Thursday, May 5, 2016

Magical First Week as a Visiting Fellow at Oxford University

Only last Friday I arrived in England to begin a new adventure - that of being a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College at Oxford University.

During this week, I have settled into my apartment in Iffley Turn, explored my surroundings, and have garnered so many wonderful impressions and experiences.
My office at All Souls College overlooks a rose garden and water fountain and the gardener keeps the flowers and greenery immaculate. I have brought good weather to Oxford (as my colleagues in Gothenburg used to say I would do there as well).

I have met Visiting Fellows, and, coincidentally, Dr. Su Fang Ng, who was also a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University in 2005-2006, when I was there, is also a Visiting Fellow now and has an office close to me. I have also met fellows and even Emeriti Fellows.

Many mornings I have been walking to work, which is about a 40 minute walk, but, given the delicious, multiple course meals that we are served for lunch and dinner, getting exercise is a necessity! I have enjoyed riding the double decker busses and marvel and the number of cyclists and pedestrians in this city.I have had lunch with the Dean of Visiting Fellows, Professor Simon Hornblower, who is a classicist, and fellow lover of Greece and have even met a Fellow who was visiting my friend and operations researcher at MIT, Professor Asu Ozdaglar. The academic world is so small and filled with surprises.

For dinner, I wear my black gown, which has my name in it, and we dine by candlelight in a great Hall, which is wood-panelled, and filled with oil paintings. The painting below is of the staff and I am trying to learn many of their names.
I have enjoyed the tea time and also we were treated to a magnificent lecture (at 8:30PM) this past Tuesday by Visiting Fellow Nicholas Shakespeare (and, yes, a relative of THE Shakespeare), who spoke on 6 Minutes in May. He is an award-winning novelist and biographer.

This experience reminds me of being at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center on Lake Como and also a bit of being at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. However, this experience has many original features and aspects to it.

Today I had the pleasure of meeting a PhD student at the Said Business School at Oxford,  who is as obsessed with networks as I am, and who had contacted me a few weeks ago, while I was still in Amherst. Ellen has 6 graduate degrees, including a law degree, and is researching knowledge networks in companies, especially those in China. Plus. she is from Massachusetts!

After a wonderful research conversation in the garden she took me to the Mathematical Institute and we took the photos below there. The café is, appropriately, called the Pi Café. I also got to see a class in session and narvelled at all the boards one could write on!
She also took me to the building which houses Oxfam, which was founded in Oxford and is very close to All Souls. Since I teach a course on Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare at the Isenberg School of Management, this was extra special. And she presented me with a souvenir.
Also, in my first week at Oxford, as I mentioned in my previous post, we are nearing completion of the editing of the Dynamics of Disasters volume with 19 papers!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Editing the Dynamics of Disasters Volume

Ten months ago, the Dynamics of Disasters conference took place in Kalamata, Greece. This conference I co-organized with Professor Panos M. Pardalos of the University of Florida and Professor Ilias Kotsireas of Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada. It was a challenging time for Greece, given the financial crisis, but the camaraderie of the conferees was outstanding as were the papers presented and the discussions. Great friendships were made as well. For example, George Karagiannis of Cyprus, who is an expert on national risk assessments, visited me at UMass Amherst last September and gave a fabulous talk, which was co-hosted by the Transportation group. Plus, in March, Rasmus Dahlberg of the Disaster Center in Copenhagen, Denmark, who had been working at the University of Colorado in Boulder for a few weeks, gave two lectures at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. One lecture was in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class and the other was in our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series. The students and audience members, to this day, recall fondly his exceptional energy and knowledge in disaster management. He is a true Renaissance man - he is also a novelist and television and radio personality.

Below is a photo of the conferees.
The past few months, Kotsireas, Pardalos, and I have been very busy editing the proceedings volume from the conference, which is under contract from Springer,  In addition to paper submissions from many of the conferees, we have also invited additional contributors. Each paper has had 2 to 3 reviews and the authors have done a good job revising their papers.

I am delighted that the volume is almost ready to be shipped to the publisher.

It is a collection of 18 papers spanning all 4 disaster management phases: risk mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery, and contains conceptual as well as analytical contributions.  Applications are wide-ranging - from the Ebola healthcare crisis to the Syrian crisis, and there are many novel mathematical models (optimization and game theory ones), as well; several of which are network-based. There are some truly innovative and original papers in this volume, which I believe that many will appreciate.

