Monday, October 31, 2011

A Call to Action -- Let's Design Resilient Electric Power Grids and Get Out of the Dark Ages

I am sitting in my Isenberg School of Management office, which, luckily, has power, heat, lights, and Internet, as does our building.

The messages of concern have been arriving from as far away as Italy and China, since the news about the devastating impacts of the huge, freaky snowstorm and the electric power outages with over 3 million without power in the Northeast of the US, has been spreading.

One of my Finance colleagues just heard that her home is not expected to have power restored until Friday (that would make it almost a week w/o power) and our neighborhood is also still without power and has been for over 36 hours (and the Amherst Town Manager lives on our street).

I had organized a tour of ISO -- New England for this Friday, which the students and I were very much looking forward to since we wanted to see the control room and hear about the latest initiatives in managing the reliability of electric power for all of New England.

Well, I just received an email that the tour is off (but we hope to reschedule), and the message from the ISO-NE University Relations Specialist said:

Good Morning Anna,

In light of this past weekend, I have been asked to reschedule the ISO tour to a later date, as members of our control room will be very busy this week dealing with the aftermath of the storm. Are you and your students available at a later date? If so, please advise, and I will work to coordinate another tour.

I apologize for any inconvenience!

Clearly, this devastating snowstorm in October, which has resulted in tree damage of a magnitude never seen before (and associated downed power lines), has created great pressures for demand and supply management of electric power and for restoration of electric power to the Northeast.

The impacts are huge to our economy and even educational institutions with the universities and colleges (and there are many of them) in western Massachusetts and even in Connecticut closed.

It is time that we focus seriously on making our infrastructure networks more resilient, beginning with out electric power grids, our transportation networks, as well as our telecommunication networks.

There has never been a time in which the skills of operations researchers, engineers, management scientists, and economists have been more needed but we also need the legislators and policy-makers to move forward on our critical infrastructure.

Perhaps, they can start by reading some of the books that we have written on networks, their sustainability, and fragility.

Time to move out of the Dark Middle Ages!

A Nightmare at my Local Airport on Jet Blue -- What a Difference a Day Makes

Last Friday night I flew back on Air Canada from Montreal, where I had given a research seminar at the Desautels Faculty of Management on perishable supply chains in health care.

My hosts there were fabulous and the day went by much too quickly.

The colleagues there in Management Science and Operations Management are trailblazers intellectually and professionally and I had a visit that I will long remember. Plus, I had excellent questions during and after my presentation.

On my flight to Montreal from Bradley airport in Hartford, Connecticut, the nearest airport to where I live, which sometimes feels like my home away from home, since I fly so much, the evening prior I had seat 1A on the Air Canada Beech aircraft and was responsible, if needed, to open the exit door.

On my flight from Montreal to Bradley, I, again, got seat 1A, and I enjoyed feeling almost as if I was in a car since I sat right behind the pilot and co-pilot, who made the announcements, and I could see all the instruments and out the front window. I had been told, when I checked in at the Montreal airport, that I would be the only passenger, which would have been quite the experience but then two gentlemen joined me.

We landed at Bradley at around 9PM on Friday to almost a deserted airport.

The day after, the scene was entirely different and my "hometown" "international" airport made national news when a JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Newark, New Jersey got rerouted because of the freaky October snowstorm that walloped the Northeast and resulted in over 3 million without electric power.

As you may or may not know, Bradley is not an airport that handles JetBlue (whereas JetBlue is now the biggest carrier out of Boston Logan), so when the flight landed at 2PM on Saturday the passengers waited and waited and there was a parapalegic, a crying baby, and a diabetic on board.

The pilot was incredibly calm and professional and was begging to have the plane tugged in and the passengers let off.

According to CNN:

The pilot, though frustrated, offered thanks to Bradley International officials.

"Listen, I just want to put in my two cents worth in for whatever it is worth. Thank you very much," he said. "It's Capt. Thompson over here on (Flight) 504 ... I think we've got more help from you guys than our own people."

The passengers broke into applause when the door finally opened at 9PM, saying "Let us out! Let us out! Let us out!"

JetBlue apologized for the situation and blamed it on a "confluence of events," including intermittent power outages that complicated matters.

"We worked with the airport to secure services, but our flights were six of the 23 reported diversions into Hartford, including international flights (picture big jets carrying hundreds of people), the airline said on its website. "Getting all the flights deplaned at the same time
in a small airport is not unlike trying to get an elephant into a smart car; it's not an easy fit."

And just in, this was not the only horror story at Bradley on Saturday night!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Universities Closed on Halloween Because of the Snowstorm

This is just in -- UMass Amherst will be closed tomorrow, Monday, October 31, 2011, which is Halloween,and my husband's university, the University of Hartford will also be closed tomorrow.

For a list of other college and university closings click here.

