Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Becoming an Operations Research Newsmaker Through the Media

A few years ago, at the INFORMS Charlotte conference, there was a terrific (I am a bit biased, I admit) panel entitled: Becoming an O.R./Analytics Newsmaker, that I even wrote a blogpost on because I thought the tips on dealing with the media were definitely worth preserving and sharing,

Joining me, as panelists, were: Jack Levis of UPS, Dr. Margaret Brandeau of Stanford, and Dr. Sheldon Jacobson of the University of Illinois. The panelists have had experience with major news outlets, including the Associate Press, radio shows, TV programs, and documentaries. Barry List, the Communications Director of INFORMS at that time, had organized the panel and Peter Horner, the Editor of OR/MS Today, was also present. The panelists are all (now) INFORMS Fellows.

What I have learned, in addition, since that panel, based on experiences that I have had is:

1.  You never know when you might be contacted by the media, so always be prepared. It might be for a story that a journalist needs to finish with a tight deadline. When I was at Oxford University as a Visiting Fellow, for example, and in London to give a talk at Imperial College in June 2016, I received a message late at night from a journalist in Canada, who had heard of the talk on cybersecurity that I had given at the University of Waterloo and wanted my impressions on ransomware. We had a phone conversation and his article was published before midnight.

2. Sometimes you may have to wait weeks for an interview, as I recently experienced. First, I was asked if I was available to be interviewed on disaster management at 11:30PM on the same night that I was flying back from our INFORMS conference in Houston (October 25, 2017) so I, graciously, declined. There were some negotiations for another time and, this past Wednesday, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Terry Gilberg, who is the host and Executive Producer of the radio show Think!America. That interview aired this past weekend and it is 22 minutes into last Saturday's show, which can be accessed here. She was intrigued by the article I had written in The Conversation: Response to natural disasters like Harvey could be helped with game theory and wanted me on her show.  I enjoyed the interview a lot and she even followed up with a nice phone call to my Isenberg School office!

In late August I was interviewed by Angela Kokott for her radio show in Calgary, Canada, also on my research with collaborators on disaster relief and game theory.

3. In many cases (such as 2 above) one may not get questions ahead of time so you have to be creative and anticipate the kinds of questions that you might be asked. Always be ready with one or two strong takeaway messages!  In contrast, last July, while I was a Summer Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, I was interviewed for the Matt Townsend Radio Show on Infrastructure Spending. One of the producers had sent me sample questions ahead of time and I was really pumped. The script was not very closely followed, but it did provide a framework. Townsend, as Gilberg and Kokott, are fabulous interviewers - very dynamic and provocative and I enjoyed these interviews tremendously.

4. And last winter, after my article: Uncertainty in blood supply chains creating challenges for the industry was published, I was contacted by our local NPR radio station for a segment: America's Blood Economy. My interviewer was Karen Brown and you get read the interview transcript here. 
For this interview, I had to show up in the recording studio, which was on caampus and very convenient.

5. A few years earlier, after  speaking on a panel at the AAAS meeting in Washington DC, I was contacted by a journalist in Italy and ended up talking about the Braess paradox on Italian radio! 

You can see from the above examples (and I have more, including experiences on TV shows and documentaries that I have been part of), that if you share your Operations Research in print outlets or even give good talks, news can be picked up by media outlets. So, do keep that great research going and try to disseminate it further since that is how you can broaden the impact.

Your university might also be able to help or sometimes even the publisher of the journal in which your exciting research has appeared but, honestly, it is also up to you. And, it can be very rewarding, fun, and also a great way in which to grow professionally.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Wildfire Fuel Management and Operations Research: Fabulous Talk by Prof. Dmytro Matsypura from Australia

This has been a truly amazing week!

We not only celebrated the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter receiving the Magna Cum Laude Award from INFORMS at the recent conference in Houston, but we also hosted  Dr. Dmytro Matsypura from the School of Business at the University of Sydney in Australia!

