Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Network of Radars and the Science of Forecasting Tornadoes

The devastation in the South, and especially in Alabama, following the tornadoes this past week is horrifying.

According to By early this morning, emergency management officials tallied 252 deaths in Alabama, 34 in Tennessee, 33 in Mississippi, 15 in Georgia, 5 in Virginia and 1 in Arkansas. Since 1680, there has been only one other date in U.S. history on which more people died during a severe weather outbreak, according to weather experts, when on March 18, 1925, a severe storm system swept across seven states killing 747 people, according to the National Weather Service.

Immediately when I heard the news this past week, I contacted colleagues at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa (the tornado hit 5 miles from their home) and colleagues at the University of Alabama in Birmingham (they are OK, too). I was personally affected, even though located miles away, since my flights were cancelled on Thursday and I missed a memorial service and symposium at Cornell.

The media had been reporting that it was difficult to forecast such major weather events and I was thinking about the research that is being conducted by the NSF Engineering Research Center known as CASA, which is headed by UMass Amherst. CASA (which means "home" in Spanish) stands for the Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere and this center is involved in the designing of technology, specifically, radars, and their placement in networks, to forecast major weather events, including tornadoes.

CASA's Director at UMass Amherst is Professor David McLaughlin (who is also now the Associate Dean of Engineering) and, would you believe, that almost on the same date (but a few years before the recent tornadoes in Alabama and 5 other states), McLaughlin spoke in our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series?! His talk, Chasing Interdisciplinarity while Chasing Tornadoes: An Overview of the CASA Engineering Research Center was fantastic (and you can see his abstract and find more info here).

Lo and behold, now The New York Times is reporting on the research of CASA, which is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in a ten year project. The article notes how CASA is a collaboration among several universities with expertise in radars, weather forecasting, and focuses also on emergency preparedness and management. The other universities, in addition to UMass Amherst, are: the University of Oklahoma, Colorado State, and the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez.

Specifically, this group works on designing and building radars (my husband spent his sabbatical at CASA plus the researchers there I consider as colleagues) and setting them up as a network in order to predict weather more locally and quicker. Every year a group from UMass travels to the tornado-ridden areas to, literally, gather data while chasing tornadoes. The group includes students who drive the trucks with the radar gear in back, and, believe me, you should hear their "war" stories.

Of course, it is important to be able to produce the necessary radars in a cost efficient way so that they could be deployed on a scale to help.

Indeed, as The Times stated in the article:

Emergency managers said the radar network would provide more detailed pictures of smaller areas, and could have applications for traffic control and fire protection.

You can read more about chasing tornadoes in the VORTEX2 project here.

What a critical time now to get such radars deployed! Just imagine if the huge losses in terms of lives and property could have been avoided!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Travel Disrupted but Talk Will Take Place

Yesterday, the East Coast was feeling the aftereffects of the horrific tornadoes and storms that struck the South, especially Alabama, with estimates of as many as 300 deaths.

I was at Bradley airport, waiting for my flight to Philly, with a connection to Ithaca, where I was to attend and speak at the Walter Isard Symposium. Then the notice went up that my flight was delayed, but the estimated time for departure made it still feasible for me to catch my connecting flight. You can guess what happened -- after several hours at the airport my flight was cancelled (and the flight from Philly to Ithaca later that day, which I had been told was sold out, was also). Flights were being cancelled to Dulles, DC, Chicago, Newark, Philly, etc. and the gate agent told me of planes that were hours behind schedule. He said that traveling would not be a pleasant experience given all the storms even if you could get on a flight (which I couldn't).

I felt like Steve Martin in "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles."

I was terribly disappointed since I so much wanted to pay tribute to the founder of regional science and to see colleagues and friends who were coming for the memorial service and symposium.Professor Isard died last Fall at the age of 91.

Times like these call for resiliency. I contacted Professor June Dong, my collaborator, who was going to the symposium and who lives only about an hour away by car from Cornell and she agreed to give my presentation -- so the talk will go on. Appropriately, she is even in a photo that I had put into the presentation in which she is seated right next to Professor Isard, who came to the talk that I gave at Cornell on April 1, 2009.

I have been told that both the memorial service and the symposium will be videotaped, and posted, which is wonderful.

As Professor David Boyce emailed me this morning, "The weather has been a major problem for this event."

As for two of my doctoral students, they made it to the POMS conference in Reno, Nevada, and are giving their presentations now.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Congratulations Are in Order!

My suitcase is packed and I will soon be off to Cornell University.

Yesterday, was one of those wonderful "academic" days.

My doctoral student, Min Yu, successfully defended her dissertation proposal, ANALYSIS, DESIGN, AND MANAGEMENT OF SUPPLY CHAIN NETWORKS WITH APPLICATIONS TO TIME-SENSITIVE PRODUCTS. Her major is Management Science and her minor is Resource Economics. She has a terrific dissertation committee. So many of her fellow students showed up to her defense to support her -- very professional and wonderful!

