Friday, September 30, 2011

2011 Ig Nobel Prizes Awarded at Harvard -- From Structured Procrastination to Why You Should Use the Bathroom to the Wasabi Alarm

The Ig Nobel Prizes have been awarded annually at Harvard for 21 years. They are given out shortly before the Nobel prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden. They are given out by actual Nobel prize winners.

The research that the Ig Nobels recognize makes you laugh and think and then laugh again.

This year's awards were announced at ceremonies last night in Cambridge and they made me laugh out loud so I think that you will enjoy them too.

There are several with a transportation theme and one on mathematics.

Some of my favorites: the Ig Nobel for structured procrastination; for the wasabi (the horseradish that you eat with your sushi) alarm to wake up solid sleepers; for teaching humankind to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations; for conducting a series of safety experiments in which a person drives an automobile on a major highway while a visor repeatedly flaps down over his face, momentarily blinding him; for research on discus throwers getting dizzy, and perhaps the funniest: for research and separate papers demonstrating that people make better decisions about some kinds of things, but worse decisions about other kinds of things, when they have to go to the bathroom.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a full list of recipients along with links to their scientific articles. The procrastination essay first appeared in The Chronicle in 1996 and, as appropriate, it took a decade and a half to be recognized.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Looking Forward to Speaking in Paris at the NetGCoop Conference

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I will be giving a plenary talk at the 2011 NetGCoop International Conference on Network Games, Control, and Optimization, which takes place next month in Paris, France.

The title of my plenary is: Grand Challenges and Opportunities in Supply Chain Network Analysis and Design. Another plenary speaker will be my good colleague, Professor Asu Ozdaglar from MIT, whom we had hosted in our speaker series a while back.

Pretty cool that the organizers have selected several females as plenary speakers!

I am very much looking forward to this conference.

Above I have posted several photos from my trip to Paris 3 summers ago when I spoke at the Funding Transportation Infrastructure Conference and at the Computing in Economics and Finance Conference at the Sorbonne.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Congrats to Dr. Richard Tapia for the National Medal of Science

Yesterday, President Obama announced the seven 2011 recipients of the National Medal of Science and in this group is Dr. Richard Tapia of Rice University. Dr. Tapia will be awarded the medal in ceremonies next month for his pioneering and fundamental contributions in optimization theory and numerical analysis and for his dedication and sustained efforts in fostering diversity and excellence in mathematics and science education.

Dr. Tapia is the son of Mexican immigrants and the first one in his family to go to college. He is a member of one of the professional societies that I belong to -- SIAM, which first made me aware of the great news.

Rice University has issued a press release, which contains an interview with Dr. Tapia and comments by Dr. Neal Lane, the former head of the National Science Foundation.You can access the release and video here.

Personally, I knew one National Medal of Science winner well and that was Dr. Val Haensel of UMass Amherst, who has since passed away. A photo of him with his lovely wife, my former Dean Dr. Tom O'Brien, our then Provost, Dr. Cora Marrett, presently of NSF, and some other friends, can be found on this blog.

Sustainability of Supply Chain Networks

Supply chain networks have emerged as the backbones of economic activities in the modern world. In their most fundamental realization, supply chains consist of suppliers and manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and consumers at the demand markets. Today, supply chains may span thousands of miles, involve numerous interacting decision-makers, and be underpinned by multimodal transportation and telecommunication networks. Their importance to the timely and efficient delivery of products as varied as food, energy, including electric power, pharmaceuticals, clothing, computer hardware, and even toys, etc., has fueled an immense interest in their analysis on the part of both researchers and practitioners. When supply chain disruptions occur, whether due to natural disasters, human error, attacks, or even market failure, the ramifications can propagate and impact the health and well-being of the citizenry.

Today's supply chains may be characterized by decentralized decision-making associated with the different economic agents or by centralized decision-making. In some instances the underlying behavior may be that of competition, whereas, in other cases, cooperation is essential. Supply chains are, in fact, Complex Network Systems, and, hence, any formalism that seeks to model supply chains and to provide quantifiable insights and measures must be a system-wide one and network-based. Indeed, such crucial issues as the stability and resiliency of supply chains, as well as their adaptability and responsiveness to events in a global environment of increasing risk and uncertainty, can only be rigorously examined from the view of supply chains as network systems.

Supply chains share many of the same characteristics as other network systems; including a large-scale nature and complexity of network topology; congestion, which leads to nonlinearities; alternative behavior of users of the networks, which may lead to paradoxical phenomena (recall the well-known Braess paradox in which the addition of a new road may increase the travel time for all); possibly conflicting criteria associated with optimization (the minimization of time for delivery, for example, may result in higher emissions); interactions among the underlying networks themselves, such as the Internet with electric power networks, financial networks, and transportation and logistical networks, and the growing recognition of their fragility and vulnerability. Moreover, policies surrounding supply chain networks today may have major impacts not only economically, but also socially, politically, and security-wise.

On the other hand, increases in demand for a product, entirely new demand markets, decreases in transaction costs, new suppliers, and even new modes of transaction, and new engineering technologies may provide new opportunities for profit maximization for manufacturers, distributors, as well as retailers, and new linkages that were not previously possible.

The integration of an environmental perspective into a business context can be traced back to the 1990s, and is linked to the book, Our Common Future, also referred to as the Brundtland Report. Indeed, it has been argued that the critical next step from examinations of operations and the environment is the study of sustainability and supply chains with environmental performance being a source of reputational, competitive, and financial advantage. According to a 2007 survey sponsored by DuPont and Mohawk Industries, despite the weak economy, 65% of consumers are willing to pay an additional 8.3% for products made with renewable resources. A firm's success has been tied, in part, to the strength of its ability to coordinate and integrate activities along the entire supply chain, and to effectively implement multicriteria decision-making tools to aid in their strategic decisions.

