Friday, March 27, 2015

Congrats to Recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) from Obama

I heard today the wonderful news that one of my UMass Amherst colleagues, Professor Sandra Petersen, is one of the fourteen recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM), which was announced by President Obama at the White House.

A few years back I had served on  the committee making the selections.

According to the press release issued by the National Science Foundation:
PAESMEM recognizes outstanding efforts of mentors in encouraging the next generation of innovators and developing a science and engineering workforce that reflects the diverse talent of America. The mentors will receive their awards at a White House ceremony later this year.

The recipients of the individual awards and the organization award are truly extraordinary and are listed in the release on NSF's website:

Individual awards
  • Luis Col√≥n, State University of New York- Buffalo. Established program to increase minority students, especially Hispanics, in the chemical sciences field
  • Anne E. Donnelly, University of Florida. Successfully guided dozens of undergraduate and graduate STEM students, many through creation of a mentoring program so fruitful it spread to other universities
  • Lorraine Fleming, Howard University. Director of the school's Science, Engineering and Mathematics mentoring program that prepares students academically, socially and professionally for a career in STEM
  • Shelia M. Humphreys, University of California, Berkeley. Improved recruitment, retention and success of underrepresented groups in Berkeley's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences
  • Murty S. Kambhampati, Southern University at New Orleans. Engaged high school and undergraduate students in research, successfully boosting graduation rates
  • Raymond L. Johnson, University of Maryland. Guided many minority students, at his home institution and across the nation, to complete degrees in mathematics, which has notoriously low retention rates
  • Gary S. May, Georgia Institute of Technology. Created new mentoring models, including collaborations with other institutions and researchers, which have increased the participation of minorities in science and engineering
  • John Tilak Ratnanather, Johns Hopkins University. Created a system to support deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in STEM
  • John Matsui, University of California, Berkeley. Co-founded a renowned undergraduate diversity program in the school's Biology department, a model replicated at schools throughout the U.S.
  • Beth Olivares, University of Rochester. Mentored hundreds of students through the STEM pipeline and advocated for STEM opportunities for low-income students both regionally and nationally
  • Elizabeth A. Parry, North Carolina State University. Worked to increase the accessibility of engineering to students--from kindergarten through university--and their parents
  • Sandra Petersen, University of Massachusetts Amherst. Director of a consortium of research colleges and minority-serving institutions which has tripled enrollments of underrepresented groups in STEM fields
  • John B. Slaughter, University of Southern California. Developed numerous mentoring programs, at both the national and university level, to boost minority participation in STEM; also served as the first African American director of NSF (1980-82)
  • Julio Soto, San Jose State University. Mentored hundreds of students, both personally and through nationally funded programs he developed
Organizational award
  • The GeoFORCE Program, University of Texas at Austin. An outreach program encouraging minority rural and inner-city youth to study geosciences and engineering.
Congratulations to the PAESMEM recipients for your outstanding work in mentorship in STEM!

Back in 2007,  I served on a panel with Dr. Petersen at the Isenberg School, which was organized by Dr. Barbara Pearson and it was on Women in Science Climate. The provided panelist presentations that are available still are below:

   I still have the message from Dr. Pearson, which said: "Our panelists were all great and we had lively and constructive comments and questions from the audience. We were happy to host Mass-AWIS and some K-12 teachers, community college faculty, and 5-College colleagues. Thank you to TWIST, Research Liaison & Development, the Center for Virtual Supernetworks and the student chapter of INFORMS, as well as the NEAGEP Interns for their sponsorship and help. It is encouraging that several groups are working toward raising awareness of issues of “inequalities” and taking steps to resolve them."

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Mr. Jeff Meyer, CEO of Red Cross Blood Services for MA and CT at the Isenberg School

Bringing expert speakers to share their practical know-how and experiences is fabulous for students' education!

Today we had the honor and privilege of hosting Mr. Jeff Meyer, CEO of Blood Services for the Red Cross for MA and CT, in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class at the Isenberg School of Management.

He was fabulous. First some background: Jeff received his undergrad degree at Babson and his MBA from UCLA's Anderson School of Management, where he focused on (bravo) operations management. How can you not love a speaker who comes in and starts talking about linear programming models and how in many of the team projects at UCLA students wanted to work on Red Cross projects because of the challenging problems.

Mr. Meyer drove almost 2 hours from Dedham to speak to my class and we kept him overtime for about 40 minutes because his knowledge of blood supply chains is vast. He has worked for the Red Cross for 16 years and, would you believe,  he was a consultant for the Red Cross and was offered a job with this organization the day before 9/11. He accepted the job since after the terrorist attacks (and he was in DC and could not get back home for a week) since he decided he wanted to help humanity.

He had worked in California for Red Cross blood services and was responsible for managing the construction of a $41 million facility for blood services in southern CA. 