Min has also been selected to receive the 2011 Outstanding Doctoral Student Researcher Award, which she will receive in ceremonies at the Isenberg School next month. She is one of two recipients of the award this year.

Plus, a former doctoral student of mine, who received her PhD in 2010, Dr. Trisha "Woolley" Anderson, emailed me that she received, this past Tuesday, the John Maddux, Jr. Faculty Award from Texas Wesleyan University, where she teaches at its Business School. The award consists of an elegant glass "trophy" with $1500. It is named after the Chair of the Board of Trustees at Texas Wesleyan.

Stated on the award, "In recognition for playing a supportive, motivational, and inspirational role in the lives of students at Texas Wesleyan University."

Dr. Woolley and Min Yu are two of the Center Associates of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks that I direct.

And, while at Cornell, not only will I see many of my colleagues who are flying in to pay tribute to the legacy of Professor Walter Isard, but joining me will be Professor June Dong of the School of Business at SUNY Oswego, who is not only a former student of mine, but also an award-winning Full Professor and Center Associate!

Next week is the end of classes in the academic year, and we will be hosting our end of the year UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter party and will also be very busy with the First Northeast Regional INFORMS Conference at UMass Amherst; see the nice article in the UMass "In the Loop."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Healthcare Supply Chain Talks at POMS in Reno, Nevada

Yesterday, two of my doctoral students practiced the presentations that they will be giving this Friday at the POMS Conference, which is taking place in Reno, Nevada, April 29-May 2, 2011. They did such a great job that I treated them and the other students who served as the audience out to lunch.

The theme of this year's conference is -- Operations Management -- The Enabling Link.

They will be speaking in a healthcare session. Amir Masoumi will present our paper, "Supply Chain Network Operations Management of a Blood Banking System with Cost and Risk Management," and Min Yu will present our paper, "Multiproduct Supply Chain Network Design with Applications to Healthcare," which is co-authored with Dr. Patrick Qiang.

Min will also be taking part in the doctoral consortium at the POMS Conference and Dr. Qiang has been selected, and will take part, in the Emerging Scholars program.

Regretfully, I will not be going to the POMS Conference since I will be giving a talk at a memorial symposium at Cornell University on the legacy of Walter Isard. My doctoral students are certain to have a wonderful experience!

Monday, April 25, 2011

So, You are a Surgeon, Since You Do Operations!

When I fly, which is often, I always bring along some work, which may include papers to review, a paper that I am writing, a presentation that I am going over, and/or articles to read.

Oftentimes, my airplane seat-mates will get curious, and will ask what kind of work I do and if I reply that I work in Operations Research, inevitably, I get a response akin to "So, you do surgeries!" I don't like to disappoint and respond that, yes, I am a doctor, but a PhD, and not a medical doctor.

But the work that we do is not unlike that of a surgeon -- we have years of education, we prep, we train students (think -- surgical residents), we often work with collaborators, as in a surgical team, and we focus with precision and concentration as we analyze the world and data around us, construct the proofs, and code our algorithms. The postoperative period and patient care are like waiting for those referees' reports, which sometimes requires a lot of patience, as we wonder whether the paper (patient) will make it through and be published (survive), or not ! And, hopefully, we don't get too bloodied in the process. Also, what excitement when we see our results going forward and making an impact.

Now, with more members of the O.R. community heavily involved in healthcare, we are drawing even closer to "being surgeons."

Some of the push / pull for O.R. in healthcare, is coming from students, who see this as an area in which they can make positive contributions. For example, speaking from personal experience, one of my doctoral students has been researching blood supply chains, from analysis to design, with help from the American Red Cross, whereas another has been focusing on the optimal design of multiproduct supply chains with healthcare applications.

Blood supply chains present unique challenges, since this is a highly perishable, but life-saving product.

As for supply chains for healthcare products, which include vaccines and medicines, just recall the shortages of H1N1 vaccine last year, and the shortages of the leukemia critical drug, cytarabine, this year. A leukemia patient in our area, could not get this drug for her treatment at Mass General Hospital, a leading hospital, because of the shortage!

My doctoral students will be presenting their papers, Supply Chain Network Operations Management of a Blood Banking System with Cost and Risk Minimization and Multiproduct Supply Chain Network Design with Applications to Healthcare, at the First Northeast Regional INFORMS Conference at UMass Amherst, May 6-7, 2011.

In the meantime, you may also wish to read the thought-provoking article on healthcare in Cuba by my UMass colleague, Dr. Hari Balasubramanian, the Chair of our conference, that appeared in the most recent issue of ORMS Today. Wouldn't it be nice if doctors still did home visits?!

Take care of yourselves and try to stay healthy!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Will be Speaking at the Cornell Memorial Symposium for Walter Isard

Later this week, I will be flying to Cornell to speak at the Symposium on the Legacy of Walter Isard.

The symposium will take place April 29, 2011, in the afternoon, and the Memorial Service that morning. The Isard family is expected to attend.