Our approach to supply chain network sustainability incorporates several facets from the enhanced operations management of supply chains to their design and redesign. In addition, we have modeled the incorporation of policies ranging from carbon taxes to tradable pollution permits in electric power supply chain networks as well as in transportation networks. Our emphasis is on the development of transparent computable frameworks that enable decision makers and policy makers to investigate how changes in policies, which can include the addition or removal of supply chain nodes and links, and the inclusion of lower-emitting production and storage technologies, will impact the product flows, as well as the product prices, and emissions generated.

Moreover, our perspective on sustainability also captures waste management issues from electronic recycling networks to health care supply chains, such as blood supply chains, medical nuclear supply chains, and even pharmaceutical ones. An essential aspect of our research is the incorporation of economics, behavioral, engineering, and management principles and components in order to capture the complexity and realities of today's supply chains.

Below we highlight three application domains in which our supply chain research has attempted to address major challenges.

1. Electric power is essential to the functioning of our modern economy; however, electricity generation is the dominant industrial source of air pollution emissions in the US today. Fossil fuel-based power plants are responsible for 67% of the nations sulfur dioxide emissions, 23% of the nitrogen oxide emissions, and 40% of man-made carbon dioxide emissions. Electricity worldwide is produced mainly by using coal, which is responsible for 40% of the carbon dioxide pollution (and, hence, global warming). Coal is expected to maintain about 36% share of the electricity generation market through 2020.

In Liu and Nagurney (2009), we developed an electric power supply chain network model with fuel supply markets that captures both the economic network transactions in energy supply markets and the physical network transmission constraints in the electric power network. The model was applied to the New England electric power supply chain, which consists of 6 states, 5 fuel types, 82 power generators, with a total of 573 generating units, and 10 demand market regions. The empirical case study revealed that the regional electric power prices simulated by the model matched the actual electricity prices in New England very closely. We also computed the electric power prices and the spark spread, an important measure of the power plant profitability, when the natural gas and oil price were varied. The empirical examples demonstrated that, in the case of New England, the market/grid-level fuel competition has become the principal factor that affects the influence of the oil price on the natural gas price. We also applied the model to investigate how changes in the demand for electricity influence the electric power and the fuel markets from a regional perspective. The theoretical framework can be applied to other regions and multiple electricity markets under deregulation.

2. In Nagurney and Nagurney (2011), we constructed a model for the design medical nuclear supply chains, which addresses the perishability of the radioisotpes. For example, each day, 41,000 nuclear medical procedures are performed in the United States using Technetium-99m, a radioisotope obtained from the decay of Molybdenum-99. The Molybdenum is produced by irradiating primarily Highly Enriched Uranium targets in research reactors. For over two decades, no irradiation and subsequent Molybdenum processing has occurred in the United States. All of the Molybdenum necessary for our nuclear medical diagnostic procedures, which include diagnostics for two of the greatest killers, cancer and cardiac problems, comes from foreign sources. Since Molybdenum-99 has a half-life of only 66.7 hours, continuous production is needed to provide the supply for the medical procedures. Thus, the US is critically vulnerable to Molybdenum supply chain disruptions that could significantly affect our health care security and is totally dependent on foreign suppliers.
3. Another industry that our research has focused on is the pharmaceutical industry (see Masoumi, Yu, and Nagurney (2011)). Ironically, whereas some drugs may be unsold and unused and/or past their expiration dates, the number of drugs that were reported in short supply in the US in the first half of 2011 has risen almost to an all-time record 0f 211 as compared to only 58 in short supply in 2004. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and American Hospital Association, all US hospitals have reported shortages of drugs used in a wide range of treatments and procedures including those for cancer, surgery, anesthesia, and intravenous feedings. In the US, 82% of the hospitals have reported delayed care for patients as a consequence of such shortages including the postponement of surgeries and treatments and the use of less effective or costlier substitutes. In addition to increasing generic competition, the lower reimbursements by government health programs have worsened the situation.

Apart from the cost management pressures and challenges, the safety of imported / outsourced products is another major issue for pharmaceutical companies. In fact, the emergence of counterfeit products has resulted in major reforms in the relationships among various tiers in pharmaceutical supply chains. Interestingly, more than 80% of the ingredients of drugs sold in the US are made overseas, mostly in remote facilities located in China and India that are rarely – if not ever – visited by government inspectors. Supply chains of generic drugs, which account for 75% of the prescription medicines sold in the US, are, typically, more susceptible to falsification with the supply chains of some of the over-the-counter products, such as vitamins or aspirins, also vulnerable to adulteration. Similarly, the amount of counterfeit drugs in the European pharmaceutical supply chains has considerably increased.

Another pressure faced by pharmaceutical firms is the environmental impact of their medical waste, which includes the expired or excess medicine by a hospital or pharmacy and the inappropriate disposal on the retailer/consumer end. Abundant amounts of unused or expired drugs have been found in American drinking water supplies due to improper disposal of unused or expired pharmaceuticals in domestic trash or in the waste water.

Our computable pharmaceutical supply chain network model includes both brand differentiation and perishability of pharmaceuticals whether through loss of quality over time, or even pilferage. Ongoing research includes the assessment of the quantification of the impact of product shortages and the resolution of such shortages.

With rigorous operations research models we can enhance decision making and policy making to enable the better utilization of our resources for supply chains now and in the future.

Further Readings

Cruz, J. M., 2008. Dynamics of Supply Chain Networks with Corporate Social Responsibility Through Integrated Environmental Decision-making. European Journal of Operational Research 184: pp 1005-1031.

Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Adaptation Advisory Committee, 2011. Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Report.

Ganeshan, R., T. Boone, and V. Jayaraman, 2011. Sustainable Supply Chains: Models, Methods and Policy. Springer, New York, in press.

Liu, Z., and A. Nagurney, 2009. An Integrated Electric Power Supply Chain and Fuel Market Network Framework: Theoretical Modeling with Empirical Analysis for New England. Naval Research Logistics 56: pp 600-624.

Masoumi, A. H., M. Yu, and A. Nagurney, 2011. A Supply Chain Generalized Network Oligopoly Model for Pharmaceuticals Under Brand Differentiation and Perishability.

