Friday, October 20, 2017

UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter Tunes Up for National Conference in Houston

The 2017 Annual INFORMS conference is taking place in Houston, Texas, October 22-25, 2017, and today I had the pleasure of attending the tune-up for the conference that was organized by the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter.  Although everyone is very busy it is very important to support the doctoral students, and the tune-up, which has become an annual tradition, allows the students to not only practice their conference talks and to receive feedback, but the audience members learn about some of the exciting research in operations research and management science that is being conducted on our campus.

We had blocked off a two hour time slot this Friday afternoon at the Isenberg School of Management for 5 presentations as in the nice poster that the students prepared below.
Both doctoral students from the Isenberg School and from the College of Engineering presented today and I thoroughly enjoyed the presentations on a diversity of important topics, ranging from supply chains (capacity competition and outsourcing), game theory and blood donations, energy and Mexico with a goal of achieving climate change goals, deep uncertainty and energy modeling, as well as network models for the spread of diseases.

I was impressed by the professionalism of the slides prepared as well as by the delivery of the presenters. These students are ready for their presentations in Houston. It was special to also see the enthusiasm that they have for their research.

The students even had brought refreshments including pizza!

Below are photos taken of the individual speakers, followed by a group photo that I took.
The doctoral student presenters today hail from Mexico, Turkey, India, Sierra Leone, and Mongolia!

They, along with other students from UMass as well as faculty, will be joining me on Monday evening at the Hilton in Houston to receive the Magna Cum Laude Award from INFORMS for the activities of the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter this past year, an honor richly deserved.
This is the 12th award from INFORMS in the past 12 consecutive years.

And, during a short break this afternoon, I found out that a paper (one of seven) that  I am a co-author of that we are presenting at INFORMS Houston got accepted for publication in the journal Omega and we has just finished the slides this morning! Gratifying to have hard work rewarded.

Safe travels to all those heading to INFORMS Houston and see you soon!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Brilliant Lecture by Dr. Renata Konrad on Opportunities to Address Human Trafficking Using Operations Research and Analytics

Today we had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Renata Konrad of the Foisie School of Business at WPI in our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series. This speaker series is organized by the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter with my full support.

Dr. Konrad's brilliant lecture was on: Opportunities to Address Human Trafficking Using Operations Research and Analytics.

After an introduction by Deniz Besik, the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter President, Dr. Konrad began her talk, which took place in the Integrated Learning Center at UMass Amherst. She emphasized that human trafficking is a global illicit business with estimates of profits of $150billion. It knows no national boundaries and probably is taking place in your town.
She noted that it is important to understand the demographics - who, what, where is being exploited and believes that there is a growing awareness of human trafficking . The associated challenges are numerous: the victims are hidden; often "hidden in plain sight" and with limited societal interfaces. Traffickers are covert, part of hidden networks, with dynamic adaptation, and it is difficult to obtain evidence against the perpetrators and to successfully prosecute them. Evidence may be "ambiguous."

At the same time there are opportunities for operations research and analytics in terms of designing prevention campaigns and identifying best resource allocation for media exposure; assisting in survivor detection and victim identification; searches for abnormal patterns in unrelated data that perhaps machine learning can assist with. I also very much appreciated that she highlighted that extending disaster preparedness approaches may be very useful in combating human trafficking.

Human trafficking is different from standard product supply chains, which calls for new theories. Unlike food or medicines that are consumed, here we are dealing with a "renewable commodity" Another challenge is that the data is incomplete and hard to obtain and often organizations that are involved in combating human trafficking are reluctant to share data with one another. In terms of network interdiction, the agencies may even have possibly different objectives and be non-coordinating with one another.

I was delighted to hear Dr. Konrad mention not only networks and network interdiction but that she also noted that there are opportunities for modeling in terms of illustrating the potential of interagency cooperation using game theory. We had shown the benefits of cooperation in a different context in a recent paper that we published on cybersecurity with Shivani Shukla in the European Journal of Operational Research.

