Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Great Time Speaking at Carnegie Mellon University Where Operations Research Rocks!

On Sunday, when the snow was starting to fall (and that was April 3) in Amherst and the winds were blowing at about 50 miles an hour we lost electric power. I was finishing up packing up and heading to Carnegie Mellon University where I was to give a seminar the next day. Since it was a while before I had to head out to the airport, my husband and I went to investigate what was the cause of the power outage. As you can see from the photo below a tree had snapped and fallen on a power line. There was a Channel 40 news crew there and since my husband is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, when asked, he agreed to be interviewed and the interview aired that evening.

After a two-legged flight to Pittsburgh on Southwest (I had deja vu since on Mach 10 I had to fly through Baltimore also on Southwest to get to Buffalo where I was speaking), I made it to Pittsburgh, where it was very chilly but I was delightfully surprised by the blooming trees and flowers as well as the architecture. I had spoken previously at the Tepper Business School at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and also at the University of Pittsburgh but this was the first time that I was speaking at the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon.

I had been invited to speak at CMU back in August by Dean Ramayya Krishnan, who is an INFORMS Fellow, an invitation I could not refuse. I had presented my hosts with a list of possible topics and the one that they selected was: Predictive and Prescriptive Models of Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Investment and Network Vulnerability.

Given CMU's renown in Computer Science and Engineering as well as in Cybersecurity, this choice was not so surprising and I was looking forward to feedback on our work in this area.

Just this past Friday and Saturday, CMU had been the site of a very special event, which I wish I had known about sooner -   a symposium honoring Professor (and former Dean) Al Blumstein and his 50 years of contributions to public policy! The list of speakers and panelists was outstanding. Just to start (and we have hosted both in our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series): Professor Dick Larson and Professor Arnie Barnett (also INFORMS Fellows) from MIT.

I  saw Professor Al Blumstein in the Heinz building before my talk and gasped. Yes, Operations Research colleagues can inspire awe and deservedly so. Plus, he came to my talk, which I will always remember. As an aside, Professor George Dantzig, a founder of Operations Research, came to my talk at the Mathematical Programming Symposium at MIT the first year after I received my PhD and sat in the first row. That memory is always with me and especially his warm words afterwords on my presentation. We are lucky t have in our profession true GREATS!

The Heinz building (which is named after the Heinz family and Theresa Heinz is the wife of John Kerry, our former Massachusetts senator and now Secretary of State). The building used to be the Bureau of Mines and the copper doors are stunning.

My flights to Pittsburgh were quite bumpy because of the fierce winds but the stay at the Wyndham hotel was very pleasant. The Heinz College had prepared a nice itinerary for me (many thanks to Natalia), and I was picked up early on Monday by Professor Pedro Ferreira who drove me to the Heinz College for my first meeting. My talk was scheduled for noon till 1:30PM so I got a chance to have meetings both before and after.

I first met with Professor David Krackhardt and we went over time since he is renowned in Social Network Analysis and loves networks as much as I do  and was at the forefront of  developing visualization software for network analysis.

He kindly presented me with a copy of Linton Freeman's book, which I asked him to sign, and which I began reading on my flights back to Massachusetts.
It was great to also meet Professor Chris Hendrickson, who I know from way back, because of our mutual interest in transportation and environmental issues. He was elected into the National Academy of Engineering a few years back. He shared with me some of the work that is being done at CMU in transportation - over 40 projects and these are being done by interdisciplinary teams. Time and time again, I was so impressed as to the freedom of intellectual exchanges at CMU and many multidisciplinary projects and teams. Of course, given the excellence of Operations Research there, we can break boundaries across disciplines with our models, tools, mindset, and expertise.

I continue to be very impressed by the caliber of research at CMU and also by the friendliness of everyone.

I very much enjoyed speaking with Professor Zhen (Sean) Qian, who received his PhD from UC Davis, and is doing very innovative work in transportation science in terms of stochastic models. He said that my "Network Economics: A Variational Inequality" book is his bible. Professor Christakis, the Co-Director of the Yale Institute for Network Science, where I spoke on February 17, also had this book on his bookshelf.

It was an honor to meet with Dean Ramayya Krishnan, under whose leadership the Heinz College continues to thrive making breakthrough in both public policy and information management, He became a chaired professor the same year that I did - in 1998 - and we also reminisced about the great Professor Bill Cooper, who sent us both letters of congratulations from the University of Texas Austin. He passed away at 97 and left a tremendous legacy and I will always remember his thoughtfulness. Dean Krishnan is doing fascinating research using transportation (taxi) datasets from Shenzen, China, and his energy is inspiring. I also enjoyed speaking with Professor Martin Gaynor, who is a health economist!

And speaking of energy and Operations Research, Tepper  doctoral student Thiago Serra, who is also the President of CMU's INFORMS Student Chapter,, who kindly took the photo of me below during the presentation, told me that his advisor, Professor Egon Balas, at age 94 continues to play tennis and to take long walks. Thiago is doing great things for the student chapter in bringing in speakers as well as holding regular research and social events. Kudos to him and also to Alex Kazachkov for establishing the chapter.

I enjoyed giving my presentation very much and garnered great research ideas because of the visit. Thanks also to Professor Mike Trick and to Thiago Serra for doing such a great job tweeting during my talk.

My full presentation can be downloaded here. It was extra special to be at CMU since John Nash received two degrees in Math (a Bachelor's and a Master's) from what was then the Carnegie Institute (and now CMU) before heading to Princeton for his PhD. I had a photo of Nash in my presentation because both of the noncooperative and cooperative game their models that we have been developing for cybersecurity investments utility his concepts.

Afterwards,  a student named Kara, came up to me to let me know that she is an NSF CyberCorps Scholar under its Scholarship for Service (SFS) program, which was exciting, since UMass Amherst recently received a $4.2 million NSF grant under the SFS program to educate both undergraduate and graduate students in cybersecurity. I was a Senior Personnel member on this grant and we now have a new Cybersecurity Institute, which is very exciting.

My host at lunch at a Middle Eastern restaurant was none other than INFORMS Fellow, and NAE member, Professor Jonathan Caulkins, whose work in drug policy and Operations Research has not only garnered numerous accolades but has also had wide impact in practice! The second edition of his book will be out next month and is being published by Oxford University Press. Chris Hendrickson told me that he has a Master's from Oxford, which made me feel great because within a month I will be there as a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College.

After lunch I met with Thiago Serra and the IFORS President, Associate Dean at Tepper, plus one of the greatest ambassadors that INFORMS and Operations Research has, Professor Mike Trick, who is an INFORMS Fellow and social media communicator extraordinaire!
I think that they both look very sharp in the photo above.

And through the window I got to see the site for the over $200 million new Tepper Business School building.

I had to have a photo taken with Thiago since great students are the future of our profession!

Thanks to the Heinz College and colleagues at CMU as well as students and staff for the great hospitality extended to me. It was a wonderful experience.

I got back to Amherst at 11:30PM Monday night from Carnegie Mellon and was greeted by a blanket of 4 inches of snow and 19 degree temperatures. Before 8AM the next morning I was back at the Isenberg School of Management getting ready to teach. Some ask me is the travel worth it and I reply - most definitely!