Professor Kieran P. Donaghy, who is Chair of the Department of City and Regional Planning at Cornell and the Director of Graduate Studies in Regional Science, has organized the day's events, for which I am most grateful for.

Professor Walter Isard passed away last November at age 91 and I wrote a tribute to him on this blog. I'll never forget how he came to my talk at Cornell on April 1, 2009.

The program for the symposium, which will take place from 2-5PM at Cornell next Friday will include the following speakers and their titles (we have been allotted about 15 minutes) each:

Tony Smith -- The General Theory Book -- A Retrospective

Adam Rose (w/ Henk Folmer) -- Walter Isard’s Contributions to Ecological Economics

Peter Nijkamp -- Behaviour of Humans and Behaviour of Models: A Retrospective View on Walter Isard’s Contribution

I will speak on "A Thank You for the Network Legacy of Professor Isard."

Christine Smith -- Modeling Conflict Resolution

Charles Anderton -- Emergence of Peace Economics

David Boyce -- RSA and Travels with Walter

Peter Batey-- The Development of Regional Science in Europe

T. John Kim-- Input-Output in Urban Models and Founding of the Korean Regional Science Association

Lay Gibson -- Organization of the Mexican and other PRSCO sections

Iwan Azis -- Walter’s Ideas in Action

Glenn Palmer-- Walter Isard and the Peace Science Society.

The confirmed speakers for the morning Memorial Service are: Mike Teitz, Kingsley Haynes, Art Getis, Jean Paelinck, Geoff Hewings, Karen Polenske, Yoshitsugu Kanemoto, Michale Romanos, Dick Schuler, Janet Kohlhase, Maria Willumsen, Manas Chatterji, Judith Reppy, Jean Paelinck, with remarks from Dina Zinnes, Janice Madden, Martin Beckmann read by Kieran Donaghy.

I think that Professor Walter Isard would be very pleased to see how many are traveling even from Europe to honor his contributions and his legacy.

My presentation can be accessed here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Supply Chain Disruptions, Congestion, Risk, and Foreign Affairs

Kyle Johnson, who was a Jack Welch Scholar at UMass Amherst, and graduated from the Isenberg School with a degree in Operations Management, and now works in high tech recycling, sent me an email message this past week that he thought of me when he was reading an article in Foreign Affairs and provided me with the link to it.

The article, "Japan's Disaster and the Manufacturing Meltdown -- What the Earthquake and Tsunami Revealed About Globalization," by Marc Levinson, highlights the dangers of single sourcing that the Japan triple disaster has painfully shown, which has impacted the automotive and high tech industries severely. Levinson also noted his 2008 article in Foreign Affairs, in which he presciently wrote:

“Congested shipping lanes and highways make transit times uncertain,” “and this uncertainty hurts profits.” Moreover, the push for ever-greater port security will further slow transit; physical inspection of shipping containers could delay delivery by two to three days or more. “Even if the proportion of containers pulled out of the flow of traffic is small, importers will be forced to reckon with the possibility that their goods might be delayed in transit. In some instances, importers will adjust by keeping more stocks in their U.S. warehouses at any one time.”

Just think of all the time that is now being spent to check for radiation of goods being imported from Japan!

In 2009, Drs. Qiang, Dong, and I wrote the article, Modeling of Supply Chain Risk Under Disruptions with Performance Measurement and Robustness Analysis, which appeared in the book, Managing Supply Chain Risk and Vulnerability: Tools and Methods for Supply Chain Decision Makers, T. Wu and J. Blackhurst, Editors, Springer, Berlin, Germany, pp 91-111. Our study extended previous supply chain research by capturing supply-side disruption risks, transportation and other cost risks, and demand-side uncertainty within an integrated modeling and robustness analysis framework. Moreover, we included congestion in the model and proposed a weighted performance measure to evaluate different supply chain disruptions.

Highlights of other research on supply chain risk I wrote about in an earlier blogpost, which was motivated by, in part, the frustration at the developing events in Japan and the suffering of the people there.

In our Fragile Network Economy, the identification of the performance of supply chain networks prior to disruptions and the determination of which nodes and links really matter needs to be done before disasters strike!

Lean manufacturing may be more than short-sided, it may be, frankly, foolish.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Top Models for Sustainable Fashion Supply Chain Management

Today is Earth Day, so I would be remiss if I were not to post about supply chains and the environment.

When I say "top models" I am speaking not of the three-dimensional kind that are featured in the media and ads and on the covers of glossy magazines (and you may be able to name your favorites either male or female), but, rather, I am referring to mathematical models, based on which we can make important decisions. Yes, some of my colleagues in operations research and the management sciences still hold on to their t-shirts with the logo "We Do It With Models."

Also, despite what today's The New York Times is reporting about declining sales of green consumer products (except in the case of "good" deals), sustainability matters.

Fast fashion and the apparel industry is global in nature -- of course, everyone wears clothes, and for those of us who live in New England, we wear different clothes, based on the season, and sometimes lots of layers of them.

