Friday, March 29, 2024

It Was Great to Be Back at MIT to Speak on Agricultural Supply Chain Networks and Trade Policies

This past Tuesday I had the pleasure of speaking at MIT at the Center for Transportation and Logistics in its seminar series. I'd like to thank Austin Iglesias Saragih for the invitation to speak. The title of my presentation was: Agricultural Supply Chain Networks: Trade, Policies, and Resilience.

In my seminar, I first highlighted research that we had done on food supply chains over the past decade with collaborators: Min Yu, Deniz Besik, and Pritha Dutta (all of whom were my former PhD students, and now are thriving as Professors), and, more recently, with my present PhD student Dana Hassani and collaborators at the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE) Professor Oleg Nivievskyi and Dr. Pavlo Martyshev. 

In my presentation, I did a deep dive into the paper, "Exchange Rates and Multicommodity International Trade: Insights from Spatial Price Equilibrium Modeling with Policy Instruments via Variational Inequalities," Anna Nagurney, Dana Hassani, Oleg Nivievskyi, and Pavlo Martyshev, Journal of Global Optimization 87: (2023), pp 1-30.

The paper was the lead article in the volume and was also displayed at the INFORMS Phoenix conference. In the below photo I am standing next to the journal Editor, Professor Sergiy Butenko, and my PhD student Dana Hassani. The Springer editors Razia Amzad and Christian Rauscher are next to Dana.

I also discussed some results from my Labor and Supply Chain Networks book.

I am very grateful to the audience for the excellent questions and discussions and to Austin for handling the logistics of my visit. 

It was also extra special to have one of my former students, Emilio Alvarez Flores, who is now pursuing an MBA at Sloan at MIT, come to my presentation. In addition, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Dr. Elenna Dugundji, who is a Research Scientist at the Center for Transportation ad Logistics at MIT.

My talk was also streamed on Zoom (which I had not been informed of). It was great to see MIT faculty Zooming in and others from different locations, including Georgia Tech.

It was terrific to be back at MIT. Coincidentally, the Center for Transportation and Logistics (CTL) is located at 1 Amherst Street in Cambridge so I felt right at home. I had spent 2 years at MIT and recall when the OR Center was also located there.

In my presentation, I discussed the importance of alternative routes and appropriate policies for agricultural trade with a focus on the impacts of Russia's war on Ukraine and, that night, as we all know, the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore collapsed after being hit by the cargo ship Dali. I had multiple requests for media interviews but had to decline because of my presentation and meetings at MIT. Lo and behold, whom did I see on the TV news, a few hours afterwards - none other than the Director of CTL, Professor Yossi Sheffi! He had hugged me when he saw me at MIT, something his PhD students told me they have never seen him do before. Professor Sheffi was also my host when I had an NSF Visiting Professorship for Women at MIT and I spent my first year at CTL, which was then located in Building 1.

The slide deck of my seminar presentation is posted on the Supernetwork Center website.

I had previously given a seminar at MIT in December 2015 and was hosted by Professor Carolina Osorio, who is no longer at MIT. She and Professor Jim Orlin joined us for dinner after my talk and Professor Orlin even Zoomed into my presentation this past Tuesday. My blogpost with photos from that visit can be accessed here.

That evening, I stopped by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (RIAS) at Harvard University, where I has been a Science Fellow in 2005-2006. The Fellows that year included Professor Claudia Goldin, who in 2023 received the Nobel Prize in Economics. I had been back to RIAS as a Summer Fellow twice since then.

And to celebrate being back in Cambridge, we enjoyed a delicious Amareno gelato topped by a chocolate macaron.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Reflection on the 2nd Anniversary of Russia's Full Scale Invasion of Ukraine

Hard to believe that it has been two years since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a sovereign nation in Europe, on February 24, 2022.

Ukraine and Ukrainians in Russia's illegal, unprovoked war have endured an immense toll in terms of suffering, lives lost, injuries sustained, families separated, plus damages to critical infrastructure, homes, educational institutions, healthcare facilities, cultural institutions, agricultural facilities and land, as well as to nature and the environment. The Ukrainian economy has suffered immensely, exacerbating global food insecurity since Ukraine is known as a breadbasket with its rich chernozem (black soil) and is a big producer of wheat, corn, and sunflower seeds.

Ukrainians everywhere have been affected by this horrific war, which  has also resulted in millions of displaced people. All those on our planet who value freedom, safety, civility, and, of course, democracy continue to be amazed by the courage, tenacity and resilience of Ukrainians and their love for their country.