Nagurney, A., 2006. Supply Chain Network Economics: Dynamics of Prices, Flows, and Profits. Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, England.

Nagurney, A., and K. K. Dhanda, 2000. Marketable Pollution Permits in Oligopolistic Markets with Transaction Costs. Operations Research 43: pp 424-435.

Nagurney, A., Z. Liu, and T. Woolley, 2006. Optimal Endogenous Carbon Taxes for Electric Power Supply Chains with Power Plants. Mathematical and Computer Modelling 44: pp 899-916.

Nagurney, A., A. H. Masoumi, and M. Yu, 2011. Supply Chain Network Operations Management of a Blood Banking System with Cost and Risk Minimization. Computational Management Science, in press.

Nagurney, A., and L. S. Nagurney, 2010. Sustainable Supply Chain Network Design: A Multicriteria Perspective. International Journal of Sustainable Engineering 3: pp 189-197.

Nagurney, A., and L. S. Nagurney, 2011. Medical Nuclear Supply Chain Design: A Tractable Network Model and Computational Approach.

Nagurney, A., and Q. Qiang, 2009. Fragile Networks: Identifying Vulnerabilities and Synergies in an Uncertain World. John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey.

Nagurney, A., and M. Yu (2011), Sustainable Fashion Supply Chain Management Under Oligopolistic Competition and Brand Differentiation, International Journal of Production Economics, Special Issue on Green Manufacturing and Distribution in the Fashion and Apparel Industries, in press.

Nagurney, A., M. Yu, and Q. Qiang, Supply Chain Network Design for Critical Needs with Outsourcing. Papers in Regional Science 90: (2011) pp 123-142.

Qiang, Q., A. Nagurney, and J. Dong, 2009. Modeling of Supply Chain Risk Under Disruptions with Performance Measurement and Robustness Analysis. In 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.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Supply Chain Networks, Global Outsourcing, and Quick Response Production -- Integrating Methodologies for Theory and Practice

During the SAMSI Workshop on Engineering and Renewable Energy, which was one of the events organized under this year's theme of Uncertainty Quantification, I was asked, after my presentation on Sustainability, as to the uncertainty underlying supply chains.

In response, I noted both cost and demand uncertainty, issues that we have been researching in applications from the design of supply chain networks for critical needs products to assessing the performance of supply chains under cost and demand disruptions. Of course, in global supply chains, exchange rate risk is also a major issue that we have investigated.

I had also mentioned, in a discussion with a workshop participant, that another one of our papers on supply chain uncertainty was under review for a journal and, yesterday, we received the official acceptance.

Our paper, Supply Chain Networks with Global Outsourcing and Quick-Response Production Under Demand and Cost Uncertainty, by Zugang Liu and Anna Nagurney, has been accepted for publication in the Annals of Operations Research. It will appear in a special issue dedicated to the memory of Professor Cyrus Derman, who passed away last April at age 85. According to Columbia University, Professor Emeritus Cyrus Derman, was considered the driving force behind the success of Columbia Engineering's Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IEOR). He had also served as the doctoral dissertation advisor of well-known colleagues in Operations Research, including Professor Michael Katehakis, one of the co-editors of the special memorial volume, Peter Kolesar, and Art Veinott, Jr.

The theme of the special issue is
Optimization under Uncertainty Costs, Risks and Revenues.

The issue was originally formulated to celebrate Professor Derman's 86th birthday and I had been told that he was very excited about it but then passed away -- hence, the issue is now a memorial one.

I am very, if I may say, "fond" of the Annals of Operations Research, which was edited for many years by Professor Peter Hammer, who died tragically in a car accident in December 2006. I had last seen him at the European Conference on Operational Research in Iceland in 2006 and enjoyed my conversation with him and his wife very much. This journal is now edited by Professor Endre Boros, who actually informed many of us of the passing of Professor Hammer. I had edited a special issue of the Annals back in 1993, entitled, Advances in Equilibrium Modeling, Analysis and Computation, vol. 44, and have also published in the journal since.

In our paper,
Supply Chain Networks with Global Outsourcing and Quick-Response Production Under Demand and Cost Uncertainty, we integrate the methodologies of stochastic programming and variational inequalities in order to construct a modeling and computational framework for supply chain networks with
global outsourcing and quick-response production under demand and cost uncertainty. Our model handles multiple off-shore suppliers, multiple manufacturers, and multiple demand markets.

Using variational inequality theory, we formulated the governing equilibrium conditions of the competing manufacturers, who are faced with two-stage stochastic programming problems but who also have to cooperate with the off-shore suppliers. Our theoretical and analytical results shed light on the value of outsourcing from novel real option perspectives as in finance. In addition, our simulation studies revealed important managerial insights regarding how demand and cost uncertainty affects the profits, the risks, as well as the global outsourcing and quick-production decisions of supply chain firms under competition.

The modeling and computational framework is relevant to many industries in which quick response production and enhanced supply chain flexibility and responsiveness may provide a competitive advantage.

We dedicated the paper to the memory of Professor Cyrus Derman.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Brilliant Lecture by Dr. Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Laureate and Activist

This week the theme has certainly been the environment and sustainability, from the SAMSI workshop that I spoke at in North Carolina to today's brilliant lecture at UMass Amherst by Dr. Elinor Ostrom, who is the first and, thus far, only female to receive the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, which she did in 2009.

Dr. Ostrom delivered the 15th Annual Gamble Lecture, entitled, "Thinking About Climate Change as a Commons." In her lecture, she emphasized that we cannot wait for governments to act to reduce environmental emissions and that we must do what we can as individuals, as members of families, and as members of communities. She emphasized that, what is needed, is a new theory of human behavior that can look towards the future so that individuals can realize the impact of their actions on the environment.

She spoke of her research on water resources, irrigation systems, forests, and her work with indigenous people in various countries. She noted that if humans see the impacts of their actions, such, as, for example, what was being done in Sacramento, where one receives bills as to one's household water use, relative to that of others, and illustrated in colorful bar charts, one can then react and change one's use of resources accordingly.

