Saturday, July 13, 2019

World Congress on Global Optimization in France and a Special Surprise

I returned last evening from Europe, having spent the past three weeks at conferences and transit points between. During this period I had the pleasure of being in 8 different countries. I delivered 2 conference presentations (in Dublin and in Kalamata, Greece), 1 tutorial (in Dublin), spoke on 2 panels (also in Dublin), presented at IBM Dublin, and also gave a plenary talk at the World Congress on Global Optimization (WCGO) in Metz, France. I blogged about the EURO 2019 Conference in Dublin and also about the Dynamics of Disasters conference that I had co-organized in Kalamata (yes, like the olives).

I thoroughly enjoyed all these conferences from the large, with over 2,000 delegates, EURO Dublin conference to the smaller Dynamics of Disasters conference and the mid-sized WCGO.
WCGO began with an opening remarks. The timetable for the conference can be downloaded here.
The plenary talk that I gave at  the WCGO was in the Constantin Caratheodory Prize session. This year I was tremendously honored and humbled and surprised to be the recipient of the 2019 Constantin Caratheodory Prize, along with Professor Anatoly Zhigljavsky of Cardiff University in Wales. More information about the prize and the previous recipients of this prize can be found on the International Society of Global Optimization website. As I said in my acceptance speech, I am standing on the shoulders of giants. I am very grateful to the Chair of the Prize Committee, Distinguished University Professor Panos M. Pardalos of the University of Florida (and former recipient of this and many other prizes), and to all the committee members for this truly distinctive honor. In the photo below, I am standing with, from l-r: Professor Yaroslav Sergeyev, a member of the prize committee, Professor Zhigljavsky, and Professor Panos M. Pardalos. Professor Sergeyev is also President of the International Society of Global Optimization.

A nice article on the prize was published by UMass Amherst - thank you! I very much appreciate the congratulatory messages that I have been receiving from faculty and staff  at my university and many other faculty and even former students from around the globe!

I have posted my plenary talk because it is on a very timely topic and on research conducted with one of my doctoral students, Deniz Besik, and other collaborators.
The WCGO was an intellectual (and social) feast with plenary talks given by renowned researchers, beginning on the first day with a breathtaking plenary by Pardalos on networks and brain research with applications to epilepsy and Parkinson's,  to a very dynamic, fascinating last day plenary by Professor Sergiy Butenko of Texas A&M University. Butenko, who is the Editor of the Journal of Global Optimization, spoke on his unifying framework for network analysis and cliques with applications ranging from social networks to material science! To have the opportunity to listen to these and such plenary speakers as Professor Ben-Tal of Israel, Professor Immmanuel Bomze of Austria (who is also the President of EURO and I had had the pleasure of seeing him at EURO Dublin), Professor Fukushima of Japan, and Professor Zhigljavsky of the UK, was simply fabulous!

Below I have posted a few photos from the talks of several of the plenary speakers.
Thanks to the organizers for taking the group photo of all the delegates below - a very happy group, I must say!

It was wonderful to have joint coffee breaks, delicious lunches served us, and a truly exceptional banquet, at which I had so much fun, I woke up twice the night afterwards laughing because of the stories and jokes exchanged.
I met researchers from so many different countries at WCGO, including: Botswana, Benin, Algeria, Israel, Morocco, Iran, Italy, Germany, Ireland, the UK, USA, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Poland, India, Japan, among others, and even Kazakhstan! I had to take the group photo at the banquet with researchers from that country and a friend - so many women, which was great and even a rector of a university there!
It was also a delight to see Professor Christine Shoemaker, formerly of Cornell University, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, who is now a faculty member in Singapore, at WCGO.
This was truly a World Congress on Global Optimization and I thank the organizers for an outstanding experience with new friendships made, and new research ideas generated. As a colleague from Germany said to me: this was a conference that we enjoyed not only great scientific exchanges but we also met wonderful new colleagues!

And, at the onset of the conference in France, the US women's soccer team won the World Cup - simply perfect!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

The Dynamics of Disasters Conference in Greece and Multidisciplinary Perspectives

After the fabulous EURO Conference in Dublin, Ireland, which I wrote about in my previous blogpost, I journeyed to Kalamata, Greece with a stopover in London and then Vienna.

Along with my outstanding colleagues, Professors Panos M. Pardalos of the University of Florida and Ilias S. Kotsireas of Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada, I had organized another Dynamics of Disasters conference in Kalamata, Greece, July 1-5, 2019.  I'd like to also take this opportunity to congratulate Professor Pardalos on his receipt of the Humboldt Research Award. He was recently recognized in a ceremony with other Humboldt recipients in Berlin by Angela Merkel and the President of Germany!

