Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Advances in Social Computing

I am back from the International Conference on Social Computing, Behavioral Modeling, and Prediction, SBP 2010, that took place at NIH (the National Institutes of Health) in Bethesda, Maryland. Although my shuttle van from Bethesda to the Baltimore airport had a flat tire on the busy highway, plus my hotel room had to be switched twice due to excessive noise and a group of strangers trying to enter my room late at night (what is travel without adventures), the conference was a great success. I have the best souvenir from the conference (in addition to the wonderful conversations that I had and great talks that I attended plus new people that I met) and that is the handsomely edited conference proceedings.

The conferees were given the proceedings volume, Advances in Social Computing, which was just released by Springer and was edited by Dr. Sun-Ki Chai, Dr. John Salerno, and Dr. Patricia Mabry of NIH, who was the conference chair. Dr. Patrick Qiang and I gave a tutorial on Fragile Networks immediately preceding the conference on Monday and today Dr. Qiang presented our paper, A Knowledge Collaboration Network Model Across Disciplines, which is published in the proceedings volume. We had excellent questions after the presentation (always a good sign), which we could answer (this is also a plus). We received a great compliment when one of the conferees (an academic from George Mason University) came up to us afterwards and said that he came to the conference explicitly to hear our talk.

The campus of NIH is gorgeous with a lot of trees and blooming flowers. Our conference took place in the Natcher Building, Room 45, and there were no parallel sessions, so there was a lot of community building.

What could be better than very smart people from many different disciplines getting together to talk about very important problems! The range of papers (on topics from childhood obesity to prevention of epidemics to inappropriate emergency department utilization to syndromic surveillance to information overload and viral marketing, to highlight just a few) in Advances in Social Computing certainly reflects this!

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Fragile Networks Tutorial at NIH

Today, Dr. Patrick Qiang and I gave our tutorial on Fragile Networks: Identifying Vulnerabilities and Synergies in an Uncertain World, which is also the title of our book published by John Wiley & Sons. The tutorial took place at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which has a lovely campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The trees are blooming here and the tutorial was one of four delivered today. These tutorials precede the 2010 International Conference on Social Computing, Behavioral Modeling & Prediction (SBP2010), which begins tomorrow and at which about 500 delegates are expected. You may find our tutorial, which consisted of three distinct modules here.

Dr. Qiang and I had a wonderful time at our tutorial and the audience consisted of academics, consultants, and government employees, as well as researchers, and represented disciplines from computer science and applied mathematics to computational economics, medicine, and physics. The questions were great and the conversations truly stimulating. We met some marvelous people and saw some old friends. I am enjoying the collegial atmosphere and discussions tremendously. After our tutorial we had a wonderful dinner with a brilliant researcher who is trained as a physicist and who is now working in computer science and is from Hungary.

We are very much looking forward to hearing talks at the conference and Dr. Qiang and I will be giving a paper on Wednesday on knowledge collaboration networks. This paper is published in the conference proceedings volume, which we picked up today.

We thank the organizers of SBP 2010 for the opportunity to present the tutorial and for organizing such an exciting composition of speakers and presentations!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Women Can Not be Held Back -- Interesting Take on the AAUW Report

I guess that it is all in one's perspective and that is precisely one of the big issues and problems. Jeff Jacoby in today's Boston Globe, in an OpEd piece, comments on the AAUW report, "Why So Few?" which identified “striking disparity’’ between the numbers of men and women in the so-called STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and math. His take on this research study appears under the headlines of his article, Good News on Women in Science, which is completely contrary to recent articles in the media that he cites: “Bias Called Persistent Hurdle for Women in Sciences,’’ from The New York Times and the AOL News in the “Report: Stereotypes, Bias Hurt Women in Math and Science,’’ in which I am quoted.

Jacoby notes that: In the workforce women are now highly visible in many scientific fields. My take on this, even if there is only one of us, and, especially if we are in the minority, females tend to stick out like sore thumbs, so, obviously, we will be highly visible, even if there is only one of us! I recall giving a plenary lecture in Switzerland, yes, in the new millennium to an auditorium filled with only males. I recall when "she" would identify me since I was one of the very few women in my field. Even today, I am the only female in my subject area in my department and the level of service that I do as a named chaired professor is tiers above that done by any male but it isn't recognized nor noticed. So I get up around 3AM in the morning so that I can do my research before the official "work day" begins.

Jacoby writes: but where women do have an interest, they cannot be held back. Entering a profession does not mean that one will necessarily succeed in it and the need to prove oneself constantly never stops. Luckily, loving the research that one does plus having great students makes up, in part, for some of the extreme workload.

Here is the link to my earlier post on this blog on this subject.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Finance -- Everything Worth Knowing and a Great Speaker

Yesterday, my teenage daughter asked me to write about Everything Worth Knowing in Finance. Coincidentally, and, propitiously yesterday, one of my former students, Dr. Dmytro Matsypura of the University of Sydney, gave a talk in our Speaker Series on Combinatorial Analysis of Option Spreads. He spoke on margining accounts, i.e., the calculation of minimum regulatory margin requirements for margin accounts, which is a critical intra-day and end-of-day risk management operation in the list of mandatory activities of any prime brokerage firm. Margining an account without positions in options or other derivatives is simply the calculation of the total margin requirement for all positions in the account. Options, however, he noted, bring a nontrivial combinatorial component to the calculation because margin regulations for positions in options permit the use of different hedging strategies for margin reductions. Hedging strategies usually imitate trading strategies designed for margin trading. Hedging strategies involving only options are called option spreads.