We have written the Introduction to the volume, which is,  in itself, a contribution, since it demonstrates the scope of challenges associated with disasters as well as concepts and tools for disaster management. The volume contains approaches not only for natural disasters but also for technological ones, and for both sudden onset and slow-onset ones. Both academic as well as practitioner perspectives are included.

It has been a true pleasure working with my colleagues, Professors Pardalos and Kotsireas, on this book project! The finishing aspects of this project I am completing in my exciting new role as a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College at the University of Oxford in England.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

First 36 Hours in Oxford, England with Photos

Yesterday morning my flight on Delta from Boston Logan landed in London Heathrow at 7AM. The flight was early and it had been so comfortable - I managed to even stretch out over 3 middle seats and can't remember when I had this luxury in the recent past.

All Souls College at Oxford University had arranged for me to be picked up at Heathrow. Both my suitcases arrived quickly in baggage claim and although customs was a mass of humanity especially the "all passports" queue, I took advantage of the wait by speaking to the female in front of me, who, was from DC and was returning to Oxford for a visit since she had received her Master's last year from Oxford University in environmental sciences. She was wonderful to talk to and told me of several places that I should go to, including University Park, which I strolled through today.

My driver brought me to my apartment, which is gated and requires a combination to get past the gate and another one to get into the building. The apartment has views of greenery from each window and as I am writing the birds outside are keeping me company. The air is very crisp and the temperature just perfect for research, walking, and exploring.

I will be reporting to All Souls College on Monday, which will be by first day as a Visiting Fellow. I am very excited about this great opportunity.

Yesterday I walked to downtown Oxford and found a favorite tea room and restaurant that we had been to last year when we were in Europe for multiple conferences from Greece through Scotland.

I walked at least 10 miles which is always my way of avoiding jet lag since one then switches to the new time zone and collapses in a deep sleep at night. I even managed to get to a Sainsbury food store to purchase some fresh produce, other food, and household supplies.

Everyone is so friendly here and my ears are getting adjusted to the variety of British accents that I hear. I managed to get a monthly bus pass at Debenham's but have been walking exclusively, so far.

Below are some photos taken in my first 36 hours in Oxford.

The first photo below is of Trinity College, Oxford University, which is very close to All Souls College.

All Souls College was closed today (but it is a Saturday). I took the photo below of the entrance.
There were various sports teams and many families enjoying University Park today.
The tree below in the park charmed me - yes, being from Amherst, Massachusetts, I am certainly at tree hugger.
The arch below on the Oxford University campus caught my eye.
The bus I will take advantage of sooner or later since there will be quite a few late evening lectures to attend.
But, this afternoon, I walked the scenic way back from downtown to my apartment.

The beauty of Oxford from the architecture to the natural environment is captivating.
I do believe that living abroad, as an academic, enriches one intellectually, culturally, spiritually, and research-wise.  Tonight, I will enjoy reading a nice, thick British newspaper followed by my copy of the latest issue of The Economist.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Off to Oxford University

I am almost packed and later today will be heading to catch a flight to London Heathrow and then will be picked up and taken to Oxford. My Visiting Fellowship at All Souls College at Oxford University is about to begin.

I am very much looking forward to being able to focus on supply chain network research with emphasis on quality and product perishability, a theme that I have been pursuing with multiple students and colleagues over the past few years.

Next Monday I will be settling into my office, meeting new colleagues, and neighbors, as new adventures in the academic life begin.

The past 4 years I was a Visiting Professor at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and spent about 44 days per year there. The research conducted, friendships made, cultural experiences enjoyed, and beautiful natural scenes explored, I will always treasure and they are part of me.

I do believe that putting oneself into new situations in various countries enriches not only scholarship and mutual understanding but also pedagogy since experiences are shared with students in classes.

I thank the Visiting Fellowship Selection Committee at Oxford for this great honor and opportunity.

I also hope to see Dr. Louise Richardson, the first female Vice Chancellor of Oxford in its history, who was the Executive Dean at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, when I was a Science Fellow there in 2005-2006. She then went on to head St. Andrews in Scotland, and now Oxford.

So, expect postings from England on this blog during my Fellowship at Oxford.