Pricing, in the form of carbon taxes, etc., may not be sufficient to alter people's behavior nor as effective.

What came to me is that we need to utilize sensor networks to inform citizens of the externalities of their actions, whether in terms of environmental impacts, water usage, and even congestion.

She noted also that we must educate students to focus on sustainability, to realize the difference that we can make by walking or biking, rather than driving a car and by setting our thermostats lower.

If we have a stake in nature, including forests, where we may walk, pick flowers and even mushrooms, then we will take care of them.

Local action can collectively make a global impact.

She also emphasized that corporations need to not only be profit-maximizers but to also have additional criteria in their decision-making, something that we have been emphasizing in our research from transportation networks to sustainable supply chain networks.

The opportunities for additional mathematical modeling using integrated tools from operations research and economics are immense.

She spoke with such conviction, energy, and humanism, to an audience that was standing room only and she was born in 1933!

Above I have posted photos from her lecture today and it was truly special to be able to speak with her in person, along with my doctoral student, Min Yu.

After writing the above post, I heard from Dr. Priscilla Nelson of the NJIT, who was in my discussion group on sustainability at the SAMSI workshop. She provided me with a link to a video of Dr. Ostrom's lecture last March at the Resilience 2011 Conference. In the lecture, she does a marvelous job of emphasizing the importance of mathematical models and nested systems as well as game theory. She also emphasized the importance of case studies. Dr. Ostrom's presentation slides from the Resilience Conference can be accessed here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sustainability at the SAMSI Workshop

I had a very stimulating and intellectually engaging time at the SAMSI Engineering and Renewable Energy Workshop that took place recently in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

The presentations of invited speakers (almost all of them) have now been posted.

The organizer, Dr. Roger Ghanem, requested that I speak on Sustainability: Methodology so I did, but I also added some applications, including electric power supply chains, because, in my opinion, it is the applications that drive the development of new methodologies.

My presentation, in pdf format, can be directly downloaded here.

Each day we also had brainstorming sessions around several preselected themes.

I selected the Sustainability group, which was one of the number of working groups for purposes of discussions, and we had very lively discussions. One issue that we kept on coming back to was the relationship between resiliency and sustainability.

It was also great to see Dr. Miriam Heller and Dr. Priscilla Nelson, again, both of whom had been formerly at NSF, and were in the Sustainability discussion group with Dr. Heller as our leader.

I very much enjoyed the invited talks and even learned about material science and nuclear energy.

Overall, there were 120 registrants at this workshop, with participants even from Europe!

High Performance Analytics,SAS, and Proving Theorems at a Job Interview

I have returned from a fabulous SAMSI workshop in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina on Uncertainty Quantification, which I will be writing about in another post (or two).

While there, I managed to visit SAS, since one of my former doctoral students, Dr. Padma Ramanujam, who received a doctoral dissertation award from what is now the Transportation Science & Logistics Society of INFORMS, works there.

I was treated to a superb lunch and we were joined by Dr. Radhika Kulkarni, who is Vice President of Advanced Analytics R&D at SAS, and who has a PhD in Operations Research from Cornell University.

My hosts were wonderful and the newest SAS building where the executives sit and where we had lunch is simply stunning. Above are photos that were taken there and I even managed to snap one of the back of Dr. Jim Goodnight, the co-founder of SAS, whom I had recently highlighted because of the coverage of him as the "Father of Analytics" in a Forbes article.

I know Dr. Kulkarni from INFORMS activities, and we were both recipients of the WORMS Award.

Dr. Kulkarni pointed me to her blogpost in SAS Voices on The Journey to High-Performance Analytics, in which she highlights some of the exciting work that SAS is involved in. Since Macy's is one of my favorite stores and, especially the one on 34th Street in NYC, I repost her description of one of the SAS projects (that, coincidentally, Padma also worked on):

What does high-performance analytics mean for your business? It has the potential to introduce some game changing options for customers. For instance, Macy’s needs to determine optimal clearance prices for over 273 million product-by-location combinations involving hundreds of millions of potential pricing decisions per week. The SAS Markdown Optimization solution analyzes three terabytes of historical sales data with multiple estimation and pricing algorithms targeted for this particular business problem. Using new SAS high-performance computing technologies, the computation time was reduced from 30 hours down to about 2 hours. This immense reduction in time gives the customer an opportunity to run more scenarios in the same window of time, providing the ability to look at alternate pricing strategies, thus allowing Macy’s to provide the right prices to the right customers at the right time, in the end maximizing profit and clearing inventory.

I might add that Dr. Radhika Kulkarni has joined the INFORMS Speakers Program, which is great, along with such luminaries as Dr. Brenda Dietrich of IBM (who, coincidentally, also has a PhD in Operations Research from Cornell), Dr. Mike Trick of CMU, Dr. Les Servi of MITRE (a fellow Brown alum, who then got his PhD from Harvard), and Dr. Anne Robinson, a Stanford PhD, of Cisco. INFORMS is in the process of updating the Speakers Program pages, so stay tuned.

Now, for the punchline -- and in the title of this blogpost -- those of you who are on the job market and are thinking of industry. You have passed the core and comprehensive exams, and your doctoral dissertation proposal defense, and are finishing up the writing of your dissertations.

The job interview requests are starting to come in.

Who would have thought that a job interview might entail, and, in industry, no less, that you prove theorems?!

Well, Dr. Padma Ramanujam, after getting her PhD from UMass Amherst, with a concentration in Management Science, receiving a national dissertation award, and even co-authoring a book with me and another student of mine, Dr. Kanwalroop "Kathy" Dhanda, on Environmental Networks, and having several years of work experience at I2 Technologies, made it through the SAS interview process. She told me, during my visit to SAS, that one of her interviewers had asked her to prove theorems, which she did and she got the job offer!

The SAS "campus" is gorgeous so, if you have a chance to visit, you will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

2011 MacArthur Fellows Announced

The MacArthur Foundation has announced its 2011 Fellows.