Mr. Meyer had the class (and me) on the edges of our seats informing us of how the demand for blood in the  U.S. has declined since 2008. He spoke of negative drivers and positive drivers and the consolidation of blood centers. The Red Cross now supplies about 40% of the blood in the US and has closed 3 of its 5 testing centers. He spoke about that there are "wet" surgeons and "dry" surgeons, with the former liking more transfusions whereas the latter utilizing fewer in their surgeries. He stated that in studies, more transfusions do not yield better outcomes.

He showed us a map of the US marking where there was Red Cross coverage and presence and as Mr. Lou Wigdor, our Isenberg School writer and editor noted, the white parts corresponded to the oil states!
 I was very impressed that he multiple times spoke about the importance of network optimization, since this is what we have been learning in the class for the past 2 weeks.

He also emphasized how efficiencies can be gained from having a bigger collection site (fewer vehicles needed and there is greater potential for good service and more spread out and comfortable service as donors arrive).  he noted that, although some perceive blood as being a commodity, it is not and there are many differentiated "products" that it provides.

The challenges of this supply chain are immense because of the perishability - with red blood cells having a shelf life of 42 days and platelets only 5 days. Platelets are needed to treat cancer patients and the demand for platelets is growing because of the aging population.

From 2008 and prior there were many cases of blood shortages in the U.S. but the scenarios has changed due, for example, to the recession and fewer elective surgeries, more individual blood banking, and medical advances that result in less loss of blood.

He even described a Red Cross blood app which has been very successful - 80% of those who elect to give blood through the app show up for appointments whereas among  those who call for an appointment only 50% do. Clearly, there are also challenges with supply meeting demand and risk associated with donors not showing up.

Interestingly, he also shared with us that different hospitals may have different preferences even as to the kinds of testing that is done on the blood which can cost $200 per pint.

Out of $3billion in annual costs of the Red Cross, $2billion of that is for blood services.

I had done research on blood supply chains with my former doctoral students, Amir H. Masoumi and Min Yu:
Mr. Jeff Meyer brought out so many interesting research questions today in his brilliant lecture that we will be kept very busy.

I'd like to thank him for sharing with the class such illuminating insights about this life-saving supply chain, for which logistics plays a fundamental role.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why the Germanwings Plane Crash Seems So Close to Home

The shocking news of the Germanwings plane (flight 9525) crash today over France in the Alps on a flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf with 150 lives lost is resonating far and wide.

This airplane disaster feels very close to home to me.

Just last Thursday I was flying back from Berlin where I spoke at the DPG scientific conference and had flown there from Boston Logan the Saturday before via British Airways. On the latter flight I was seated next to a prep school (Pingrey)  group which was en route to Barcelona. There was also a school group on the Germanwings flight (Germanwings is owned by Lufthansa) that crashed today. On my flight to Boston via Heathrow on British Airways last Thursday we had extra passengers since the Lufthansa pilots were on strike, which I thought strange.

And last summer my husband and I flew via Germanwings from Berlin to Catania (after bailing out of an Air Berlin flight due to an 8 hour delay) and also from Thessaloniki to Gothenburg via Dussledorf. I had conferences to speak at in both Sicily and Greece and was spending time as a Visiting Professor at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

I have been seeing lots of press coverage on Professor Arnie Barnett's research in view of this Gremanwings crash. Professor Barnett of MIT is a colleague from INFORMS and is an aviation security and safety expert. USA Today has an article noting his work entitled: Despite flurry of tragedies, air crashes are rareWe hosted him at the Isenberg School in our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speakers Series a while back.

With the black box recovery I hope that the mystery of the cause of this Airbus plane crash is solved.

Our hearts go out to all those who lost family members and friends in this plane crash.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Join Us for an Academic Career Panel at the Isenberg School of Management

Spring break is almost over and snow is still gracing the landscape of Amherst, Massachusetts!

There are many exciting events and activities that await us once all the students return and classes resume tomorrow.

There will be several events organized by the UMass INFORMS Student Chapter with the first upcoming one taking place on April 3, 2015.

I am delighted that, under the leadership of the chapter President, Michael Prokle, we will be hosting that day an Academic Career Panel: Application Process and Job Expectations. Coming back to the Isenberg School will be 2 of our alums, Dr. Amir H. Masoumi and Dr. Davit Khachatryan, both of whom received their PhDs in Management Science. Amir was my PhD student and did a great dissertation on perishable product supply chains in healthcare. He is now an Assistant Professor at the School of Business at Manhattan College in NYC.  Davit, on the other hand, after receiving his PhD, joined the consulting company PWC in Arlington, Virginia, and did terrific work in analytics for healthcare and financial services clients. He is now an Assitant Professor at Babson College in Wellesley, MA.