Numerous school systems (elementary and high school) are also closed tomorrow due to the snowstorm that has resulted in massive power outages in the Northeast (over 3 million without power).

Today, as I wrote earlier on this blog, we spent much of the day in the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, since it had power and we could catch up on some work with the Internet and heat working.

Plus, we went out with one of my doctoral students to have dinner at the Berkshire Commons at UMass Amherst, since our home still has no power, and were treated to a delicious feast. It was nice to see so many students plus even some faculty with their children getting dinner.

Let's hope that the power gets restored before too long, although our Governor, Deval Patrick, does not sound very optimistic.

Isenberg School to the Rescue -- Yes, We Have Electric Power

The electric power is out not only in our Amherst neighborhood, but in many of the surrounding towns and we lost power last night at around 9:35 PM (but Comcast went down even earlier).

We slept under several quilts and heard loud thuds throughout the night as large tree branches, weighted down by the heavy, wet snow were cracking and falling.

This morning we woke up to a snowplow (that's the kind of great neighbors we have) clearing up our driveway and pushing aside a large branch so we could get out with our vehicle. Many thanks to Scott Gladu and his workers for doing this job, beyond the call of duty!

We made it to downtown Amherst to find our landmark store, Hastings, open, so we purchased two Sunday newspapers and, then drove to Hadley, a neighboring town, without any coffee in us, to see whether there was any power and whether any establishments were open. We were hoping that one of the stores from Whole Foods to the Big Y to even, yes, Wal-Mart, might be open so that we could get some caffeine in us but we had no luck. Then we were told that a Cumberland Farms on Route 9 towards Belchertown was open and had coffee!

Not only was the Cumberland Farms open, but there were lines of folks waiting to purchase what was truly ambrosia, large cups of delicious coffee -- and did the coffee taste good. Even the gas station was open.

Without power in our home and with no Internet connection, as well, we drove by UMass Amherst, where I teach, and heard the generator working over time in front of the Isenberg School of Management.

My key opened the door, and I was surrounded by warmth, lights, and my computer was working -- what joy!

Plus, I have had the pleasure of seeing already one "faculty" couple that has taken refugee here.

We heard on the radio the governor of Connecticut talking about the dire disastrous situation there. And, the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, has also now declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts!

It will be interesting to see when the power is restored to western Massachusetts (and beyond) with even the schools in Springfield announced as being closed tomorrow, Monday.

More than 2.3 million are now without power in the Northeast because of the unseasonable Nor'easter storm.

A storm like this vividly reminds us of how much our society depends on reliable electric power!

Thanks to UMass for allowing the faculty and students to have a warm place where they can have shelter and catch up on their work.

Best of luck to all the work crews in clearing up the roads from the downed trees and power lines and in restoring the lifeline that electric power is.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Snow in October -- Is This a Trick or a Treat?!

The snow has started to fall in Massachusetts and it's only October 29th.

I made it back from Montreal late last night, where I had a wonderful time at McGill University, where I delivered a seminar, only to be welcomed by a Nor'easter today.

Many high school sports games (understandably), including my daughter's Deerfield Academy field hockey game against Andover, have been canceled, complete with a tailgate party that many of the parents were looking forward to! However, the Halloween party at Deerfield is still scheduled for tonight and, I suspect, many will be waking up tomorrow morning to a fall winter wonderland with upwards of a foot of snow or more forecast for our area of western Massachusetts!

The snow began to fall in Central Park in NYC today at 11:30AM.

The snow is expected to be wet and heavy (indeed, the flakes are large outside of my office window and falling at a furious clip) and with so many trees still with their leaves attached, many can suffer broken tree limbs due to the added weight. Let's hope for minimal damage and power outages. Our area has had enough weather experiences the past couple of months with the tornadoes and then Hurricane Irene and the once in 500 years flood.

USA Today is reporting this snowstorm to be one for the record books, given that it is still the month of October and 2 days before Halloween!

It Takes a Great Student Chapter and Great Officers -- Another National Award from INFORMS

Photo taken of UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter panelists at the Northeast Regional INFORMS Conference at UMass Amherst, May 6-7, 2011 with Ms. Tracy Byrnes and Ms. Mary Magrogan of INFORMS

Group photo of chapter officers (present and some former ones) and some chapter members at the officer election in September 2011

I heard the great news as I was preparing for my seminar at McGill University on Montreal where I spoke yesterday.

The UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter was selected for another national award from INFORMS (the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences) and will be receiving the Magna Cum Laude Award plaque at a breakfast meeting at the upcoming INFORMS Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina.

This is the fifth year in a row that this chapter has been recognized by an award from INFORMS and, as the Faculty Advisor to this chapter, I can attest to the energy, creativity, and hard work of its officers and members.