Spending on combating human trafficking is not proportionate to the scale of the problem. At the same time, policymakers want concrete quantifiable evidence as to the effectiveness of proposed policies to address human trafficking based on return on investment. To measure the effectiveness of anti-trafficking policies is an important operations research problem in itself.

Dr. Konrad mentioned work in this area that she is involved in from New Haven to Nepal. She then spoke on two specific projects that she is involved in: 1. working on designing awareness campaigns using a production function objective and 2. selecting locations of rehabilitative shelters in the US (right now there are only 700) and there are 34,000 calls to the hotlines annually. Here, again, identifying an appropriate objective function is crucial in order to capture the associated benefits versus the costs. The latter work she is doing with her WPI colleague, Professor Andrew Trapp, and Dr. Kayse Maass, who is a postdoc at the Mayo Clinic. An excellent article by them on human trafficking analysis can be found on the INFORMS website.

Dr. Konrad was wonderful in answering numerous questions from the audience and also generated many research ideas - even establishing linkages between epidemiology and human trafficking as well as possible incentives based on research in HIV. It was great to have my Engineering colleagues Professor Erin Baker and Professor Chaitra Gopalappa in attendance, with their super questions. Dr. Gopalappa has done a lot of work in HIV prevention and modeling.

We took a photo of Professor Konrad with some of the audience members after her talk and presented her with a token gift from the Isenberg School of Management. Thanks to colleagues and students from the College of Engineering and the Isenberg School who came as well as other guests from outside UMass. I was delighted to even see an Isenberg undergraduate in the audience from my Transportation and Logistics class!
I then had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Konrad at a lunch at the University Club at UMass Amherst.
Deniz Besik also conducted an interview with Dr. Konrad in the Supernetworks Lab, and we will let you know when it gets posted.

We thank Dr. Konrad for taking time out of her very busy schedule to educate us on a topic of profound importance in which operations research and analytics can assist in fundamental ways, some of which have yet to be discovered.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Operations Research Speaks: From Human Trafficking to Distracted Driving to Wildfire Fuel Management and More!

Operations Research has had many successes from methodological advances to important applications and the solution of numerous relevant problems in areas as diverse as transportation and logistics to health care and even blood supply chains.

This semester we are very lucky to have a fantastic lineup of speakers in our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series which the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter helps me to organize.

This Friday, October 13, 2017 we are hosting Dr. Renata Konrad from the Foisie School of Business at WPI in Massachusetts. Dr. Konrad will be speaking on human trafficking and how operations research and analytics can help in combating it.  Dr. Konrad I know through WORMS (Women in Operations Research and the Management Sciences), since she is this INFORMS forum's past President.  Also, Renata and I share a cultural heritage in that she was born in Canada and we both speak Ukrainian.
Renata and I were among the invited participants to a workshop sponsored by the National Science Foundation on Disrupting Illicit Supply Chains, which took place last May at the University of Texas Austin and a followup workshop will be taking place in Arlington, VA in early December.

Then, on Friday, October 20, 2017, the chapter will be continuing its annual tradition of hosting a tune-up for the annual INFORMS conference, which this year is taking place in Houston, Texas, October 22-25. Given the horrific impact of Hurricane Harvey there it will be a memorable experience, I am sure. In this year's tune-up there are 5 doctoral student speakers who will be presenting the papers that they will also be giving in Houston. It's a wonderful way in which to share research and to get positive feedback on presentation skills. The breadth of topics illustrates the wide reach of Operations Research! The doctoral students who are presenting are from the Isenberg School of Management (and are in the Management Science PhD track) and the College of Engineering (Industrial Engineering). Two of my doctoral students, Deniz Besik (the current chapter president) and Pritha Dutta (the immediately preceding chapter President), will be speaking. Also, presenting are doctoral students of Professor Erin Baker and Professor Chaitra Gopalappa.
It will be a very exciting INFORMS Houston conference, since our student chapter, which I have served as a Faculty Advisor of since its inception in 2004, will be receiving its 12th consecutive award from INFORMS there - the Magna Cum Laude Award for its activities in the previous year!

