Sunday, November 24, 2019

Great Talk on Emergency Response in the Arctic by Professor Tom Sharkey of RPI

Recently, we had the great pleasure of hosting RPI Professor Tom Sharkey in our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series.  His talk, based on an NSF-funded research project, was extremely timely and fascinating.
In fact, an article on this project, co-authored by Professor Sharkey with his project collaborators, including Professor Al Wallace of RPI,  was the cover story in the November issue of ISE Magazine and is definitely worthwhile to read.

His talk attracted an audience of faculty and students from multiple departments and schools at UMass Amherst, including the Isenberg School, the College of Engineering, and also the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

It was a pleasure to introduce Professor Sharkey - I had last seen him this past March when I gave a talk at RPI. Since then, a PhD alumna of RPI's ISE program, whose PhD advisor was Professor Wallace, Dr. Anne P. Massey, has become the first female Dean of the Isenberg School - very exciting!


Professor Sharkey emphasized the interdisciplinary nature of the project in his presentation and noted that the team is working on constructing Operations Research (OR) models to help in emergency response (ER), while also helping communities. Collaborators, outside of RPI faculty, include a professor at NCState and one at the University of Alaska.

He noted the changes that are happening in the Arctic, including tourism and increasing commercial activity, as well as the possibility of broadened maritime shipping,  and the various associated challenges from uncertainty in sea conditions to shortcomings in infrastructure, including broadband. He stated that, even without oil exploration, there is still the possibility of spills. The shipping time from China to Rotterdam has now been decreased by 10-14 days. And, when it comes to ER, mobilization may be bottlenecked by the limited capacity of a community. Infrastructure investments take a while to build out. He discussed the need to determine the minimum budget required in order to achieve a certain response time in an emergency.

Also, he emphasized that there may be unintended consequences and it is important to identify who actually benefits from infrastructure investments.

Professor Sharkey described a mass rescue event, with accompanying network figure, in the case of the need to rescue cruise ship evacuees. His talk clearly resonated with me since we have done a lot of work on disaster relief and, to-date, I have co-edited two volumes on Dynamics of Disasters, with Professors Ilias S. Kotsireas and Panos M. Pardalos.

In 2016, I hosted the visit of Rasmus Dahlberg, who is a disaster researcher, based in Denmark (and also a novelist and TV and radio personality).  After Sharkey's visit to UMass Amherst, I connected the two of them, due to their very similar interests in Arctic emergency response research. Dahlberg is also a practitioner in this important domain. He also has a contributed chapter in the first Dynamics of Disasters (DOD) volume that I co-edited and spoke at the first DOD conference that I co-organized in Kalamata, Greece.

Professor Sharkey spoke abut identifying "dual-use" infrastructure planning, a concept I like very much. For example, improved "connectivity" for Arctic regions is an important goal, in transport (in terms of roads and ports) as well as in communications.  Fast and reliable Internet could then allow for telemedicine, as well as teleeducation in the Arctic. Of course, he also brought up the important question: "Who is going to pay?"

There were many questions during and after his very information talk. We took a group photo and then enjoyed a lunch at the University Club. We thank Professor Sharkey for his excellent, very inspiring  lecture in our Speaker Series!
Also, we celebrated, with cake, 15 years of the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter (30 semesters of great speakers in its Speaker Series)!

Professor Sharkey was interviewed after the lunch for the chapter's youtube channel, and, when the approved video is posted, we will let everyone know via social media.

In the meantime, many thanks to the outstanding UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, and to its Officers, for their amazing work, that brings all those interested in Operations Research/Management Science throughout UMass Amherst (and beyond) closer together as a community, both professionally and socially.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Investing in Private Markets for Social and Environmental Benefits - Brilliant Lecture by UMass Amherst PhD Alum Dr. Stavros Siokos

A fabulous aspect of being an academic is not only the fascinating people one meets professionally but also in that one is always learning, growing, and challenging oneself. 

Some of that great professional and personal growth comes through hearing experts speak on their latest work!