The importance of multidisciplinary perspectives in all phases of disaster management from preparedness and mitigation to response was vividly illustrated at this conference by speakers from many different countries.
Kalamata is located on the Mediterranean sea and it is not an easy location to get to, but the beauty of the venue, as well as the fascinating scientific exchanges and discussions on a theme of great importance, made the travel worthwhile for everyone. The conference took place at the Elite Resort hotel in Kalamata. Below are some photos taken at the conference site and the immediately surrounding area. The local organizer was Sofia Papadaki, to whom thanks are extended!

The two previous such conferences that I also co-organized with Pardalos and Kotsireas resulted in two edited volumes published by Springer. Many of the chapters are enjoying multiple downloads and I have used several in the course: Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare that I teach at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.
The delegates at this Dynamics of Disasters conference came from the USA, Canada, Greece, Italy, Poland, Germany, Korea, Japan, Russia, and Nepal, resulting in a very international experience and also an intense one since there is only a single track of talks. Below is a group photo taken at the conference venue of the delegates.

Professor Stephan Pickl of Germany, who is Chair of Operations Research at the Universit√§t der Bundeswehr M√ľnchen, delivered an excellent lecture on a Smart Optimization Framework SARA, emphasizing the hyperconnectivity of critical infrastructure networks and stochastic elements. He is a renowned disaster management expert and involved in policy making as well in Germany.
Dr. Matsuno of Japan presented an excellent talk on the use of gaming on smart phones to inform and educate about disasters in Tokyo, including floods. There was also an excellent presentation on a course on emergency management developed by Dr. Assael, a chemical engineer from Greece, with input from students, and presentations on elegant network models for evacuation by Dr. Urmila Pyakurel of Nepal and colleagues and by her student Hari Nandan Nath. The use of DEA in regions for Russia for coping with disasters was presented by Sergiy Demin on work done with Dr. Fouad Aleskerov, and a description of the Global Resilience Institute at Northeastern University in Massachusetts was described by Dr. Steven Flynn. A talk on disaster management at mass gatherings with a focus on the Athens Marathon was delivered by Dr. Angeliki Bistariki.

Professor Theodore Trafalis of the University of Oklahoma delivered an outstanding tutorial on machine learning for imbalanced data with applications to severe weather predication, including tornadoes.
It was a pleasure to listen to the very innovative and important research being conducted by colleagues in Italy, including that of Dr. Ugo Fiore and Salvatore Scognamiglio and colleagues, on the prevention of geological disasters, with even the use of a large-scale dataset on China.
The audience was very engaged and new friendships made and networks established.
It was fabulous to meet Dr. Steven Flynn, the founding director of the Global Resilience Institute at Northeastern University in Massachusetts.
Another wonderful, unexpected delight was to hear Dr. Angeliki Bistariki speak. She is a nurse and a PhD and, in her presentation on mass gatherings and the Athens Marathon, she had a video from our local news station in western Massachusetts - WWLP, moderated by Barry Krieger on how MEMA prepares for the Boston Marathon!
I mentioned in our discussions that I had hosted a MEMA official in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class last semester, Ms. Sara Zalieckas, who was responsible for safety at the 2019 Boston Marathon. My blogpost on her brilliant guest lecture can be viewed here.

It was also terrific to hear the talk by Dr. Georgios Tsaples and colleagues on system dynamics modeling of the consequences of extreme weather conditions on traffic in the city of Thessaloniki, Greece. There were even insights as to modal choice and use (or not) of public transportation following.
Stamatis Papangelou reported on his research on land property data logging on a blockchain ledger, which is very innovative and enables the assessment of land property for the risk of natural disasters.
Below are photos taken with Professor Pardalos and his son, Akis (whom we have had the pleasure of seeing at numerous conferences around the globe), and with Professor Ilias Kotsireas and the "other" Professor Nagurney - my husband, along with conference assistants.
The structure of the conference included time for coffee breaks, nice meals, some touring, and a banquet with a view of the Mediterranean Sea.
This was our third time in Kalamata, Greece, and we were quite impressed by how much the surrounding area seems to have improved economically with new shops, restaurants, and many happy families strolling in the evening when the ocean breezes from the Mediterranean cooled off the area. Nice to even see bicycle lanes downtown.
I would be remiss not to mention the quality of the food in Kalamata - the fruits and vegetables are some of the most delicious ones I have ever eaten!
I have made my talk on game theory and disaster relief, co-authored with my doctoral student Mojtaba Salarpour and Professor Patrizia Daniele of the University of Catania, available for download to further discussions.

And, today, we took another group photo of those who were still able to be with us.
Special thanks to Professors Pardalos and Kotsireas as well as to Sofia Papadaki, and to all the delegates to our Dynamics of Disasters conference, for making it such a success. Best of luck with your continuing research!