Incredibly, we are also marking the almost 2 year anniversary of the historic partnership between the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) and the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE). In such historic, very challenging times, one does what one can and UMass Amherst has been visionary in establishing this partnership, so soon after the full-scale invasion. It endures and is flourishing.

In the past year, 15 Virtual Scholars in Ukraine, through this partnership, have worked with Faculty Hosts at UMass Amherst (9 of them based in the Isenberg School of Management). Our collaborations across the miles have synergized research, have built friendships, and have resulted in significant research publications plus conference presentations. 

Just last week, we hosted the second visit of the President of KSE, Dr. Tymofiy Mylovanov, who gave an outstanding presentation on leading his university in wartime. And last spring, we organized a symposium featuring the Virtual Scholars and their Faculty Hosts with the Rector of KSE, Dr. Tymofii Brik, also in attendance. Plus, he delivered a seminar.

What has been truly remarkable this year, is that 4 exchange students from KSE joined us at UMass Amherst. It has been a delight to get to know them and I am deeply grateful to Isenberg School Dean Anne P. Massey for even hosting a lunch in their honor.

And the exchange students spoke on a panel at the Isenberg School about their experiences.

Listen to their interview and be inspired.

Thanks to all who have been instrumental in the success of our partnership from the top administrators to Faculty Hosts and also to the students of the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, who have provided their energy and thoughtfulness in helping us to organize many events. 

Last year, I wrote a reflection on the 1 year anniversary.

There has been media coverage of many of our activities and events and we are grateful for the coverage and for getting the messages out. For some examples, please see various postings on the Supernetwork Center website.

A collection of relevant videos can be accessed here.

Some of our research publications with Ukrainian colleagues can be found here.

It has been extremely meaningful for me to have served as a Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of KSE for almost 2 years now as well as being a member of its Board of Directors and International Academic Board with truly amazing colleagues for over half a decade now.

Sustaining institutions of higher education in Ukraine is of the utmost importance and I am so proud of the work that UMass Amherst is doing in this regard. Special thanks go out to my amazing Dean Anne P. Massey and to the Director of our International Programs Office and Vice Provost for Global Affairs Dr. Kalpen Trivedi for their terrific leadership as well as to the support provide by Provost Dr. Mike Malone.

It is high time that all democratic nations give Ukraine everything that it needs in order for it to be able to defeat the evil invaders and occupiers. The future of our planet and our way of life depend on it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Higher Ed Leadership In Ukraine in Wartime - KSE President Tymofiy Mylovanov

This past Monday, we had the honor and pleasure of hosting Dr. Tymofiy Mylovanov, the President of the Kyiv School of Economics in Ukraine, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This was his second visit to UMass Amherst - his first was on February 22, 2023. 

His visit was very timely, as was his lecture,  since we are approaching the second anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

Mylovanov had sent me a message just a few days before his arrival saying that he would like to visit and speak and, despite multiple logistical hurdles and scheduling issues, we made it work.

Leading a university is extremely challenging and leading one in wartime, with success, is extraordinary.

I have had the great honor of serving as a Co-Chair of the KSE of Board of Directors, having been elected shortly after the full-scale invasion. But my relationship with KSE has been over half a decade, since I also serve on its International Academic Board and its Board of Directors. Also, back in March 2022, UMass Amherst and KSE established a partnership, which has further synergized our connections, and is now supporting both exchange students from KSE as well as Virtual Scholars in Ukraine (we will be starting the second round soon) to reduce brain drain.

The leadership exhibited by KSE President Mylovanov is one characterized by: immense care for the safety of his students, faculty and staff; agility in creating new degree programs at KSE; talent in connecting with thought leaders and disseminating the needs and accomplishments of KSE to donors, stakeholders, and the world at large; expanding KSE to include a business school, and supporting the outstanding KSE Institute, which produces many white papers and studies of relevance in wartime that are regularly cited by international media,  plus growing the KSE Charitable Foundation to assist in the financing of humanitarian endeavors in Ukraine. Such important activities require steadfastness, great intelligence, resilience, and ability to get data and information quickly. It also requires innovation and associated thinking under immense pressures and even danger.

What also truly inspires me is his understanding of the importance of not only face to face education but also visiting supporters and donors and advocating for KSE and Ukraine in person.

Below is a photo of Dr. Mylovanov presenting at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst this past Monday.

UMass Amherst issued this nice press release announcing his talk. The UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, in turn, prepared this nice poster, and the students, along with the International Programs Office at UMass and the Isenberg School helped with the logistics.

