Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Value of Q&A Sessions with Top Operations Researchers from Industry

Last Friday, we had the pleasure and honor of hosting Dr. Mary E. Helander of IBM Yorktown Heights at the Isenberg School of Management through our UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter. I help the students to organize chapter activities and since Dr. Helander wanted to visit us, we decided to do something a bit different. The event was so successful that one of the students present said afterwards: "Professor Nagurney we have to have more of these Q&A sessions!"
Amazingly, it was almost entirely a female audience!

Dr. Helander told the students that they could ask her ANY question.

First, some background on Dr. Helander. She is on the program committee of the INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research that will take place in Boston next spring. She is a Master Inventor and Research Scientist and is currently the IBM Research Division leader for Consumer Products. Presently, she is the technical lead for two interdisciplinary research projects involving food safety and traceability.  Not only does she hold a PhD in Operations Research but she is also a Docent in Quality and Software Engineering from Linkoping University in Sweden. At lunch she and I talked about living in Sweden and she told me some mesmerizing stories about her surname -- I'll let you do the research -- another movie should be made.

Plus, Mary was part of one of the 2013 Edelman Award finalists:

McKesson: A Holistic Supply Chain Management Solution

Presented by:
Don Walker, McKesson; Kaan Katircioglu, IBM Research; Bob Gooby, McKesson
McKesson Corporation: Robert Gooby, Nathan Mott, David Wagnon, Graeme Case, Matt Johnson
IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center: Kaan Katircioglu, Pawan Chowdhary, Youssef Drissi, Mary Helander, Karthik Sourirajan, Lin Li, Karthik Subbian
IBM Global Business Services: James Kalina, Howard Smith
IBM Japan: Takashi Yonezawa.

The Edelman Award is like an Academy Award for analytics and operations research, so although her team did not win to be a finalist is a huge achievement!

From Mary we learned a lot about IBM, and about her research and contributions there. We learned about functional foods and microtoxins and my favorite takeaway and quote from the Q&A session.

Mary said: People that you work with will bring you joy.

Frankly, I think that it is Dr. Mary Helander who is making such a positive impact on all those around her and beyond through her great operations research contributions and dynamic personality, which the students really appreciated!

Thank you so much, Dr. Mary Helander, for coming to the Isenberg School at UMass Amherst!

You are an operations research rockstar!