In December 2005, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission approved margin rules for complex option spreads with 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12 legs (positions in options). Only basic option spreads with 2, 3 or 4 legs were recognized before. Taking advantage of option spreads with a large number of legs substantially reduces margin requirements and, at the same time, adequately estimates risk for margin accounts with positions in options. Dr. Matsypura presented combinatorial models for option spreads with any number of legs and proposed their full characterization in terms of matchings, alternating cycles and chains in colored graphs. With co-authors, he showed that the combinatorial analysis of option spreads reveals powerful hedging mechanisms in the structure of margin accounts. He also provided recommendations on how to create more efficient margin rules for options.

My favorite part of his presentation came at the very end, when he showed that what was considered to originally be an NP hard problem could be transformed into a maximum flow network problem! This was a really exciting result! Having co-authored with Dr. Stavros Siokos, the book, Financial Networks: Statics and Dynamics, I love to see additional network structures identified in financial problems!

The photos above were taken at Dr. Matsypura's talk and the lunch that followed.

Plus, yesterday, I received a new book in the mail, co- authored by two of my colleagues in my department, Professors Thomas Schneeweis and Hossein Kazemi, and Garry B. Crowder, a lawyer and financier. Their book, published by Wiley, is called, The New Science of Asset Allocation: Risk Management in a Multi-Asset World. This will be good reading during my air travels.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lecture on Pediatric Vaccine -- Pricing and Stockpiling Issues

We are delighted to announce that next Friday, April 2, 2010, we will be hosting Professor Sheldon H. Jacobson, Professor and Director, Simulation and Optimization Laboratory, Department of Computer Science, University of Illinois, Urbana. Dr. Jacobson will be speaking on, An Analysis of Pediatric Vaccine Pricing and Stockpiling Issues. Support for his presentation is provided by the John F. Smith Memorial Fund and INFORMS through its speakers bureau.

I have heard Dr. Jacobson speak (last time was at the INORMS Conference in Puerto Rico) and he is a fantastic speaker plus his research is always on timely topics and it attracts a lot of media attention because he has very creative approaches to identifying problems and solving them.

Biography: Sheldon H. Jacobson is a Professor and Director of the Simulation and Optimization Laboratory in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois. He has a B.Sc. and M.Sc. (both in Mathematics) from McGill University, and a M.S. and Ph.D. (both in Operations Research) from Cornell University. His methodological research interests include the stochastic analysis and design of heuristics for intractable discrete optimization problems, and the analysis of stochastic dynamic assignment problems. His applied research interests address problems in the areas of homeland security (aviation security) and health-care delivery systems (public health: immunization and obesity). His research has been recognized with several awards, including the Aviation Security Research Award by Aviation Security International, the International Air Transport Association, and the Airports Council International (in 2002), a Guggenheim Fellowship (in 2003), and the Institute of Industrial Engineers Outstanding Paper Award (in 2009). His research has been published in a wide spectrum of journals, and he has received research funding from several government agencies and industrial.

PRESENTATION TITLE: An Analysis of Pediatric Vaccine Pricing and Stockpiling Issues

Abstract: The United States Recommended Childhood Immunization Schedule outlines a comprehensive schedule of vaccines and vaccination periods to protect each newborn infant from several diseases that once plagued children. This presentation covers two important issues related to pediatric vaccines and immunization: pricing of new combination vaccines and pediatric vaccine stockpiling. Results are reported on using integer programming models to analyze the price and market value of two partially overlapping pentavalent combination vaccines for pediatric immunization. Results are also reported on using a stochastic inventory model to assess the impact of pediatric vaccine stockpile levels on immunization coverage. The implications of these issues on pandemic influenza vaccine manufacturing and distribution are also discussed.

Date: Friday, April 2, 2010
Time: 11:00AM - Noon
Place: Isenberg School of Management Room 112
UMass Amherst

The announcement for this talk can be found at:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Coach Cal on Social Networking and Kentucky vs. Cornell in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen

I may live in Amherst, but, as an academic, I certainly "get around." Last year, I gave invited talks at various universities and colleges in the US as well as in Europe.

Given the big NCAA basketball game tonight (Yes, I am speaking about Kentucky vs. Cornell) I could not help but reflect on some of the favorite venues that I spoke at last year that have a connection to the Kentucky vs. Cornell basketball game tonight.

I gave two talks at the University of Memphis in October 2008 and was hosted by Dean Rajiv Grover there and my former doctoral student, Professor Tina Wakolbinger, of the Fogelman College of Business and Economics. Of course, while at the U. of Memphis, I also had to visit Coach Cal (John Calipari) and the photo above was taken in his office. You may notice a lot of UMass Amherst memorabilia. He had been our men's basketball coach earlier in his career and has many friends here. His older daughter even graduated from UMass Amherst. Coach Cal was his usual charismatic and incredibly friendly self and I enjoyed talking with him and reminiscing.

