Thursday, July 22, 2021

Thanks to All Who Made Our 2021 Dynamics of Disasters Conference a Success!

The 5th International Conference on Dynamics of Disasters has now come to a close. It was Professor Panos M. Pardalos who had the vision to start this conference series. I have had the honor of co-organizing the last four of them. This year the conference was virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was co-organized by Professors Pardalos, Ilias S. Kotsireas, Chrys Vogiatzis, and me, with support provided by Professor Fuad Aleskerov and Sofia Papadaki. The conference website has a link to the full program and information on the outstanding plenary speakers: Professor Maria Besiou and Professor Oleg Prokopyev, and Dr. Stavros Siokos and Dr. George Karagiannis. It was very appropriate and illuminating to have plenary speakers from academia, industry, and government, who shed light on the latest research as well as best practices. 

The plenary talks were truly inspirational!



This was a single stream conference, which worked very well. There were excellent questions and a lot of discussions. Speakers and participants came from many countries, including: Austria, Germany, Italy, India, Nepal, Russia, the UK and the United States! It was very special to have four of my former PhD students present: Dr. Deniz Besik of the University of Richmond, Dr. Pritha Dutta of Pace University, Dr. Tina Wakolbinger of the Vienna University of Economics and Business, and the plenary speaker, Dr. Stavros Siokos! Dr. Besik presented on our latest food supply chain research with disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is joint work with Dr. Dutta. Dr. Dutta, in turn, presented on our convalescent plasma research, a paper that was very recently published in Operations Research Forum. Also, my PhD student, Mojtaba Salarpour, presented  our paper published in the International Journal of Production Economics. In addition, I presented a paper on refugee migration networks that was co-authored with Professor Patrizia Daniele of the University of Catania and Professor Ladimer S. Nagurney of the University of Hartford. Our paper had been recently published in the Journal of Global Optimization. Professor Daniele also presented a paper on UAVs and 5G for disaster relief, work with Daniele Sciacca and Gabriella Colajanni.

As Professor Stephan Onggo of the UK (he is originally from Indonesia and is heading the Ops-Relief project) said: Disaster Management is complex and requires many different tools. And, indeed, the conference talks demonstrated the utility and applicability of optimization and simulation tools, AI and Machine Learning, game theory, network science, Data Envelope Analysis, and even the analysis of Twitter. There was definitely a "network" theme in many of the presentations!

Special thanks to colleagues in Nepal, India, and Russia, who joined us despite the challenges with their time zones and the conference talk scheduling. I am so grateful to each and every speaker and participant for the knowledge that was exchanges and also for the very supportive community that we have been building across the miles.

I am very pleased that many new research ideas were generated and new connections made virtually across the miles. It was wonderful to have 3 INFORMS Fellows take part in the conference, Professors Pardalos and Vicki Bier and me!

Below is a virtual group picture of the conferees.



Professor Panos M. Pardalos closed out the conference with the following quote, which I leave you with, "Keep positive but test negative!"

Professor Pardalos, inspired by Dr. Siokos, who emphasized that trees are the only "technology" that removes carbon from the air, then showed us the book in the photo below. Dr. Siokos is the co-founder of Astarte Capital Partners, based in London, England, which invests heavily in forests around the globe.

And we will be co-editing a special issue of the journal Operations Research Forum on our conference theme. The call for papers can be downloaded here.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Busy Week with the EURO 2021 and the Dynamics of Disasters Conferences

My Supernetworks group has been hard at work preparing for conferences that we will be speaking at. This Sunday the EURO 2021 Conference begins. It is a hybrid conference, based in Athens, and goes from July 11-July 14. On July 16, the 5th International Conference on Dynamics of Disasters begins and will last through July 18. It was originally scheduled to be in person and also in Athens, but has turned virtual. I am co-organizing the latter conference with Professors Kotsireas and Pardalos and Vogiatzis with great support from Sophia Paradaki.

Interestingly, back in the summer of 2019, I spoke at EURO Dublin and we organized also a Dynamics of Disasters (DOD) Conference, which took place in Kalamata, Greece! I blogged about the great Dublin conference, where many photos can also be found.  Please also check out my post on the DOD conference in Kalamata, which was a big success and we even edited a refereed volume, which was published by Springer.