One of the high points last year was the chapter's involvement in the First Northeast Regional INFORMS Conference held at UMass Amherst, May 6-7, 2011. The students did an outstanding job acting as ambassadors, giving directions, posting up signs, helping with the projector technology, presenting papers, and holding a fabulous invited panel on How to Run a Successful INFORMS Student Chapter, the powerpoint, in pdf format can be downloaded here.

The official announcement of the great news came in an email message from Dr. Stefan Karisch, reprinted below, which identifies all the student chapters in the US that will be recognized.

Congratulations to the award-winning chapters, their hard-working officers, members, and Faculty Advisors! We look forward to celebrating with you next month at our annual meeting!

Dear Student Chapter Officers,

Congratulations! The Chapters/Fora Committee is delighted to notify you that your chapter is a winner of the INFORMS Student Chapter Annual Award at the level shown below. The purpose of these awards is to recognize the achievements of student chapters. The award will be presented at the Chapters/Fora Breakfast at the upcoming INFORMS Annual Meeting in Charlotte, NC. If you are at the meeting, we hope you will join us and be recognized at this event. It will be held on Tuesday, November 15 at 7:00 a.m. in the Westin Hotel, Grand C Ballroom. If you cannot attend, we will mail the award to you.

Thank you for your commitment to INFORMS student chapters!

Best regards,

Stefan Karisch

VP for Chapters/Fora

Summa Cum Laude

University of South Florida

Magna Cum Laude

University of Massachusetts

Texas A&M University

Oklahoma State University

Cum Laude

University of Houston

University of California-Berkeley

University of Oklahoma

Virginia Tech

Arizona State University

University of Alabama

Stefan E. Karisch
Director, Operations Research and Optimization

Quality and Business Operation Services

A Boeing Company

ph: 303.328.6389
| Mobile : 303.305.8388 | fax: 303.328.4117 |
55 Inverness Drive East
| Englewood, CO 80112 |

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Suspense is Building -- Will Cornell or Stanford or Another Institution get the New Graduate School of Science and Engineering in NYC

You may have heard that Mr. Bloomberg, the mayor of NYC, is very keen on having NYC become a high technology hub and is putting substantial financial resources behind this idea.

In only a few days, it will be announced as to which university (or will there be two) will receive the go-ahead and funding, including land, to build a new Graduate School that will focus on Applied Sciences and Engineering.

Cornell University and Stanford University (yes, in Silicon Valley) have emerged as the top contenders and Cornell is now partnering also with Technion in Israel.

Of course, one can't fully exclude Columbia and NYU from the mix.

It is a very interesting competition and I look forward to seeing who emerges as the top contender and gets the contract valued in hundreds of millions of dollars.

Some more background on this initiative can be found here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Electric Power Reliability, ISOs, and an Upcoming UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter Tour

As the Faculty Advisor to the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, I am always on the lookout for activities and speakers that our chapter members would enjoy.

Several years back, we had a wonderful tour of ISO-NE, the Independent Systems Operator for New England, which is based in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

With so much happening in the smart grid arena, it was time to schedule another tour and visit there, especially since we have a new cohort of students.

The chapter will be going on a tour there and will get to see the control room (it truly is a spectacular sight with high-tech screens, networks, and power flows) on November 4.

And, we like to say that we are always VERY current -- in today's New York Times, there is a special section on Energy, and one of the articles,"On the Front Lines of the Power Grid," is written by a fellow Brown University alum, Matt Wald (whose wife lived down the hall from me freshman year in the Pembroke dorm).

The article notes that there are 100 Independent System Operators (ISOs) in the US that ensure electric power reliability. It also emphasizes the importance of training, education, and skill, and one of my former undergraduate students, who took my transportation & logistics class, is now an employee at the ISO-NE (He was also the President of the UMass bicycling club).

Interestingly, the article also notes the following:

Recruiting is a challenge, though. Grid entities look for candidates with some background in engineering, but they also need certain personality traits, like the ability to work collaboratively but not to debate endlessly. People with military backgrounds are favored, because they often have appropriate organizational and technical skills.

One aspect that makes the job complicated is that on the grid these days, there is a market not just for electricity, but also for “ancillary services.” These include the ability to ramp up and down quickly, which will be required as the wind and sun vary in intensity; the ability to add or subtract very large amounts of power in tiny fractions of a second, to keep the alternating current system working as closely as possible to 60 alternations per second; the ability to step in to control voltage; the ability to stand by for hours or days at a time, poised to start up if something goes wrong; and the ability, if everything goes wrong, to begin generating with no outside power to help.

I tell my students in operations that this is a great area to be employed in!

In addition, it is a terrific subject for research and I have had several of my doctoral students do research on electric power network modelling with our most recent paper using data from ISO-NE. It was published in the Naval Research Logistics Quarterly.

I highlighted our findings in my recent keynote talk on Sustainability: Methodology and Applications at SAMSI in Raleigh, North Carolina, where the theme of the workshop was uncertainty quantification and energy.

