Thursday, October 30, 2014

Future Transportation in a Connected World

Today was a great day for transportation!

In my morning class in Logistics & Transportation, we had a surprise guest from India - a consultant in Transportation & Logistics who was in the US for the first time, and had spoken recently in Los Angeles at the International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists. Many of my undergraduate students are interested in the consulting profession and, after an introduction, they asked her numerous questions not only about consulting but also about transportation in India and the challenges. Her talk in LA was on non-motorized last mile deliveries and associated challenges, including congestion. She told us about plans for new subway systems in India as well as the inroads that the Japanese are making in the transport sector from trains to logistics. She also talked about being the only female in her group initially and about the competition among top consulting firms for business. She noted the importance of competing on price and credentials, which I would call "quality." and experience.

Then it was time to go to lunch with a group of the Transportation faculty from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UMass Amherst since the group was hosting a faculty member from RPI, Professor Jeff Ban, whose advisor was Dr. Bin Ran at the University of Wisconsin Madison, and whose advisor, in turn, was Professor David E. Boyce. Academics tend to track their academic family trees or genealogy. Ran and Boyce co-authored the book, Modeling Dynamic Transportation Networks.

Information on Professor Ban's talk that took place this afternoon is below:

 Future Transportation in A Connected World

Xuegang (Jeff) Ban

Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Abstract: Emerging technologies (such as mobile sensing, connected vehicles, and new social media) make transportation components more connected. This includes connections/ communications among vehicles, and between vehicles and the infrastructure, as well as more close connections among transportation users. Such connections are transforming and will continue to further transform the transportation system. This talk will focus on certain aspects of these transformations, including (i) how mobile sensing data can be collected and used for urban traffic modeling applications; and (ii) what system analysis models may be developed to account for the connections among users.

I enjoyed his talk a lot and he emphasized issues of privacy and big data in transportation. Also, how not to just gather data but to glean knowledge from the data through algorithms, while preserving travellers' privacy.

I very much enjoyed the discussion on urban freight and the benefits of night-time deliveries in urban settings, including NYC, with some of the benefits including improved travel times and the lowering of emissions. However, a major challenge remains that the consumers, including retailers, want the deliveries to take place in the daytime and they hold the power - so discussions centered also on incentives.

Since several of my doctoral students also came to the talk I was very pleased that he mentioned the need for different behavioral models, which, coincidentally, we have been researching. And, of course, I was thrilled when he noted game theory and variational inequalities!

I took the photos below at Professor Ban's presentation and afterwards.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Congrats to ALL the INFORMS Student Chapter Award Winners!

One of my favorite activities is working as the Faculty Advisor to the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter.

Today we heard the good news from Mr. David Hunt who is the VP of Chapters/Fora of INFORMS, which also went out to Faculty Advisors.

The message read:

Dear Student Chapter Officers,

Congratulations! The Chapters/Fora Committee is delighted to notify you that your chapter is a winner of the INFORMS Student Chapter Annual Award at the level shown below. The purpose of these awards is to recognize the outstanding achievements of student chapters. The awards will be presented at the Student Awards Ceremony at the upcoming INFORMS Annual Meeting in San Francisco, CA. If you are at the meeting, we hope you will join us and be recognized at this event. It will be held on Monday, November 10th at 7:30 p.m. in the Hilton San Francisco Union Square in the Plaza Ballroom on the Lobby Level. If you are unable to attend the conference, we will mail the award to your respective Faculty Advisor.

Thank you for all your hard work and for your commitment to INFORMS student chapters!

Best regards,

David Hunt
VP for Chapters/Fora   

Summa Cum Laude
Texas A&M University
University of South Florida

Magna Cum Laude
Northwestern University
Stanford University
University of Michigan
University of Oklahoma

Cum Laude
Lehigh University
Mississippi State University
North Carolina State Univ
Purdue University
University of Massachusetts
University of Texas-Austin
University of Toronto
Virginia Tech

Congratulations to all the very deserving students and chapters!