And, the Friday after the INFORMS Houston conference, we will be hosting Dr. Shannon Roberts of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at UMass Amherst. She will be speaking on driving safety and social networks - another extremely timely talk!
On November 3, I am delighted that Professor Dmytro Matsypura of the University of Sydney School of Business in beautiful Australia will be speaking in our series at the Isenberg School!  Dr. Matsypura was my PhD student and is also a Center Associate of the Supernetwork Center that I founded in 2001. He is on sabbatical this term and will be speaking on wildfire fuel management. Given the horrific fires now blanketing northern California, this is also a talk not to be missed!
Many thanks to the wonderful officers of the award-winning UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter as well as to its members for enriching the intellectual climate of our campus and broader community through  myriad exciting activities!

All of the above talks are open to the public.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Doing Scholarly Operations Research with Undergraduates

Usually when faculty at a Research 1 university, such as UMass Amherst, conduct research they involve doctoral students, since doctoral students need to do research for their dissertation and, upon receiving the PhD, may continue onwards to do research, as faculty at other institutions or perhaps as practitioners. I have supervised the PhD dissertations of 20 PhD students and  I continue to collaborate with quite a few of them, even working with doctoral students of my doctoral students (nice to see the academic genealogy tree growing).

In the last several years, because of the growing prominence of the Commonwealth Honors College at UMass Amherst and also the Isenberg School of Management, under great leadership, we have been attracting truly outstanding undergraduate students and, my personal bias, is towards the Operations and Information Management (OIM) students, since they are in the department in which I teach at the Isenberg School.

I have had the pleasure of co-chairing two honors theses of OIM majors: Emilio Alvarez Flores, who graduated in May 2016, and Karen Li, who graduated in 2017. Emilio now works for Cisco and Karen for Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Emilio's thesis was entitled: Optimizing Non-Governmental Organizations' Operations and Fundraising: A Game-Theoretical Supply Chain Approach. He defended his dissertation at the Undergraduate Research Conference at UMass on April 22, 2016. A paper that we wrote, together with Professor Ceren Soylu of the Economics Department at UMass, was based on his thesis:  A Generalized Nash Equilibrium Network Model for Post-Disaster Humanitarian Relief, Anna Nagurney, Emilio Alvarez Flores, and Ceren Soylu, Transportation Research E 95: (2016), pp 1-18. I have continued to work with Emilio (below is a photo of us with my great collaborator Professor Patrizia Daniele of the University of Catania in Italy at the Dynamics of Disasters conference that I co-organized and which took place last summer in Greece).
At the conference in Greece, we presented the paper: A Variational Equilibrium Network Framework for Humanitarian Organizations in Disaster Relief: Effective Product Delivery Under Competition for Financial Funds, Anna Nagurney, Patrizia Daniele, Emilio Alvarez Flores, and Valeria Caruso.

The title of Karen Li's thesis was: Hospital Competition in Prices and Quality: A Variational Inequality Framework and she successfully defended it at the Undergraduate Research Conference on April 28, 2017. Her thesis is 100 pages. Below is a photo from the conference and defense - Professor Chaitra Gopalappa, the co-chair came, as well as many of Karen's friends and even family members!
And today we received some wonderful news: Our paper, with the same title as her thesis, was accepted for publication in the journal Operations Research for Health Care! In this paper, we construct a game theory model to capture competition among hospitals for patients for their medical procedures. The utility functions of the hospitals contain a revenue component and a component due to altruism benefit. The hospitals compete in prices charged to paying patients as well as in the quality levels of their procedures. Both prices and quality levels are subject to lower and upper bounds. We state the governing Nash equilibrium conditions and provide the variational inequality formulation. We establish existence of an equilibrium price and quality pattern and also present a Lagrange analysis of the equilibrium solutions. An algorithm is proposed and then applied to numerical examples comprising a case study focusing on four major hospitals in Massachusetts.

