Friday, April 17, 2015

Being an Operations Research Paradigm Changer

I do believe that female voices need to be heard and not silenced and that is one of the reasons that I started this blog over 5 years ago.

This week I had to recall Stella Dafermos, since her birthday was April 14, and, since she was born in 1940, had she lived, she would have been 75 years old this year!

Stella Dafermos was my dissertation advisor at Brown University and she was the second female PhD in Operations Research in the world. She passed away on April 4, 1990 - 25 years ago, which is shocking. I spoke with Dr. Elise Miller-Hooks this week, who is now at NSF as a Program Director, and on leave from the University of Maryland. Elise was instrumental in having a Best Paper Award named in honor of Stella at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting in DC. The first recipient of this award was Dr. Tao Lin of Virginia Tech for a single-authored paper but Elise told me that the web developer left and, hence, sadly, there has not been a big official announcement of the award

Stella was an Operations Research Paradigm Changer and I would say even a Research Paradigm Changer with her tremendous contributions to variational inequality theory, models, and algorithms, which allowed for the formulation, analysis, and rigorous solution of more general traffic network equilibrium problems that had, to that point been possible. The applications of variational inequalities now transcend operations research and transportation science and are fundamental to supply chains, game theory, regional science,  economics and finance, as well as ecology.

I am delighted that the book by Boyce and Williams, the cover of which is featured below, will be available soon.

Chapter 7 in the book, which I had the pleasure to review and comment on because Professor David Boyce forwarded me the draft to read over,  emphasizes the contributions of Stella to Transportation Network Equilibrium and I was delighted to see several of our joint papers cited.

Stella, to this date, remains the only female whose memory and contributions are honored by the premier journal Operations Research with an obituary,  that I wrote.

It's research that is a paradigm changer that is truly brilliant! Her legacy continues to impact both research and practice in complex network and decision-making. She set the highest standards, which I try to impart to my students now.