During his visit, Dr. Mylovanov met with top university administrators, faculty, and students, and also had a chance to chat with guests. At the meeting with the Provost, the VCRE, and the Director of our International Programs Office, Dr. Mylovanov made a statement that I found vey moving and, also, informative. He said that we all will die, so we need to identify what will be our legacy. His, he believes, is building up the Kyiv School of Economics and that is "his mile." He also, when asked, responded to the challenges of being a public persona. He is, above his educational leadership role, also a frequent guest on CNN, BBC and other media and news platforms. He said that he plays a public role because he believes that there are positives and, I believe, his sharing of information and commentary is beneficial not only to KSE but also to those interested in Ukraine around the globe.

I was thrilled to have him emphasize the importance of the partnership between UMass Amherst and KSE and its highly original model of supporting both students, as through the exchange program, and also research since Virtual Scholars in Ukraine are partnered with Faculty Hosts at UMass Amherst. Last year, for example, there were 9 Virtual Scholars in Ukraine working with faculty at the Isenberg School, and 15 Scholars total placed with UMass faculty. We have organized  joint symposia, and have published terrific journal articles and have also had multiple conference presentations based on the collaborations across the miles. The friendships that have been made support the researchers in Ukraine and are enriching to those of us who have the honor of working with them. Some additional information on the partnership can be found here.

Below is a photo of KSE President Mylovanov with two of our KSE exchange students after the lunch on Monday.

The attendance at his presentation at the Isenberg School was excellent, despite a short notice, and also a last minute room change.

The UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter conducted an interview with Dr. Mylovanov and a gift was presented to him. We will let you know when the interview is posted on the Chapter's youtube channel.

It was wonderful to have discussions with him over lunch and dinner and I am very grateful to all the administrators who made time in their very busy schedules to meet with us.

There will be additional media coverage, but many thanks to Daniella Pikman for her article on Dr. Mylovanov's presentation published already in the Daily Collegian.

Below is a collage of photos capturing the highlights of Mylovanov's visit. Thanks to all who took part. And, with a pending snowstorm, we managed to find him a hotel next to Bradley Airport and he caught a 6AM flight to DC on Tuesday morning (his 10AM flight had been cancelled) and made his meetings there in time. Quite a few neighboring universities were closed on Tuesday but not UMass Amherst.

Thanks to KSE President Tymofiy Mylovanov for the extraordinary leadership of KSE in Ukraine! Information on KSE is here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Honored to Have Played a Part in Influencing National Policy on Blood Supply Chains

For quite a few years, my research group and I have been very engaged in studying and writing about blood supply chains. Blood is a unique product that is life-saving and that cannot be produced but must be donated.

Our work on blood supply chains is part of our broader work on perishable product supply chains and we even wrote a book on the topic that was published a decade ago.

During this festive time of the year with the holiday season, there are also often blood shortages, and, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was greatly concerned about the shortages. One day after the WHO declared the pandemic, I published my article, "How coronavirus is upsetting the blood supply chain," in The Conversation. The article was reprinted on multiple news sites, from Live Science to Salon. 

I am deeply humbled and honored that my article on blood shortages in the COVID-19 pandemic, has influenced national policy not once, but twice. On March 31, 2023, 22 Attorneys General signed a memo to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Robert Califf, and my article was cited first

The full memorandum can be accessed here.

Therein is also a citation to the April 22, 2020 memo from 20 Attorneys General, including Maura Healey, now our Massachusetts Governor, to the Honorable Admiral Brett Giroir, MD, at that time the Assistant Secretary for Health, with my article also as the first citation.

On May 11, 2023, the FDA finalized individual risk assessment guidelines for blood donation eligibility. 

In my discipline of Operations Research, as well as in Economics, we try to "Do Good" to improve social welfare and well-being. The tools that we use include analytical techniques, mathematical models, research studies, and, of course, education of students. However, as I often state in invited conference talks and seminars that I give,  it is also critical to get results out where they can be applied.

That is why I continue to write essays and OpEds that can reach a broader community, as my article on blood shortages has.

 I am very glad that the American Red Cross has now adopted a more inclusive blood donation policy, following the FDA recommendations.

 More blood centers are following the FDA revised guidelines with this article, appearing just a few days ago on the PBS News Hour, noting other blood centers following suit, including one in the Pacific Northwest. The donors, who can now give blood, are grateful and, I am sure, the recipients are as well.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Congratulations and Kudos - Virtual Center for Supernetworks in 2023

As the Founding Director of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks, which was established at the Isenberg School in 2001 (shortly before 9/11), I find it important, as another year draws to a close, to reflect upon the achievements of the Center and its Associates during these challenging times.