There are 22 Fellows this year, each of whom will receive $500,000 over a five year period, with no strings attached.

Here is the list.

Harvard has 3 on the list. There is even a computer scientist form the University of Washington, although, which is unusual, noone that I immediately recognized.

I wish them all much success with the kind of freedom that such a fellowship brings!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Nobel Laureate Dr. Elinor Ostrom to Speak at UMass on Climate Change

This week will definitely not be routine (as if there ever was a routine week in academia).

I will be flying tomorrow to Raleigh, North Carolina to take part in the SAMSI Engineering and Renewable Energy Workshop, where I will be delivering a keynote lecture on Sustainability: Methodology with Some Applications. I am very much looking forward to the workshop and its program is very timely.

While there, I also have a scheduled lunch date with one of my former doctoral students who works at SAS, Dr. Padma Ramanujam, and hope to also catch Dr. Radhika Kulkarni. Perhaps you have had a chance to read the Forbes article on the founder of SAS, Jim Goodnight, who has been called the King of Analytics!

I have my presentation prepared and besides the NSF-sponsored workshop taking place this week, when I return, I will have the distinct pleasure of hearing Dr. Elinor Ostrom, the first female to win the Nobel Prize in Economic Science, which she received in 2009, give the Philip Gamble memorial lecture, entitled: "Thinking About Climate Change as a Commons." According to the UMass Amherst release on her upcoming lecture on September 22, 2011:

Ostrom is considered one of the leading scholars in the study of common pool resources (CPR). In particular, Ostrom's work emphasizes how humans interact with ecosystems to maintain long-term sustainable resource yields. Common pool resources include many forests, fisheries, oil fields, grazing lands, and irrigation systems.

As I noted in an earlier blogpost, when Ostrom received the Nobel Prize:

Interestingly, I had contributed a chapter on parallel computation to the first volume of the Handbook of Computational Economics, whereas Ostrom had contributed a chapter on governing social-ecological systems with Janssen to the second volume. The editors of these two volumes were, respectively, Hans Amman, David Kendrick, and John Rust for the first, and Leigh Tesfatsion and Ken Judd for the second volume. These are my good colleagues from the Society of Computational Economics.

Clearly, the theme this week is the environment!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Faculty Convocation on a Picture Perfect Day

September marks the beginning of the new academic/school year (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) and there are always all sorts of events that take place on college and university campuses.

Today we had our UMass Amherst Faculty Convocation at which 6 of our stellar faculty were recognized for their scholarly and creative achievements.

The day was gorgeous and the above are some photos taken before the faculty and administrators marched into an auditorium for the Chancellor's speech and at the award recognition ceremony.

Chancellor Holub gave a rousing speech acknowledging all the achievements since he became our Chancellor in 2008, alluding to his years as a "freshman, "sophomore,", and with this being his final and "senior" year.

Dr. Mark Fuller, Dean of the Isenberg School told our faculty that the words of the Chancellor especially resonated with him:

"In my first convocation address four years ago I related the story of our crew team’s upset victory over Harvard and Brown in 1871, and the excitement of one of my predecessors, William Smith Clark, in bringing this news back to campus. I noted that teamwork was essential in achieving that victory and I continued: "The spirit and determination of those young men is what we must recapture as a collective if we are going to be successful in our aspirations. Like a crew team, however, we must act in a coordinated fashion, all pulling in the same direction with the identical purpose. My words and direction may assist us, but only with the activities of the entire campus and its many friends can we achieve our desired place among the finest public institutions of higher education.”

An aside -- my college room-mate at Brown, Maria Teresa Davila -- although formally trained as a ballerina, rowed varsity crew at Brown, so I loved the segment of his speech above, as well. Thanks to my Dean for "capturing" it!

After the ceremonies, we were treated to a delicious lunch at the Campus Center -- it was especially nice to see colleagues from across campus from Engineering and Computer Science and to get a chance to catch up.

I assume that the horse above had to make do with hay.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The President of Brown University, Dr. Ruth Simmons, Will Step Down

I just received a message that the President of my alma mater, Brown University, Dr. Ruth Simmons, will be stepping down at the end of this academic year. Dr. Simmons has been President of Brown since July 2001 and has been a fabulous leader over the past decade. Her life and career have been truly amazing. She was one of twelve children, born to sharecroppers in Texas, graduated from Dillard College and then went on to get her PhD from Harvard University.

Dr. Simmons will take a leave and then will continue at Brown as a professor of Comparative Literature and Africana Studies.

Prior to assuming the Presidency of Brown, she was the President of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, which is very close to UMass Amherst where I teach. Smith College is part of the Five College system (which also includes Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, Hampshire College, and UMass Amherst).

Dr. Simmons' letter to the Brown community can be read here.

We were at Brown just this past summer and prior to this visit my husband had taken part as a speaker at a Brown alumni forum for physicists (something Simmons had started) and I had spoken at Brown at a SUMS (Symposium for Undergraduates in the Mathematical Sciences) conference, and represented the field of Operations Research. I had such a great time and am pleased to say that one of the undergrads who had participated in this program went on to get his masters degree in Operations Research at the London School of Economics. His name, for real, is Adam Smith.

Thank you, Dr. Simmons, for your terrific leadership of this Ivy League University.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Medical Waste, Sustainability, and Operations Resarch

For many months now, we have been researching health care supply chains, with a focus on perishable products ranging from blood supply chains to medical nuclear supply chains.

In our research, we have, specifically, emphasized the impact of improper disposal of medical wastes on the environment. Our mathematical models are generalized network models in which the arc multipliers capture features of the perishable, but, life-saving, products that we are studying.

Today, CBS News is reporting on an investigation by a human rights official of the United Nations that noted that: nations pay "too little attention" to their tons of waste each year — waste that contains pathogens, blood, low levels of radioactivity, discarded needles, syringes, scalpels, expired drugs and vaccines. In many poorer nations, discarded chemicals and pharmaceutical wastes go straight to city dumps, down hospital toilets into water systems, or are burned in cement kilns that just add to dioxide emissions.

