Saturday, December 17, 2016

Operations Research Party Logistics

Now is that great time of the year when there are a lot of holiday parties including end of the semester parties.

For those of us in academia it is also that time of the year for final projects and papers and final exams and lots of grading.

So one has to be extra efficient and to optimize. Of course, Operations Research is the way to go!

In the last week alone there have been 4 parties to go to and one we were actually involved in helping to organize and that was the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter party that took place at the Isenberg School of Management on December 9.  It is challenging enough putting on a great party when it is at your home but when it is at another location (our business school) plus the temperature is in the teens with a strong wind blowing that certainly adds to the drama. You want to make sure that the hot food arrives hot and that your cookies don't get blown away!

The students, especially the Chapter Officers, did a wonderful job walking around and inviting faculty and staff personally to come. That special touch adds a lot. They also did an excellent job of demand forecasting. I admit there have been times in the past that by 5PM (with the party beginning at 4:30PM) the food was almost gone but not this year. They also produced and circulated the nice announcement below.

Not all of our operations research and management science students have cars so that is also a challenge but, luckily, they can usually find one or two volunteers ready to solve the Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP) and find the best route for picking up the orders. I always make great use of network project planning techniques such as the Critical Path Method.

Plus, this year's President, Pritha Dutta, has good connections with pizza parlors, and is a trusted customer, and one delivered huge, piping hot pizzas to the Isenberg School for our party.  The pizza went really fast especially the one with tortilla chips on it!

I always say that life in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts is foodie heaven with places such as Whole Foods, Big Y, Atkins, a Turkish market, among other grocery stores and in the summertime - outdoor farmers' markets.  My doctoral student, Deniz Besik, a fellow foodie, and researcher of food supply chains, made sure that there were fruit and veggies on the menu. Plus, this year we had a lot to celebrate! The UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter received the Cum Laude Award from INFORMS (its 11th award in as many consecutive years), and I was so happy to receive the  Distinguished Volunteer Service Award, so we had chocolate cake!

Although it was the end of the semester with extra meetings and office hours, I had to bake for the party and brought a lot of my cookies, with some favorites being Swedish cookies, which always bring me back to Gothenburg, a city in Sweden that I love (besides Stockholm and several others).

And, as is our tradition, varenyky (pierogies) filled with potatoes and cheese, and cabbage mushroom ones, along with kielbasy (all hot), we also brought. Thank goodness there was a parking spot right in front of the Isenberg School that day because in some years I have marched with trays of food for our parking lot as students ran out to help me.

Of course, the ambience for the party is important and we have our favorite location in the Isenberg School, Room 112, for it. The students have music in the background and a slide show of our activities. It is an exceptional way in which to relax, catch up with faculty, students, and staff in a very hospitable and warm environment with great food! Everyone leaves well-nourished, relaxed, and energized, and we share the photos that we take, although sometimes we talk so much we don't take as many photos as we would like.

A special thanks to the faculty who came not only from the Isenberg School on a frigid Friday in December but also from the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and the Department of Civil Engineering from the other side of the sprawling UMass Amherst campus! We even had some family members, including a grandmother from Ukraine. Your support of students and operations research / management science is very meaningful and appreciated.

When I looked at all the students in attendance from countries such as the US, India, Turkey, China, Singapore, Mexico,  Greece, Egypt (but now a US citizen), and even Mongolia, and these are just the ones that I had a chance to speak to in person, I see that there is hope in our United Nations of operations researchers and management scientists!

Happy final exams and Holidays to everyone!