The 2021 EURO Conference has a very busy and interesting program. I was delighted to be invited by Ruth Kaufman to give a lightning talk in the OR and COVID session in the Making an Impact Stream. The Making an Impact Stream I spoke at (on a panel) in Dublin and enjoyed the experience and discussions immensely. My lightning talk is entitled, "OR and COVID-19: From Research to Policy." Also, our latest work on game theory and disasters will be presented (the talk has been recorded by my PhD student, Mojtaba Salarpour, since it was placed in an invited session but at 5:30AM EDT). The presentation is based on a paper of ours published in the International Journal of Production Economics (IJPE) in 2021. We thank Professor Tina Wakolbinger of the Vienna University of Economics and Business for inviting us to speak in this Humanitarian Operations session that she organized for EURO 2021.


One can definitely see that we have been heavily engaged in research on various supply chain network themes in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Dynamics of Disasters Conference has an excellent line-up of plenary speakers: Professor Maria Besiou and Professor Oleg Prokopyev plus Dr. Stavros Siokos and Dr. George Karagiannis.

Our presentations at the DOD conference will include research done with Professors Deniz Besik and Pritha Dutta on food supply chains and disruptions in the pandemic; on convalescent plasma, based on a paper with Professor Pritha Dutta, recently published in Operations Research Forum, and on refugee migration networks - work done with Professors Patrizia Daniele and Ladimer S. Nagurney and based on a paper published in the Journal of Global Optimization. Mojtaba will also present our paper in IJPE presented at EURO 2021. I am looking forward to many interesting discussions and idea generation!




Looking forward to "seeing" many wonderful colleagues at these exciting conferences!

Monday, June 21, 2021

So Honored to Receive the Harold Larnder Prize from CORS (Canadian Operational Research Society)

It has been a whirlwind past two weeks, beginning with the CORS 2021 Conference, which was virtual because of the pandemic, and at which I was honored with the official receipt of the Harold Larnder Prize in a lovely award ceremony. Many thanks to the co-organizers of the conference, Professors Fatma Gzara and Timothy Chan, for the very special introduction and also thanks to the CORS President, Professor Michael Pavlin!


And, the Prize certificate arrived, just in time from Canada, so that I could share it virtually with those at the ceremony. 

The first time that the award was given was back in 1986. The full list of recipients is here and we created a collage of previous recipients, posted below.

I am only the second female recipient of this prize and now the only living one, since, sadly, Ailsa Land passed away on May 16, 2021, at the age of 93.  Quite remarkably, we honored her receipt of the Beale Medal (first female recipient of that award) with a panel on February 25, 2021, and both she and her husband were able to be virtually present. I provide a link to the video of the panel at which I had the honor of speaking and some additional information in a previous blogpost.

As part of the Harold Larnder Prize, I delivered the opening keynote talk, "Novel Supply Chain Network Models Inspired by the COVID-19 Pandemic: From Optimization to Game Theory," at the conference. I have made my slide deck available for viewing and downloading. 


A recording of my Harold Larnder Prize keynote  can be viewed here.

Some background on Harold Larnder, which I highlighted in my keynote:


The framed prize certificate now hands in my office for inspiration. Many thanks to the Canadian Operational Research Society for this great honor! Our great discipline of Operations Research was instrumental in WWII, and its rigorous methodologies and scope of applications have benefited businesses, governments, numerous organizations, including nonprofits, and societies. And, now, its creative minds and powerful tools are helping in the battles in the pandemic.


Thursday, June 3, 2021

Tracking Down Who Was the First Female Full Professor in OR in the World and Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

In the past few days I have been quite busy and not just with the preparation of plenary talks for conferences this month and the writing of papers. I have been approached through emails by males in both the US and the UK to answer (or to try to answer) the following question - who was the first female Full Professor of Operations Research (OR) in the world? This question arose, and it is an important one, because of the passing of Dr. Ailsa Land, short of her 94th birthday, on May 16, 2021.  I had written a blogpost celebrating her and also Marguerite Frank, both then of age 93. Dr. Land was the recipient of the Harold Larnder Prize, the Beale Medal (first female to receive these major awards), and will also receive posthumously the EURO Gold Medal at the EURO 2021 Conference in Athens, Greece, next month. 