And I heard this morning that one of my Operations and Information Management colleagues will be in England for several weeks in June so it will be nice to see a fellow Isenberg School of Management faculty member!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

New England Security Day at Harvard University

Tomorrow, April 28, New England Security Day (NESD) Spring 2016  is taking place at Harvard University. There will be both paper presentations and posters and the program looks terrific. Many thanks to the organizers.

I enjoyed the first New England Security Day last Fall at UMass Amherst and was on the Organizing Committee. I blogged about this conference and posted photos. It's great to see this event becoming  a regular one since the topic of cybersecurity  is extremely timely and fascinating.

Tomorrow, one of my doctoral students, Shivani Shukla, will be presenting our most recent research on cybersecurity investments.
 The full presentation can be downloaded here.

According to the NESD website, there are only 12 slots for paper presentations, so this is quite the honor. Also, there will be an interesting format to promote discussion and further research: Each slot is 15 minutes long. However, we would like to use an unconventional slot structure. Each speaker will be given 8 minutes to present their material (strict). Then for 4 minutes, members of the audience will form groups of 3-5 people, discuss the talk, filter and form questions. The last 3 minutes of each slot will involve Q&A between the speaker and the audience. This structure encourages members of the audience to interact with each other and exchange opinions, and clarify their understanding of the talk. It is especially beneficial for students as it will allow them to interact with senior researchers. Moreover, the quality of questions filtered up to the speaker is improved.

Shivani has a lot of material to get across on our game theory cybersecurity investment framework including case studies in the retailer, financial services, and energy sectors.

There will be presenters from Yale University, Brown, MIT, Harvard, Northeastern University, Cornell University, the University of Connecticut, and our paper is one of two selected from UMass Amherst.

It is great to have representation from the Isenberg School of Management there.

I wish all the participants at NESD a very stimulating and rewarding conference.

And just this morning, I completed the galleys for our paper, A Supply Chain Network Game Theory Model of Cybersecurity Investments with Nonlinear Budget Constraints, Anna Nagurney, Patrizia Daniele, and Shivani Shukla, to appear in Annals of Operations Research, so it is very exciting to see research in game theory and cybersecurity flourishing.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Celebrating a Great Year for the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter

This past Friday, we celebrated the end of the semester and the end of the academic year with our UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter party.

The officers and members have done an outstanding job this year bringing speakers, two from Europe, from both academia and industry, to share with us the latest on the challenges in the electric power industry, disaster management, healthcare and electronic records, cybersecurity workforce optimization as well as community-based operations research. In addition, the students, who come primarily from our doctoral program in Management Science at the Isenberg School of Management as well as the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering in the UMass Amherst College of Engineering, also organized several social events.

This has been such a great year - and as the chapter's Faculty Advisor since 2004 I can attest to that - that we needed a special celebration at our party.

To honor this year's chapter officers whose esprit de corp, positive energy, innovations, plus logistics knowhow, which allows for such great parties (but, then again, these are operations research and management science students who practice what they preach), I presented the officers with a special award. Last Fall the chapter was honored with the Summa Cum Laude Award from INFORMS another truly memorable accolade.

Below is a photo of the group of officers with their award plaques, to which I also attached personal notes of appreciation for their hard work.
The cuisine at the party included pizza, fresh fruit, chicken wings, Ukrainian food, Indian food, many salads, and healthy sandwiches, and, of course, numerous delicious desserts. Faculty came from the Isenberg School as well as from Engineering even though the party began with a thunderstorm and lots of rain. Last year's chapter President, Michael Prokle, who received the Judith B. Liebman Awad from INFORMS at our annual conference in Philadelphia last Fall, traveled from Boston to the party.
The party began about 4:30PM and ended close to 7PM. There was a lot of laughter and great conversations and it is so rewarding to see everyone having such a great time and supporting one another. The friendships continue after the students receive their PhDs and graduate from UMass Amherst. Even undergraduates enjoy the event and one of my students, who successfully defended his undergraduate honors thesis in humanitarian logistics earlier that day, Emilio Alvarez Flores, also made it to the festivities and enjoyed talking with graduate students and faculty.
Thanks to all the faculty and students who came. The energy and enthusiasm are fabulous.
Clearly, given that next week is the last week of the semester we are all so busy but building our great community is very meaningful.