Also, joining the panel will be the newest faculty member in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at UMass Amherst, Dr. Chaitra Gopallapa. I served on the search committee that brought her to campus. She has a PhD in Industrial Engineering from the University of South Florida. She worked on health issues at the Futures Institute in Glastonbuty, CT, before joining the faculty at UMass.

Questions are now being prepared to ask the panelists and I am sure that the discussions will be terrific. The panel should be especially useful to doctoral students who are interested in exploring academic careers and who may soon be on the job market!

Please join us, if you can!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Photos from the Great DPG Conference in Berlin

I made it back from the DPG Conference in  Berlin, Germany late last night via Heathrow to Boston Logan. The flights on British Airways were terrific as was the service and the dinner of chicken curry with chocolate mousse for dessert.

I blogged several times about this great conference which had an attendance of 6,000 and I especially enjoyed the sessions organized by the Physics of Socio-Economic Systems group.

Below I have posted some photos of the speakers and the ambience as well as some sights nearby that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I'd like to thank the organizers for inviting me to speak - I have a fabulous time professionally, culturally, and socially - hard to top.
  The Science
                                       The History and Culture
Auf wieder sehen und danke schon!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Speaking on Sustainable Supply Chains for Sustainable Cities in Berlin

For the past 3 days I have been immensely enjoying being at Europe's largest physics conference. The venue at the Technical University of Berlin has been excellent and today I had the pleasure of speaking on the Design of Sustainable Supply Chains for Sustainable Cities:

I gave an overview of some of the applications of supply chains that we have investigated from electric power ones to food supply chains and then focused on the work described in a paper just published, with the same title as my talk,  in Environment & Planning B 42(1): (2015) pp 40-57.
I have enjoyed my interactions with the physicists from Dirk Helbing to Luis Bettencourt and it was great to see Duncan Watts, as well, although he and I are not physicists. I did mention at my talk this morning that I am married to a PhD in physics so I am part of the family!

I was hoping to see Angela Merkel here since she has a PhD in physics but I suspect that she was preoccupied with other matters.

The session that my invited talk was part of was perfect since it was on sustainability and was part of a symposium:

I would like to thank the organizers for a terrific conference - a perfect way in which to spend my spring break.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Big Bang Theory in Berlin

I am attending a huge physics conference - about 6,000 participants in Berlin, Germany and am here since I was invited by Professor Scholl who organized this conference.

Professor Scholl heard me speak at a workshop on Energy and Complex Networks last summer in Erice, Sicily and extended the kind invitation.

I have enjoyed the talks very much since there are quite a few talks on network problems.

Today was the first full day of presentations and it began with an excellent presentation by Dr. Dirk Helbing from ETH Zurich. He spoke on A Planetary Nervous System to Understand and Measure Our Society. I had last seen Dirk two Septembers ago at a terrific Risk Management Workshop in Zurich, Switzerland, at which we both spoke.

Dirk recorded his presentation this morning and said that it should be posted on Youtube in about 2 weeks.

At the end of the day I immensely enjoyed Dr. Duncan Watts' presentation: Computational Social Science: Exciting Progress and Future Challenges.

The talks here are very interdsciplinary, which I like very much. For example, Watts of small world fame, is a sociologist, who received his PhD from Cornell, and was at Columbia but is now with Microsoft in NYC.

His talk had two parts: the first focused on Twitter and the kind of analyses that he has been doing of rare events - messages that go viral. It was fascinating to learn that about 93% of Twitter posts never get retweeted even once. Those who get retweeted 100 times or more are a small fraction of tweets. He analyzed the network structure of such tweets, which are rare events, and require a huge sample for statistical purposes. He found that some viral tweets have a broadcast structure with the media playing a very important role. He said that if you want your message to spread write an OpEd and get it published in The New York Times. Of course, he noted that Justin Bieber and Katy Perry have 15 million followers so, in effect, that act as broadcasters, very often of images and videos (some of themselves).

In the second part of his presentation he spoke on Crisis Mapping, a project that he has worked on with the United Nations and also using Mechanical Turk.  This really interested me since I am teaching a course on Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare. He was conducting research to map tweets during a disaster for the United Nations to get information about the disaster. He compared the information gleaned during a disaster versus using the same data but having individuals working in groups using Mechanical Turk. He found some unexpected results in that the larger the group the answers were not necessarily better.

Many of the researchers at this conference are interested in socio-economic phenomena and associated problems. I appreciate the methodologies that are being used and the scope of issues that physicists and the like are tackling.

Tomorrow morning I have the pleasure of introducing Dr. Luis Bettencourt of the Santa Fe Institute when he gives his invited talk on cities.

I will be speaking Wednesday morning.

It has been wonderful spending my spring break at this great conference in stately Berlin!