What I found especially gratifying in working with these exceptional students was their energy, intelligence, passion for doing good, incredible work ethic, and, frankly, "fearlessness."  We were going to solve these challenging problems, no matter what, and they permeated our dreams, obsessed us, and we did it! Perhaps it is better to have time constraints on the research in terms of a deadline in the form of graduation but, then again, you need the right students, as well as the fascinating problems. And this morning, as part of an email message from Karen, she said: "oh, how much I miss your lectures!!" Karen is the only student that I have ever had who took all the classes that I teach. Can you top the life and joy of being an academic?!

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Terrific INFORMS Speakers Program

A huge resource for members of our professional society INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences) is the INFORMS Speakers Program. 

Through this program, one can request a speaker on the Speakers Program list and it is a fabulous list! Typically, an organization requests a speaker and this is an excellent service for INFORMS Student Chapters or Regional INFORMS Chapters. Indeed, this resource was also emphasized at last spring's wonderful Student Leadership Conference in Austin, Texas at which two of our chapter officers, Pritha Dutta and Deniz Besik of the Isenberg School, took part in.

I had chaired this committee a few years ago and very much enjoyed working with Dr. Les Servi of MITRE and Dr. Tim Lowe of the University of Iowa to expand the list of speakers.Speakers are from academia and from industry and are experts in operations research, the management sciences, and analytics.

The host organization is responsible for on-site expenses of the speaker but INFORMS (of course, budget allowing) covers the travel costs.

I've enjoyed very much being a speaker in the INFORMS Speakers Program at various universities (including Texas A&M and the University of Pittsburgh) and also at INFORMS chapter sites (Dallas and Boston).  And when Mary Magrogran, the Director of Membership, Subdivisions & International Activities of INFORMS, reached out to me last week whether I would be willing to speak at the University of Alabama this semester, I checked my schedule and we found a mutually convenient set of dates so I am very much looking forward to going there and seeing operations research and analytics colleagues and students!

As the Faculty Advisor to the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter (since the chapter was founded in 2004), I also help the students in organizing a speaker series and believe fully in the importance of bringing speakers to campus. We have availed ourselves of the INFORMS Speakers Program over the years and the students, faculty, and even staff,  who were lucky enough to hear our guests speak treasure those memories. Also the networking opportunities are clear.

We have had the following speakers from the INFORMS Speakers Program come to the Isenberg School of Management (note that some may no longer be on the list but others continue providing this valuable, very educational service): Dr. James Benneyan of Northeastern University, Dr. Sheldon Jacobson of the University of Illinois, Dr. Radhika Kulkarni of SAS, Dr. John Birge of the University of Chicago. We have also hosted Dr. Les Servi of MITRE and Dr. Richard Larson of MIT who are on the list (although we did not request funding from INFORMS since they are quite local). We also had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Brenda Dietrich of IBM in our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series!

Below are some photos of the above named guest speakers. Many thanks for their willingness to travel and speak to audiences that benefit greatly from their lectures and discussions that follow. Also, a BIG thanks to INFORMS for sponsoring the INFORMS Speakers Program.

Dr. Richard Larson at the Isenberg School after his presentation: Simple Models of Influenza Progression and Control

Dr. Radhikha Kulkarni of SAS after her terrific talk on Succeeding with Business Analytics: Key Challenges
Dr. John Birge, now the Editor of Operations Research, after his great talk at the Isenberg School on A News-vendor Model for Dynamic Investment and Financing Decisions: Capital Structure Implications and Empirical Results

Dr. Sheldon Jacobson after lunch at the University Club following his talk: An Analysis of Pediatric Vaccine Pricing and Stockpiling Issues

Dr. Brenda Dietrich's talk was on Services Sciences: A New Opportunity for Operations Research.