2023 was a remarkable year, in which we celebrated 15 Virtual Scholars in Ukraine, part of the UMass Amherst - Kyiv School of Economics (KSE) partnership. In the spring 2023, we had the honor and pleasure of helping to host the visit of the President of KSE, Dr. Tymofiy Mylovanov in February and the visit of the Rector of KSE, Dr. Tymofii Brik, in May, at which we also took part in a symposium featuring faculty hosts at UMass Amherst and the Virtual Scholars in Ukraine. Many thanks to the International Programs Office at UMass Amherst, including Vice Provost for Global Affairs Dr. Kalpen Trivedi, and to the Isenberg School and the Provost's Office for the outstanding support of this very important program that helps to reduce brain drain from Ukraine.

For the EJOR paper, "Multicommodity International Agricultural Trade Network Equilibrium: Competition for Limited Production and Transportation Capacity Under Disaster Scenarios with Implications for Food Security," Dana received the inaugural prize from my OIM department, for this A level publication with a monetary award of $750. In May, 2023, Center Associates Professors Deniz Besik and Pritha Dutta and I published the paper, "An Integrated Multitiered Supply Chain Network Model of Competing Agricultural Firms and Processing Firms: The Case of Fresh Produce and Quality," in EJOR.

And, with Professor Elena Besedina of KSE, we published a paper in Operations Research Forum. Much of our research with colleagues in Ukraine focuses on agricultural supply chains and impacts of Russia's war on them with the importance of alternative routes for exports quantified as well as the use of various policies for international trade enhancement.

We welcomed a new Center Associate, Dr. Gabriela Colajanni, with whom, and with Center Associates Professor Patrizia Daniele and Professor Ladimer S. Nagurney, we have been actively publishing on UAVs (drones).

Our research papers can be found on the Supernetwork Center website.

In addition, as part of the partnership, UMass Amherst welcomed 4 female undergraduate students from KSE! We hosted a special panel with them through the auspices of the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter and there is now even a video of an additional interview posted on the chapter's youtube channel. It has been an extraordinary experience interacting with these remarkable ambassadors for Ukraine as they enjoy their experiences at UMass Amherst very much. Our great Isenberg School Dean Anne P. Massey even hosted a lunch in their honor.

And, this past summer, I had the honor of co-organizing another Dynamics of Disasters (DOD) conference, which took place in Piraeus, Greece, and attracted conferees from many different countries. We are now in the process of editing the Proceedings volume. 

Speaking of books, I was thrilled that my Labor and Supply Chain Networks was published by Springer in 2023. It's wonderful to see al the libraries that now carry it.

Shortly after the DOD conference, and with a lovely meeting with Center Associate Professor Patrizia Daniele and her family in Madrid, I headed to the IFORS conference in Santiago, at which I delivered a keynote talk. It was wonderful to see colleagues from around the globe at this conference.

INFORMS in Phoenix served as a reunion for several of us, and it was wonderful to see Center Associates Professors Deniz Besik, Dmytro Matsypura, and Shivani Shukla there with Professor Zugang Liu also taking part. At this conference the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter was recognized with the Magna Cum Laude Award. I have had the honor of serving as the chapter's Faculty Advisor since 2004, whehn the chapter was established.

And big congratulations are in order to Center Associates Shivani Shukla and Dong "Michelle" Li, both of whom were recognized with promotion and tenure this year at their respective institutions of the University of San Francisco and Babson College.

Congratulations also to Center Associate Sara Saberi of  WPI, who was appointed the Norton Assistant Professor in 2023.

We continue to be very engaged with the media - some of our writings can be found here and interviews here.

For photos of various Center activities please see

Thank you for the support. Let's work together to make 2024 a better year than 2023 with all the pain and suffering now on our planet.

Saturday, December 2, 2023

News Coverage on Our Latest Research

Real world events inform the research of my group at the Supernetwork Center at the Isenberg School of Management, that I founded in 2001 and continue to direct. 

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have continued to model and solve a spectrum of supply chain network problems that have been affected by various disruptions, which now, sadly, for almost 2 years, have also included major disruptions to agricultural trade caused by Russia's full-scale war on Ukraine. Our research, documented in journal articles and book chapters, has continued to quantify the impacts of labor shortages and security issues and blockages associated with transportation, production capacity limitations, along with the repercussions of Russia pulling out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. We have also investigated the impacts of numerous trade policies from tariffs to quotas and have been heavily focusing on agricultural and food supply chains and associated food insecurity.

Our research on agricultural supply chains and international trade has been enriched by our collaborations with scholars in Ukraine, through the unique, outstanding partnership between UMass Amherst and the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE) that I have blogged about.

It is very much appreciated when the research that we are involved in gets attention from the news media. 

