Saturday, April 22, 2017

March for Science on Earth Day in Amherst, Massachusetts

We just returned from the March for Science in Amherst, Massachusetts, which many said was the biggest march they ever recalled in our great town. Marches for Science were planned in over 600 cities on 6 continents today.

My husband made our signs - he is a Professor of Engineering and had the posts neatly nailed.

We had received the notice about the march from a colleague at UMass Amherst, Dr. Barbara Pearson, and had also read about it in our local paper.  If I had not been marching I would have been revising another paper and refereeing one for a journal; these activities could wait - the march could not.

Below are some photos taken from the march which took almost 30 minutes for us to process from Kendrick Park in Amherst to our Town Common where a sustainability fair was taking place since it is Earth Day!

What I found so impressive was the sense of community today and a true sense of purpose. Below are some photos taken of the March for Science in Amherst. Seeing colleagues from UMass Amherst and other colleges and universities, friends, and neighbors, along with many children and dogs, demonstrates how universal the importance of science is to us and our world.

It was terrific to see Dr. Linda Slakey, former Dean of NSF at UMass Amherst, and NSF program officer, who gave a marvelous speech before we marched!

It was also great to see my Operations Research colleague, Professor Erin Baker, and her husband, as well as to chat with Dr. Connie Daniel, a management professor and Isenberg School of Management PhD alumna! We also saw Professor Sigfird Yngvesson of UMass Engineering and my colleague, and fellow Ukrainian and lover of anything Swedish, Dr. Bogdan Propovych.

Now it's back to research (and proofing two students' dissertations, whose committees I am chairing) with renewed energy and support and also fortified with the best cappuccino anywhere on the planet, from Amherst Coffee!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

STEMing the Tide: Brilliant Lecture On How Female Experts and Peers Act as "Social Vaccines" to Protect Young Women's Self-Concept in STEM

Yesterday, I had the distinct pleasure of attending a Distinguished Faculty Lecture at UMass Amherst given by the experimental social psychologist Dr.Nilanjana "Buju" Dasgupta. Dr. Dasgupta is renowned for her research on implicit prejudice and her work has been recognized with numerous awards.She is a faculty member in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at UMass.

The title of her lecture yesterday: STEMing the tide: How female experts and peers act as "social vaccines" to protect young women's self-concept in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics." With such a title, I had to go to the talk plus Dr. Dasgupta is committed to making a difference in the world and her research is fascinating.

Professor Dasgupta was introduced by our Provost, Dr. Katherine E. Newman.
Her lecture was brilliant. She noted that females, by not majoring in STEM fields, which tend to be some of the most highly paying ones, end up with income inequality. Although females have the freedom to say no to STEM, are their choices really free?
She began her lecture by thanking her husband, her sister, numerous colleagues, as well as students, including undergraduates.

Her lecture was true to the press release (but that did not capture her eloquence, energy, and passion).  She discussed how constraints can be lifted to allow students real freedom to pursue any academic and professional path, especially ones where their group is underrepresented. She highlighted results  from a decade of research identifying people and environments in high-achieving academic settings that act as “social vaccines” to inoculate young women’s self-confidence, motivation and persistence, protecting them against negative stereotypes.

Her prescriptions from data to policy are all based on rigorous scientific research and, if there is a will from institutions, eminently doable. For example, she made the following recommendations:

1. There is a need to increase students' contact with female faculty (we are speaking here of female students in STEM, in particular).

2. Colleges need to hire more female faculty in STEM.

3. Colleges must fund peer mentoring in STEM, beginning with students in their first year of college, since the benefits last over their college careers. Evidence for this was obtained from a study of engineering students at UMass Amherst and the results were clear and definitive.

4. Showcase successes of technical women in classes. This can be done through guest speakers and even having photos of successful females in your lecture slides!  Here I was reminded of the STEMGems book, by Stephanie Espy, which features 44 females in STEM, to inspire young females. I was honored to be one of the 44 selected for this book, which I have given out to some of my PhD students, my daughter (she is a STEMGem), and nieces.
5. For classes involving teamwork (a big part of business education as well as engineering) pay attention to the gender composition. It is especially important to have females motivated in STEM and having confidence.

6.  Timing matters - juncture points are especially critical - as when one matriculates in college or then decides on graduate programs.

After her lecture she was awarded the Chancellor's Medal from the UMass Amherst Chancellor, Dr. Kumble Subbaswamy.
Multiple times Dr. Dasgupta was recognized with voluminous applause from the audience. It was also interesting to hear her say that STEM majors are more likely to have a parent or sibling in STEM.