This past week, I had the pleasure of welcoming back to the UMass Amherst campus, my 6th PhD student, Dr. Stavros Siokos, who is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Astarte Capital Partners, based in London, England. Dr. Siokos and I co-authored the Financial Networks book, which was published by Springer  in 1997, as well as multiple journal articles.
Stavros has had a meteoric career in the financial industry and it was wonderful to have him speak in our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series. He has received major awards for his work, including the "CEO Today Europe Award 2018," "Game Changer of 2018" by the Finance Monthly, and "The Most Innovative Manager of 2017" by Fund Intelligence.
Dr. Siokos flew in from London to Boston and, Tuesday evening, on a very chilly day that broke records, we dined at Judie's in downtown Amherst. The food was delicious!
Stavros started his career at Salomon Brothers in London and later became Managing Director of Citigroup. I recall picking up a copy of the Wall Street Journal and seeing the announcement of his appointment as Managing Director! When I have a chance to be in London, I always try to make a point of seeing him. And, because he has offices in major cities around  the globe, I have even "run into" him in the middle of Manhattan, during the holiday season, no less.

His talk at the Isenberg School on investing in private markets for social and environmental benefits was truly inspirational.
As a PhD alumnus of UMass Amherst, it was very special and meaningful for the PhD students and, even undergraduates in the audience, to see what one can accomplish through hard work, dedication, focus, and also charisma, I might add. A favorite slide from his presentation was the one below quoting Charles Darwin, which Stavros paraphrased as: "If you aren't able to adapt to change, you die!"
Stavros began his talk by emphasizing UN sustainability goals, and the making of investments that "help" everyone. He asked the question: "What is the biggest impact that we can have?"

He also noted mega macro trends in his fabulous presentation, including the ageing of the population, food security, and climate change.
He emphasized that "if you do something good, you will make more." He discussed, also accompanied with outstanding videos, some of  his company's investments, from Project Cusco in Paraguay, where eucalyptus is being grown with areas between the growth reserved for farming; investments in India and East Africa, with the latter involving a female in Kenya, who is producing very successful soap products,  as well as the amazing Olympia project that he is involved in, in London!

It was clear that his Operations Research PhD background illuminates a lot of his work. He stated that "let's do mining, but make it better;"  "let's make container ships more efficient," and so on. It was clear from his presentation that, when it comes to supply chains and sustainability, that we need to include the full life cycle costs and impacts.

It was also very moving to hear about the investments into education, including that of children with disabilities.

Stavros has had the pleasure of meeting Nelson Mandela and former President Bill Clinton, among many other leaders, and has even been advising Warren Buffett. Buffett once asked Stavros his ideas on how to become successful, and, when Stavros told him that it is "Doing what you want, where you want to do it, and when," Buffet responded that that is the definition of success. But to achieve that, you have to hang in there until you become "lucky."

I always tell my students that one needs to take into consideration where an individual has started from to appropriately measure one's success. 

After his fabulous presentation, I took a photo of some of the students with Dr. Siokos.
Haris Sipetas, the incredible UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter webmaster, conducted an interview with Dr. Siokos in the Supernetworks Lab at the Isenberg School. The interview, once edited and approved, will be posted on the chapter's youtube channel, where you can access previous interviews with our speakers (and learn a lot)! And, for additional photos and highlights, please check out Haris' post on Dr. Siokos' talk. What serendipity and an incredible coincidence - both Sipetas and Siokos had received undergraduate degrees in engineering from the University of Patras in Greece!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Supernetwork Center Associates Shine at INFORMS Conference in Seattle

In my previous blogpost, I wrote about the fascinating experiences I had in delivering the opening keynote at the recent Operations Research Conference in Mexico City. However, since I am also teaching this semester, I could not attend the INFORMS Conference in Seattle, because it would not be right to miss classes over a two week period. Moreover, I believed it important to support the Mexican OR Society. This was one of only two Annual INFORMS conferences that I have not been at in over two decades. I appreciate all the messages that I have been receiving that I was missed - thank you very much!

However, our research was presented at INFORMS Seattle and also very special recognitions received by several Supernetwork Center Associates.