You can follow our chapter's activities on Facebook.

Perishable Product Supply Chains in Health Care

I will be speaking at McGill University in the Management Science research seminar this Friday.

I am very much looking forward to being back at McGill, having been there only this past August at the terrific INTRIM Conference, which focused in integrated risk management in operations and global supply chains.

The title and abstract of my presentation are below.

Title: Perishable Product Supply Chains in Health Care: Models, Analysis, and Computations

Abstract: In this presentation, I will describe our recent research on perishable product supply chains ranging from pharmaceutical supply chains with branded products to medical nuclear supply chains and blood supply chains. I will discuss the generalized network frameworks under system-optimization as well as in the case of oligopolistic competition. Waste management and sustainability issues will also be highlighted.

The OM/MS group at McGill is fabulous and I will be hosted by Professor Vedat Verter and Mehmet Gumus.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Female CEO of IBM as the Glass Ceiling Shatters

I am VERY impressed by the announcement that IBM has selected as its new CEO, to start in 2012, a female, and one with a degree in computer science from Northwestern, no less!

This is fantastic news.

According to The New York Times
: Virginia M. Rometty, a senior vice president at I.B.M., will be the company’s next chief executive, the directors announced on Tuesday. She will succeed Samuel J. Palmisano, who will remain as chairman, at the start of next year.

The selection of Ms. Rometty for the top job at I.B.M. will make her one of the highest-profile women executives in corporate America, joining a small group of women chief executives that includes Ursula Burns of Xerox, Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, Ellen J. Kullman of DuPont and Meg Whitman of Hewlett-Packard.

And, what is also very exciting, given the focus now on analytics by many of our professional societies, including INFORMS, is that Ms. Rometty has pushed to expand the company’s fast-growing analytics unit, which uses clever software to sift through the vast amounts of data inside companies, on the Web and social networks, to help clients look for sales and cost-saving opportunities.

Great news on all counts!

Adolescents Need Their Sleep and How Deerfield Academy Got It Right

One reason my daughter is not in public high school is the early start time in our area with school buses barreling down our street at 7:10AM (while my daughter is still asleep for about 5 minutes) and with some students eating lunch as early as 10:30AM.

I always believed that students should be the top priority and not the scheduling of the buses as to when the school day should start.

Perhaps, it takes a mother, as a leader of a school, to make the necessary changes.

Dr. Margarita Curtis, the head of Deerfield Academy, is one such leader. Several years ago (just in time for my daughter to become a student there), Dr. Curtis decided to shift the start time to the school day to 8:30AM from, what I believe had originally been 8AM; except for Wednesdays when the day begins at a not unreasonable 8:15AM.

And the scientific evidence is in as to the benefits of a later school start time for adolescents.

In a wonderful article in the Motherlode blog of The New York Times, Jenny Anderson highlights Deerfield's successful experiment and has comments from none other than the Dr. Maas, a renowned psychologist (whose classes are sometimes media events, I might add) at Cornell University. Jenny Anderson, writes in her column, Let Sleepy Students Lie:

High-achieving teens are getting, on average, six hours of sleep a night. They should be getting more than nine. “Their cognitive ability is worse than someone who is legally drunk,” Dr. James Maas, a Cornell professor of psychology and author of the book “Sleep for Success,” told me over the weekend.


An experiment at Deerfield Academy turned up some pretty interesting results. The Massachusetts boarding school examined what would happen if their students got an extra hour of sleep every night. Check-in for the dorms was moved half an hour earlier, and classes started half an hour later.

Here is Dr. Maas’s summary of the results:

Grades rose to a record winter-term high. Athletic records improved. Seventeen percent more hot breakfasts were consumed. Teachers reported that students showed increased alertness, readiness to engage, and better mood in morning classes. Visits to the health center were also down 20 percent in a year when other schools reported substantial increases in the flu and colds.

My daughter is not a boarder at Deerfield and about 10% of the students commute in, as does she, and are day students, although they spend hours at the school not only during the week but also often on weekends.

This semester, I, finally, got to switch teaching my undergraduate course in Transportation & Logistics that for years was scheduled on Monday and Wednesday mornings at 8:40AM to Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:30AM. I must admit, though, that the former schedule attracted the true diehards and early birds with whom I had a lot of esprit de corps!

It takes a leader, and, perhaps, a mother, to set things right.

For some recent photos of what is happening at Deerfield, see my earlier post.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Installation Art that Makes You Stop and Think at Deerfield Academy

Parents' Weekend at Deerfield Academy was thrilling, from the attending of classes (what a pleasure to be able to listen as a break) and to do "speed-dating," that is, meet with one's child's teachers in 5 minute increments with, usually, a good 5-10 minute walk in between the classroom buildings.