Fashion and apparel supply chains are fascinating, and involve decision-making regarding global outsourcing versus in-house production and quick-response.

Also, today, we are living in a world where the competition is not among firms but among supply chains and, given the same price, what would a socially-responsible consumer do -- she would purchase the product that made less of a negative impact on the environment!

As for the models that we have been developing, they include supply chain network models for competition among different fashion brands with sustainability, also available from the publisher, the International Journal of Production Economics, as well as multicriteria decision-making supply chain network models that capture time versus cost tradeoffs, which will appear as the lead chapter in the forthcoming book: Fashion Supply Chain Management: Business and Industry Analysis.

Above is a photo of what I consider to be a very special gift, given to me by the participants in a workshop that I organized at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center on Lake Como in Italy, a fashion design mecca. The beautiful scarf with butterflies was made there locally and the silk was spun by silkworms! In fact, I find it too beautiful to wear and consider it art and a remembrance of a very special time.

And then there is Nancy Judd, an environmental educator and designer, who creates fashions out of recycled materials, including trash, some of which can then be put back in the compost pile!

Invitation Letter from China with Beautiful Stamps

I had received the invitation via email but it did not compare to the formal invitation that arrived in the envelope above. With all the virtual communications, it was delightful to be able to hold and admire the envelope with the beautiful bird stamps that traveled over two weeks from China and to read the letter inside.

I will be giving two keynote talks next month in China at conferences in Shenzen and Shanghai and the envelope and letter that I could share and show to my students made the upcoming conferences and experiences more tangible.

Now, it's time to get the visa.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Congrats to the Winners of the Boston Marathon -- Both the Kenyans and the Japanese!

Perhaps it was a good omen.

Last Friday, one of my undergrads, who had taken my Transportation & Logistics class last Fall, presented me with an unexpected gift -- a beautiful handmade woven cloth that he had brought back from Kenya for me. He gave it to me during the reception that preceded our Meet The Executive event. He told me that it is the kind of cloth that many Kenyan women wear and he remembered the beautiful silk scarf that I had brought to show my class that had been made in Bellagio, Italy, and that the participants in the Humanitarian Logistics: Networks for Africa workshop that I had organized had given me on the last day, in appreciation. My student has done amazing things in Kenya, including being part of the AfricaGoal project, and will return there to work after his graduation from UMass Amherst.

Yesterday, two Kenyans finished first in the men's and women's (Caroline Kilel) divisions in the Boston marathon (frankly, not surprising, but a thrilling race, nonetheless). A Kenyan has won the men's race 5 out of the last 6 years. Geoffrey Mutai won for the men this year and Caroline Kilel for the women (and beat the American Desiree Davila by only a few seconds).

As for the top finishers in the wheelchair division, it was the Japanese who placed first, with Masazumi Soejima winning it for the men and Wakako Tsuchida for the women. Not only was the Japanese sweep unprecedented, but it marked the first time a racer from Japan had won either wheelchair race. Given the difficulties that they had even in training because of the triple disaster in Japan, this is quite wonderful news and a great accomplishment!

The above photo is of a set of pearls that a former student of mine, who is originally from Japan, gave me upon his graduation, from his family. I placed it on the lovely Kenyan cloth, to mark, in a small way, the incredible endurance of this year's Boston marathon winners (and all runners), which also made me think of my wonderful students!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Tribute to the Nobel Laureate William N. Lipscomb

Professor William "Bill" Lipscomb, a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and long-time Harvard professor, passed away on April 14, 2011, at age 91.

I had heard a lot about Professor Lipscomb since my husband had been in the same class at Lafayette College as his son, James, and he had met him several times. Later, I even met Professor Lipscomb at a chamber music event at Brown University organized by the American Mathematical Society (AMS) (all performers had to be members of the AMS so since his particular instrument, the clarinet, was needed, he was quickly made an honorary member).

It was clear that not only did Professor Lipscomb love music and performing, and wearing a string tie, even to the Nobel ceremony, but he also loved science and he was so successful at it. The Nobel laureate, Dr. Linus Pauling, was his mentor and Lipscomb switched from physics (my husband's major) to chemistry under his influence.

Not only did Dr. Lipscomb receive a Nobel prize, but two of his graduate students did, as well, plus another student who had spent time in his lab! And it all started with a chemistry set that he received at age 11.

His sense of humor was legendary, and he was an avid participant in the annual Ig Nobel prize ceremonies at Harvard (which I have blogged about).

The Boston Globe, in a touching obituary
, has the following quote from Professor Lipscomb, which is so true:

“A scientist proceeds in making discoveries in very much the same way that an artist goes about working,’’ Dr. Lipscomb said in a 1981 US News & World Report interview.

“You have to master a large discipline, and your discoveries are not necessarily made by planning them. They arise intuitively. You suddenly perceive brand-new connections that you were unaware of before. Material somehow reorganizes itself in your mind, and that leads to the spawning of a new group of ideas.’’