In particular, three of my joint papers were presented:
The above talks can be downloaded from the Supernetwork Center site at the Isenberg School of Management and are based on papers recently published in the journals: Transportation Research E, International Journal of Production Economics, and the European Journal of Operational Research. Many thanks to the organizers of the sessions that the above first and third presentations appeared in! Below are photos of the two presenters of those talks.
Usually, at every INFORMS Conference, I host a dinner for Supernetwork Center Associates, many of which are my present or former doctoral students, who are now very successful professionally. Although this year I could not, it was wonderful to receive the photo below.

In the above photo (l-r) are: the females in the front row: Professor Min Yu of the University of Portland, Professor Ke Ke of Central Washington University, Professor Pritha Dutta of Pace University, my PhD student Deniz Besik, and Professor Sara Saberi of WPI. And, in the back row (l-r) are the males: my PhD student Mojtaba Salarpour, Professor Jose Cruz of UConn, and Professor Patrick Qiang of Penn State. Professor Shivani Shukla of the University of San Francisco presented on our cybersecurity research but is not in the photo. Professor Dmytro Matsypura of the University of Sydney also did not make it to the photo (but more on his award follows).

I was delighted to hear that Dr. Matsypura (who was my PhD student at Isenberg) received the INFORMS ENRE (Energy, Natural Resources and the Environment) Best Publication Award in Environment and Sustainability at the conference for his paper on wildfire fuel management, co-authored with Professor Oleg Prokopyev of the University of Pittsburgh  and with Matsypura's student, Aizat Zahar, and published in EJOR, . The paper can be accessed here.  Below is the photo of the awardees, forwarded to me by Professor Matsypura.
Also, I was thrilled that my doctoral student, Deniz Besik, received the Bayer - Women in OR Scholarship and was recognized at the Analytics Society Business meeting at INFORMS Seattle. I had nominated Deniz for this award. Deniz, amazingly, already has 6 published journal articles and will be received her PhD in May 2020. She also took part in this year's Doctoral Student Colloquium immediately before the INFORMS Conference.

Thanks to Dr. Polly Mitchell-Guthrie for her tweet with the image below.

And, Professor Jose Cruz of UConn organized a session on Sustainable and Responsible Supply Chain Management in which multiple Supernetwork Associates spoke.

I was Chair of the 2019 INFORMS Volunteer Service Award Committee, having served on this committee also the two previous years (and was honored to also be a recipient of this award in 2016). Congratulations to Dr. Scott Nestler and Dr. Stefan Karisch for receiving this award this year. Dr. Sadan Kulturel-Konak, a member of this year's committee, presented this award in Seattle in my place.

It was also very gratifying that there were two additional recipients of major awards at INFORMS in Seattle, both of whom I had written letters for.

Plus, even before I flew to Mexico, as the Faculty Advisor to the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, I supported the students who practiced their talks in our UMass Amherst INFORMS Tune-Up!
Many thanks to all the companies, universities, publishers, and societies for personal invitations to attend even brunches and meetings at INFORMS Seattle! These were all very much appreciated.

And, in closing, congratulations to all the award recipients and thanks to all the volunteers that help to make INFORMS such a fabulous professional society!

You can find many photos, courtesy of INFORMS, posted on its Flickr page.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Thoroughly Enjoyed Giving the Opening Keynote at the Mexican OR Society Conference

I returned late Friday night from Mexico City where I had the honor and pleasure of delivering the opening keynote at the VIII Annual Conference of the Mexican Society of Operations Research (OR). The conference took place October 16-18, 2019 in México City at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). The title of my keynote was: Operations Research: The TransfORmative Discipline for the 21st Century.  I had been invited early last March to deliver the opening keynote by Dr. Moncayo Martínez and Dr. Erick Centeno-Moreno of Texas A&M University.
I was very intrigued by this invitation and eager to return to Mexico especially since I had lived in Tulancingo, Mexico the summer between high school and college. I had won a national Spanish exam in the US and was invited to go there and to live with a family as part of the Experiment in International Living.  The experience was very special, so I accepted the invitation to speak at this conference.