Of course, as the whole world knows, Coach Cal is now the coach of the University of Kentucky men's basketball team, which is playing tonight against Cornell. The New York Times had a terrific article on Coach Cal and his use of social networking media to get the news out to his fans around the globe.

On April 1, 2009, I gave a talk at Cornell University and was hosted by my colleague, Professor Kieran Donaghy, and I had a superb time. I was joined by another former doctoral student of mine, Professor June Dong, who drove from SUNY Oswego and who is a Professor at the School of Business there, along with her husband. It is very sweet that an Ivy League university has made the Sweet Sixteen again (last time this happened was in 1979 with UPENN).

The Kentucky vs. Cornell game tonight will be a very interesting basketball game! Indeed, this is the hot topic in our neighborhood.

**** an update on this story **** Kentucky ended up beating Cornell with a score of 62-45 and proceeds now to the Elite 8. Interestingly, Syracuse got beaten by Butler. Kentucky will be matched against West Virgina in a game to take place over the weekend.

A Female Academic Who Did It in Reverse Order and a Painful Anniversary

The recent AAUW report, which I blogged about, has certainly stirred up the waters, and I thank Dana Chivvis of AOLNews for further disseminating the important news about this study on how sterotypes and bias hurt women in math and science.

Now for some background on my personal history. In a sense, I was lucky, since I chose, while I was a doctoral student in Applied Mathematics at Brown University, a female as my dissertation advisor. Her name was Dr. Stella Dafermos, and she was the ONLY female who had an appointment in either the Division of Applied Mathematics or in Engineering (let's say that she was "double-counted," something I have experienced as well). She was also a mother with two children and her husband, Dr. Constantine Dafermos, was a very well-known applied mathematician, who was a Professor at Brown. I was Stella's first doctoral student and the impact that she had on me was tremendous. She was only the second female to receive a PhD in Operations Research in the world and she died at age 49 of cancer. I wrote her obituary in the top journal "Operations Research," and she was one of only a handful honored in that way.

On April 5, 2010, we mark the 20th anniversary of the death of this great female scholar, whose numerous research contributions in transportation, networks, spatial economics, game theory, algorithms, and variational inequalities have made and continue to make a great impact. Oh, the adventures that we had with Stella during conferences in Canada, Holland, Greece, Japan, the USA, among other places.

Now I am conducting research on paradoxes and the work that Stella and I did together and published I am now using years after (and many others have, in the meantime, as well). She had an uncanny intuition and great attention to detail and exceptional creativity.

As for "doing it in reverse order," female academics do not have it easy. First, I got tenure (after 4 years, which is unusually quick). Then I became a Full Professor (8 years after my PhD) -- the first one in the history (or should I say "herstory") in the Isenberg School (and the number of letters that were solicited for my Full is probably a record but one has to make sure that a female is "good enough," I guess). Then I had a child and after a month of "sick leave," granted to me less than willingly, I was back to teaching. That major event followed with my getting my driver's license (and that is quite the story in itself) but I had felt that I could be quite objective researching transportation, networks, and logistics, w/o a driver's license. Besides, while growing up in Yonkers we almost always took public transportation and spent a great deal of time in NYC and, as an academic, most of the interesting invitations that I was receiving required air travel. Robert Moses never got his license and neither did Barbara Walters, so I always thought that I was in rather "good company."

We need female faculty in technical fields to show new generations of students what is possible. Remember, once you solve that research problem that you have been struggling with, and all the pieces of the puzzle fall beautifully in place, that feeling is close to ecstasy. Noone can take that feeling away from you but also, remember, you had better publish that result, as well.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Family Portrait with 9 Children

On March 15, the Ides of March, as I wrote earlier in this blog, we found our uncle, Gene Nagurney, who would have turned 87 on March 27, 2010, deceased in his home in Jessup, PA. Rather than a birthday celebration, his funeral took place yesterday and relatives came from PA, MA, CA, VA, and NJ. Gene Nagurney was one of nine children and was a decorated WW II Veteran.

Above is a family portrait taken at his parents' 25th wedding anniversary in 1932. Uncle Gene is in the front row on the left. One of the original nine children is still alive.

Monday, March 22, 2010

AAUW Report on Underrepresentation of Women in Math and Sciences - "Why So Few?"

Tamar Lewin writes in The New York Times on the AAUW report, supported by the National Science Foundation, to be released today, "Why So Few?" which documents that although women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields have made gains, stereotypes and cultural biases still impede their success. The Times article, Bias Called Persistent Hurdle for Women in Sciences, is definitely worth reading, as is the AAUW report.

According to Lewin: The report found ample evidence of continuing cultural bias. One study of postdoctoral applicants, for example, found that women had to publish 3 more papers in prestigious journals, or 20 more in less-known publications, to be judged as productive as male applicants.

In addition, in a survey, commissioned by the Bayer Corp., and conducted by Campos Inc., two-thirds cited the persistent stereotype that STEM fields are not for girls or minorities as a leading contributor to their underrepresentation. Many in the Bayer survey, also being released today, said they had been discouraged from going into their field in college, most often by a professor. This I find extremely painful, as a professor and a female, to read.

Well, there is some hope (I am being sarcastic here), Harvard, after 375 years, tenured a female in its Mathematics Department. Her name is Dr. Sophie Morel; she is from France, and I found out about her from the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study website.