According to his son, James, Lipscomb was humble and exhibited his characteristic self-deprecating humor even after being awarded the Nobel.

"He said something like 'I knew that I'd written a lot of good papers, but I didn't know that anyone had read them,'" James said.

Great Leadership and How to Succeed -- Characteristics of Top C.E.O.s

This year, we started a "Meet the Executive" initiative at the Isenberg School of Management, through the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, that I serve as the Faculty Advisor of.

Just this Friday, we had the honor and pleasure of hosting one of our alums in this initiative, Mr. Kevin Koswick of Ford Motor Corporation. I wrote about some of the highlights of his talk in an earlier post but he offered additional pearls of wisdom during more informal discussions that took place both before his talk and at the lunch afterwards that several of our students and faculty attended (I was the host).

Lo and behold, today's New York Times has a terrific article by Adam Bryant on extractions from his book, “The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons From CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed," based, in part, on his weekly "Corner Office" column, which is a favorite read of mine.

And, guess who is the first exec that he quotes -- none other than Alan Mullaly, the Chief Executive of Ford, who is quoted as saying:

“You learn from everybody” “I’ve always just wanted to learn everything, to understand anybody that I was around — why they thought what they did, why they did what they did, what worked for them, what didn’t work.”

A discussion on the importance of teamwork came out during Friday's Q&A with Koswick (and even our Dean, Dr. Mark Fuller, asked some terrific questions).

So, distilling some more pearls of wisdom from top C.E.O.'s -- those who succeed in business, according to Adam Bryant, have:

1. passionate curiosity (with Mullaly being an exemplar here);

2. confidence and a tireless work ethic gleaned through facing adversity;

3. team smarts (and Koswick emphasized this to us last Friday);

4. limited time so make sure that you get to your point fast (forget about those time-consuming Power Point presentations), and

5. fearlessness!

The Times article states that: C.E.O.’s can act as mentors to speed people along that learning curve. They may not develop silver-bullet theories, but they are experts in leadership because they practice it daily. And many of them have spent years honing their leadership styles, studying what works and what doesn’t, and then teaching others.

However, Kevin Koswick of Ford had interesting insights when I asked him about the importance of mentorship in corporate America. Mentorship is very important as one moves up the academic ladder, beginning with being a student. He told us that one actually has to be a bit careful on this because what happens if your mentor gets fired and you have been very closely associated with him / her? This goes back to what Mullaly said about learning from everyone and as Koswick told us -- the importance of getting along with everyone. One should not just manage up (which means that one should also always be genuinely nice to the administrative assistants).

Plus, what Koswick and I agree on is the most important attribute of a successful leader, whether a C.E.O. or not, and that is, first and foremost, INTEGRITY!

The Art of Ukrainian Easter Eggs -- Pysanky

This is the season during which many (at least those of us living north of the equator) continue to celebrate the holidays associated with spring.

My heritage is Ukrainian and Ukrainian is my first language.

Although I was born in Canada (and was in Canada last week to give a talk at the University of Waterloo), I can say that I grew up in Yonkers, New York, before going off to Brown University, my alma mater (four times over since I have 4 Brown degrees including the PhD).

As I was growing up, every spring, a group of us would gather to make pysanky, which are Ukrainian Easter eggs. This is a delicate endeavor, requiring steady hands, plus a beeswax candle, a stylus, and various colorful dyes. The beeswax is layered over the eggs in patterns to preserve the latest dye color that the egg has been dipped into. One starts with "drawing" a pattern with beeswax on the white, undyed egg, proceeds to dye it in a yellow color, draws another pattern, and proceeds in this fashion, all the way through the final and darkest color, which is, typically, black.

The raw eggs can first be blown out of their contents, which requires almost a surgeon's skill. Then it's time for for their "painting" and decorating. I always worked on my pysanky with eggs, whose contents had not been removed (and, luckily, over the years, we have broken no more than 2 such pysanky -- the odor can be quite unpleasant, so handle with care).

Yesterday, after dropping our daughter off at Deerfield Academy -- her team was off to Andover for a big Saturday track meet, we stopped by a bazaar in South Deerfield, where some pysanky were being sold, along with many baked goods, and even beautiful Ukrainian ceramics. I was overcome by nostalgia. There were several pysanky made out of large goose eggs, and they were simply stunning!

The above pysanky are from our collection and we have acquired them from family and friends (a few underneath the top ones we even made ourselves). The various symbols on the pysanky have specific meanings -- I especially like the delicate wheat patterns and the animal patterns, in addition to the embroidery-like designs. Many have agricultural themes.

You can find out more about how to make beautiful pysanky here.

Eggs symbolize birth, and the making of pysanky is just one tradition that gets handed down from generation to generation, and whose art and beauty everyone can enjoy.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Alum Auto Exec Comes Back to Isenberg

Today we hosted Mr. Kevin Koswick of Ford in our second "Meet the Executive" event. The students of the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter help me to organize this speaker series.