I headed to Bradley Airport at 5AM last Tuesday and had two very pleasant flights on Delta, with the connection in Atlanta. I was graciously met at the airport and driven to my hotel, which was very close to ITAM Santa Teresa, the venue of the conference.  The views from my hotel room, which was on the 29th floor, and the neighboring area by the elevators, were spectacular.
Shortly after my arrival, I made my way to the conference site in order to get my bearings and I liked the auditorium very much as well as the gardens and flowers.
Welcoming remarks for the opening of the conference were made by Dr. David F. Muñoz Negrón of ITAM, the President of the Scientific Committee, and Dr. Elías Olivares Benítez, the President of the Mexican OR Society. I was introduced by Dr. Luis A. Moncayo Martínez of ITAM, who was President of the local Organizing Committee.
Interestingly, Dr. Moncayo Martínez had been to my Omega Rho Distinguished Lecture at the 2019 INFORMS Conference in Phoenix!

Many of the scientific talks were in Spanish so this gave me a great opportunity to practice a language that I love and, I must admit, I understood about 85% of what was said, and was even able to ask intelligent questions. What very much impressed me was the passion of the speakers, who clearly enjoy the research that they are doing and also enjoy in communicating it. It was wonderful to meet new professional colleagues and many students, as well. It was fun to be asked to be photographed with them, in addition.

In my keynote, which I have made publicly available, I included several photographs of luminaries in our profession, including one of Professor George Dantzig of Stanford, who has passed away, and who I so enjoyed conversing with during many conferences over the years. I hoped to energize and inspire the audience with my talk. I focused on advances in Operations Research in the form of networks and game theory for applications such as: congested urban transportation networks and the Braess paradox, perishable product supply chains from food to healthcare, cybersecurity, and disaster relief. The work on disaster relief was co-authored with a former student of mine, Emilio Alvarez Flores, an Isenberg School of Management and UMass Amherst Commonweath Honors College alumnus, who is originally from Mexico. He now works for Cisco and we communicate regularly. I also discussed some very recent research on global trade networks and the impacts of tariffs and quotas, with a case study on avocados from Mexico. The latter research was conducted with my doctoral student Deniz Besik. Deniz and I have, with co-authors, published a series of papers on the very timely topic of tariffs, quotas, and trade wars in such journals as the Journal of Global Optimization (the issue is to be featured at the Springer booth at the INFORMS 2019 conference that is now taking place in Seattle), Transportation Research E, and the European Journal of Operational Research.

I mentioned in my keynote that I became interested in trade policy instruments, when I was approached by a group of agricultural economists, researching the dairy industry, from Cornell University two decades ago, who wanted to collaborate on ad valorem tariffs focusing on Mexico! And, together, we published a series of paper. Hence, looking back, Mexico has permeated a nice amount of my research, spearheading both advances in methodologies as well as applications.

No conference would be complete without wonderful social engagement and, last Wednesday, after my keynote, I was treated to one of the most delicious lunches in my life at the restaurant Sylvestre. At the lunch were: Dr. Jose Blanchet of Stanford University (another keynote speaker and ITAM alum), Dr. David F. Muñoz Negrón and Dr. Luis A. Moncayo Martínez as well as Dr. Beatriz Rumboz, a Dean at ITAM who holds 2 PhDs, as well as Dr. Erick Centeno-Morena. The food, ambience, and conversations were all exquisite!
And we topped our delicious meals with a portfolio of desserts, which we shared.
I very much appreciate all the logistics arrangements for me and the outstanding hospitality.
It was also marvelous to hear from the conferees about many mutual friends in our profession, which is global in scale, but always feels local, because of the strength of ties.

I would like to wish all the members of the Mexican Society of Operations Research much continuing success in all of you endeavors and, again, I thank the society and the organizers of this conference for being such exemplary hosts! I returned to Massachusetts with many wonderful new ideas, powerful impressions, and new personal connections, which I value very much.

