Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fabulous Optimization Conference in Florida Plus a Too Exciting Plane Landing

I returned from Gainesville,  Florida this morning about 1:30AM on a two-legged flight through Charlotte to Bradley airport in Hartford/Springfield and was greeted with more snow.  The flight from Gainesville to Charlotte on a puddle jumper plane was rather exciting since the pilot announced that our wingflaps would not go down (this was a first for me and I have written about various flying adventures on this blog). We were to land going very fast, he announced, and, as we were landing, I could see the pageant of firetrucks that were there to welcome us. As we taxied I was amazed at the number of fire trucks that were on both sides of us with flashing lights. I was waiting to smell smoke but that did not happen. We were asked whether we needed "Customer Service" after the experience and when the pilot exited the cockpit I thought that he could be one of my undergraduates at the Isenberg School.  Great job - we made it safely and that is what counts. My flight from Charlotte to Bradley was uneventful and I enjoyed speaking with a UConn student who was returning from a med school interview.

I had been in Florida for two days to attend and speak at the Learning and Intelligent Optimization (LION 8) Conference that was organized by Professor Panos M. Pardalos of the University of Florida and Dr. Mauricio Resende of AT&T Labs Research with great support provided by Dr. Pardalos' doctoral students.

Panos, as some of you may have heard, was recently appointed a Preeminent Chair at the University of Florida for his work in Big Data. Bravo, bravo, bravissimo. Coincidentally, just one year ago, I was with Panos and other luminaries at the AAAS Symposium Dynamics of Disasters in very cold Boston.

Speakers and participants came to the optimization conference in Gainesville from Japan, Russia, Singapore, China, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Franc, Ireland, Australia, Greece, Colombia, Canada, Spain, and the U.S.

The venue was lovely and warm and it was great to get away from the white stuff (snow), albeit for only two days. The audience consisted primarily of operations researchers, computer scientists, and engineers,  with papers ranging from models  to algorithms with interesting directions such as portfolios of algorithms and configuration optimization for solvers. 

On Monday I enjoyed the first (invited) talk given by Dr. Vijay Vazirani of Georgia Tech who spoke on Linear Complementarity Problems and Walrasian equilibria. I do find the continuing interplay among economics, operations research, and computer science exciting and intriguing. I brought to his attention the work of Dafermos and others in variational inequalities and the computation of equilibria, which has been a very active field over the past 20 years. Conferences such as this are so important for communication!

Many of the presentation slides are being made available by the authors and are being posted on the conference website, which is great.

I enjoyed giving my presentation on joint work with one of my doctoral students, Dong "Michelle" Li, entitled: "Equilibria and Dynamics of Supply Chain Network Competition with Information Asymmetry in Quality and Minimum Quality Standards."  Given last Friday's article in The New York Times on the global manufacturing of medicines and quality issues, the talk, I thought,  was quite timely.

The photos below were taken at the conference. It was great to engage the mind and also the soul with the warmth and beauty of the surroundings. We had lunches and the conference dinner outside. I see why people move to Florida, given this winter in the Northeast.

The food was fabulous, too.
As was the ambience both inside and outside.
Some had to sleep in the Atlanta airport, given the 10,000 flight cancellations last week in the U.S., because of the snow and ice, but everyone made it to the conference. One of our Russian colleagues, did laps in the pool above at 7AM.

Although the Springer books and journals arrived yesterday, it was so nice to see our book, Networks Against Time: Supply Chain Analytics for Perishable Products, that I co-authored with Dr. Min Yu, Dr. Amir H. Masoumi (both my former doctoral students), and the other "Professor Nagurney," Dr. Ladimer S. Nagurney, on display. It was also wonderful to meet Ramzia Amad from Springer, who was a Math major in college and was also attending the conference. Our book survived Superstorm Sandy last year and was emailed and then the Springer offices closed. But we are resilient!

Thanks to the organizers for bringing researchers from around the globe with a passion for models, algorithms, and computations together!