Dr. James Benneyan after speaking on Healthcare Systems Engineering   

And, for those of you who are interested in some suggestions as to how to organize a successful Speaker Series, please see one of my most popular blogposts on this topic.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Investing in Our Students: Donating a Scholarship

When I was appointed the John F. Smith Memorial Professor of Operations Management at the Isenberg School in 1998, becoming the first female to hold a chaired professorship in the UMass system, I thought of ways that I could give back.

With the enthusiastic support of my husband, we decided to establish a scholarship for Operations Management undergraduate students in the Isenberg School. After years of donations, 5 years ago, delightfully, when I was a Visiting Professor at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, I heard from one of Isenberg's former development officers, Bonnie Dowd, that there were sufficient funds to give out a scholarship, called The Nagurney Scholarship.

The former Dean, Dr. Thomas O'Brien, helped in setting up the original account and figuring out the payments to make this scholarship realizable and for this we are very grateful.

I am very pleased that we have now have had 4 Nagurney Scholarship recipients. The scholarship focuses on students who have interests in Transportation and Logistics and a committee (which I cannot be part of since I am the donor) decides who will get the scholarship.

Today, I was so happy to have the most recent recipient stop by during my office hours after I taught (and thoroughly enjoyed) my Transportation and Logistics class so we took the photo below.

It was great to catch up and she shared with me the fabulous news that she had secured an offer from a  leading consulting firm in Boston! Prevous Nagurney Scholarship recipients, all Operations and Information Management majors at the Isenberg School, have gone on to positions at top services and manufacturing firms.

The first Nagurney Scholarship recipient was honored, along with other scholarship recipients, at a lovely, special event in the spring of 2014 that I had blogged about. The photo below was taken at that event and joining me are his mother and our great Isenberg School Dean Dr. Mark A. Fuller.
In 2015 the scholarship celebration was moved to UMass Amherst.
Scholarships help tremendously in supporting deserving students so that they can focus on their academic work. The Thank You notes from the scholarship recipients I treasure.

For a full list of scholarships at the Isenberg School click here.

As a Professor I am proud that the Nagurney Scholarship, my teaching, publications,  and supervision of doctoral students are key parts of my legacy. The undergraduate scholarship also signifies the importance of undergraduate students to my work at the Isenberg School and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

International OR2017 Berlin Conference Was Fabulous with 910 Participants from 46 Countries

Yesterday evening I arrived back in Massachusetts from the fabulous International Conference on Operations Research, OR2017 Berlin, in Germany.

The invitation to delivery a semiplenary talk at this conference I received back in November 2016 from Professor Jan Ehmke, a super creative, dynamic, and productive scholar in transportation and logistics and very well-known in our INFORMS community. Professor Ehmke was one of the two Chairs of the Program Committee, along with Professor Natalia Kliewer of the Freie University,  and was also on the Organizing Committee. It took me only about 24 hours to respond with a resounding, "Yes." I figured it was doable, although the dates of the conference September 6-8, 2017, coincided with the first week of classes at UMass Amherst. Professor Ehmke kindly scheduled my semiplenary on the Friday, the last day of the conference, so that I could meet with my Transportation & Logistics class students for the first class and a wonderful doctoral student covered the second class. (I am bringing back a lot of chocolates for the students). Also, I am delighted that we now again have a direct link from our local airport, Bradley in Hartford/Springfield, to Europe, with a daily flight to Dublin via Aer Lingus, which made the trip to Europe and back in 4 days manageable.

I gave Dr. Ehmke a list of topics that I could speak on and the one selected was: Blood Supply Chains: Challenges for the Industry and How Operations Research Can Help. 

So, after teaching my first class this past Tuesday, I was off to the OR2017 Berlin conference via Aer Lingus, with a short layover in Dublin, and I arrived Wednesday morning in Berlin. Accommodations were in the Harnack Haus, a historical scientific building, with additional rooms across the street and in proximity to the conference venue, which was the Freie University, in a green and stunning part of Berlin known as Dahlem.
 The main building there for the conference was the Henry Ford Building.
Shortly after registering at the guest house, and while marching with my luggage to the site of my room, I was greeted on the street by the Chairs of the conference: Professor Natalia Kliewer and Professor Rolf Borndorfer of the Freie University.