The above were all highlights and I can't, as a parent, thank the amazing teachers sufficiently for their passion, knowledge, and clear love of their subjects and the worlds that they open up for the students! The same goes for the wonderful coaches (by the way, my daughter's varsity field hockey team won yesterday and their season has been terrific).

What made the weekend truly special was the installation art (some of which is featured above) done painstakingly by a Deerfield Academy student. I have included only some of my favorite sayings captured in the photos above taken yesterday.

Yes, you may have recognized the sayings on the little white houses on the Deerfield Academy (DA) campus as all being Emily Dickinson's, the great poet of Amherst!

According to the writeup on the DA website:

According to Peter Krasznekewics, the junior at DA, and the one behind this art installation, the concept behind Action Art is to create art that “brings together different forces that result in a positive experience for the viewers, the participants, and communities…the interchange of physical art, written words, different spaces, green materials, and diverse communities will produce a unique, constructive impact on society.” Inspired in part by the works of the environmental artist Christo, The Little White House Project, which will be moved to the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst (MA) in the spring of 2012, has several goals: to reinvent and complement the landscape of two historical sites; to showcase Emily Dickinson and share her profound view of the world; to demonstrate the use of the green building materials that the houses are made of; and to eventually “up-cycle” the houses as material to be used in the construction of a Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity house. However, the houses’ final destination may be put off for a while, since the Boston Children’s Museum recently expressed an interest in displaying the installation after its Amherst residency.

The best kind of art surprises you and makes one stop and think.

I was reminded by the installation art of Anna Schuleit, a MacArthur Fellow, and also a former Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard (the latter plus our first names we have in common).

If you recall, Schuleit's "Just a Rumor," created a great sensation when it was completed at UMass Amherst and was even covered by the Wall Street Journal (yes, even business folks need art). She painted the face upside down whose reflection then appeared right-side-up in our campus pond! While I had originally made a suggestion as to the identity of the face, Ms. Schuleit has corrected me and indicated that the face was not the face of any particular person.

If you want more information on "Just a Rumor," see the UMass FAC press release or the artist's project page.

Yesterday, I saw geniuses in the making at Deerfield!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Congrats to Dr. Tina Wakolbinger -- Another Isenberg School PhD Success Story!

Nothing makes a professor happier than when one's students succeed.

Since I teach both undergraduate as well as graduate students, including doctoral students, each year I look forward to their graduations and placements, whether in jobs or in academia.

Also, as Director of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks, I get to know the students that serve as Center Associates especially well and we continue our associations and collaborations.

One of my former doctoral students, Tina Wakolbinger, who received her PhD in 2007 with a concentration in Management Science, and who served as the first President of our revived UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, and went on to receive the Judith Liebman award from INFORMS, has had a meteoric career. After receiving her PhD, she became an Assistant Professor at the Fogelman College of Business and Economics at the University of Memphis.

Less than 4 years after receiving her PhD, on May 15, 2011, she became a Full Professor, specifically, the Full Professor of Supply Chain Services and Networks at the Vienna University of Economics and Business and last week she received two other major appointments.

Dr. Wakolbinger is now the Head of the Research Institute for Supply Chain Management at the Vienna University of Economics and Business.

Also, she became the Deputy Head of the Institute for Transport and Logistics Management there.

I first met Tina when she was a student in the courses that I taught at the University of Innsbruck in Austria as a Distinguished Chaired Professor under the Fulbright program. After her graduation from that university, she worked for one year in industry in Austria. She then matriculated into our doctoral program at the Isenberg School at UMass Amherst.

Tina and I, along with Professor Dietrich Braess, translated his Braess paradox paper from German to English in an article published in Transportation Science.

She continues to serve as a Center Associate of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks.

Nice to see our supernetwork networking the continents!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Computational Management Science in London

I am delighted that the 2012 Computational Management Science (CMS) Conference will be held in London, England this coming April. It will be at Imperial College and the website and additional information can be accessed here.

I am serving on the International Programme (I like the spelling) Committee with many wonderful colleagues from around the world.

In 2010, the CMS Conference took place in Vienna, Austria and I had the great honor of delivering one of the keynote speeches on supply chains.

Last time that I was in London was in April 2007 when I spoke on critical infrastructure networks at Imperial College. My hosts, which included several of the organizers of the 2012 CMS Conference, were fabulous.

Photos from that trip to London as well as the 2007 CMS Conference in Geneva, Switzerland that preceded it (and they are worth having a look at) can be found here.

Hope to see many in our operations research and management science community in London in April!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Glorious Paris Despite Travel Travails

I've been back from Paris for 36 hours and have caught up on some much needed sleep.

This trip consisted of a lot of "adventures."