Mr. Koswick is the Executive Director of Ford's North American Fleet, Lease and Remarketing Operations. In this role, he oversees the largest commercial and government operation in the industry, as well the remarketing of all Ford Vehicles in North America. In addition, he has brand responsibilities for all Ford Commercial Vans, Chassis Cabs, Police Vehicles, Taxis, Limousines, Livery and Recreational Vehicles.

Mr. Koswick received his MBA from UMass Amherst in 1985.

His three "takeaway points" from his presentation today:

1. Your personal habits matter. Work very hard and always be prepared.

2. Respect everyone. Managing up doesn't work. People who take care of others, do better. Don't be competitive at the expense of others.

3. You need to have common business sense. Persevere and make things happen.

Above are photos taken at his talk and the lunch afterwards.

Thanks to Mr. Kevin Koswick, an exceptional individual, executive, and alum!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Japan's Electric Power Grid Can't Cope Because the Networks Don't Match Up!

In my most recent blogpost, I noted the importance of electric power generation and distribution networks and their reliability.

IEEE Spectrum, in a very illuminating article, notes that parts of Japan, following the triple disaster there, have to now deal with rolling blackouts (this, in addition to the displacement of people, the destruction of the infrastructure in the affected areas, plus radiation in some of the food, water, air, and soil). This dire situation is expected to continue for months.

Ironically, parts of Japan can generate sufficient electric power to overcome the unmet demand in the general Tokyo area and eastern parts, but, according to the article:

TEPCO’s supply situation would look less grim were it not for a quirky split that divides Japan’s power grids in half: While Tokyo and the rest of eastern Japan run on 50-hertz electricity, the big cities southwest of Tokyo and the rest of the country run on alternating current that cycles at 60 Hz. It’s a historical accident from the 19th century, when Tokyo’s electrical entrepreneurs installed 50-Hz generators mainly from Germany, while their counterparts in Osaka selected 60-Hz equipment from the United States. The result is a national grid whose two halves cannot directly exchange AC power, which limits TEPCO’s ability to seek help from the 56 percent of Japan’s power-generating capacity that lies to the west.

"It’s a shame. The western grids can supply a lot. I think they could cover [TEPCO’s] peak demand," says Kent Hora, executive vice president for Mitsubishi Electric Power Products, the U.S. arm of Japanese power-engineering giant Mitsubishi Electric.

Personally, this reminds me of areas of the world where the railroad tracks are of different gauges and, hence, trains can't continue moving from one network to another.

There is a discussion in the article about the potential of new transmission lines being built but also that some of the citizens are saying NotInMyBackYard, which certainly complicates matters!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Congrats to ISO Midwest -- The 2011 Edelman Prize Winner!

Yesterday, I gave a seminar at the Management Sciences Department at the University of Waterloo in Canada. My hosts were simply fabulous and I so much appreciate their attention to detail, from hiring a van shuttle to/from Pearson airport in Toronto for me, for the fabulous lunch at the Faculty Club, and the wonderfully scheduled meetings with faculty and with students. I even got a great night's sleep the night before at the Waterloo Inn. I especially thank Dr. Fatma Gzara for making my visit to Waterloo so pleasant.

In my seminar yesterday afternoon, "Supply Chain Networks: Challenges and Opportunities from Analysis and Design," I spoke on our work on supply chains from electric power generation and distribution ones, results for which were published in Naval Research Logistics in 2009 to our more recent work on critical needs supply chains. I also highlighted some of our research on fast fashion supply chains and work that we are doing on perishable supply chains in healthcare. I also brought into the discussions some of our recent results on the Braess paradox.

There are so many universities in the Toronto area and I heard that about one third of the population in Canada lives in this part of Ontario! Some students from Wilfrid Laurier University (we could see it from the seminar window) marched over to my talk (and it took them about 6 minutes).

Last night, at the Pearson airport, prior to my flight back from Toronto to Hartford/Springfield, I met a manager who had just arrived from Shanghai and works for a high tech company in Connecticut which, among its products, manufactures high tech equipment for the apparel and fashion industry. Our 18 seater Beech airplane provided each of the 8 passengers on board with both an aisle and window seat (the solitary steward was almost double-overed standing up in it and there was no drink service). We continued our conversation during the flight which had some turbulence but nothing compared to that in two of my favorite movies: "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," and "Airplane."

Now, I hear, that on the same day that I was speaking about our research that modeled the New England fuel and electric power market, using ISO New England data, INFORMS announced that the 2011 Edelman Prize Winner is ISO Midwest! Coincidentally, while at Waterloo, I spoke with Professor J. David Fuller who told me about the book that he is writing with Gabriel and Hobbs and others on energy and he will be including a section on variational inequalities in it! Professor Bookbinder and I also had a chance to then discuss the future challenges of global supply chains (obviously, the triple disaster in Japan entered our conversation and also my seminar presentation).

