Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Truly Terrific Tuesday at INFORMS in Austin, Texas

Today has been a truly terrific Tuesday at the INFORMS conference, which is taking place in Austin, Texas.

I have been taking part in this conference since Sunday that has attracted thousands of operations researchers and management scientists to this fascinating city.

Today, my day began with the Fora/Chapters Awards breakfast at which the INFORMS student chapter awards were given as well as the Judith Liebmane award, and the Moving Spirit award. Joining me at the table were Dr. Yupo Chan, Dr. Les Servi, and several past Presidents of the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter that I serve as the Faculty Advisor of -- Drs. Patrick Qiang, Zugang "Leo" Liu, and Min Yu.

It was terrific to see so many student officers from chapters throughout the US in attendance as well as their Faculty Advisors plus members of the Subdivisions Council. A great breakfast was had by all with a lot of enthusiasm and cameraderie. Congrats to all the winners!

Then I attended a keynote talk by Professor John Birge of the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. He spoke on risk management and what went wrong in such disasters as the mortgage crisis, the volcanic eruptions in Iceland, and the BP oil disaster. He emphasized incentives and system and mechanism design and how the former, if constructed properly, may have prevented the ramifications and perhaps the occurrence of such catastrophic events. His talk reminded me that in transportation we already are providing incentives for travelers to change their selfish behavior in the form of tolls that enable the system-optimizing solutions to prevail!

The keynote was followed by a wonderful set of presentations by Dr. Alice Smith and Dr. Candi Yano who spoke in a WORMS (Women in Operations Research and the Management Sciences) session. Dr. Smith talked about international collaborations with rich graphics and stories about her personal experiences. Dr. Yano, in turn, had interviewed 6 senior/veteran females in OR/MS to extract their experiences and lessons learned from the trenches. Their talks were fabulous and there was a lot of interesting discussion.

Afterwards, one of my favorite events of an INFORMS conference took place -- the WORMS award luncheon at which Dr. Brenda Dietrich of IBM received the award for 2010. She was also elected an INFORMS Fellow this year. The luncheon of salmon and risotto with vegetables and salad was delicious and was finished off by a multitiered chocolate, mocha torte. Joining me at the table were several former doctoral students of mine from the Isenberg School at UMass Amherst who are now professors and even a former undergrad from UMass Amherst who is now at NSF.

This has been a fabulous conference for seeing so many friends and colleagues.

Tonight is the general reception, which should be another great networking and reconnecting event.