First, for the bad ones:

It began with a great flight from Boston Logan (after a shuttle ride from Amherst, MA) on Delta / Air France on which I had an exit row seat (36a) with noone next to me and a gentleman who was living in Gothenburg, Sweden, who works in marketing software in 36C. I suspect that, after 2 hours of that empty middle seat, it was jut too beckoning, and a tall Egyptian from Cairo sat down next to me. I still managed to catch some shut-eye but also had very interesting conversations with both of my "seat-mates."

We landed at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, got off the plane, and proceeded to immigration only to encounter all of the glass doors closed. We waited en masse (and the mass was growing) amd nothing else was happening. I had a feeling of being Tom Hanks in the movie, "The Terminal" in which he spends months at JFK airport because he lacks a visa since the government in his country has fallen. Eventually, someone waved us in another direction and we moved in a swarm and waited only to hear someone say "you may not be able to enter the country today."

When doors to the outside opened up, a group of us was ready to make a sprint out but we did not. After more minutes than I care to recount, we were directed back. The glass doors opened and we got processed.

My taxi driver from the airport looked tired and kept on telling me about his client from California that he drives every other week (his English was decent but I was not completely comfortable with him). There was a transport "slowdown" in Paris that day so many had taken their cars and the traffic was horrendous -- it took about 2 hours to make it to central Paris. As we were making a turn in central Paris with the ultimate goal, I was hoping, to get me to my hotel, a big truck slammed into our taxi from the left with the window glass shattering and me wondering whether I was in a bad movie. In all of my numerous global travels, amazingly, I had never been in an accident until then.

The taxi was destroyed but we were not physically hurt, miraculously. I just wanted out of there so I grabbed my luggage, paid the driver in euros, and stood forlorn at a corner. Luckily, I managed to flag down a female taxi driver who brought me to my hotel on Rue Bertholet.

I had emailed the hotel 4 days before flying out (the arrangements had been made for me by the conference organizers) but never got a response (this was a warning I should have paid attention to). I had asked for a quiet room in the email message and inquired of their business center. Well, the business center computer (only 1) had contracted a virus so was not usable and I was placed in a room right next to the registration desk in the lobby and across to an office. The doors banged and banged. I kept on coming out of my room and asking the staff to close the doors quietly to no avail and even asked to be moved to another room (no luck).

I did get another room the next day after a fire alarm in the middle of the night which some American tourists referred to as "our pajama party." The noise from the tourists prior to the alarm was so bad that the neighbors had called the police. Thank you, neighbors! The hotel manager (the lady who refused to move me to another room) was called at 3AM and the next day she got me Room 308, which was quieter but, beware! When exiting the hall outside of the group of rooms (306-308) one has to open a door which overlooks a spiral staircase. If you do not bear left your foot and the rest of you will end up falling down the staircase, which I almost did. Where are the American lawyers when you need one? or a good French one?

The above is just a small overview of some of the travails -- I will spare you my experiences on the flight back to Boston during which we endured 3 hours of turbulence broken up into three one or so hour blocks and we were served pizza for dinner! Not to mention that it took 2 hours for us to get processed at Charles De Gaulle as we were trying to get to our gates to catch the flight back (think of the loss to the French economy since we could not purchase souvenirs since there was no time). In the queues (lines) I was chatting with a journalist from Japan who was in Paris to cover the G20 finance ministers meeting and we griped about the inefficiencies.

My last night in Paris since the doors were still banging loudly at the hotel I spent most of the night watching CNN (thank goodness that channel was available) and there was a segment on the Air France crash from Brazil to Paris of two years ago in which more than 200 people perished. I had been reading that Air France pilots are trained to push buttons and not trained as the Delta pilots are trained. We really need pilots who know how to handle stalls in the air and wind shear. Several times I thought our plane would tip over. The flight crew was Delta so I figured we stood a chance of making it and we did. I later saw a colleague of mine from UMass Amherst, who is an economist, also on the flight. When we diembarked, he was still fuming about the lines at the De Gaulle airport.

To travel today one needs to have the aerobic capacity and stamina of a marathoner.

When the plane landed in Logan there were no lines to get through customs and I promised Captain Salecki who processed me at Logan to put in a good word for him and the staff there, so, THANKS! Plus. my Valley Transporter driver was at Logan to pick me up in minutes and the drive back was wonderful.

Now, for the great adventures:

The reason that I was in Paris, was that I was invited to give a keynote speech at a conference on networks, which I could not refuse. The conference was terrific and I saw both friends and colleagues that I had always wanted to meet. I also came back with new research ideas, always a sign of a successful conference.

The weather in Paris was magical -- cool, sunny, and with the air very crisp.

I walked for miles (from the hotel to the university and back) and had some time to explore the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens (see photos above).

A highlight was that I was "free" on Saturday, and I got to meet a collaborator with whom I have been working and who I had never met face to face. He and his lovely wife gave me a grand tour of Paris and spent the entire day with me. We visited the Victor Hugo museum, saw the Notre Dame, talked and walked and walked (they even showed me where DSK lives but I read that he was at his villa in Morocco). I had the most delicious lunch in one of the most elegant restaurants in Paris.

