outstanding Students at UMass Amherst!

I drafted a transcript of my talk and worked on it over several days, putting in the final touches about an hour before delivering it.

The text can be downloaded here.

Today's ceremony was extra special since two faculty members received a Distinguished Service Award, Professor Alexandrina Deschamps of the Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Professor Donald "Don" Fisher, the Chair of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

Last semester, Professor Fisher gave a great tour of his Arbella Performance lab, along with a lecture, to the students in my Logistics & Transportation class.

I very much enjoyed hearing Professor Katzner, who is President of the Phi Kappa Phi Society Chapter at UMass Amherst (which is the fourth oldest chapter in the U.S., having been founded in 1904),   give a speech and our Provost, Dr. James Staros, as well as the Interim Dean of Commonwealth College, Professor Daniel Gordon.

But, best of all, was seeing the inductees come to the stage, receive their awards, and hear them speak about their majors, where they are from, and their plans.
There were even several students from the Isenberg School.

The last student came to the stage and had those of us who were seated on the stage take  a selfie with him, after noting  David Ortiz's selfie with President Obama!

Extraordinary students we have at UMass Amherst - what a beautiful ceremony it was on a bright, sunny day! Congratulations, one and all!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Can Financial Engineering Cure Cancer?

This past Tuesday I spoke on Cybersecurity and Financial Services at the fabulous INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics & Operations Research in Boston.

In my presentation, which can be downloaded here,  I mentioned my colleagues with whom I had conducted the relevant research and also included some network images produced by one of my colleagues, Professor Mila Sherman of Finance, which was done with her dissertation advisor at the Sloan School at MIT, Professor Andrew Lo, and two other collaborators. I wrote about my experience speaking at the conference in a previous post.

Today, after teaching two of my classes, I returned to my office and in catching up with email messages found the announcement below from the Chair of our Finance Department, Professor Sanjay Nawalkha, about the CISDM Research Day in early May. I highlighted just one of the two talks that Professor Lo will be giving  in bold because the title captivated me.

Dear Colleagues,

On the behalf of the Department of Finance and the Center for International Securities and Derivative Markets (CISDM), I would like to invite all of you to the CISDM Research Day on May 2nd, 2014.  Andy Lo of MIT (ranked as one of the 100 most influential people by Time magazine a few years ago) will give the keynote speech at 11:30 AM. Andy will present his research on "Can Financial Engineering Cure Cancer? A New Approach to Funding Biomedical Innovation."  This research is part of a broader effort to raise billions of dollars to fund research on cancer drugs stuck in the pipeline. Andy will also give another talk on relationship between efficient markets and behavioral finance via evolutionary biology and cognitive neurosciences at 2:15pm. Andy's bio and the full schedule for the CISDM Research day is attached below. Professors Bing Liang and Hossein Kazemi will also make presentations. There will be opportunities to speak with Andy and other speakers during lunch and dinner times. The CISDM Research Day is sponsored by Moody's.

The full program is on the CISDM website, which I have reprised below for your convenience.


Please save May 2 for our CISDM Research Day.  The agenda and description of the talks are below. 

RSVP to if you are planning to attend.  We will be making name tags for attendees and plan to serve lunch for those who RSVP.  Looking forward to your replies and attendance. 

CISDM Research Day sponsored by Moody's

Isenberg School of Management - UMass Amherst

Featuring Andrew W. Lo, Charles E. and Susan T. Harris Professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management

DATE: Friday May 2, 2014

LOCATION:  Room 108, Isenberg School of Management (121 Presidents Drive, Amherst, MA)


11:30am-12:30pm - Introduction and Andrew Lo (MIT) presentation:  Can Financial Engineering Cure Cancer? A New Approach to Funding Biomedical Innovation
12:30-1:30pm - Lunch
1:30-2:15pm - Bing Liang (UMass Amherst) presentation (30 minute presentation and 15 minute discussion): Hedge Fund Ownership and Stock Market Efficiency
2:15-3:15pm - Andrew Lo (MIT) presentation: Lies My Finance Professor Told Me: Reconciling Efficient Markets and Behavioral Finance Via Evolutionary Biology and the Cognitive Neurosciences
3:15-3:45pm - Coffee Break
3:45-4:30pm - Hossein Kazemi (UMass Amherst) presentation (30 minute presentation and 15 minute discussion): Dynamics of Hedge Fund's Exposures: Implications for Performance and Herding
Andrew W. Lo Biography:

Andrew W. Lo is the Charles E. and Susan T. Harris Professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and director of the MIT Laboratory for Financial Engineering. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University in 1984. Before joining MIT's finance faculty in 1988, he taught at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School as the W.P. Carey Assistant Professor of Finance from 1984 to 1987, and as the W.P. Carey Associate Professor of Finance from 1987 to 1988.

He has published numerous articles in finance and economics journals, and has authored several books including The Econometrics of Financial Markets, A Non-Random Walk Down Wall Street, Hedge Funds: An Analytic Perspective, and The Evolution of Technical Analysis. He is currently co-editor of the Annual Review of Financial Economics and an associate editor of the Financial Analysts Journal, the Journal of Portfolio Management, and the Journal of Computational Finance.

His awards include the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship, the Paul A. Samuelson Award, the American Association for Individual Investors Award, the Graham and Dodd Award, the 2001 IAFE-SunGard Financial Engineer of the Year award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the CFA Institute's James R. Vertin Award, the 2010 Harry M. Markowitz Award, and awards for teaching excellence from both Wharton and MIT.



Andrew W. Lo

Abstract: As disruptive as the recent financial crisis has been, the important lessons to be learned from the spectacular failure of financial technologies gone awry may actually pave the way for some of the most significant achievements of the 21st century. In this talk, Prof. Lo will provide a brief overview of the key role that financial innovation played in the crisis, and how a deeper appreciation of human nature and incentives may allow financial engineers to focus the enormous power of global financial markets on one of society's most pressing challenges: curing cancer.

Andrew Lo is fabulous and it will be great to welcome him again to the Isenberg School.