Please refer to this obituary for Dr. Land, prepared by the institution she had received her PhD from and had worked at for many years - the London School of Economics (LSE).

Graham Rand and Laszlo Vegh (who was prominent in the blogpost I noted above) were preparing another obituary for Dr. Ailsa Land and were wondering whether she may have been the first female Full Professor of  OR in the world. She received this title at LSE in 1980. I was also contacted by Mark Eisner, who chaired for many years the INFORMS History & Traditions Committee that I had also served on, trying to determine who was the first such female professor in the US to achieve the rank of Full Professor in OR. And, of course, my PhD advisor at Brown University, Stella Dafermos, about whom I have blogged on multiple occasions, came to mind, as did Judith Liebman, who, like Stella, received a PhD in OR from Johns Hopkins University. Stella received her PhD in 1968 and Judith in 1971. We knew that Judith had become Full Professor at the University of Illinois in 1984. I had written several obituaries when Stella Dafermos passed away in 1990 but these did not contain the year at which she became a Full Professor.

Time was running short and this morning a message came from the UK: "We are running out of time Anna." No pressure on me, of course! I then sent a message to Stella's husband, a Chaired Professor of Applied Math at Brown (and had sent multiple messages to others in the meantime), Dr. Constantine Dafermos. He graciously went to campus and told me that Stella became a Full Professor at Brown University in 1982 with appointments both in the Division of Applied Mathematics and Engineering. There is more to this, but left for another time and post.

I also sent a message out on Twitter and am grateful to all those across the globe who are trying to identify whether there was a female in OR who became a Full Professor before 1980.

In the meantime, Graham Rand, with support, has completed another obituary for Dr. Ailsa Land, and we feel quite "safe" in that she was the first female Full Professor of OR (called Operational Research) definitely in the UK, and probably in the world! If additional information to the contrary becomes available, you will hear from me. 

But the plot thickens. In trying to identify what year exactly Stella Dafermos became a Full Professor at Brown and I know that she was the first female Full Professor in both Applied Mathematics and in Engineering because I was her first PhD student and we worked closely together on many papers I came upon several "news releases" from Brown University that attributed others as being the "first." Stella, sadly, passed away at age 49 on April 1990, so she can't speak for herself but I can, so  I am.  The following article, from Brown University Engineering, no less, identifies the first female Full Professor of Engineering as getting this appointment in 2008 -- 26 years after Stella!


Giving credit where credit is due is imperative and I hope that my alma mater, Brown University, makes appropriate corrections! How easily, it seems, major institutions, and that includes research universities, can "forget" the legacy of females. 

I shared the above "oversights" with Professor Constantine Dafermos today, and he wrote me back a message that I will treasure, which included, in part: "... the obstacles that women of that generation had to overcome cannot be overemphasized. It is a good fortune that the success of several, though not enough, outstanding women like you have turned things around." 

As a scientist and as a researcher, we seek the truth. Much work remains to be done and speaking out plays a role. Thank you for reading! And, if anything needs correcting, please, let me know!


Saturday, May 1, 2021

In Appreciation of the Wonderful Guest Speakers in My Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare Class

As the semester draws to a close, as well as the academic year, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the wonderful guest speakers in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class this semester. In a class such as this, the students learn a tremendous amount from practitioners and, even more so, given their immense challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On February 18, 2021, we had the honor of hearing from Mr. Tim Pitoniak, who is a Regional Disaster Program Officer for the American Red Cross (ARC) in Massachusetts. Mr. Pitoniak spent the first 10 years of his Red Cross career in Greater New York where his focus was staffing, training, and partnerships. He assumed his position in Massachusetts in 2015 and has been the job director for multiple large operations, including the 2018 Lawrence gas explosion. He has regularly been deployed to national jobs, working in leadership roles for disasters all over the continental U.S.  and Puerto Rico. Mr. Pitoniak shared with us the challenges the Red Cross has faced in the pandemic and how it has been able to provide certain support services virtually, because of the need for social distancing. The students were amazed by the number of volunteers associated with the ARC and also how they are constantly adapting to provide a wide range of services, and not only to disaster victims.