The Q&A that followed was also excellent and demonstrated the interest from the audience in the topic. And, yes, there were quite a few males present, which was great.

I never had a single female professor in STEM during my Brown University undergraduate days. When pursuing my PhD there in Applied Mathematics, with a specialty in Operations Research, I was drawn to Stella Dafermos, the only female professor in either the School of Engineering or the Division of Applied Math, in which she held joint appointments. She became my doctoral dissertation advisor and I her first PhD student. STEM was highly valued in my family and I always loved Math and saw it as the absolute truth. I will be graduating soon my 20th PhD student, and 10th female.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

He Took the Shortest Route to Get to Work at Brown University and That Involved Climbing a Stone Wall - Rest In Peace, Professor Martin Beckmann!

The email came from his daughter on Thursday, saying that Professor Martin Beckmann, a renowned economist, regional scientist, transportation scientist, and operations researcher, had died two days previously, on April 11, at the age of 92. There would be an informal memorial service at his home in Providence, Rhode Island, on Saturday, April 15, also stated in his obituary.

Immediately, and despite it being a three day holiday weekend in Massachusetts, my husband and I responded that we would be coming.

I had written a tribute to Professor Beckmann, when he turned 90 years old, and had sent him a special card from Sweden, where I was spending time then as a Visiting Professor. Martin had been on my doctoral dissertation committee at Brown University and was the last surviving member, since my advisor, Stella Dafermos, had passed away at age 49, and the other committee member, George Majda, at age 51.

The news of his passing stunned me, and I communicated it to both the operations research and transportation science community and to the Regional Science Association International (RSAI) Fellows. The response was immediate and global in scale. I thank all those who replied with remarkable memories and anecdotes about this truly unique gentleman and scholar, whose impact, through his books and papers, his friendship and mentorship, and his joie de vivre,  have left a legacy that will live on. Martin Beckmann was recognized with numerous awards, including the Robert Herman Lifetime Achievement Award from the Transportation Science Section (now the Transportation Science & Logistics Society) of INFORMS.

In 2005, at the INFORMS National Meeting in San Francisco, I organized two sessions honoring the 50th anniversary of the publication of his classic book, Studies in the Economics of Transportation, with  C. Bart McGuire and Christopher B. Winsten (who had passed away). Beckmann and McGuire, and their spouses came, and then I treated a big group to lunch. We also presented the living authors with a special plaque from Yale University. More info, including presentations, can be viewed here. 
The photos below are from this event and you might be able to identify so many stars in transportation in the first photo below!
David E. Boyce, Hani S. Mahmassani, and I wrote an article on the impact of that book.

And, when my first book was published, Network Economics: A Variational Inequality Approach, I carried copies with me to a conference in Mallacootta, Australia, at which Martin was also an invited speaker.  He caught that I missed a minus sign in my presentation, which took place at about 9PM, after we had been on a boat tour, and he was right! I thought that he had been napping. The photos below are from that amazing conference - and, yes, I was the only invited female to take part.

The last time that I saw Martin Beckmann was at a symposium at Northwestern University organized in his honor by Hani S. Mahmassani in January 2010. Below are photos from the symposium.

However, in the title of this blogpost is a stone wall. Below is the stone wall, in front of Martin's home in Providence that he climbed to get to work at the Economics Department at Brown University, and then hiked through the Aldrich-Dexter Field, since it was the shortest way to work (and back home again).  His work on transportation network behavior, and location theory was fundamental, and has influenced both theory and practice. How fitting that Martin, who had been born in Germany and survived WW II, managed to optimize in both life and research. I will never forget what he taught me through his presence, his scholarship, and his incredible ability to enjoy travel, food, music, and people - wherever we met - in the US, in Europe (especially Sweden, and The Netherlands), and in Australia.

The memorial service yesterday,  at which I spoke with his son and three daughters, as well as grandchildren, and other relatives, childhood friends of his children, who, along with them, climbed the stone wall, and other structures at Brown University, and even multiple faculty of Brown University, from economists to a renowned biologist,  was truly special.  And I felt Martin's presence and even saw one of my professors from the economics department, from whom I took a grad class and got an A in. I recognized his eyes and smile.

