Friday, January 11, 2013

The Most Multidisciplinary Supply Chain -- The Medical Nuclear Supply Chain -- Where Operations Research, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology All Meet

Supply chains underpin our economy and are part of each and every industry.

To model and solve supply chain problems, one often has to take a multidisciplinary approach.

Never more so than in the case of medical nuclear supply chains, a topic that we have been researching for several years now and have even written an OpEd piece . These supply chains are especially vulnerable due to the aging of the nuclear reactors where the isotopes are irradiated. Each day, 41,000 nuclear medical procedures are performed in the U.S. using Technetium-99m, a radioisotope obtained from the decay of Molybdenum-99. The Molybdenum is produced by irradiating Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) targets in research reactors. The radioisotopes are used in medical imaging and diagnostics ranging from cardiac problems to cancer.

When I was an undergraduate at Brown University, and then a graduate student there, I remember being told that one might make use of subject matter in the future that one was studying even though it might not be apparent or even envisionable at that point.

I especially enjoy working on systems, notably, network systems, and, hence, my love of supply chains.

I would argue that medical nuclear supply chains are the most multidisciplinary supply chains and to capture their functionality (and, of course, vulnerability) and, hence, to improve their operation as well as their design, one has to be knowledgable about physics, chemistry, biology/medicine, and, of course, operations research. This may entail collaborations across disciplines but that is an approach that pushes knowledge forward.

Above we have composed a graphic that highlights some of the salient issues surrounding medical nuclear supply chains. Our most recent paper on the topic is: Securing the Sustainability of Global Medical Nuclear Supply Chains Through Economic Cost Recovery, Risk Management, and Optimization, Anna Nagurney, Ladimer S. Nagurney, and Dong Li, to appear in the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation. An earlier paper of ours: Medical Nuclear Supply Chain Design: A Tractable Network Model and Computational Approach, Anna Nagurney and Ladimer S. Nagurney, was published in the International Journal of Production Economics 140(2): (2012) pp 865-874.

A lecture given on the topic to biomedical engineers, which has additional background material, can be accessed here.  Another nice lecture on prezi, which cites our work, and has stunning graphics, can be viewed here.

Hence, do listen to your professors -- chemistry, physics, biology, and math, and operations research you may one day be using and applying and even integrating!