On March 2, 2021, we were honored to have Dr. George Karagiannis Zoom in all the way from Athens, Greece for his guest lecture. Dr. Karagiannis is Greece's Deputy Secretary-General for Civil Protection, the US equivalent of Deputy FEMA Administrator. From 2016 to 2019, he was a Technical Officer at the European Commission Joint Research Center, where his area of expertise revolved around emergency management, critical infrastructure protection, and hybrid threats. Prior to joining the Joint Research Center, he was a Disaster Management Consultant. The title of his guest lecture was, "Humanitarian Needs Assessment & Information Management."  So many of the insights provided by Dr. Karagiannis resonated with the students, including his emphasis on the use of technology and even AI for needs assessment. And he also told the class that, despite what you see on TV and in the movies, one rarely gains much information from helicopter rides over disaster areas. Additional information and discussion during his great talk can be found on my blogpost here.

I am delighted that Dr. Karagiannis has accepted our invitation to be a plenary speaker at the next Dynamics of Disasters conference that I am, again, co-organizing with Professors Kotsireas and Pardalos, but this time it will be virtual. More information can be accessed here with additional information being posted in the coming weeks.

On March 11, 2021, the students and I were thrilled to have Ms, Dawn Brantley present to the class. She is the Assistant Director for Planning and Preparedness for MEMA (Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency) and was responsible for establishing  a program of COVID Isolation Hotels, which was also the topic of her presentation. The subtitle of it (and this spoke volumes) was: "building a plane while you fly it." Her presentation was absolutely mesmerizing. The initiative was made operational in 7 days and the logistics behind it were incredible, with so many issues such as food provision, laundry services, nursing care, and so much more needed. And to accomplish so much with attention having to be paid to COVID protocols. It was not easy getting certain hotels "on board," especially with some local communities not being supportive.




The dedication of Ms. Brantley to this important enterprise and that of her team were truly inspiring! The ARC had also been assisting in this endeavor so there was some nice synergy with Mr. Pitoniak's guest lecture. March 11, 2021, the day of Ms. Brantley's presentation,  was  the one year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring the COVID-19 pandemic!

I cannot thank all the speakers sufficiently - they were fighting the pandemic on the front lines and still made time to help in the education of students.  They left a lasting impact and were part of a transformative educational experience. Each was presented with a special letter that I wrote as well as a certificate signed by our great Dean Anne P. Massey in appreciation.

On March 23, 2021, we had the Nursing Director Team from Cooley Dickinson Hospital present to my class. The title of the panel presentation was,  "Cooley Dickinson Hospital: A Year of COVID: Readiness, Response and Resilience." There were 8 speakers who shared with us their incredible work in transforming parts of the hospital to be able to handle more COVID patients and how personnel were retrained and needed PPEs acquired. 

No healthcare worker contracted COVID, which is, frankly, remarkable and such a relief. I wrote an earlier blogpost on the nursing team and sent my thank you letter to the Interim Director of Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Dr. Brown, who responded so quickly. Some of the lessons learned included the importance of communications and appreciating the workers' fatigue and challenges.




The team also shared a video with us and there was not a dry eye in the audience. I would like to, again, thank the incredible panelists: Angela Belmont, VP, Patient Care Services & Chief Nursing Officer, Lynn M. Grondin, Director of Nursing for Perioperative and CVIR Services, Mike Netta, Director of Operations for Perioperative and CVIR Services, Alexandra Penzias, Director of Nursing and Professional Practice Education, Sara C. McKeown, Nurse Director, Emergency Department, Ann LeBrun, Nursing Director, Critical Care Services, Margaret-Ann Azzaro, Director, Medical Surgical & Childbirth Services, Jacquelyn Ouellette, Director, Behavioral Unit.