My dissertation advisor, Stella Dafermos, was born on April 14 and had died on April 4, 1990. Now I have added April 11, 2017 to my memory bank of a date on which the community lost another brilliant mind and personality.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Fabulous STEM Slam Organized by the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter

I just returned from a very exciting event organized by the award-winning UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter.

The event was a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Slam in which undergraduate and graduate students could present their research in a 3 minute talk with only props that they could carry on to the stage. There were 3 judges, two student ones, and my OR/MS colleague, Professor Hari Balasubramanian.
The student chapter officers did a spectacular job organizing this event which attracted speakers from numerous science and engineering departments at UMass Amherst. A big shoutout to Pritha Dutta, Ekin Koker, Deniz Besik, Amro El-Adle, Rodrigo Mercado, and Swaminathan Kandaswamy, with Destenie Nock, as the fabulous emcee, and Amirhossein Alamdar Yazdi assisting the officers!

The attention to detail made for a very successful, memorable, and exciting scientific and social event. There was also great attendance (and this is the Friday of a long weekend in Massachusetts plus a holiday weekend.)

Below are a few photos of the speakers who spoke on fascinating and wide-ranging scientific topics such as AI and consciousness, the preservation of food nutrients in outer space, reducing traffic congestion through cooperation, antibiotics and resistance to them, what causes butterflies in your stomache, RNA, rocket science, and even math modeling. All thirteen speakers were recognized with a nice slide. Props included an orange, a balloon, emulsions, and some bottles.

Pizza and donuts were provided  to fuel the speakers and the audience, which also voted for their audience choice award recipient.
While the votes were being tabulated, which were done with a nice Excel spreadsheet, there was a very entertaining trivia segment in which audience members who answered the questions posed by Destenie Nock correctly earned prizes.  In addition to the audience award winner, there was a first place and a second place winner.

All presenters were given certificates and we took the nice group photo of the speakers, judges, officers, and friends, below.

Congratulations to all involved on a wonderfully organized scientific event that showcased the importance (and fun) of public speaking on your scientific research! Thanks to the hard-working, creative, spirited, and super enthusiastic UMass Amherst Student Chapter Officers on the success of this event that will be hard to top and that was intellectually rewarding and great fun!
Bravo to the terrific UMass Amherst Student Chapter Officers for the magnificent team-work and attention to detail! You are all operations research stars!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Supernetwork Center Associates as Outstanding Teachers

Yesterday, I received some wonderful news from Dr. Dong "Michelle" Li, who was my 18th doctoral student at the Isenberg School, and who received her PhD in Management Science in 2015.  The night before, Michelle received the Arkansas State University College of Business Faculty Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at the Honors Banquet. There is only one recipient for this award every year.

She was not even  planning on attending the banquet since she was working on a paper but her department chair told her that she had to go. Michelle is an Assistant Professor there and this is only her second year of teaching there. However, all of the PhD students in our doctoral program at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst are required to teach for a few semesters. This helps them a lot in their future positions as academics and even assists the few who opt to go to industry since public speaking is so important in any profession today. Michelle had been earlier recognized by the Isenberg School with the Outstanding Doctoral Student Researcher Award and together we wrote the Competing on Supply Chain Quality book, which was published by Springer in 2016.

 Below is a photo of Dr. Li with her award next to her colleague, Dr. Mello.

To achieve a teaching award so early in one's academic career is quite the accomplishment and to have the award be a surprise makes it extra special and sweet. Plus, Michelle is not a native speaker of English. It was thrilling to share in Michelle's happiness and much-deserved recognition. She attributes some of her success, even in teaching, to the support that she has received from the Supernetwork Center at the Isenberg School, which I founded in 2001 and continue to direct. She has been with the center since she matriculated at UMass Amherst and continues to collaborate with us as an Assistant Professor.

Last year, also in the spring, my doctoral student Shivani Shukla, who will be defending her dissertation soon, and will be my 20th PhD student (Dr. Sara Saberi, who is now an Assistant Professor at WPI, was my 19th),  received the 2016 Outstanding Doctoral Student Teaching Award from the Isenberg School. Given that the Isenberg School has 7 different departments and even more tracks in its PhD program, this is quite an accomplishment. 

And the good news about my former doctoral students, many of who are now professors, some even Full Professors, continues to arrive.

As for recognition for outstanding teaching, Dr. Trisha Anderson was recognized in 2014 by her university, Texas Wesleyan University,  with the Exemplary Teaching Award.