My last day in Paris was pure heaven on earth.

I tried to capture some of the breath-taking elegance and beauty of Paris in the photos above.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Beating the News and the IARPA Project that I Could Have Been Part of -- Data Eye in the Sky

Last week, when I was in Paris, I picked up a copy of The International Herald Tribune only to find an article on a project that I had been asked by a corporation to partner on.

The article, "Government Aims to Build a Data Eye in the Sky," also appeared in The New York Times and, in it, I enjoyed reading the quotes from two of my favorite professional colleagues, Dr. Sandy Pentland of the Media Lab at MIT and Dr. Albert-Laszlo Barabasi of Northeastern University (and renowned in network science). We had hosted both of them in our INFORMS Speaker Series at UMass Amherst and Pentland also was a keynote speaker at our regional INFORMS conference at UMass last May and gave a tutorial at the SBP conference in Maryland last March that I served as the tutorial chair of.

The project is a three-year experiment, and is to begin in April. The title is rather dry -- Open Source Indicators (OSI) program. The RFP was sent out by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, which us part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and which is the funding agency for this project.

I very much enjoyed the conversations with the researchers in the company that approached me and I found the challenges very intriguing. Essentially, in a nutshell, the goal is to develop a platform by which one can "beat the news" in terms of certain events. The focus, interestingly, was to be on Latin America (all 21 countries, no less).

According to the program overview in the RFP:

Many significant societal events are preceded and/or followed by population-level changes in communication, consumption, and movement. Some of these changes may be indirectly observable from publicly available data, such as web search queries, blogs, micro-blogs, internet traffic, financial markets, traffic webcams, Wikipedia edits, and many others. Published research has found that some of these data sources are individually useful in the early detection of events such as disease outbreaks, political crises, and macroeconomic trends. For example, much has been published on extracting indicators useful in forecasting political unrest from news feeds; public sentiment has been inferred from blogs and microblogs; and disease outbreaks have been detected from web search queries. In addition, Government-funded programs such as the Integrated Crisis Early Warning System (ICEWS), the Political Instability Task Force (PITF), and the Aggregative Contingent Estimation (ACE) Program have focused on methods to forecast pre-defined events. But few methods have been developed for anticipating or detecting unexpected events by fusing publicly available data of multiple types from multiple sources.

OSI aims to fill this gap by developing methods for continuous, automated analysis of publicly available data1 in order to anticipate and/or detect significant societal events, such as political crises, humanitarian crises, mass violence, riots, mass migrations, disease outbreaks, economic instability, resource shortages, and responses to natural disasters. Open Source Indicators (OSI) performers will develop methods that ―beat the news by fusing early indicators of events.

will be evaluated on the basis of warnings that they deliver about real-world events.

After spending time thinking through how I and a student and perhaps colleague could contribute, ultimately, I decided that the time-frame for the preparation of the proposal was too tight, given that it was the beginning of the new academic year and it was not entirely clear to me how big my role was to be. There were regular project deliverables and it seemed that there were some fundamental research questions that one should answer before working on deliverable software.

Imagine my surprise when The New York Times highlighted this project!

It will be interesting to see which organizations/universities/corporations end up with the winning proposals.

Grand Challenges and Opportunities in Supply Chain Network Analysis and Design at NetGCOOP in Paris

How can one not love Paris?!

When I received the invitation to deliver a keynote at the 2011 International Conference on Network Games, Control and Optimization (NetGCOOP) that would be taking place in Paris, France, I had to say "yes."

Not only was the theme of the conference of great interest to me but the venue was as well. Given the number of conferees that came from the US and even from Japan, others felt the same.

I must say that I enjoyed the conference, which took place October 12-14, 2011, very much (see some photos above taken at the conference) and especially the talks and the discussions. I even got to meet some scholars whose work I had cited but had never met in person. Plus, I came back with new research ideas.

I also had a great time giving my keynote on Grand Challenges and Opportunities in Supply Chain Network Analysis and Design and, since several conferees have asked for it, my slides may be downloaded, in pdf format, here.

Many thanks to the organizers for putting together such interesting speakers and presentations. I look forward to reading the conference proceedings.

Frontiers in Education, Mount Rushmore, and a Tribute to the Beatles on Ice -- All in South Dakota

I am back from Paris and my husband is back from Rapid City, South Dakota. Since this is the first time that both of us were away at conferences while our daughter was at school, she had the experience of being a "boarder" rather than a "day student" at Deerfield Academy this past week (she loved it). Deerfield graciously agreed to house her while we were on professional travel (and her field hockey team won two games during this period so everything worked out well except for some misadventures I had in Paris that I will share in another blogpost).

We have been to Paris multiple times but how many folks can say that they have been to Rapid City, South Dakota (no, I was not entirely envious of my husband)?!