On March 30, we had our very "own" Mr. Jeff Hescock join us. Mr. Hescock is the Executive Director of EH&S and Emergency Management at UMass Amherst. The students have been receiving many messages from Mr. Hescock since the pandemic was declared and he, along with his staff and Ms. Ann Becker, have been behind our outstanding COVID-19 testing and now vaccinations! On the day that he spoke, Mr. Hescock told us that UMass Amherst had by then done 400,000 COVID tests and 16,000 vaccinations! He emphasized the important role of testing, contact tracing, and also isolation quarters at UMass Amherst as well as the role of our nursing students in testing and vaccinations. It has been an extraordinary team effort and the students, the community at large, the faculty, and staff are so grateful for the outstanding work of Mr. Hescock and his team in keeping us safe.

The students, as well as I, learned so much from our guest speakers and each left an indelible impression on us. 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Celebrating Two Amazing Female Operations Researchers, Both 93 Years Old, for Their Contributions to Algorithms

Since this blogpost was published, sadly, Professor Ailsa Land passed away on May 16, 2021. Please refer to this obituary posted on the London School of Economics website. It was truly extraordinary that she and her husband could view virtually the panel in her honor on February 25, 2021,  that I wrote about below. Also, Dr. Land will be honored next month with the posthumous receipt of the EURO Gold Medal at the EURO Conference in Athens, Greece, which will have a flexible format. Rest in Peace, Dr. Ailsa Land, and thank you for all you contributions to OR and to making herstory!

This month is Women's History Month and also the month in which we celebrate International Women's Day.

I am writing this blogpost in order to recognize and to celebrate two amazing females, both born in 1927, whose algorithmic contributions and impacts continue to this day. Specifically, this post is about Dr. Ailsa Land and Dr. Marguerite Frank. Both are now 93 years old and I have had the pleasure of recently being involved in supporting tributes to them.

Dr. Ailsa Land is an Emeritus Professor of the London School of Economics (LSE) and the first female recipient of the Beale Medal.  She is renowned for her contributions to the development of branch and bound, an algorithm for discrete and combinatorial optimization problems. A nice biography of her can be found on the INFORMS website. An outstanding interview by Professor László Végh of LSE, along with the transcript, can be found on the INFORMS oral history page. Many thanks to the INFORMS History and Traditions Committee (I served on this committee for many years and regularly argued for the importance of having interviews done and posted of female luminaries) for making this possible. 

A few months ago, several of us were approached by Professor Emeritus Doug Shier of Clemson University to take part in a special panel honoring Professor Land's receipt of the Beale Medal, and organized by The OR Society of Great Britain. Professor Shier was a PhD student of Land's at LSE. The truly remarkable and very moving panel took place on February 25, 2021, and The OR Society has now made the video available for all to view. Joining me on the panel were: Professors Jeffrey Camm, Karla Hoffman, Ivana Ljubic, and Susara van den Heever of IBM, with Professor Shier as moderator. 



The video of the panel can be accessed here.

We heard from Dr. Land and her husband, Dr. Frank Land, that they very much enjoyed the special tribute.

I have posted my presentation from the panel on the Supernetwork Center site. I used direct quotes from the interview with Dr. Ailsa Land as the construct for my presentation.

After the panel,  Professor Karla Hoffman wrote that this was the best webinar experience that she has ever had! 

And, how remarkable, or should I say "serendipitous,"that  recently I was contacted to a top scholar from a major university in a lovely European capital asking whether I knew how to contact Dr. Marguerite Frank. Dr. Frank is the "Frank" in the Frank-Wolfe (1956) algorithm for convex optimization. I always enjoy asking my students about who they think the algorithm is named after - I have yet to receive an answer that the first one is a female (but maybe this post and other accolades will help). Some nice, fairly recent coverage of this algorithm, with input and reflections by Dr. Frank can be found in the Optima newsletter. I had coded the algorithm and even used it in my PhD dissertation at Brown University for computational comparisons with other algorithms for the solution of user-optimized traffic network equilibrium problems with separable user link cost functions. I have known Dr. Frank for many years - she and I share a passion for the Braess paradox and both of us have published a series of papers on this paradox. I even hosted Dr. Frank at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a visit I remember very fondly. Dr. Frank's PhD is in Mathematics from Harvard University.

In 2014, Dr. Frank took part in a special interview panel in honor of her contributions to the Frank-Wolfe algorithm. 