In 2005-2006 I was a Science Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute and represented mathematics, along with my friend, Dr. Pierrette Cassou-Nogues, who is from France. I have 3 degrees in Applied Mathematics from Brown University (with a specialty in operations research) but my primary appointment is in the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.

Interestingly, the New York Times journalist, Tamar Lewin, who wrote the article on persistent bias against women in science, is married to Robert Krulwich, an NPR and ABC reporter, who was my interviewer on the World Science Festival panel on Traffic in New York City last June. He was simply fabulous and during a chat before the panel spoke about his wife. Also joining me on the Traffic panel were Dr. Iain Couzin of Princeton University and Dr. Mitchell Joachim of Columbia University.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fragile Networks Tutorial at NIH -- Good Timing!

Next Monday, Dr. Patrick Qiang and I will be giving a tutorial on Fragile Networks: Identifying Vulnerabilities and Synergies in an Uncertain World at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD. This tutorial will take place immediately preceding the 2010 International Conference on Social Computing, Behavioral Modeling, and Prediction at NIH. Our tutorial is one of 4 invited ones.

Dr. Qiang and I have been hard at work preparing our tutorial which is organized into three different modules:

Module I - Network Fundamentals, Efficiency Measurement, and Vulnerability Analysis explores the theoretical and practical foundations for a new network efficiency measure in order to assess the importance of network components in various network systems. Methodologies for distinct decision-making behaviors are outlined, along with the tools for qualitative analysis, the algorithms for the computation of solutions, and a thorough discussion of the unified network efficient measure and network robustness with the unified measure.

Module II - Applications and Extensions examines the efficiency changes and the associated cost increments after network components are eliminated or partially damaged. A discussion of the recently established connections between transportation networks and different critical networks is provided, which demonstrates how the new network measures and robustness indices can be applied to different supply chain, financial, and dynamic networks, including the Internet and electric power networks.

Module III - Mergers and Acquisitions, Network Integration, and Synergies reveals the connections between transportation networks and different network systems and quantifies the synergies associated with the network systems, from total cost reduction to environmental impact assessment. In the case of mergers and acquisitions, the focus is on supply chain networks. A system-optimization perspective for supply chain networks will be presented. Also, we will formalize coalition formation using game theory with insights into the merger paradox. Applications to humanitarian logistics operations will also be presented.

The tutorial is based on our book by the same name.

This tutorial is well-timed given the growing interest in network vulnerability and robustness as reported in this article in The New York Times, which highlights the ramifications of a recent scientific article published in the journal Safety Science.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Million Dollars for Solving a Math Problem -- Will the Winner Show Up?

The Clay Mathematics Institute has announced the winner of the 1 million dollar prize for the resolution of the Poincare conjecture, which is a conjecture in a branch of mathematics known as topology. The announcement was made this week by Dr. James Carlson, the President of the Clay Institute, that Dr. Grigoriy Perelman of St.Petersburg, Russia is the winner of this prize.

Dr. Perelman in 2006 received the prestigious Fields Medal but never claimed it. The New York Times, in an article, is wondering whether he will (or will not) claim the million dollar prize for solving a longstanding mathematics problem that was one of seven selected for the Millenium Awards by the Clay Institute, which is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Interestingly, Dr. Perelman, 7 years ago, in 3 papers posted on the Internet, provided the solution to this math problem, which was posed in 1904 by Poincare. The news of his results quickly spread (at least in math circles) and he embarked on a whirlwind series of speaking engagements, only to return back to Russia and then resign from his post at the Steklov Institute of Mathematics. He stopped answering email messages and, in a sense, disappeared professionally.

According to The New York Times, several teams of mathematicians, using Dr. Perelman’s papers as a guide, completed a full proof of the conjecture in manuscripts hundreds of pages long, showing that Dr. Perelman was right.

The Clay Institute plans to hold a conference to celebrate the solution of the Poincaré conjecture on June 8 and 9 in Paris, France. Dr. Carlson was quoted as saying that Dr. Perelman will let him know in due time whether he will accept this prize.

There are 6 other math problems left as Millennium Problems, so for those who are interested, you may find the list here. The solution of any of these will garner you a million dollars.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Father of the Year, Daughters, and the Bonds that Reading Together Builds

Michael Winerip has an article in today's New York Times that moved me deeply. It is about a father, Mr. Jim Brozina, who is a single parent, and a librarian. He has been raising his younger daughter, Kristen, since his wife left him years ago.

Starting with Kristen being in 4th grade, father and daughter have read to one another from books in what they (and their community) called The Streak. It began with a challenge of reading for 100 consecutive nights, then was extended to 1,000, continued until Kristen was 17, and she went to college.

In the Times article, Kristen is quoted as saying: It was just the two of us. The Streak was stability when everything else was unstable. It was something I knew would always be there.

People kept leaving me, but with The Streak, I knew that nothing would come before The Streak. In high school, I had friends who never talked to their parents. It never occurred to me not to. If someone takes care of you, you want to be with them.

What a wonderful daughter Mr. Brozina has raised! His legacy to her, since he does not have much money, is to give her 700 books that they have read over the years. He has given so much of himself -- his time, his consistency and reliability. He and his daughter have built an incredible bond.