Dr. Matsypura was my former doctoral student at the Isenberg School and received his PhD in 2006, with a concentration in Management Science. He is now a tenured Senior Lecturer (equivalent to a tenured Associate Professor) and has been recognized for his exceptional teaching with awards.  He is also a Center Associate at the Supernetwork Center at the Isenberg School. Below is the notice for the talk that he delivered yesterday which was outstanding!
Dr. Matsypura spoke on his latest research on a topic of great relevance -- that of wildfire fuel management. The talk was based on an article with the same title, which is literally, "hot off the press" and published in the European Journal of Operational Research, volume 264(2), 2018, pp. 774-796.  The article was co-authored by Professor Oleg A. Prokopyev of the University of Pittsburgh, and an undergraduate student of Matsypura's: Aizat Zahar, who is from Malaysia and has since graduated.

Dr. Matsypura had the audience at the edges of their seats as he spoke about the number of wildfires in the past year in the US, and in Canada (over 50,000 each with millions of hectares burned) and how the model he constructed with Prokopyev and Zahar can assist in prescribed burning, while taking into consideration not only the biology of the fuel provided by the vegetation in the region, but also zones, and how often the prescribed burning takes place. He described in a very eloquent and commanding way the nonlinear equations underlying the model and how they can be linearized; how  graphs can be used to represent zones in a region, and the role that network interdiction plays. I absolutely loved the way in which he presented different objective functions that the authors had explored and how this impacted the solutions as well as the computational results. In addition, he described a heuristic that was very effective.

Dr. Matsypura noted that there are very few papers in this area and even mentioned that we can learn a lot from aborigines as to how to do prescribed burning. Australia has been doing prescribed burns for 30-40 years now and the goal is to burn on purpose so as to remove "fuel" and to do it sustainably.

He made some very quotable statements including one of my favorites - how we sometimes may need "less complexity - more usability."

The paper I am sure will be very highly cited and he has already spoken with practitioners in both Australia and the US (Montana)  on the results that he has obtained. His talk was an example of how a passion for an important application can drive great Operations Research in terms of model and methodological advances.

We first welcomed him with a dinner on Thursday evening.
On Friday, Dr. Tony Butterfield, who had been the PhD Program Director at the Isenberg School, when Dmytro matriculated, stopped by to give him a hug.
We also managed to take the photo below in the Supernetwork Lab with several of my Doctoral Student Center Associates, including Deniz Besik and Mojtaba Salarpour.
The turnout for his talk was excellent and it even made the UMass Amherst homepage!
I was surprised and delighted when even Professor Amir H. Masoumi, also a former doctoral student of mine, and an Isenberg PhD alum, who is now a Professor at the School of Business at Manhattan College in NYC, showed up! And there was even a guest from the United Nations in NYC.
We then took Dr. Matsypura to lunch at the UMass Amherst University Club, where the food and conversation were terrific. Dr. Masoumi also joined us as did my doctoral students, including Pritha Dutta.
And, in the afternoon, Professor Jose M. Cruz, of the School of Business at UConn, stopped by the Supernetworks Lab. Jose was also one of my doctoral students and a contemporary of Dmytro's and is a great friend of his.
This was a talk and a visit to remember - inspiring, energizing, and very impressive. The UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter also conducted a video interview with Dr. Matsypura and when it gets posted we will certainly let you know!

Thanks to an Isenberg School of Management PhD alum and Supernetwork Center Associate whose research and teaching are making a big impact and difference!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Supernetwork Team Shines at INFORMS Conference in Houston

This past week was a whirlwind with the INFORMS Annual Meeting taking place in Houston, Texas, October 22-25, 2017. There were almost 6,000 conferees and the conference, which took place less than two months after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, one to remember.

It was also very special since 12  members of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks at the Isenberg School of Management that I serve as a Director of were there to present papers, chair sessions, accept an award, and enjoy technical talks, business meetings, and many social events.

Last Sunday, I gathered a group of Supernetwork Center Associates, who had arrived in Houston,  for dinner al fresco at the restaurant Pappadeux, which is right next to the Convention Center.
Kudos to Professor Dmytro Matsypura who travelled all the way from the University of Sydney in Australia to present his work! Eight of my former PhD students, along Isenberg School UMass Amherst PhD alums, were there, plus two of my present doctoral students: Pritha Dutta and Deniz Besik. The PhD alums are now professors at great institutions: in addition to Dr. Matsypura, Dr. Jose M. Cruz is at UConn's School of Business, Dr. Amir H. Masoumi is at the School of Business at Manhattan College, Dr. Patrick Qiang is at Penn State, Dr. Sara Saberi is at the Foisie School of Business at WPI, Dr. Min Yu is at the Pamplin School of Business at the University of Portland, Dr. Dong "Michelle" Li is at the College of Business at Arkansas State University, Dr. Shivani Shukla of the University of San Francisco, and Dr. Trisha Anderson is at the School of Business at Texas Wesleyan University.