I very much like this article in which Dr. Marguerite Frank also mentions my dissertation advisor, Dr. Stella Dafermos, and the spelling of my surname has now been corrected from "Nagourney" to "Nagurney."

It is quite remarkable that the Frank-Wolfe algorithm is even being used now for machine learning.

What struck me so much about these two amazing women, who are also mothers, is their humility. They truly, until fairly recently, did not realize the impact of their research! 

And, as for an honor recognizing Dr. Marguerite Frank, I will let you know as soon as it becomes official. Through LinkedIn, I managed to connect with both of her daughters, who put me in touch with Dr. Frank, who had moved from New Jersey, where she had been a Professor at Rider University, to Palo Alto, when her husband moved from Princeton University to Stanford University. He had been a renowned scholar on Dostoevsky (one of my favorite authors of all time)! Marguerite is delighted by the forthcoming honor and I am thrilled that this initiative was taken by a male scholar, who had reached out to me. I am stubborn and I was determined to (re)connect with her and what a delight that has been.

Friday, March 26, 2021

A Big Thank You to the Exceptional Nursing Leadership Team at Cooley Dickinson Hospital for Speaking in My Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare Class

This past week, the students in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class had the great honor and privilege of having a panel of 8 nursing leaders from the Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Massachusetts, speak virtually via Zoom. The topic of the panel was: Cooley Dickinson Hospital - A Year of COVID: Readiness, Response and Resilience. The presentations from 8 experts provided the class with extraordinary information and insights on this very challenging year and the tremendous response by the healthcare professionals at our local hospital! This was truly a transformative educational experience. We have heroes amongst us and we are so grateful to the Cooley Dickinson Hospital for the incredible care that they have provided over the past year in the pandemic. The panelists were: Angela Belmont, VP, Patient Care Services & Chief Nursing Officer, Lynn M. Grondin, Director of Nursing for Perioperative and CVIR Services, Mike Netta, Director of Operations for Perioperative and CVIR Services, Alexandra Penzias, Director of Nursing and Professional Practice Education, Sara C. McKeown, Nurse Director, Emergency Department, Ann LeBrun, Nursing Director, Critical Care Services, Margaret-Ann Azzaro, Director, Medical Surgical & Childbirth Services, Jacquelyn Ouellette, Director, Behavioral Unit.

Below, I have posted several of the slides that I captured from the panel that demonstrate the incredible creativity, work ethic, empathy, science-based decision-making, and so much more of these leaders and the staff, in general. They had anticipated the pandemic and had put processes in place ahead of time. It was  fascinating to see the reskilling (I have been publishing a lot on labor and supply chains in the pandemic), as well as the emphasis on the importance of communication and education. It was very interesting to hear about the repurposing of space to make room for more ICU beds and to hear the important role that association with MGH had in terms of provision of much needed PPEs. Amazingly, not a single staff person contracted COVID in the hospital. Plus, the importance of having an incidence command center was emphasized as well as having a single phone number that staff could use for questions. We even got to hear about the impacts of COVID on the behavioral unit and on the birthing unit. Tough for mothers to be separated from their babies. The situation was evolving very dynamically and learning about the new virus was taking place at an incredible pace.





It was also very special to hear how important it is to celebrate both small and big successes, which the staff did. This helps to improve morale. I don't think there was a dry eye among the students - I was shedding tears as well - when the panelists showed us a celebratory video of a patient, who had recovered from COVID, being discharged.

The students had, as an assignment, to writeup highlights and what surprised them from the panel and several wrote that this was the best guest lecture of their college education.


And, on March 25, 2021, I watched a very special remembrance organized by CDH, which was streamed on youtube, and which included Angela Belmont, as the master of ceremonies! 

It was very special, in the remembrance, to see Dr. Brown, the Interim President and CEO of Cooley Dickinson, to whom I wrote a thank you letter acknowledging the fabulous panelists! Our great dean, Dean Anne Massey, also signed Professor for a Day certificates for each panelist, which I emailed to them. In addition, a survivor of COVID, who was treated at the hospital for 30 days, and had been intubated for 2 weeks, spoke very movingly of the great staff and the fabulous care that she had received. Some news coverage of this event can be seen here, along with the link to the video of the remembrance.