The timing is perfect since this Friday, we are having a Tune-Up for the INFORMS conference event. I think that we should bring some cake!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Having the BEST Job in the World - that of a Business Prof

I do believe that one is the sum of one's experiences and that includes all the jobs that one has ever held.

In my case, that has included, during summer breaks from college (Brown University), being a camp counselor in the Catskills with memories of hiking for miles and miles and sleeping in tents with outhouses, and working at St. John's Riverside Hospital in Yonkers as a nurses' aide the 4PM to midnight shift, where I took temperatures, delivered refreshments, gave backrubs, made beds, emptied bedpans, assisted in placing the deceased in body bags, and also tried to uplift the still living and recuperating patients through conversations. I especially enjoyed talking to the elderly patients and sometimes would be shocked by seeing patients that I knew!

During the academic year, I had jobs helping in the Rockefeller Library in the Slavic department at Brown, which was fun, and I also worked on  the Ratty cafeteria dishline (the dirty ones) Saturday evenings (less fun), which  taught me to seek the highest level of education that I possibly could, and I did, completing my PhD at Brown University in Applied Mathematics with a specialty in Operations Research.

While pursuing my Master's at Brown in Applied Math - I always loved networks, operations research, and economics -  I also worked in industry in high tech consulting in beautiful Newport, Rhode Island for two different firms. These experiences were extremely valuable in my position now as a Professor at the Isenberg School of Management.

I LOVE being a business school professor and do believe that I have the best job in the world.

Perhaps I am experiencing a bit of an afterglow - our department meeting, which was scheduled for 2 hours ended after only 1 hour  and it was quite productive, and the students in my Logistics & Transportation class did great on the midterm yesterday that I just finished grading.

I am a tough instructor and have very high standards but if you raise the bar and motivate the material well the students respond.

Some of the reasons that I have the best job in the world:

  • The students at the Isenberg School of Management are fabulous - I teach both the undergrads in our Operations & Information Management Department and doctoral students in the Management Science track, along with students from across campus that register for my classes.
  • I get to teach subjects that are always evolving and very timely and exciting - Logistics & Transportation, Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare, and Networks, Game Theory, and Variational Inequalities.  
  • The research and projects that I get to work on with students and collaborators within and across disciplines are challenging, tough, and never, ever boring! There is nothing like the "Aha!"  moment when everything comes together and you solve a problem that you have been working on and that has even filled your dreams!
  • I have colleagues who are smart, entrepreneurial, and interesting and some have really great senses of humor, which is needed with the busy life of a business professor!
  • I get to travel to give invited talks at conferences, companies, and universities, and I have taught and lectured  in different countries.
  • I get to meet fascinating people.
  • As a professor, you are always evolving, adapting, learning, and growing, and always trying to do your very best.
  • A professor gets to see undergraduate students mastering material and becoming adults that we can all be very proud of. Students' successes warm our hearts!
  • One gets to grow one's academic family also through the doctoral students that one has supervised that receive their PhDs and go on to become professors or industry leaders.  Together we celebrate their achievements and successes.
  • One gets to be part of great professional societies and communities such as INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences), where one makes friendships, learns the latest professional news, keeps up-to-date with research and industry practices and needs, and has a great time at conferences.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Congrats to the ChoiceNet Future Internet Architecture Team on the Success of their Tutorial at GEC 21!

Today, I held a review for the midterm exam for students in my Logistics & Transportation class  plus I had office hours, so I could not take part in the GEC21 Conference at the University of which, as I wrote in my blogpost yesterday, our ChoiceNet project team was presenting a two part tutorial.

ChoiceNet is our NSF Future Internet Architecture (FIA) project, which we have been working on for several years now. Our goal in ChoiceNet is to introduce an economy plane for the Internet.

The tutorial is now over with and Professor Tilman Wolf of UMass Amherst, with whom I and our colleagues at the University of Kentucky, NCState, and UNC, along with our doctoral students, have been working with, emailed the photos below from the tutorial. There were 53 in attendance.