Congratulations to ISO Midwest -- the link to the youtube posting of the award ceremony and the official INFORMS press release can be accessed here. In fact, all of this year's finalists deserve congratulations.

Just think, where would we be without electric power and reflect on the citizens of Japan, who, in addition to their already severely disrupted lives after the earthquake / tsunami / nuclear disaster, are now subjected to rolling power blackouts and even elevated radiation in the food, tap water, etc. Today, the nuclear disaster was elevated to a level 7, the highest level, as was Chernobyl.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Supernetworks -- The Science of Complexity

I've been thinking a lot about complexity lately and recently completed an invited paper, "Supernetworks: The Science of Complexity."

In doing the research for this paper, which presents some of the highlights of methodological advances and applications over the past decade, what amazed me was how research conducted in one discipline can have major impacts in others.

Specifically, I was interested in overviewing the breadth and depth of applications of supernetworks, and associated methodologies, since I wrote the Supernetworks: Decision-Making for the Information Age book with Dr. June Dong back in 2002.

What I pleasantly discovered was that the methodology of projected dynamical systems, which I wrote a book on with Dr. Ding Zhang in 1996, results of which were also included in the second edition of my Network Economics book, is now being utilized and applied in evolutionary game theory, in neuroscience and robotics, and in ecological predator-prey networks! Projected dynamical systems (unlike classical dynamical systems) can handle constraints underlying dynamical systems and the theory allows for the investigation of qualitative properties, including stability of systems, and has associated with it appropriate algorithmic schemes.

Our book, Projected Dynamical Systems and Variational Inequalities with Applications, was the second volume in the International Series in Operations Research & Management Science. As reported in the book (and since), my collaborators and I have used projected dynamical systems to model dynamic traffic problems, dynamic supply chain networks and financial networks, electric power generation and distribution systems, and a variety of spatial and aspatial economic problems.

Sometimes it may take awhile for a methodology developed in one discipline to be discovered by other disciplines but when it allows for breakthroughs, it is very gratifying, I must say!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

So Proud of Our Isenberg School of Management Students!

The students at Isenberg continue to impress me by their manners (they will open the door to our nice building and hold it open for me until I pass through); they greet faculty warmly, and their work ethic is amazing (just stop by our stunning atrium any time of day or evening or even on a weekend to see their concentration whether on individual tasks or working collectively on group projects). Our students are creative, take heavy courseloads with very challenging courses, and still manage to engage in worthwhile extracurricular activities with many of them also holding part-time jobs.

Since I teach in our Operations Management undergraduate major program and the Management Science PhD program, I continue to be so proud of our students' accomplishments while at Isenberg and after they graduate. Our students have assumed executive positions in leading companies, have gone on to receive MBAs from Harvard and PhDs from MIT as well as UMass Amherst and other top universities, and have accomplished so much. Plus, our students are interesting and such a pleasure to teach and to interact with both inside and outside of the classroom.

The Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst is a gem where multidisciplinarity in terms of research and teaching is the norm. The school regularly makes Princeton Review's Best Place for Women top 5 rankings so female students feel comfortable here. There is also value placed on diversity and inclusion and I hope that a positive and supportive atmosphere continues.

One of the highlights, for me, of the academic year, is the reaching of milestones, and I am very much looking forward to the graduation ceremonies in May!

Speaking of milestones, yesterday one of our PhD students in Management Science, who matriculated when I was the Area Coordinator, defended her doctoral dissertation (successfully) so now Ms. Ahn Nguyen, who was born in Vietnam, and was a "boat person," became a US citizen, will be Dr. Ahn Nguyen! Her doctoral dissertation on continuous improvement in Vietnam, with much fieldwork in Vietnam, highlighted the challenges faced by that emerging economy (and also the opportunities). Plus, she has secured a faculty position in Operations Management in the San Francisco Bay area.

The receipt of a PhD takes time, incredible concentration, original, creative thinking, and hard work, coupled with assistance and mentorship of the faculty. A new PhD, who becomes a faculty member, can then, in turn, educate and mentor future generations so the investment in time and effort by all concerned (as well as the personal sacrifices) very often (but, of course, this may be discipline-dependent) pays off, hopefully, both in the relatively short run and in the long run.

The joy associated with research and knowledge discovery is its own incredible reward! Those who go on with their PhDs to work in government or coporations or even non-profits or foundations, come packed with a skill set and discipline plus knowledge that are very valuable in organizations. Some may even become entrepreneurs (all successful academics are entrepreneurs or we wouldn't survive in academia, much less, thrive, especially in these uncertain and dynamic times).

Also, yesterday, the announcement went out that one of my doctoral students in Management Science, Ms. Min Yu, will be defending her dissertation proposal at the end of this month. Her dissertation title: "Analysis, Design and Management of Supply Chain Networks for Time-Sensitive Products." Min already has several papers in various publication stages and is teaching a required undergrad course this semester, while serving as the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter's webmaster and was the President of this award-winning student chapter last year.