Our research on blood supply chains, from the operations management aspects, to the design, is written up in our papers:

Supply Chain Network Operations Management of a Blood Banking System with Cost and Risk Minimization
Anna Nagurney, Amir H. Masoumi, and Min Yu, to appear in Computational Management Science.

Supply Chain Network Design of a Sustainable Blood Banking System
Anna Nagurney and Amir H. Masoumi, in Sustainable Supply Chains: Models, Methods and Public Policy Implications, T. Boone, V. Jayaraman, and R. Ganeshan, Editors, Springer, London, England, 2011, in press.

Our research, to-date, on medical nuclear supply chains, which I presented recently at the INTRIM Conference at McGill University, is reported in the paper:

Medical Nuclear Supply Chain Design: A Tractable Network Model and Computational Approach
Anna Nagurney and Ladimer S. Nagurney.

According to the report, the UN investigator, Cailin Georgescu, recommended that all nations adopt better laws for managing medical waste and replace incinerators with "more environmentally friendly and safe methods of disposal" such as autoclaving, which uses pressurized steam and superheated water to disinfect waste and medical equipment.

Next week I will be speaking on Sustainability: Methodologies with Some Applications at the SAMSI Workshop, which is part of the 2011-2012 Program on Uncertainty Quantification.

One thing that I am certain about is that we need to take better care of our environment not only for us and our children but for future generations as well.

Clearly, we, in the Operations Research community, understand this, and are doing something about it. Just read Dr. Ian Frommer's wonderful blog post on the course that he has taught on Sustainability.

On my list of new courses that I am developing are courses entitled:

Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare and

Sustainable Systems.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Father Had Worked at the World Trade Center

My father had worked at the World Trade Center and one of my fondest memories of coming home for breaks during my college years at Brown University was to accompany him via public transportation from Yonkers to the WTC so that I could join him for a cup of coffee and muffin at one of the cafes on a high-level floor before he would begin his job at the engineering firm that he was employed at. We would sometimes stop at the shops at the lowest level and he would buy me some article of clothing to take back to college.

My father died before the WTC towers fell a decade ago on 9/11. He had lived through WWI and WWII, had left his native country, Ukraine, and, as a refugee, had managed to build a new life, first in Canada, and then in the US. The towers were a special home to him and to me.

My uncle, who also was a refugee of WW II, and had helped to save my mother from the Nazis as they escaped from their home in western Ukraine and then sheltered her, first in Vienna, and, subsequently, at a displaced persons camp close to Innsbruck, Austria, also built a wonderful life for his family and himself in NYC, first in Forest Fills, and then in Kinnelon, New Jersey. My mother, after age 18, never saw her parents again.

On 9/11, my uncle, rather than taking public transportation from NJ, which included first taking a bus and then the subway to his stop at the WTC, that day, ten years ago, he had overslept, so he decided to drive.

If he had taken public transportation he would have been at the WTC when the towers fell.

He arrived at the Lincoln Tunnel and saw a lot of smoke and a large backup. He was asked whether he wanted to turn back and his intuition told him to do so. He then listened to the horrific news on the radio. The information at that point had not reached the toll operators.

On that day, ten years ago, which started out as a beautiful clear morning, I was working on my lectures at home. Our daughter was at her elementary school. My husband received a phone message from a colleague who had moved to Pennsylvania and who said to him: "Turn on the TV."

A neighbor came running to our door shortly thereafter and we just hugged and supported one another.

3,000 perished on that day and their families, neighbors, and friends, were lastingly affected.

It took me 8 years before I could visit the site of the fallen towers, and I did so while in Brooklyn at the Regional Science Association Conference. I walked the Brooklyn Bridge and then, with the assistance of a NYC police officer who gave me directions, made it to the huge pit and the tears just flowed.

A decade after, much has changed, and we still gather strength from one another. My uncle, now in his 90s, has moved to mid-Manhattan. He continues to ride the subway to the same engineering firm, where he still works a few days a week, and which is close to the WTC Memorial.

I continue to teach and to do research on topics that I love from transportation and logistics, to networks, and, of course, operations research and management science.

That morning, I was working on my transportation and logistics course lectures, while Jane Garvey, an Amherst resident, who I had even dined with, and was then head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), was leading the effort, that, within four hours of the first attack, had every civilian aircraft in the US, more than 5,000 planes, safely on the ground. You may read a recent interview with her here. This past spring, I had the honor of receiving a transportation leadership award in her name.

Thanks to all the heroes of that day, from the emergency responders, who risked their lives and to those who perished, to the individuals who helped each other, and to the government leaders who assisted in the national recovery.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What I Liked About President Obama's Speech Last Night

We listened to President Obama's speech last night.

What resonated with me especially is how he emphasized how each child in America deserves a great school and how he would work on making sure that the school buildings are in good shape -- he noted that 35,000 schools will be enhanced in the US, and the schools will be filled with teachers (some of whom would be hired back after being laid off). Great education is not just about mortar and buildings but also about the people that work and learn therein.

I appreciated his references to President Abraham Lincoln, in establishing the National Academy of Sciences and in bringing about the transcontinental railroad, although it was completed after his death.

I found more on the history of the National Academy of Sciences and found it quite interesting that, according to the NAS website:

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) was signed into being by President Abraham Lincoln on March 3, 1863. As mandated in its Act of Incorporation, the Academy has, since 1863, served to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art" whenever called upon to do so by any department of the government.

Note the "art" part!

I was also glad to hear about his emphasis on investing in infrastructure (clearly schools are also a critical infrastructure), and in fixing our roads and transportation networks, in general. He even mentioned congestion, a topic, which we had discussed in my transportation & logistics class yesterday morning.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the Jobs Act that he forcefully promoted last night.

I do believe that investing in the production/manufacturing of both goods and services in the US and creating opportunities for all those who are willing to give their best can again make the US great again. At the same time, let's not ignore our environment and the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, and the quality of where we live and work (and even play).