The two-part tutorial, including the slides can be accessed here and here.

Those on our team who were present at the tutorial are featured below.

Below is the Acknowledgments page from the tutorial:
And for those of you who may be wondering where are the female faces, two of my doctoral students, who are working with me on the project, Sara Saberi and Dong "Michelle" Li are female, but they were busy at UMass Amherst so could not attend the tutorial sessions. We provided feedback on the second part over the summer since the focus there was on the network economics and payments. We have several models of competition in quality and in prices for the FIA, which have been pubslished in a series of our papers.

Monday, October 20, 2014

ChoiceNet at Global Environment for Network Innovations (GENI) Engineering Conference (GEC21)

Today,  the GENI Engineering Conference 21  (GEC21) begins at Indiana University and, tomorrow afternoon, there will be a two part tutorial on our National Science Foundation (NSF) project ChoiceNet.    

More details on the tutorial can be found here and here. My UMass ciolleague, Professor Tilman Wolf,  and University of Kentucky colleague, Professor Jim Griffioen,  will be conducting the tutorial along with two doctoral students.

The full schedule can be accessed here.

GENI, also known as the Global Environment for Network Innovations, provides a virtual laboratory for networking and distributed systems research and education. It is well suited for exploring networks at scale, thereby promoting innovations in network science, security, services and applications.
ChoiceNet is our project, funded by NSF under the grant: Network Innovation Through Choice. UMass Amherst is the lead on this multiunveisrity project with Professor Tilman Wolf of the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering as the PI and me as the Co-PI, along with colleagues from the University of Kentucky, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina. ChoiceNet is one of five NSF Future Internet Architecture projects.

Professor Wolf prepared this page on our ChoiceNet project, which will continue to be updated.

Specifically, we seek to introduce an Economy plane into the Internet.


The goal of ChoiceNet is to enable choices and the associated economic relationships between entities in the network. ChoiceNet makes it possible for network service providers to compete for customers and be rewarded for quality and innovation. In today’s network, money enters the network ecosystem only around the edges: consumers (individuals or enterprises) pay access providers for Internet service. Most access providers, in turn, pay other ISPs to carry their traffic to/from the rest of the Internet. Indeed, most end-to-end traffic in the Internet traverses at least three distinct service

Thus, in today’s Internet (i) no single provider controls all end-to-end paths; (ii) money flow between providers is outside the architecture and by necessity changes slowly; and (iii) traffic flow is constrained at the granularity of providers to follow the money flow. The result is that transit providers have neither means nor incentive to compete via new service offerings, and consumers have essentially no control over the service they receive or its quality. A central thesis of ChoiceNet is that enabling money flow to follow traffic flow (instead of vice versa), coupled with greater support for choice among end-users, should lead to increased provider competition and more innovation.

ChoiceNet’s economy plane aims to give assurances to providers that they can compete for customers and be compensated for the services they render. At the same time, ChoiceNet provides users with the ability to select from a set of offerings and combine them to form complex services, thereby separating services that are currently entangled in the current Internet. Key to such an architecture is the ability to market services and then form or dissolve business relationships on (potentially small) time scales. Moreover, ChoiceNet must enable providers (and consumers) to prove (or verify) that the contracted service was rendered as promised.

I have two doctoral students at the Isenberg School of Management conducting research on ChoiceNet: Sara Saberi and Dong "Michelle" Li. We are specifically working on the game theory and network economics aspects and have already published a series of papers, including:
  • Anna Nagurney, Dong Li, Tilman Wolf, and Sara Saberi. A network economic game theory model of a service-oriented internet with choices and quality competition. NETNOMICS: Economic Research and Electronic Networking, 14(1–2):1–25, November 2013. (Notable Article in Computing in 2013 by ACM Computing Reviews) DOI
  • Anna Nagurney and Tilman Wolf. A Cournot-Nash-Bertrand game theory model of a service-oriented internet with price and quality competition among network transport providers. Computational Management Science, 11(4), pages 475-502. DOI
  • Sara Saberi, Anna Nagurney, Tilman Wolf, A network economic game theory model of s service-oriented Internet with price and quality competition in both content and network provision. Service Science, 6(4), December 2014, pages 1-24.
I hope that everyone at GEC21 has a rewarding conference!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Always a Favorite Event - Tune-Up for the INFORMS Conference with the UMass Student Chapter

As the Faculty Advisor to the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, I always enjoy helping students out with the planning of events and attending them from speakers that we host and a variety of panels (both research and teaching),   as well as social events, such as our 10th Anniversary party two weeks ago.