Kristen will be graduating from Rowan University in New Jersey this spring and has been accepted into a Master's degree program at the University of Pennsylvania (but has to work to be able to pay for this program). The wife of one of my former doctoral students, Dr. Jia Wang, is a professor at Rowan's business school so I forwarded this terrific article to her and her husband, Dr. Zugang Liu, who is a professor at Penn State Hazleton. Of course, I will also share this article with my husband, once he wakes up.

Mr. Jim Brozina deserves, at the very least, a Father of the Year award! Best of luck to Kristen Brozina in her future, as well. Thanks to Michael Winerip for writing such a terrific article.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Art of Choosing and an Amazing Female Business Professor who is Blind

Being a professor is sufficiently challenging, but to be successful as a business school professor, while a female, and blind, is quite the achievement! Today's New York Times has a feature article on Dr. Sheena Iyengar, who holds a named chaired professorship at the School of Business at Columbia University. She has been blind since she was a teenager.

Her book, The Art of Choosing, will be out later this month. Dr. Iyengar, while a grad student at Stanford University, conducted the famous "jam study" in which jars of jam were placed on tables in a supermarket — different flavors in groups of 6 and 24 — and offered as samples to shoppers. Interestingly, many of the shoppers who visited the table with the smaller sampling ended up buying jam with their groceries, whereas relatively few bought jam that visited the tables with the large selection. This study, which she was assisted by research assistants, became known as more is less! — and made Sheena Iyengar quite the celebrity.

Dr. Sheena Iyengar is married to Dr. Garud Iyengar, who is a Professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IE/OR) at Columbia, and who also received a PhD from Stanford University. This is so very cool! Her background is in social psychology whereas his is in Operations Research. The Times article focuses on how she personally makes decisions with the help of a group of her "advisors."

I gave a talk on Dynamic Networks at Columbia in September 2006 and was hosted by the IE/OR department and the Decisions, Risk & Operations group.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Ides of March and Small Town USA

March 15 is also known as the Ides of March, and is the day that Julius Caesar of ancient Rome was murdered. It is a day that I wish that I could just stay under the covers since something always unexpected and unusual tends to happen on that day.

This week is Spring Break for many colleges and universities, including my own. This week we planned on visiting some elderly relatives in northeastern Pennsylvania and had set out on March 15 for the long drive. We were especially looking forward to seeing my husband's uncle, who is a decorated World War II veteran, and who was born on March 27, 1923. We had a trunkload of wrapped presents for him since he was turning 87 years later this month. He had lived alone in the town where he grew up for many, many years and was a tinkerer who took great pride in his nieces and nephews. He was one of nine children and lived next door to the house where he had been raised. At this advanced age he was still independent and enjoyed going out to eat and simple pleasures.

Prior to our departure from Amherst, Massachusetts, we had tried to reach him via phone but did not succeed and as we arrived at our destination we still had not gotten a response. A very uneasy feeling settled upon all of us and we contacted the local police department. The officer who responded to our call knew our relative and said that he would check up on him.

As we arrived at his house, our worse suspicions were confirmed. There were fire trucks and ambulances in front of his house, several volunteer firemen, the police chief, another officer, as well as some of the neighbors. We were told that it looked as though the inside screen door was latched and that mail had not been picked up since Saturday from the mailbox. The fire station is located across from his house, and is staffed by volunteers.

The authorities managed to open the house door as we were approaching and then we were informed of the devastating news. Our uncle was deceased on his bedroom floor. What was to have been a birthday celebration ended with us being there to watch his body being wheeled into the hearse. The night was cool and rainy but the support that we received from the police department and the fire department in this small town USA we will never, ever forget. They stood with us and comforted us for about 3 hours until the various inspectors came to shut off the gas, the electricity, etc., and the funeral director could be contacted. Plus, we were offered coffee and a place to warm up in the fire station. We were able to reminisce about our uncle and to exchange all sorts of wonderful stories about him.

My daughter felt as though we were characters in a movie but the life lessons learned on that evening on March 15, 2010, we will never forget. It seems as though our uncle waited for us to be able to come and to see him off. He survived two tours of duty in World War II and died in his home on the street where he grew up, in a town that seemed, to us, suspended in time.

We have already followed up with personal thank you letters. Sometimes one needs to take a long journey to find some of the best things about our country and its citizens.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

United Nations of Students and a Mini Reunion

This past week, a group of my present and past doctoral students gathered in my Supernetworks Lab at the Isenberg School at UMass Amherst for a mini reunion. The occasion was that it was the week before the UMass Amherst spring break and a former doctoral student, who had arrived from Australia, had joined us as a Visiting Scholar. Dr. Dmytro Matsypura, who received tenure at the University of Sydney and is on sabbatical now, will be with us through mid-May. He received his PhD with a concentration in Management Science in 2006 and joined the Faculty of Economics and Business at Sydney in January 2007. Dr. Matsypura is originally from Ukraine.

Another former doctoral student of mine, Dr. Jose M. Cruz, who is now an Assistant Professor at the School of Business at the University of Connecticut (UCONN) in Storrs, drove up with his wife and gorgeous, almost one year old, twins (a boy and a girl). Dr. Cruz received his PhD from UMass Amherst (also with a concentration in Management Science in 2004). He has 5 degrees from UMass Amherst (in engineering, computer science, applied mathematics, an MBA, and a PhD) and is one of ten children. (His parents in Cape Verde deserve multiple trophies!) Two of my doctoral students were also able to join us for some conversation, exchanges of advice, and serious "catching up."