As a colleague of mine at the University of Florida, Distinguished University Professor Panos M. Pardalos, says, one needs to recognize where one started to measure success. Clearly, those who have been born with silver spoons in their mouths may have it easier but it is the trajectory of your life and accomplishments that matter (and remember the "initial conditions" of where you started from).

Our students, some of whom are the first in their families to receive a college education, are clearly successes by this measure!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Will be in Waterloo and not Chicago

Next week will certainly be another busy week!

Excitement is growing about the INFORMS Business Analytics & Operations Research Conference, which begins on April 10, 2011, and will be in Chicago this year. It should be a fantastic event with the announcement of the Edelman prize, panels, and various networking opportunities. Also, it will be covered by bloggers in case you, like I, can't be there.

I accepted an invitation extended last summer to speak on April 11 at the University of Waterloo in the Department of Management Sciences in the Faculty of Engineering. I am very much looking forward to being back in Canada, albeit for a short time, and to seeing colleagues in that terrific department. My talk in the department's seminar series is on:

Supply Chain Networks: Challenges and Opportunities from Analysis to Design.

Since I was born in Canada I can go through immigration in Toronto through the "faster" route since the Canadians still consider me to be a Canadian, although I now hold a US passport.

Also, speaking about upcoming conferences, UMass Amherst issued a nice press release on our upcoming First Northeast Regional INFORMS Conference that will be held at UMass Amherst, May 6-7, 2011. We hope to get, in addition to some of our regular bloggers, student bloggers to also cover this event.

Happy Spring (finally)!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Miracles Do Happen -- Congratulations to Dr. Li Cai!

With so much negative news, I thought it appropriate to take a break from writing a scholarly paper to celebrate what is being called a true miracle.

One of our doctoral students, Ms. Li Cai, was struck by a car on October 2, 2008, outside of the Isenberg School of Management, and was thrown 20 feet. This horrible accident occurred in the early evening as she was making her way home, on a pedestrian walkway, and was heavily covered by the media.

She was deemed critical and remained in a coma for 38 days. Through the incredible support of her family, the local community, our Isenberg School of Management, and medical professionals, she pulled through.

Not only did she pull through, but, yesterday, on April 4, 2011, Li Ca successfully defended her doctoral dissertation in Finance.

Congratulations to Dr. Li Cai!

The announcement for her defense with title, abstract, and the Chair of her doctoral dissertation committee, which was disseminated to our school, are below.

Dissertation Defense by Li Cai

Monday, April 4th, 2011
ISOM Room 112

Chair: Professor Bing Liang

Title of Li Cai's Doctoral Dissertation: Three Essays Exploring Hedge Fund Dynamics


Hedge fund managers are largely free to pursue dynamic trading strategies and standard static performance appraisal is no longer accurate for evaluating hedge funds. Accordingly, this paper presents some new ways of analyzing hedge fund strategies following a dynamic linear regression model. Statistical residual diagnostics are considered to assess the appropriate use of the model. We unveil dynamic alphas and betas for each investment style during the period of January 1994 to December 2008. We examine the in-sample
goodness-of-fit and out-of-sample predictability on hedge fund performance. By simulating a hypothetical trading strategy, we demonstrate that the model-based predictability helps to implement a profitable fund selection process. Finally, timing skills can be directly examined with a dynamic model; we find significant evidence on market timing, volatility timing and liquidity timing, which is consistent with the timing literature in hedge funds.

This paper examines hedge fund asset allocation dynamics through conducting optimal changepoint test on an asset class factor model. Based on the average F-test and the Bayesian Information Criterion (BIC), we find that dynamic hedge funds have significantly better quality than non-dynamic funds, signaled by lower volatility, stricter share restrictions, and high water mark provision. In particular, a higher degree of dynamics is shown to be associated with better risk-adjusted performance at the individual fund level. We find that the degree of a fund's dynamics is also related to share restrictions. However, the outperformance of highly dynamic funds is robust even after controlling for share restrictions. Sub-period analysis suggests
that the superiority of asset allocation dynamics is mostly driven by earlier time periods before the peak of the technology bubble. Flow analysis suggests that returns in the hedge fund industry are diminishing as capital flows in and arbitrage opportunities are not infinitely exploitable.

In this paper we study hedge fund styles by examining both prospectus-based classification and a return-based classification on a sample of hedge funds over the period of 2005 to 2011. Using seven
versions of the Lipper/TASS data, we are able to track prospectus-based classification on an annual basis. Although the two classifications are not consistent to each other, we show that style shifts exist in both classifications, suggesting that the static hedge fund style classification is inappropriate. By constructing a
disagreement measure between the two classifications, we argue that the disagreement is related to manager skills rather than strategic misclassification. Further, we demonstrate that investors react positively to the disagreement measure and money flows to top-performing funds based on prospectus-based styles.

Moreover, Dr. Cai has accepted a job offer from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

We wish her and her family much professional success and personal happiness.

Miracles Do Happen!