Below are photos of several of the individual award recipients.
The full roster of officers is recognized below.

 And one of my favorite photos is the one below, which truly captures the spirit of this great group!
Looking forward to another great academic year next year.

Best of luck to all those who are graduating - the class of 2016!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Great Undergraduate Research Conference at UMass Amherst Plus Humanitarian Logistics Thesis Defense

Today I had the pleasure of attending the Undergraduate Research Conference at UMass Amherst held at the Campus Center Auditorium.

This was a system-wide conference and just look at the schools that were represented below.
 I was excited to even get a name tag.
The reason I was there (and this is certainly a very busy time of the year since it is nearing the end of the academic year plus later today we have our UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter party to which I a bringing Ukrainian food), was that one of my undergraduate students in Operations and Information Management, Emilio Alvarez Flores, was defending his honors thesis at this special event.  Professor Ceren Soylu of the Department of Economics and I are co-chairing Emilio's  thesis committee. he title of Emilio's thesis: "Optimizing Non-Governmental Organizations’ Operations and Fundraising: A Game-Theoretical Supply Chain Approach."

Emilio had his presentation as an electronic poster.
Emilio is also a student in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class this semester and his thesis passed with flying colors and it a great contribution to humanitarian logistics.  His interests lie in operations research, economics, and game theory, and his thesis was an excellent example of all three areas.

He begins his dissertation with the following quote by Martin Luther King Jr.:
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is,
’What are you doing for others?’”

The thesis not only develops both Nash Equilibrium and Generalized Nash Equilibrium models for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)  who seek to deliver relief supplies post-disaster to points of demand, while also competing for financial funds, and presents several numerical examples, but, also, contains a realistic case study focusing on Hurricane Katrina. The case study uses the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, as well as other NGOS as the involved disaster relief organizations. In fact, Emilio, Professor Soylu, and I submitted a paper based on the thesis to a research journal because both the model and formulation as well as examples are quite novel. The framework guarantees that there will not be oversupply (resulting in materiel convergence) or undersupply (resulting in suffering and loss of life) of relief items at various demand points, through the imposition of upper and lower bounds on the demands by a higher body or regulatory organization.

As Emilio states in his dissertation:  This research has a host of implications for both coordinating authorities, that is governments and organizing bodies like the United Nations, and managers in the public sector. As far as coordinated authorities are concerned, this research provides a strong argument for their importance in having successful humanitarian relief efforts. In fact, our research suggests that if authorities can impose the constraints on upper and lower demand levels, they can provide an effective mechanism for improving responses to disasters. In particular, it is imperative that we stress the importance having reliable statistics on the population that can be used to create the estimates on the upper and lower bounds on the demand. If NGOs do not believe that this estimates are reliable, it is highly unlikely that a coordinating authority will be capable of imposing the associated constraints in practice. In addition, governments and other authorities should include collaboration with and between NGOs as part of their preparation before a disaster. It is easy to imagine that attempts to perform large-scale coordination efforts during the response phase are likely to go awry or to be ineffective. Coordinating authorities that are successful in doing so should be capable of improving the outcomes of their relief efforts under the assumption that NGOs have the goodwill to be part of this mechanism.

Emilio is graduating from UMass Amherst on May 6 and will be starting his position at Cisco shortly thereafter. The passion and dedication that he has exhibited throughout his research project have been extraordinary. It was truly an honor to co-chair his dissertation and a great experience to also work with Professor Soylu of the Economics Department at UMass Amherst.

It was nice to see some of Emilio's friends come out to support him today.

I enjoyed speaking with several researchers from various colleges and was very impressed by the enthusiasm of the undergraduate researchers for their projects, whether researching Icelandic sagas,  whether journalists should not identify their sources, or the pros and cons of single gender precollege schools, or the effects of  preschool education on high school graduation rates around the world.
Attendance was great at this special event.
Also, I might add, that last week, on April 15, when I was at the University of Waterloo in Canada giving a plenary talk at Analytics Day, Emilio Alvarez Flores was one of ten recipients of an Honors Dean's Award from the Commonwealth Honors College at UMass Amherst. Writing a letter of nomination for him was a joy.

Congratulations to all undergraduate researchers who presented today at the Undergraduate Research Conference at UMass Amherst. I hope that you never lose that intellectual curiosity!