I have chaired the dissertations of 15 doctoral students and you can find the complete list of their names, graduation dates, and the titles of their dissertations on this academic genealogy website.

What impresses me most about my students is their congeniality and support of one another and their respectful natures. They come not only from the US but from many different countries. Even after graduation, they continue to collaborate and support one another. Quite a few continue to be active Center Associates of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks that I direct. They have written journal articles together, shared rooms at conferences together, and congratulate one another when notable goals (both personal and professional) are achieved.

For example, Professor Jose Cruz told us at his visit this past week that he had just received the annual undergraduate teaching award from the UCONN School of Business as the best undergraduate teacher (and this evaluation was done over a three year period)! The congratulatory messages were flying but especially thoughtful was one from a Full Professor, Dr. Ding Zhang of the State University of New York at Oswego, who is originally from China, that stated that Jose was not born in the US but in Cape Verde (islands now part of Africa) and in a different culture. Hence, Dr. Cruz's receipt of an undergraduate teaching award at such a big business school is truly impressive. Plus, he was even a finalist for the graduate teaching award!

My doctoral students (present and past) have come from (as already mentioned) Ukraine and Cape Verde, and from Japan, Korea, China, India, Austria, Greece, and the US. I call them the United Nations and they realize the benefits and personal satisfaction of working together, sometimes struggling together, always supporting one another, and laughing together. The synergies that are created benefit education, research, as well as personal and professional growth and success.

Above I share with you a photo taken in my Supernetworks Lab at our recent mini reunion, where many friendships have been made! Each of us in the photo was born in a different country and only the twins were born in the USA!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

We Need More Women in Science and Technical Fields

In a wonderful article in The New York Times, entitled, Risk and Opportunity in the 21st Century, it is stated that: In the years to come, the people who master the sciences will change the world — and most likely command the big paychecks.

The article goes on to discuss what are possible risks and opportunities in science with a focus on females. The article talks about the challenges facing females in science and that the number of females in computer science programs, mathematics, and branches of engineering has declined (a very sad state of affairs).

I very much appreciated the following quote in the article: Women need science and science needs women, said Béatrice Dautresme, chief executive of L’Oréal Foundation and architect of the L’Oréal-Unesco for Women in Science awards. The L'Oreal-Unesco awards recognize five scientists each year from across the world. Dautresme was also quoted as saying: If women can make it in science, they can make it anywhere.

Of course, science, as any field, requires hard work, excellence, and true dedication, if one wishes to succeed in it. There continue to be barriers to women in science and programs that recognize excellence and support researchers need to be nurtured. We also need more female role models and to show young females still in school the beauty and relevance of science (and engineering and even technical areas of business).

My areas of research and teaching include management science / operations research, which are quite technical and mathematical, but the applications are so fascinating that breaking barriers yields personal satisfaction and, sometimes, even rewards. But one must do the work for the love of research and discovery. If we don't generate interest in science and technical fields in all, irrespective of gender, we, as a nation, will lose in the 21st century. This is potentially a very frightening and sad scenario unless we act collaboratively now to generate interest and passion for science in the youth of America. We can't be outsourcing knowledge creation and innovation.

Monday, March 8, 2010

On the Same Page as Miss Manners, Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith, and Tenley Albright

The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University has posted its 2010 Winter Newsmakers. It was a nice and very pleasant surprise to see my latest book, Fragile Networks: Identifying Vulnerabilities and Synergies in an Uncertain World, co-authored with Patrick Qiang, noted on the same page and between Miss Manners' most recent book and the latest novel by Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood. The list includes highlights also about Dr. Tenley Albright, the former Olympic figure skater and medical doctor (who had polio at age 11), as well as the award-winning novelist Zadie Smith.

Let's say that having been a Radcliffe Fellow in 2005-2006, I am certainly in some amazing "company!"

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Smart Grid -- Challenges and Opportunities

Today we heard a fabulous presentation on the Smart Grid by Mr. Richard Brooks of ISO - New England (NE). He is a Principal System Architect with responsibility for ISO-NE’s Enterprise Architecture since 2004. He is the primary author of ISO New England’s Smart Grid White Paper that was published in February 2009. Mr. Brooks spoke in our 2010 Spring Speaker Series to a capacity audience of researchers, faculty, students, staff, and guests from the community. The faculty and students were from the Isenberg School of Management, the College of Engineering, and Departments of Computer Science, Mathematics and Statistics, among others. The interest in the topic of smart grids is huge and we were so delighted to have Mr. Brooks share with us his immense knowledge and insights on this most important topic.

The Smart Grid is the tight coupling of: the power and delivery system and advanced IT and command-control monitoring capabilities, and supporting regulations, policies, market rules, and business processes that will improve the overall efficiency of electricity production, delivery and consumption, evolving from the existing grid infrastructure while maintaining high reliability and strong security.

Some highlights from today's talk:

The US government is behind the push for a Smart Grid with stimulus money being like steroids for the Smart Grid. The government wishes to utilize advanced, information-based technologies to increase power grid reliability, efficiency, and flexibility, and reduce the rate at which additional electric utility infrastructure needs to be built.

