Friday, April 2, 2010

From the NCAA Tournament to Pediatric Vaccines

Today we were treated to a brilliant talk by a star operations researcher, Dr. Sheldon Jacobson, of the Computer Science Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana. Professor Jacobson's talk was in our Spring 2010 Speaker Series in Operations Research / Management Sciences.

His presentation, An Analysis of Pediatric Vaccine Pricing and Stockpiling Issues, was simply outstanding! He recently returned from a trip that took him to Australia and Japan to investigate different vaccine issues in those countries. He discussed how integer programming can be used in the pricing of vaccines with real-world data and how he used stochastic programming to formulate and answer questions regarding the stockpiling of vaccines. He informed the audience of the challenges that vaccine manufacturers are faced with. He told the students to be willing to do "work for free" because sometimes great opportunities arise from doing research that helps others (as he had experienced with a pharmaceutical company and CDC project).

Today, as well, Dr. Jacobson was one of nine experts whose commentary appeared in The New York Times "Room for Debate" on the theme, How to Improve the N.C.A.A. Tournament! It was very cool to see Dr. Jacobson on the same short list as the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame member, Rebecca Lobo Rishin, and the former Temple University men's basketball coach, John Chaney, among other sports experts! Actually, they are lucky to be on the same short list as Professor Jacobson!

Now you might be thinking how can someone be an expert on healthcare topics such as vaccine production, stockpiling, and pricing, coupled with the analysis of sports tournament outcomes?! Dr. Jacobson is also an expert on aviation security and was a Guggenheim Fellow in 2003. His degrees are in mathematics and operations research (with a PhD in the latter from Cornell University). Having critical analytical skills, a strong math background, and the ability to develop creative and insightful mathematical models, with important policy implications, can lead you to study and address numerous important problems.

Dr. Jacobson is a Renaissance man and we are so grateful that he took the time out of his extremely busy professional schedule to come and speak at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.

We also thank Barry List of INFORMS and its Speaker Program for co-sponsoring Dr. Jacobson's wonderful talk today!