Thursday, November 15, 2018

Advising PhD Students - Insights from Panelists at INFORMS in Phoenix

I wish that some (many, frankly) sessions at the great INFORMS Conference in Phoenix, November 4-7, 2018 could have been recorded and placed online so that the information/knowledge could be captured and shared much more broadly.

For example, on November 6, bright and early, at 7:30AM, I had the pleasure of taking part in a panel under the auspices of  the Junior Faculty Interest Group (JFIG) of INFORMS on Advising PhD Students. I was very much looking forward to this panel - to hearing insights from the other panelists and also the questions from the audience and the discussions that would take place.

The other panelists were Professors Sergiy Butenko and Joe Geunes of Texas A&M.  The panel was organized by Professors Chrysafis Vogiatzis and Ehsan Salari, who are JFIG Officers. The full list of JFIG officers can be viewed here.
In the above photo are: Dr. Salari, Dr. Anahita Khojandi, the JFIG President, Dr. Geunes, Dr. Butenko, Dr. Vogiatzis, and yours truly.

The panel began with my presentation, followed by a presentation by Professor Geunes, and then one by Professor Butenko. My perspective was that of a Business School faculty member (although I have also supervised several dissertations from Engineering at UMass Amherst) and the other panelists provided their perspectives as Engineering faculty.  All of us have graduated over a dozen PhD students. My list of 20 PhD students, whose dissertation committees I have chaired, are featured below, thanks to the Mathematical Genealogy project.

In fact, when I was a junior faculty member, I approached Dr. Alexander Rinooy Kan of  The Netherlands and asked him what advice would he give me and he told me, as I have stated in the above slide: "build your network and do this by graduating PhD students." I mentioned in my talk that one of the greatest compliments that I have received was from a senior colleague at a top research university who said that most advisors graduate one or two very successful PhD students, and he was very impressed by how successful many of my former doctoral students are. Indeed, I am a very proud academic Mom, and, what thrills me, as well, is how many of my former doctoral students continue to work and publish with one another - even if they did not overlap as students! The camaraderie and esprit de corps I try to nurture through the Virtual Center for Supernetworks.

My full presentation can be downloaded here.

The panelists described how they supervise/manage their doctoral students and their research, how often they meet with their students, the importance of having students submit papers to journals during their doctoral studies, and even how doctoral students have "changed" over the years. Different panelists noted that they give different degrees of  "freedom" to their doctoral students in terms of topic and research directions, with some beginning as "macromanagers" and then moving to "micromanaging." The coursework, major milestone exam requirements, and teaching requirements at business schools versus engineering schools, were also highlighted as well as how to nurture a student's strengths and how to overcome weaknesses. It was clear that the panelists' experiences with their doctoral dissertation advisors influenced how they mentor/supervise their own students now.

Audience questions ranged from how a faculty member learns to keep a professional distance, despite youth, and the order of authors on a publication.

I personally believe - and this I emphasized in my presentation - that doctoral students need to develop/grow their skill sets not only in terms of research expertise but also their teaching and service skills (including leadership skills). As for the development of service skills, I emphasized the opportunities provided by the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, whether in hosting speakers, or even organizing social events and field trips. In fact, officer activities often comes up when students are on the academic job market. To be a successful academic who have to be able to perform at a very high level in all areas of research, teaching, and service (with service to a lesser extent early in one's career).

The panelists clearly showed the passion that they have in supervising doctoral students and even emphasized that they consider this to be their most important role as faculty members.

And the panel organizers even presented the panelists with a JFIG mug - many thanks for organizing this interesting panel and also for the thoughtfulness!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Thoroughly Enjoyed Giving the Omega Rho Plenary Lecture - Networks to Save the World: Operations Research (OR) in Action

Professor Tim Anderson, the President of the Omega Rho Society, with an illustrious board, had reached out to me many months ago and shared with me that it was being  recommended that I be the 2018 Omega Rho Distinguished Lecturer. This would involve giving a plenary address at the INFORMS 2018 meeting in Phoenix, November 4-7. I was greatly honored and delighted and was subsequently officially notified (after further approvals) by the conference organizing committee and the plenary and keynote chairs. The general chair of this year's conference was Dr. Young-Jun Son, Professor and Head of the Systems and Industrial Engineering Department at the University of Arizona, who deserves kudos!

The list of previous Omega Rho plenary speakers can be viewed here and it is truly a list of luminaries. I have had the pleasure of being at several of these distinguished lectures over the years.

I would be standing on the "shoulders of giants" so I wanted to deliver a talk that would be inspiring, from the heart, very informative; one that I would enjoy giving and that the audience would enjoy as well! The title that I selected was: Networks to Save the World: OR in Action. This was an exceptional INFORMS conference for numerous reasons, including  the number of female plenary and keynote speakers.

I had worked on my presentation over many weeks, giving it a lot of thought and effort and was very excited for the opportunity to share experiences and insights with operations research and analytics colleagues from around the globe, from students to very senior colleagues.

After a full day of travel on Saturday, I was very "pumped" for my talk at 3:10PM (my body clock said it was 6:10PM). It was extra special to see so many of our UMass Amherst Isenberg School of Management PhD alumni and also College of Engineering alumni showing up early to welcome me in the big ballroom. It was also great to have two of my present doctoral students, Deniz Besik and Pritha Dutta, come with backups of my talk and they also served as photographers.
 Professor Tim Anderson gave a very warm introduction and then it was time for my lecture!
I had to acknowledge the work of my dissertation advisor at Brown University, Professor Stella Dafermos, depicted in the above slide. I also included in my talk the awesome academic pedigree that I am part of - thanks to the Mathematics academic genealogy project with the outstanding scientists: Maxwell, going back to Newton, and even Galileo, being part of my academic genealogy.

In my talk, I discussed many application of networks from transportation and the Braess paradox to perishable product supply chains from food to healthcare to disaster relief and even our project on Future Internet Architecture, known as ChoiceNet.
After my presentation, I had many questions, and it was thrilling to have members of the audience come up to chat. I can't thank everyone personally, but I do want to say that I am extremely appreciative. I am also very grateful for the thoughtful gift presented to me after my lecture by Professor Tim Anderson and INFORMS! Special thanks to the INFORMS staff who came to my plenary talk and for their kind comments that they enjoyed it very much.
As promised, I have posted the slides from my Omega Rho plenary talk on the Supernetwork Center website.

A big thanks to Zulqarnain Haider for writing a blogpost on my plenary on the conference website.

After the plenary, it was time for an editorial board meeting and then I wrapped up a perfect day by hosting my doctoral students (both past and present) who had made it to the conference by Sunday (others were coming on subsequent days) for dinner.
In the above photo are: Dr. Jose Cruz, Dr. Shivani Shukla, Dr. Min Yu, Dr. Amir Masoumi, Deniz Besik, Pritha Dutta, Dr. Dmytro Matsypura, who traveled all the way from Sydney, Australia, and even brought his doctoral student, Jessica. It was her first INFORMS conference and her first scholarly presentation.

The past, present, and future of OR are a powerful network of scholarship and community! I am so lucky to be part of INFORMS and this fabulous profession.