Hence, there is an intense need and desire to make the most out of existing capacity, while, at the same time, taking advantage of such innovations as smart appliances and devices, distributed resources and generation, including renewables (think wind energy and solar energy), and even the deployment and integration of advanced electricity storage and peak-reducing technologies, including plug-in electric and hybrid electric vehicles (very cool)! Plus, consumers are to be provided with timely information and control options regarding their electricity usage.

We got to hear about the Olympic Peninsula GridWise project (in which clothes dryers reduced their power after a triggered event), and about the Google Power meter, now in prototype.

It was clear from the talk why a Smart Grid is needed (including the need to reduce electricity costs and the challenges posed by intermittent sources, such as wind, plus, the NIMBY issue of building new generation and transmission facilities).

The objectives of the Smart Grid include those for reliability, for the environment, and for consumer control.

Significant paradigm shifts are now underway, some of which are:

1. The construction of new facilities is shifting to more efficient use of the existing system (so this is a great area for operations researchers and management scientists to work in).

2. Static operations parameters are giving way to dynamic calculations (including dynamic pricing).

3. Large supply sources are shifting to small supply sources (think of households and businesses generating their own power).

4. Centralized control is moving to decentralized control.

5. Passive customer participation will be moving to active customer participation.

6. Manual operations will be shifting to automated ones.

We will need new analytical tools for demand management, supply management, and network management, as well as markets management, along with more careful collaboration and coordination among stakeholders in the electric power supply chain (something my research group has published a lot on).

Mr. Brooks also talked about the role of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) since it was tapped to lead in standards for the Smart Grid (and this is one of the great challenges since interoperability is a huge issue). He suggested that NIST/DOE/FERC should prioritize design work and standards for system control among controlling entities.

We urgently now need:

1. a clear view of the Smart Grid from different states and the regulators;

2. what is achievable and by when;

3. new business models (up my alley);

4. new cooperation/collaboration paradigms (sounds like a great app of cooperative networks);

5. direction and leadership among all levels of government.

Mr. Brooks concluded his brilliant talk by summarizing the risks and by stating that the Smart Grid will not go away, that more intelligence means more complexity (indeed, what to do with the deluge of data that is starting to come in), and that the number of Smart Grid projects will increase dramatically as stimulus money is distributed this year.

Above is a photo of Mr. Brooks with the group that accompanied us to lunch at the University Club to continue the discussions. The discussions among those who were lucky to be in his audience today will continue for days to come! He clearly educated us and inspired us to see the Smart Grid as a dynamic, highly important topic for both deep research questions, as well as for practice. His talk was multidisciplinary and just perfect for our Speaker Series. We are indebted to him for his terrific presentation today.

The Harvard Gazette on Professor Parkes, Electronic Commerce, and Operations Research

The Harvard Gazette has a wonderful article on Dr. David Parkes, whom I met while I was a Science Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard in 2005-2006, and have collaborated with since that magical year at Harvard.

The article in The Harvard Gazette discusses Parkes' work in electronic commerce, and his multidisciplinary interests, which include computer science and economics, as well as operations research! We hosted him in our Speaker Series in Operations Research / Management Science at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst a few springs ago. After his terrific talk (and delicious lunch at our University Club) he met with a group of our doctoral students. We discussed, among other topics, the course that he was to be teaching the next term in operations research (which I hear has been very successful).

It is terrific to see that Operations Research is becoming another one of his scholarly passions! It is also wonderful that Harvard realizes the importance of this subject, which is applicable to solving some of the most pressing problems today ranging from the optimization of transportation and logistics services, to health care delivery, emergency preparedness and security, and even humanitarian logistics, to name just a few!

While at Radcliffe, Professor Parkes, Dr. Patrizia Daniele of the University of Catania in Italy, who was a Visiting Scholar at Radcliffe, and is also an operations researcher, and was working with me on dynamic networks, completed a paper. The paper, The Internet, Evolutionary Variational Inequalities, and the Time-Dependent Braess Paradox, was published in the journal, Computational Management Science 4: (2007) pp 355-375.

Professor Daniele is a Center Associate of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks that I direct. While at Harvard, she completed her book, Dynamic Networks, and I completed my book, Supply Chain Network Economics: Dynamics of Prices, Flows, and Profits, both published in the New Dimensions in Networks series, Edward Elgar Publishing.

Above is a photo of Parkes, Daniele, and me finishing up lunch at the Casablanca Restaurant in Harvard Square in Cambridge. Academics work up quite the appetite after discussing research and working. Cerebral activity can be quite aerobic, especially if you are trying out ideas and derivations on a blackboard (or whiteboard, as the case may be)! The other photo of Patrizia Daniele and me was taken at Putnam House in Radcliffe Yard, where we had side by side offices (perfect for our collaboration) and which was across the street from the American Repertory Theater on Brattle Street and a few buildings up from Casablanca.

Parkes and I also organized an Exploratory Seminar on Dynamic Networks at Radcliffe, about which I wrote last week in this blog. Photos from this seminar are available here.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hosting a Visiting Scholar from Australia (Who Also Was a Former Doctoral Student)

Dr. Dmytro Matsypura, of the University of Sydney in Australia, who was my former doctoral student, will be a Visiting Scholar at the Isenberg School of Management until mid-May.