President Obama was right to emphasize the importance of health, safety, and security and the role that government plays in all these dimensions but we, as individuals, and, in groups, can also contribute.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

We Are Not Prepared for All the Floods

It took my husband 45 minutes to drive the last two miles to his university today because of the flash floods.

It took one of his colleagues 90 minutes to drive his daughter to school, a trip that usually takes 10 minutes.

I am not even speaking about Hurricane Irene and what it did to our area of western Massachusetts; for an update on its ramifications you can read my post where photos are also included.

After being pummeled by Hurricane Irene 11 days ago, we are now experiencing the aftereffects of Tropical Storm Lee.

Just have a look at the flash flood in one of the parking lots at the university where my husband teaches. He called to tell me that one of his students was surprised by her parents with a brand new car this past weekend with only 100 miles on it and, yes, it got washed away. Needless to say, she is distraught.

Areas of the northeast have barely had a chance to recover and to rebuild and now we are faced with more rain and flooding and folks even had to be rescued today in a neighboring area.

Emergency notification systems must be in place as we deal with more extreme events at greater frequencies.

One of my students in my Transportation & Logistics class this morning who lives close to the Connecticut River told me that she could see from her house refrigerators, cars, and detritus floating by -- not a natural set of events.

The flooding in Pennsylvania and middle New York state is now resulting of the evacuation of 100,000!

A very sad and scary state of affairs and so few in the northeast hold flood insurance, as the head of The Bement School, where my daughter went to elementary school, recently noted in a letter to the community of the hardships suffered because of Hurricane Irene and the flooding in Deerfield.

Now if only we could somehow transport all the excess water in the Northeast to the dried out and burning parts of Texas.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Supernetwork Center is Marking Its 10th Anniversary -- See Our Fall Newsletter

This Fall we will be marking the 10th anniversary of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks, which was established at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst on November 21, 2011. As the Founding Director of this Center, I have had the privilege to work with outstanding Center Associates, including graduate and undergraduate students, as well as faculty at universities on four different continents, and leaders in industry. In our 2011 Fall newsletter, The Supernetwork Sentinel, I reflect on some of the notable achievements of the past decade as we mark this milestone.
The full newsletter can be downloaded, in pdf format, here.

For all the published issues of our newsletter, see our newsletter page.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Isenberg School and the College of Engineering Will Partner on a New Collaborative NSF Grant: Network Innovation Through Choice

Our project on Collaborative Research: Network Innovation Through Choice" has been funded by the National Science Foundation in the amount of $2.732 million ($909, 794 to UMass Amherst) for three years starting on September 15, 2011. This is a collaborative project among the University of Massachusetts (Tilman Wolf and Anna Nagurney), the University of Kentucky (Jim Griffioen and Ken Calvert), RENCI (Ilya Baldine), and NC State (Rudra Dutta, George Rouskas).

Dr. Tilman Wolf is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering and I am at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass (but also hold courtesy appointments in two engineering departments).

Yesterday, our multidisciplinary, multi-institutional research project group had our first video teleconference, and we began to outline both short-term and long-term goals. I am very excited to be working with such a great group of researchers.

Computer networks, in particular the Internet, represent essential infrastructure for business, government, military, and personal communication. Several recent trends in technology and network use have pushed the capabilities required of the Internet beyond what can be provided by the currently deployed infrastructure. To address these limitations, the network community has developed a variety of technologies to adapt the functionality of network protocols and services. A critical question that remains unanswered is how to integrate these technologies into an ecosystem that involves users, service providers, and developers in such a way that new ideas can be deployed and used in practice.

Market forces have had a drastic effect on the shape of services and applications at the edge of the network. Our research proposes a transformative shift in the design of networks that enables sustained innovation in the core of the network using economic principles. We believe that supporting choice is the key aspect of a network architecture that can adapt to emerging solutions for current and future challenges. Choice implies that users can select from alternatives that can be deployed dynamically into the network and reward those that address their needs. We use this interdependency between technological alternatives and economic incentives to create a competitive marketplace for innovative solutions that address current and future challenges in networking. Our proposed work describes fundamental research aimed at the design, development, and prototyping of aspects of a next-generation network architecture where such choices and competition drive innovation at all layers of the protocol stack.

The proposed network design is based on three tightly coupled principles. Our ChoiceNet system aims to (1) encourage alternatives to allow users to choose among a range of services, (2) let users vote with their wallet to reward superior and innovative services, (3) provides the mechanisms to stay informed on available alternatives and their performances. We propose a number of fundamental research problems that address the design of building blocks to provide alternatives in the network, the economic framework for incentives, the necessary monitoring and management components, and the prototyping, education, and outreach efforts. Overall, our work does not aim at reinventing technical solutions to networking problems, but at developing a comprehensive system where these solutions can be deployed and compete to allow the network to adapt to current and future challenges.

Intellectual Merit: Our project addresses one of the key problems in the current Internet – how to design a network that ensures long-term innovation inside the network core. The proposed research will provide solutions to fundamental questions on how to enable choice among different service alternatives, how to develop marketplace for incentive-based competition, and how to handle explicit control and management. The development of a prototype allows for realistic experimentation that includes community involvement and educational uses.

Broader Impact: Our project will contribute to enhancing the functionality and usability of the nextgeneration Internet, which will become an important piece of infrastructure. Our project also integrates research and education of graduate and undergraduate students at the participating organizations, where we will continue with our current involvement to integrate underrepresented minorities. Results from our work will be disseminated in the form of an open-source prototype and publications.

For a recent blogpost on what getting a research grant means even in the case of a business school professor, read here.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Resilience of New Englanders

Although my heritage is European and I was born in Canada, I consider myself very lucky to be living in such a historic part of the US, that is, in New England.

Indeed, when not living in such great places as Sweden and Austria and even Cambridge, Massachusetts or traveling far and wide, Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts, with such great towns as Amherst, Deerfield, and others, has become our home.

