Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dr. Ellis Johnson from Georgia Tech Speaks

Yesterday, February 20, 2009, Professor Ellis Johnson of Georgia Tech kicked off our Spring UMass Amherst Speaker Series in Operations Research / Management Science. His talk on airline challenges and operations research attracted faculty, students, and administrators from the Isenberg School of Management, the College of Engineering, the Department of Economics, and even from the University of Vermont in Burlington! Professor Johnson is the recipient of every major INFORMS prize for his research contributions. Before joining the faculty of Georgia Tech he was with IBM for 26 years where he rose to the rank of IBM Corporate Fellow. He is also a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Professor Johnson's talk centered on the challenges of cost reduction in the airline industry with a focus on reducing fuel costs. He compared fuel consumption of various jets, including executive jets, who would fly into smaller airports. He also emphasized the importance of doing environmentally-based research surrounding airplanes and talked about how ahead of the US Europe is in this dimension. He discussed high-speed trains in Europe and the potential/promise of such trains in the US. He had so much to report because of his extensive research contributions to airline transportation, including his work for Sabre and American Airlines, and knowledge. We did not have much time to hear about his work on airline security as well as passenger rage and passenger bills of rights, topics, which he had hoped to also be able to address, but time ran out.

After his presentation, we took Professor Ellis Johnson to lunch at the University Club on the UMass Amherst campus, which is in a building that dates to 1728 (but the food does not). We spoke about his travels to China and Thailand and about luminaries in the field of Operations Research/Management Science. We did not want the lunch to end. As one of the doctoral students said afterwards, the greatest people are also the nicest.

The UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter has posted some photos from Dr. Johnson's visit to Amherst. I leave you with some pearls of wisdom from him. We asked him for advice to students so that they would be successful professionally and he offered the following:

1. be a problem solver,

2. collaborate, and

3. teach others.