Dr. Jose M. Cruz, who was also my PhD student and is a Supernetwork Center Associate, has been sweeping teaching awards at the University of Connecticut since 2010. He holds 5 degrees from UMass Amherst!  He has received not only awards for his undergraduate teaching but also for his graduate teaching and has been recognized by the School of Business, where he is a tenured Associate Professor, as well as by the Provost of his university.

Also, Dr. Dmytro Matsypura, who is a tenured Senior Lecturer (like an Associate Professor) at the School of Business at the University of Sydney, Australia, has also been recognized for his outstanding teaching.
In 2010 he received the Wayne Lonergan Outstanding Teaching Award (Early Career) from the Business School and in 2008 and 2013, he received the Discipline of Business Analytics Teaching Excellence Award.

The below photo was taken at the INFORMS conference in Nashville, where I treated all the Supernetwork Center Associates who could make it that evening, to a dinner. On my left are: Dr. Matsypura, Dr. Cruz, and Shivani Shukla, and Dr. Li is the second one on my right.

Now, as some of you may know, teaching Operations Management and Management Science requires the exchange and explanation of material that can be quite technical. Hence, to be recognized for teaching in this area is doubly impressive!  Then again, if you love what you research and your subject, the passion in sharing information and knowledge with your students shines through!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Terrific Talk on Location Equilibria and Networks by Basilio Gentile of ETH in Switzerland

This past Friday, we were delighted to be able to host Mr. Basilio Gentile of ETH in Zurich, Switzerland in our INFORMS Speaker Series.

His talk was on: Distributed Dynamics to Achieve Location Equilibrium.

He had come to Massachusetts for about one month and had spoken at Harvard and will be speaking at MIT at LIDS tomorrow. He had reached out to me in mid March asking whether he could visit my research group. I was delighted that we could arrange for him to give a talk. His doctoral dissertation supervisor at ETH is Professor John Lygeros, who was educated at Imperial College in London and also UC Berkeley.

His presentation was on recent work that he has done with with Dario Paccagnan, Bolutife Ogunsola, and Professor John Lygeros.  That work was inspired by my work on migration equilibrium and variational inequalities, which is gratifying. I had blogged about migration equilibrium because of the refugee crises. 

Basilio described an elegant framework for what he is calling location equilibrium, consisting of a model and a novel algorithm, supported by theory. The framework has potentially a wide range of exciting potential applications. Location equilibrium can be viewed as a type of migration equilibrium in which the costs of migration between locations are not flow-dependent, as in my work with collaborators, but are fixed. One is interested in determining, given a fixed population in the economy or network, the equilibrium population distributions at the nodes. He mentioned some very nonobvious interesting applications from taxi distributions in Hong Kong to computer server allocations.
The audience benefited greatly from the clarity of his presentation on a fascinating subject, with an excellent overview also of variational inequalities, and nice network visuals. We were especially grateful that he was able to inform the audience, consisting of researchers from the College of Engineering and the Isenberg School of Management, also on the relationships of some of the most
important equilibrium concepts from Wardrop to Nash and their linkages to location and migration equilibrium! It was terrific that some of the graduate students who had taken my variational inequalities, game theory, and networks seminar got to hear more on the subject and from a speaker from Switzerland.  Basilio is originally from Italy and has met my wonderful collaborator and Supernetwork Center Associate, Professor Patrizia Daniele.

After the talk, joining us for lunch at the University Club were: Professor Eric Gonzales, one of my colleagues in Transportation at UMass Amherst, who is a UC Berkeley PhD, and two UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter Officers: Pritha Dutta, who is the President, and Ekin Koker, who is the Vice President and Webmaster.
Then I had a chance to speak more with Basilio in my office and to show him my Supernetworks Lab.
Time flew by very quickly and he caught the bus back to Boston from UMass Amherst.

We thank Basilio Gentile for coming to speak at the University of Massachusetts Amherst!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Dr. Pierre Rouzier on What Shapes Your Life? Lessons from a Truly Inspiring Physician

This morning, my students and I were mesmerized by the brilliant lecture of Dr. Pierre Rouzier, who spoke in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class at the Isenberg School.

Dr. Rouzier is the team physician at UMass Amherst and a doctor at our University Health Services. He is also a published author and a great humanitarian.

For many years he has also assisted in triage at the Boston Marathon, and was there at the bombing in 2013.

Dr. Rouzier's lecture was on "What Shapes Your Life?"  and he spoke on life shaping events, inspiring people to move (more on this), and also finding greatness in every day.