Since our daughter has gone to elementary school at The Bement School, in Old Deerfield, and is now at Deerfield Academy, located just down the street from Bement, both in a truly historic and beautiful part of Massachusetts, we have come to know many families from New England (and even across the globe since Deerfield Academy is primarily a boarding school).

What has struck me most after Hurricane / Tropical Storm Irene hit New England last Sunday is how the neighbors and communities pulled together (with some great help from the National Guard I might add and local emergency responders plus electric power folks from far and wide).

After the torrential rains had subsided, a neighbor's son showed up at our door with a chainsaw and chipper ready to clean up our front yard on which two big trees had fallen. We appreciated his offer but declined since he is a minor. A local crew showed up on Monday morning to do the job and we were just thrilled. A DPW worker arrived yesterday in his free time to chop up the logs and piled them into his pickup truck to use as firewood (a win-win situation since he gets fuel for the winter and this cost us nothing and we enjoyed talking to him).

I have written about and posted photos of Deerfield after Irene and what has been called a once in 500 years flood. The cleanup operations continue and Historic Deerfield will reopen tomorrow (but the lovely Deerfield Inn will remain closed for an unknown amount of time).

One day after the flooding, my daughter was back at her summer job as a tour guide at Deerfield Academy and this week, despite the flooded fields and neighboring farmlands, gave tours to prospective students and their families not only from California but from as far away as Korea and Turkey. She did not show the flooded areas, which today, 5 days after the hurricane, remain covered in thick, gooey mud.

Her elementary school, The Bement School, had had to have families evacuated and a gorgeous new dorm has had to have its flooring entirely replaced and other damage recovery done. The head of the School, Ms. Shelley Borror Jackson, wrote a wonderful, poignant message of how the flood surrounded her home and the waters filled the basement and moved up the stairs. Her message can be read here. A neighboring school, The Eaglebrook School (you may not know but the present King of Jordan went to both Eaglebrook and Deerfield Academy) provided refuge for both the Jacksons and some other evacuated families.

Our neighbors just north of Deerfield, from Greenfield to Brattleboro, Vermont, and further up sustained much damage and it will take years for Vermont to recover and to repair its devastated roads and bridges whose destruction isolated communities before help, ranging from hikers to state troopers to military in Chinook helicopters arrived to deliver necessary water, food, and medicines to stranded folks.

And the good news arrived, in the form of an email message today, from the President of Historic Deerfield that said:

Just in time for Labor Day Weekend, Historic Deerfield museum will again welcome visitors to its world-class collections and historic houses on Sat., Sept. 3 at 9:30 a.m. The reopening marks a return to some semblance of normalcy and a chance to refocus on the fall season at hand after seven days of forced closure to the public due to infrastructure damage caused by flooding from Hurricane Irene.

"Now that we can guarantee the safety of our visitors and our collections we will gladly reopen," said Philip Zea, President of Historic Deerfield. "We're very grateful for the heroic efforts of staff, volunteers, and vendors who have helped us prepare for and recover from this crisis."

Visitors will find almost all museum offerings intact. The two exceptions will be the continued closure of the Sheldon House and the Channing Blake Meadow Walk.

Fabulous New Speakers Added to Our INFORMS Speakers Program!

This year, I have the pleasure of chairing the INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences) Speakers Program. Professor Tim Lowe of the University of Iowa and Dr. Les Servi of MITRE are my committee members.

Not only has the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, that I serve as the Faculty Advisor for, availed itself of some of the wonderful speakers in this program (Professor John Birge and Professor Sheldon Jacobson, only to start) but I have also given talks through this program, since I am on the list of speakers.

I'll never forget the talk that I gave at the Dallas/Fort Worth INFORMS Chapter, with the meeting taking place at SMU, at which I arrived, after 11 hours of travel, with only 10 minutes to spare. The discussions that followed after my talk were terrific and I especially enjoyed having industry reps as well as academics and students take part. It was a wonderful experience. I have also given a talk at the Boston INFORMS Chapter (with my great host being Dr. Les Servi from Mitre), and at universities, including the University of Pittsburgh, through this special program.

Instructions as to how to request a speaker can be found on the INFORMS Speakers Program homepage. The interest this year in our program has been great from both companies and universities, especially with our energized focus on analytics.

Now, for the drumroll, I am delighted to announce that the new additions to our Speakers Program are:

Professor Aruna Apte of the Naval Postgraduate School

Professor Margaret Brandeau of Stanford University

Professor Ann Campbell of the University of Iowa

Dr. Brenda Dietrich of IBM

Dr. Radhika Kulkarni of SAS

Dr. Les Servi of MITRE

Professor Alice Smith of Auburn University

Professor Mike Trick of Carnegie Mellon University.

INFORMS will be updating information over the next couple of weeks on the Speakers Program website, so please continue to check back.

In the meantime, please feel free to contact either Barry List, the Director of Communications at INFORMS, or me, if you have any questions.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Black Bear in Our Backyard

My daughter had just sat down to breakfast consisting of yogurt and honey, rice cakes and peanut butter, and then said, "There is a black bear in our backyard," and, indeed, there was. He/she was beautiful and was lumbering through, en route to our Town Manager's yard, with probably a stop at a wonderful vegetable garden of another neighbor.

I was mesmerized by the beauty of this animal with the glossy fur (thoroughly washed by the downpours of Hurricane Irene) but my daughter reacted quickly and scooped up her smartphone and took the photo above as he marched on.

I contacted many of our neighbors (some of whom were running and taking walks outside) and even reached 911 and was told that the environmental police will be tracking this animal.

We have had deer visit us, numerous turkeys, foxes, raccoons, and even a large turtle, but this is the first time that we saw a big black bear right in our own backyard and in broad daylight! Moreover, the bear came through at a time, starting next week, when there will be many children waiting for the schoolbus on our street.

Perhaps the bear was off to one of the numerous college orientations taking place now in Amherst from UMass Amherst to Amherst College.