Dr. Matsypura received his PhD in 2006 (I was the chair of his dissertation committee) and the title of his dissertation was, Dynamics of Global Supply Chain and Electric Power Networks: Models, Pricing Analysis, and Computations. We co-authored several papers together, including one that was published in a special issue of Transportation Research E on global supply chains.

Dr. Matsypura is on the faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Sydney (one of the top research universities) and teaches in its Operations Management and Econometrics program. He received tenure in 3 years and is now on sabbatical. Needless to say, it is wonderful when a former student achieves tenure in such record time (indeed, there has been much in the news and media lately about the stress of being on the tenure-track). Plus, it is also special when a former student chooses to spend a good part of his sabbatical leave at the university (UMass Amherst) where he pursued his doctoral studies.

Dr. Matsypura will be speaking in our 2010 Spring INFORMS Speaker Series later this month.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Network Science, Operations Research, and the Internet

John Markoff writes in The New York Times about the changing shape of the Internet. In the article, he notes the work of Albert-Laszlo Barabasi (formerly from Indiana U. and now at Northeastern University) on scale-free networks, versus the work of John Doyle of CalTech and David Alderson of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey.

According to the work of Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, the more the Internet changes, the more it stays the same, in terms of its overall shape, strengths and vulnerabilities.

Alderson is identified as an operations researcher in The Times article, which was published today. According to Alderson, The scale-free theorists, are just not describing the real Internet. What they’re measuring is not the physical network, its some virtual abstraction that’s on top of it, he said. What does the virtual connectivity tell you about the underlying physical vulnerability? My argument would be that it doesn’t tell you anything.

Alderson wrote an article in the OR Forum in 2008 on Catching the Network Science "Bug." Mike Trick of Carnegie Mellon University, who edits the OR Forum, then invited several network researchers (including me) to comment on the article.

I had the pleasure of hosting Alderson, along with such operations researchers as Panos M. Pardalos of the University of Florida, economists and computer scientists (Joan Feigenbaum of Yale), as well as applied mathematicians, including Mark Newman, and engineers, such as David Levinson of the University of Minnesota who works on transportation networks and Asu Ozdaglar of MIT, when I organized an Exploratory Seminar on Dynamic Networks, with David Parkes, a computer scientist at Harvard University. You may find the presentations from this exploratory seminar, which was funded by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, on this website.

We hosted Barabasi at the Isenberg School of Management in our Spring 2006 Speaker Series in Operations Research / Management Science. He is a very dynamic and entertaining speaker.

It's terrific to have more discussions and studies about the evolution of the Internet, a network of networks, or what I would call an example of a supernetwork. As for its fragility and vulnerability, some recent methodological tools for such analysis can be found in our Fragile Networks: Identifying Vulnerabilities and Synergies in an Uncertain World book.

The Economist on the Data Deluge

The Economist has a special report on the volumes of data that is now being regularly generated with a 2008 study by the International Data Corp (IDC) reporting that about 1,200 exabytes of digital data (equivalent to 10 million copies of The Economist) will be generated this year.

With the world becoming increasingly digital, the analysis of the data, and its aggregation, is expected to bring many benefits to different fields, from healthcare, to government, to the business processes and supply chains, to name just a few. Because of the tremendous amounts of data that are now becoming increasingly available through sensors, mobile technologies, cameras, computers, social networking sites, etc., business intelligence techniques, coupled with analytics, that can yield insights from statistical analyses are becoming very important. The deluge of data is so large that it is starting to overwhelm storage capacities of computers (not to mention the ability of humans to process).

Of course, as the report notes, the IT industry is diving deep into business intelligence and notes such companies as Accenture, IBM, and SAP.

I would have liked to have seen in this special report a greater emphasis given to optimization, although it did mention revenue and yield management. The writeup on the visualization of data was especially interesting to me and it highlighted the classic book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, by Edward Tuffe. Those of us who work in network analysis have long appreciated the power of networks to represent and depict numerous systems and phenomena.

Recruiting and Job Openings

I sometimes feel that another one of my jobs is that of a "recruiter." As Coordinator of the Doctoral Program in Management Science program at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, I coordinate the evaluation and recruitment of students into our doctoral program every year.

At the same time, I have served on 4 search committees in the past 3 years, and as chair for 3 of these search committees, with the most recent one resulting in the successful search for the Dean of the Isenberg School, with the hiring of Dr. Mark Fuller this past year. Now I am chairing the search for a faculty hire in my department.

Interestingly, I also regularly get contacted by faculty, administrators, as well as search firms, asking whether I would be interested in a "move," as well as whether I have appropriate students to fill certain key positions. I get such requests globally -- most recently for positions in Stockholm and in Vienna.

In addition, my undergraduate students are in the process of looking for jobs. Some of our Operations Management majors have already secured excellent positions in industry, whereas others should be hearing shortly, and some are still on the lookout.

I told some of my undergraduates that they should also be checking the openings for employment that are posted in ORMS Today, since there are some very exciting opportunities (and they agreed)! The positions are in industries from transportation, logistics, and supply chains to consulting. They also reflect the interesting jobs that are available if one has an education in operations research and management science.

Of course, for academic positions, which are also advertised on that site, advanced degrees, and, typically, a PhD are necessary.