After freshening up, and, before going to the sessions, since the scientific program with a theme of the conference being: Decision Analytics for the Digital Economy, I treated myself to a marvelous lunch at the neighboring French cafe (several of us also indulged in some baked treats the day after).
The conference had numerous coffee breaks, receptions, a conference dinner, and even lunches, at which one could socialize and discuss with speakers their research.
Below is a photo taken with Professor Ehmke.
It was special to see my colleague from the University of Connecticut School of Business, Professor and now Associate Dean Robert Day, who also took advantage of our new air link to Europe.
I thoroughly enjoyed all the talks that I attended and, of course, the plenary and semiplenary talks, as well (although it was tough to decide which ones to go since the latter had multiple parallel ones).  The scientific quality of the presentations was uniformly excellent and I very much enjoyed talks from sustainability and logistics themes to social network models to machine learning and optimization.
I enjoyed speaking with Christian Rauscher, a Springer editor, and his colleague at the Springer display booth. I have seen Christian at wonderful Operations Research conferences around the globe.
Also it was a pleasure to see fellow INFORMS Fellow, Dr. Robert Fourer, who even came to my semiplenary talk.

Another wonderful experience was seeing the one and only Professor Marco Lubbecke from Aachen, who also gave a semiplenary talk and meeting Professor Jan Ehmke's dissertation supervisor at a sumptious breakfast: Professor Dirk Mattfeld.

Professor Stefan Zimmer was the chair of my semiplenary session and afterwards I was presented with a lovely gift of a personalized mug with the title of my talk on it and some yummy gummy bears inside.
After my presentation, I spoke with conferees from India who are also working on blood supply chains. Amazing to have 46 different countries represented at this conference!
And to make this conference experience extraordinarily special, while taking an exploratory walk after sessions on Thursday I saw the billboard of Angela Merkel below

and I came upon the John F. Kennedy Institute at the Freie University, where I had given an invited talk 15 years ago, when I was a Distinguished Chair at the University of Innsbruck under a Fulbright.
Coincidentally, when I received my PhD from Brown University in Applied Mathematics in 1983, with a specialty in Operations Research, John F. Kennedy Jr. received his undergraduate degree and his mother, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, was there (and my mother was thrilled). I have also met his sister Caroline Kennedy at an event at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University a while back.

This was my third trip to Berlin - in March 2015 I  gave a plenary talk at a physics conference entitled: Design of Sustainable Supply Chains for Sustainable Cities.

The OR2017 Berlin conference set new standards as to attention to detail and organization and I am very grateful for experiences that I will never forget.

Of course, I also had to indulge in some Wiener schnitzel, which will keep me fortified for quite a while, and it was as delicious as it looks in the photo below.

And, on my flight back from Dublin to Hartford/Springfield I rewarded myself by watching the movie Hidden Figures, about AfroAmerican female mathematicians who made an impact on the NASA space program. And, when the Euler method was mentioned as the method Katherine Johnson used to approximate a very important trajectory in a eureka type moment, I was thrilled. Our work on projected dynamical systems, which I had mentioned in my semiplenary talk, also involves a general iterative scheme, with a special case being the Euler method!

Plus, guess which books have been on my bedside stand?!
During OR2017 Berlin, we received messages that the INFORMS conference will take place at the originally scheduled dates in Houston, despite Hurricane Harvey, so I hope to see again many colleagues back in the US. And, strangely enough, the case study that I described in my semiplenary talk, based on our recently published paper, was focused on a blood service organization in Florida potentially merging with another organization under status quo and disaster scenarios, and now we await the brunt force of Hurricane Irma, the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic.

Operations Research has never been more important!