I am so proud of my former (and present) doctoral students who are so professionally active and engaged and whose work in both research and education is making a big difference.

I have posted 7 of the presentations that we gave at INFORMS Houston on the Supernetworks Center site since we have had multiple requests.

It was thrilling to see my book with Dr. Michelle Li displayed at the Springer booth at the Exhibition area, along with the latest issue of the Journal of Global Optimization in which Dr. Min Yu, Deniz Besik, and I have our paper on supply chain capacity competition and outsourcing, which Deniz presented at the conference.
Dr. Michelle Li, Dr. Yu, and I also heard last Friday that our paper that Dr. Li presented on Monday on consumer learning in differentiated product markets was accepted for publication in the journal Omega. We could not have asked for better timing!

Below is a photo taken after the session on Networks and Supply Chains that I organized of the speakers and several members of the audience who are a part of our great Supernetworks Team!
Our presentations included ones on freight and sustainability, cybersecurity investments, game theory and disaster relief, closed loop supply chains, and even blood supply chains and game theory!
Another highlight was getting together at the WORMS lunch and, of course, having our UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter receive the Magna Cum Laude Award from INFORMS!
We all returned energized and brimming with new ideas and also a strengthened sense of community.

Thank you INFORMS for holding the conference in Houston, despite the uncertainty and the associated challenges. It is a conference to be very pleasantly remembered!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Congrats to the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter on Its Magna Cum Laude Award Received in Houston

The INFORMS Houston conference, which took place October 22- 25, 2017, will be one for the history books not only in that there was record attendance - about 6,000 conferees from around the globe but also that the conference took place in a city battered by Hurricane Harvey less than two months ago.

Clearly, operations researchers and management scientists as well as analytics professionals were drawn to this conference and it did not disappoint. Plus, we even raised thousands of dollars to provide personal hygiene products that were then distributed to those in shelters. Technologists have a heart and, as Dr. Bill Klimack, the organizer of the conference, stated: We Solve Problems.

I was an official blogger for the conference and enjoyed the talks, seeing friends, going to business meetings as well as the social events immensely. The conference venue, the Convention Center in downtown Houston was also stunning with a beautiful park nearby.
However, most definitely, a high point of the conference for me was the student chapter awards event this past Monday night. That evening, the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter was honored with a Magna Cum Laude Award for its activities in 2016, based on an annual report. Amazingly, this is the 12th award, in as many consecutive years, that this student chapter has received from its parent society of INFORMS, a record that I think we singularly hold. This speaks to the amazing work ethic, sense of community, as well as creativity of the student chapter officers and the members of this chapter. I have served as this chapter's Faculty Advisor since its inception in 2004 and it is extremely rewarding to work with our great students at the Isenberg School of Management and the College of Engineering.

A special shoutout to last year's officers, including the Chapter President Pritha Dutta, for leadership and for numerous exciting activities, from speakers to community service, panels, and social events.

Below are some photos from the event and the wonderful reception that followed.


In the above photo are: Ekin Koker (Webmaster for several years), Sayeeda Cebnet (Chapter Secretary),  Pritha Dutta (past President), Deniz Besik (the new Chapter President), and Rodrigo Mercado Fernandez (Communications Director).

It was special to see chapter alums, now Professors, after earning their PhDs, also come to support the students. Below are Dr. Heng Chen and Dr. Sara Saberi.
Finally, celebrating with other award recipients added to the special atmosphere of this awards event.
And, thanks to Carlos Wachzetina and Thiago Serra, we managed to even get a big group of tweeps together for the group photo below at the awards event.
The students that we have in operations research and the management sciences and analytics will ensure the continuing strength, vibrancy, and impact of INFORMS.

Congratulations to all the INFORMS Student Chapters receiving awards at the Annual INFORMS Conference in Houston and keep up the great work! Congratulations also to the Judith Liebman Award recipients.

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.