UMass Amherst issued this release on the paper, "Ukraine – Addressing the domestic humanitarian crisis and the effects of the war on global food systems,"  that I was deeply honored to contribute to and which was presented by my KSE colleague, Professor Oleg Nivievskyi, at the Vatican in May at the Workshop on Food and Humanitarian Crises. The paper can be directly accessed here.

Also, the University World News published a very moving article by Nathan M. Greenfield: "Partnership with US scholars helps to keep Ukraine HE alive." 

In the article,  Greenfield notes our paper, "Multicommodity international agricultural trade network equilibrium: Competition for limited production and transportation capacity under disaster scenarios with implications for food security, "  just published in the European Journal of Operational Research and done with my Isenberg School PhD student Dana Hassani and KSE scholars: Professor Oleg Nivievskyi and Dr. Pavlo Martyshev. 

In addition, the article in University World News discusses the recent paper I wrote with KSE Professor Elena Besedina, "A multicommodity spatial price equilibrium model with exchange rates and non-tariff measures for agri-food international trade," which was published in Operations Research Forum.

Preprints of the above papers, as well as others of our research group can be found on the Supernetworks Center site.

Collaborations across continents during wartime help to reduce brain drain and also deepen the research insights. Very grateful for the collaborations with scholars in Ukraine, which continue. Giving enhanced visibility to scholars in Ukraine provides valuable professional and psychological support during very challenging times.

Many thanks  for the news coverage!

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Writing a Professional Obituary is Hard, Writing One for a Friend, Very Hard

The past few years  have been  difficult ones, with many losing friends and loved ones.

As an academic, I have been very blessed to have colleagues around the globe that I consider to be friends, and some are close collaborators. Also, as an academic, I have been inspired by the work of top scholars, and have enjoyed interactions with them.

The bigger your network is, the more frequently you grieve those that pass away.

This year, in April, I lost a friend at the age of 42, Professor Urmila Pyakurel of Nepal. She had communicated with me only 3 days before dying. Urmila was an extraordinary researcher on networks, focusing on evacuation networks. She was also an educator and a mentor,  and a Full Professor of Mathematics. She was the youngest of 12 children and had to overcome immense challenges to reach the Professor level in academia.

                                       Professor Urmila Pyakurel

A way in academia that we can honor a scholar, who has passed away, is by writing a professional obituary.

I wrote an obituary of Urmila with Professor Tanka Nath Dhamala of Tribhuvan University, who was her "doctor father." The obituary has now been published in the journal Operations Research Forum in the December 2023 issue. A preprint is available here. 

Included in this professional obituary are remembrances by: Dr. Enno Aufderheide, Secretary General, Alexander von  Humboldt Foundation, Professor Stephan Dempe,TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Dr. Hari Nandan Nath,Tribhuvan University, which was Urmila's home institution,  Mr. Durga Prasad Khanal, also of Tribhuvan University, and Dr. Naba Raj Lamsal, Former Director of  Radio Nepal, and BBC correspondent. We also included my remembrance. I had met Urmila in 2019 at a Dynamics of Disasters conference in Kalamata, Greece that I had co-organized with Professors Panos M. Pardalos and Ilias S. Kotsireas. Her warmth and intellect I found inspiring.                        

  Some of the conferees at the 2019 Dynamic of Disasters conference in Greece (Professor Urmila is in the photo above with the red bag.)

The first professional obituary I ever wrote (and remember - many journalists are "trained" by writing obituaries), and this one was also very, very difficult to write, was for my PhD dissertation advisor at Brown University, Professor Stella Dafermos, who passed away at age 49. I was her first PhD student. The obituary was published in the journal Operations Research. Stella was one of the very few in Operations Research honored in this way upon passing. I also wrote an In Memoriam for Stella with MIT Professor Amedeo Odoni, which was published in Transportation Science.

Stella chaired my PhD dissertation committee and Professor Martin Beckmann, a renowned economist at Brown, was also on my committee. When he passed away at the age of 93, Professor David Boyce and I wrote the In Memoriam, which was published in Transportation Science. David Boyce and I also wrote an In Memoriam in Transportation Science for Beckmann's co-authors of the classical book, Studies in the Economics of Transportation, Bart McGuire and Chris Winsten. More information on this book can be found here.

In my Transportation and Logistics class that I teach I always share with students stories about Dafermos and Beckmann since their work lives on and has had a tremendous impact. Urmila's publications will also have a tremendous impact on evacuation networks in Nepal, which suffers from so many disasters, and beyond. I will always treasure the wonderful memories of Urmila's smile, her friendship and support.