Also, to give our doctoral students a pleasant setting in which to practice the talks that they will be giving at the Annual INFORMS Conference, we host the annual Tune-Up event. This year the conference takes place in San Francisco in early November.

The students prepared the nice poster above for this year's tune-up, which will take place at the Isenberg School of Management on Friday, October 31, 2014, from 2-4PM in Room 112. Special thanks to this year's Chapter President, Michael Prokle, for getting all the information together and to the Chapter Secretaries: Heng Chen and Kayla Monahan, for putting the poster together!

There will be 4 doctoral students from the Isenberg School in Management Science (Dong "Michelle" Li, Tulay Varol Flamand, Sara Saberi, and Heng Chen) presenting and two from the College of Engineering, who are conecntrating in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (Joanne Oh and Olaitan Olaleye). I am the dissertation advisor for Michelle and Sara. Professor Ahmed Ghoniem is the advisor of Tulay and Professor Senay Solak is the advisor of Heng. Professor Hari Balasubramanian is advising Joanne Oh and Professor Erin Baker - Olaita.

The topics of these 6 talks alone demonstrate the breadth and depth of research in OR/MS, so do join us if you can!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Meet an Executive in the Apparel Industry

The 2014 Nobel laureate in Economic Sciences, Professor Jean Tirole, said recently in an interview in the The Upshot column, in The New York Times: There’s no easy line in summarizing my contribution and the contribution of my colleagues. It is industry-specific. The way you regulate payment cards has nothing to do with the way that you regulate intellectual property or railroads. There are lots of idiosyncratic factors. That’s what makes it all so interesting. It’s very rich. It requires some understanding of how an industry works. And then the reasoning is very much based on game theory.

His words to me could be directly translated to why I find supply chains so fascinating and interesting to work on - the idiosyncratic characteristics of  supply chains in different industries, whether in high tech, food, pharmaceuticals, or even fashion! And, yes, we use game theory in our competitive supply chain network models.

Some of our most recent work, with a focus on perishable product supply chains, including blood supply chains and medical nuclear ones, we describe in our book, Networks Against Time: Supply Chain Analytics for Perishable Products., in which we also have a chapter on fast fashion supply chains. 

Interestingly, we have Professor T.M. "Jason" Choi of Hong Kong to thank for inspiring us to work on fashion / apparel supply chains and, to-date, we have written 3 papers on the topic, with the most recent one being with my great colleague, Professor Jonas Floden, of the University of Gothenburg, and a former doctoral student, Professor Min Yu of the University of Portland: Fashion Supply Chain Network Competition with Ecolabelling, Anna Nagurney, Min Yu, and Jonas Floden, in press in Sustainable Fashion Supply Chain Management: From Sourcing to Retailing, T.-M. Choi and T.C.E. Cheng, Editors, Springer. 

I very much enjoyed working on this paper and would walk for miles in the beautiful city of Gothenburg stopping into a variety of stores from H&M and Zara and several with eco-labelled fashion products.

So, when an opportunity came to help host Mr. Marc Schneider of PVH, who is both an executive and an alum of the Isenberg School, I had to say "yes!" He had come to speak with us about 3 years ago and it was a terrific experience.

Mr. Schneider will be speaking at the Isenberg School of Friday, November 7, 2014. The students of the UMass Amhest INFORMS Student Chapter prepared the nice poster below.

I hope that you can join us.
After the event, many of us will be packing up and flying to the INFORMS conference in San Francisco!