It was also great to hear that, while in Mexico, I received a book contract from Springer to edit another volume on Dynamics of Disasters, with a focus on risk and resilience, with my fellow co-editors, Professors Ilias S. Kotsireas and Panos M. Pardalos!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Cybersecurity and Vulnerability - Brilliant Lecture by Dr. Art House, Chief Cybersecurity Risk Officer of Connecticut

After teaching my Transportation and Logistics class this morning, it was time to help host the guest lecture of Dr. Arthur H. House, who is the Chief Cybersecurity Risk Officer of Connecticut. Former Isenberg School Dean, Dr. Thomas O'Brien, had made the introductions to Dr. House, for me and my great Finance colleague, Professor Mila Sherman. His lecture was part of the UMass Amherst Security Series.  The topic of his talk was: Cybersecurity and Vulnerability. Mila and I had had several grants on cybersecurity with colleagues from the Isenberg School and the College of Engineering and both of us continue to do research and to publish in this area. The UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter also helped to publicize his talk and the turnout was fabulous, with students and faculty from multiple schools and colleges at UMass Amherst!

We began his visit with a nice lunch at the University Club and we talked for 2 hours!
Joining Dr. House and me at lunch were: former Dean Tom O'Brien, a friend of House's for 6 decades, Chris Misra, who is the CIO at UMass Amherst, and Professor Mila Sherman.

Dr. House has had an incredible career, having earned his PhD at the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts University.  He became the Chief Cybersecurity Risk Officer for the State of Connecticut in October 2016, after four years as Chairman of Connecticut's Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA). He recently returned from speaking in Latvia (and we compared notes, given my recent visit to Kyiv, Ukraine). His work includes cybersecurity strategy and action plans in the Black Sea and Balkan regions.  
He has worked in national security, and served as Director of Communications in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.  As a White House Fellow, he was Special Projects Officer at the National Security Council. Tom O'Brien was also a White House Fellow. House spent 10 years in the Congo, and shared some of those fascinating experiences with us at lunch. He also worked for the World Bank and  was a Congressional Adviser to the United States Mission to the United Nations.
In the United States Senate, Dr. House was Chief of Staff to Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd and Senator Abraham Ribicoff and Legislative Assistant to Senator Chris Dodd.  Amazingly, as can be seen from various writeups on his career, specific assignments included the Camp David Peace Agreement, the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty and the Tokyo Round Trade Negotiations. The stories he shared with us at lunch even included the SALT negotiations at which he was present in Russia, with Brezhnev in attendance. It is not every day that you get to have lunch with someone who has taken part in major historical events in the US!  And can he do imitations of famous people; honestly, SNL should just hire him. His ability to reproduce accents is simply incredible and hilarious.
Since there were no classrooms available for this guest lecture at Isenberg, since it was prime class time, his talk took place at the Computer Science building. It was good to walk after the leisurely lunch (and we did share desserts).
Dr. Mila Sherman  introduced our speaker and then he began his mesmerizing lecture, which had the audience at the edge of their seats throughout.

He began his lecture by sharing some personal details and then asked the question: "Are we safe" and answered: "Of course, not!" We can't assume that a business or organization is safe from cyberattacks since even the Pentagon has been compromised.
He made the following points, which he then elaborated upon:
1. We are dependent on the digital world (computers and Internet) and, hence, vulnerable;
2. We need to protect ourselves;
3. We need to anticipate strategic surprises, and
4. States must play a critical role in cyber defense.
He emphasized that the advantages of cyber are immense from air traffic control to critical infrastructure but so are the vulnerabilities. The Internet was not designed with security in mind since it was supported by DARPA and was initially for academics who trusted one another. He envisions 3 Internets eventually, with Bakanization, and you can probably guess who would be behind the other two.
He spoke about who is behind the threats and the monetary aspects of selling the hacked products (which I have actually published a paper on in the INFORMS journal Service Science). Even health records are commodities that can be sold. He talked about phishing attacks as well as ransomware with the latter sometimes targeting smaller enterprises from hospitals to municipalities, etc. for payments in bitcoins.
Sadly, he stated that the "US is losing its edge" in cyber defense and also spoke about cyberwar and asymmetries.
He spoke about certain nation states targeting our elections and critical infrastructure and the details that he had were quite frightening. And, he even showed a slide of Kyiv at night after the cyberattack in 2015 on its power grid.
He emphasized that we need norms and rules and he suggested a great idea - for businesses and organizations to have a cyber rating similar to a credit score, and this would be audited regularly, since one's brand reputation as well as stock value can be seriously negatively affected after a cyberattack.
"Cyber is the perfect weapon" he said and "We need to defend ourselves." We can't get the feds to do this, so states must, and Connecticut is leading the way! 
He also noted the need to create a positive cybersecurity culture; to plan, and to be ready for the unexpected. Sad to say, he also sees "massive complacency." 