Last summer, he with a friend, Roger Grette, bicycled across the US, while disseminating the news on his children's book, Henry Gets Moving. It was published in 2012.

He covered 4,100 miles from Oregon through Massachusetts.  It took them 10 weeks to accomplish this feat and he said to us that "he had a life-changing summer and doesn't know if he even needed his life to change." Along the way he spoke to children and to adults publicizing his book, which focuses, in a warm-hearted way, on why children need to move more and to eat right. He showed us wonderful video clips of children, farmers, cowboys, and others along the way that were swept by his energy, openness, and passion for helping people and would chant: Ride, Henry, Ride!   He noted that, in 1980, 7% of children ages 6 to 11 were obese and in 2008, 20% were. Clearly, children eat what is provided. He stated that the obesification of America is a big problem.

Dr. Rouzier said that he is now in the last quarter of his life and wanted to take on the challenge of biking across the US and had done a lot of reading of experiences of others who had succeeded at this challenge. During his journey, he had many instances of the sense of wonder of meeting new people, serendipitous encounters with UMass connections, praying that the sun would shine and it did and then it snowed, and finding new friends along the journey.  The motto "Endure or Enjoy" from the book, "From the Atlantic to the Pacific on Two Wheels," by Alex Alvarez, served him well and continues to.

Dr. Rouzier also spoke about getting accepted at Stanford U. for his undergraduate studies but decided to go to UC Davis, due to the cost, and then went on to med school at USC because they had 13 weeks of vacation (rather than 6 as at UC Irvine) and he had fallen in love with travel (and also had a scholarship to med school). He had been a kinesiology major and had spent his junior year abroad in Edinburgh and loved it. He shared with us some of his hitchhiking stories in Europe, which were hysterical. He likes to travel OPM using "other people's money," which makes a lot of sense. While in med school he traveled to Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea, where he spent some time helping out at a healthcare facility. There he met 2 UMass Medical School Worcester graduates and ended up having his residency there. He has been at UMass Amherst since 1997 and are we lucky!

He has worked at Native American healthcare facilities, and spent 5 years in Colorado where he wrote a book, "The Sports Medicine Patient Advisor," which was inspired by a farmer who had hurt himself lifting bales of hay and could not take the time to drive a distance for physical therapy and asked him to just write the instructions down and he would follow them. Indeed, as his friend Bruce Bynum says: "The right book will set you free!"

Two of the life-changing events that he spoke about were the Haiti earthquake, which struck on January 12,  2010, and the Boston Marathon bombing, which took place April 15, 2013. We have talked about these two disasters in the Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class. Dr. Rouzier's father is from Haiti and he was in Haiti 9 weeks after the earthquake and was engaged in "despair medicine." At that point, many were suffering from illnesses brought about by the shock and ensuing stress. He even met a relative who lived on a hill and was one of the lucky ones.

Since Dr. Rouzier is not only an athlete, and former teacher and coach, but also a sports medicine expert, he also, for many years, has assisted in triage at the Boston Marathon. He was there during the bombing and shared with us that there was blood everywhere, the smell of burning flesh, and a surreal scene. He had been accompanied by a friend, Chad, who had recently had a child. He used a belt as a tourniquet and a fence post for a splint for a broken leg. He treated a female who said: I am going to die here and noone will know where I am." He said that he did not get her name and that it bothered him and it was very hard to get closure. The marathon bicycle journey across the US last summer, I believe, helped him tremendously, and he said that while en route he received a text from one of the victims thanking him.

The healing process was assisted also by people reaching out to him, even on Facebook, and especially UMass students doing so. He said: "people like you saved me."  His heroism and selflessness were so apparent throughout his brilliant lecture and we are so indebted to Dr. Pierre Rouzier for showing us what constitutes a life well lived. His nonprofit Team Henry is even helping out an orphanage in Tanzania. And, next week, Dr. Rouzier will again be assisting at the Boston Marathon.

Towards the end of his lecture today, Dr. Rouzier emphasized the power of positive thinking. He said that: "when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."

He told us that we need to look in the eyes of others and be nice - this is a choice that you can make. He said that "a stranger is a friend you have not yet met" and that "in every day there is something great about it."

We did not have much time for questions and answers but I wish that we had.

I presented Dr. Rouzier with a gift from the Isenberg School and also a certificate thanking him for being a terrific Professor for a Day! I then snapped a group photo of students with him as a memento of a truly inspirational and very wise lecture, with numerous life lessons.