After his talk, Art House stayed to meet and continue the discussions with the audience. I was so delighted that even some of my undergrads, in addition to my PhD students, came. This was an incredible talk and educational experience!
Many thanks to Dr. Tom O'Brien for giving us this incredible opportunity with special thanks also to Professor Brian Levine, the Director of the Cybersecurity Institute at UMass Amherst! The brilliant lecture by Dr. Arthur H. House we will never forget!

Monday, September 30, 2019

Fabulous Talk on Refugee Resettlement Optimization in Our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series

This past Friday, we had the pleasure of kicking off our academic year with the first talk in our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series. We were absolutely delighted to have Professor Andrew Trapp of the Foisie School of Business at WPI give the talk, "Placement Optimization in Refugee Resettlement."

The award-winning UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter helps me to organize this speaker series and this is the 31st consecutive semester of it!

I welcomed the audience and Professor Trapp and announced upcoming talks in our series this semester. Then, my doctoral student, Mojtaba Salarpour, who was elected this year's Chapter President, did a more formal introduction. 
Professor Trapp captivated us with facts, on a topic drawn from the news headlines, along with an elegant mathematical model, coupled with machine learning, that he has developed, in conjunction with collaborators at Oxford University in England and Lund University in Sweden, and with his doctoral student, who is pursing a PhD in data science at WPI, and who was in the audience! The model has been implemented and is being utilized in practice by an NGO, HIAS.

He emphasized how there are now 1.428 million in dire need and how the initial place really matters for refugee resettlement. Hence, it is very important to get the initial match right. Their software is called Annie MOORE, after Anna Moore, which, according to the nice press release, was an Irish woman who was the first recorded immigrant processed at Ellis Island in the late 1800s. Professor Trapp's research on this topic is funded by a major NSF grant. 

At present, noone asks refugees what they would like, and it has been largely a manual matching process in the US.  Case by case processing  excludes benefits for all refugees simultaneously. He even gave us a demonstration of the software, which was fascinating. It allows a lot of flexibility for practitioners. My most recent paper is on international human migration networks under regulations, so I was personally very interested in his talk! Moreover, I had the pleasure of speaking at Foisie last year, and we have hosted both Professor Renata Konrad and Professor Joe Sarkis of WPI in our Speaker Series. Plus, one of my former PhD students, Dr. Sara Saberi, is a colleague of theirs at Foisie.

It was very gratifying to have faculty and students (even undergraduates) from the Isenberg School of Management, from the College of Engineering, the College of information and Computer Sciences, as well as the Department of Mathematics/Statistics at UMass Amherst in the audience!

The audience was very engaged, asking questions both during the lecture and afterwards. I took the group photo below as a memento.

We spend a lot of time identifying excellent speakers on timely topics and Professor Trapp was truly fabulous!  After his mesmerizing talk, we had the pleasure of dining with him at the University Club, and we continued the discussions. 
Then it was time to conduct an interview with Professor Trapp, which he graciously agreed to, and which will be posted eventually on the chapter's youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClVaXgOJ6wO6xRUMmcJ2_RQ/featured, where interviews with other speakers over the past 2 years can be found (and the advice provided therein is excellent!).

We also presented Professor Trapp with a gift, courtesy of the Isenberg School, and, with deep appreciation, I followed up with a formal thank you letter that I also copied to top administrators at WPI. Although it was late in the day on Friday, I was impressed by the acknowledgments of receipt that I received.  Special thanks are also extended to the Chapter's wonderful webmaster and blogger, Haris Csipetas, who is a PhD student in Transportation at UMass Amherst; have a look at: https://blogs.umass.edu/umassinf/2019/09/27/umass-informs-speaker-series-a-talk-by-dr-andrew-c-trapp/