We all reconnected yesterday afternoon back in Amherst (after my Delta / Air France flight from Paris to Boston during which I endured about 3 hours of turbulence).

My husband spoke at the Frontiers in Education Conference in Rapid City and the above photos were taken by him. The conference even involved a special tour of Mount Rushmore. There were quite a few international speakers at the conference. He was fascinated by the landscape and what he saw in Rapid City.

Coincidentally, the ice skating program, Rain -- A Tribute to the Beatles on Ice, was being rehearsed and performed at the Civic Center there so my husband got a chance to see and speak to Todd Eldredge, the Olympic skater (who also happened to have performed at the Mullins Center at UMass Amherst where we had a chance to meet him since our daughter is also a figure skater). The show will air on NBC on Sunday, November 6, 4-6 pm EST.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Congratulations to the 2011 Nobel Prize Winners in Economic Sciences -- Thomas Sargent and Christopher Sims!

The Nobel prize committee has announced the 2011 winners in Economic Sciences and they are Professor Thomas J. Sargent of NYU and Professor Christopher A. Sims of Princeton University.

The announcement was made in Stockholm, Sweden a short while ago.

I have heard both of these eminent economists speak through my association with the Society for Computational Economics, its conferences and its journal that I serve as an Associate Editor for.

These economists value and engage in empirical research as well as the development and implementation of algorithms and the associated computations.

The Nobel committee selected them: for their empirical research on cause and effect in the macroeconomy.

Now, for another "small-world" phenomenon.

Last year, Dr. Elinor Ostrom, the first female (and still only one) , received the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences (and we had the pleasure of hosting her at UMass Amherst recently).

In this blog last year I wrote:

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.

Coincidentally, this year's Nobel laureate, Thomas A. Sargent, also had a chapter in the first volume of the Handbook of Computational Economics that my chapter appeared in!

Nice to be in the presence of greatness (or at least my chapter is).

More info on the Nobel laureates (and how they heard the news) can be found here.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

International Travel Optimization, Wired, and Hosting a Student from The Netherlands

Tom Vanderbilt, the author of the fabulous book, Traffic, whom we had the honor to host in our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series (see photos above), brought to my attention, through his tweet to INFORMS, about the essays in Wired on Travel Optimization.

As someone whose research and teaching involve transportation & logistics, and networks, and as a frequent flier (off to Paris this week), I had to check the writeups out.

The Travel Optimization piece
contains essays on how to optimize travel and even includes one on an engineering perspective.

I truly enjoyed Tom's writeup on Heavy Traffic that talked about pedestrian congestion, with a focus on airports, from slogging through with suitcases to boarding, and, as always, his terrific writing and sense of humor showed through.

I also enjoyed the piece by Rachel Swaby on the 10 Best Airports to Get Stuck In and concur with her choices of Reagan National (I am there regularly), Amsterdam's Schiphol (the food is fantastic -- great soup and salads, outstanding baked goods, and yogurts plus wonderful shopping and even small rooms to catch some ZZZZs), and the Munich airport (where I purchase the best chocolates -- Mozart kugeln).

As for planning your trip like an engineer, also by Rachel Swaby, being the academic that I am, I became intrigued by her statement:

Take a chance …

You’re always going to be balancing the perceived utility of your trip against the potential uncertainty surrounding it (a strange city, confounding exchange rates). Translation: Should you arrange a solo overland trip to Ulan Bator? A study by scientists at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands found that the answer is probably yes: So-called information gain and travel utility increase the farther you get from home and from your baseline comfort level. Antarctica, here we come.

So I did some research and tracked down precisely the journal article that was being alluded to to satisfy my curiosity. The article, Information Gain, Novelty Seeking and Travel: a Model of Dynamic Activity-Travel Behavior under Conditions of Uncertainty, is by T.A. Arentze and H.J.P. Timmermans and it was published in Transportation Research A.

Coincidentally, my supernetworks group at the Isenberg School at UMass Amherst just welcomed an international visiting doctoral student from the Eindhoven University of Technology, whose dissertation advisor is none other than the same Professor Harry Timmermans! The student will be visiting us through mid-December. He did tell us that Professor Timmermans loves to travel and has been to more places in China than his Chinese students have.

Professor Timmermans was a keynote speaker at the Supernetworks Conference in Shanghai last May, to which I was invited as well as Professor Hani Mahmassani and Professor June Dong.

As for going to Ulan Bator in Mongolia, I had been invited by Dr. Altanaar Chinchuluun but had a conflict with another conference (in Vienna).

Happy travels and thanks to Wired authors for the great essays!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Social Entrepreneur of the Year -- when the Local is Global and Supply Chains

Those of us in operations, whether in operations research and/or operations management, have invested a great deal of time and effort in the study of global supply chains -- focusing on topics from risk management and decision-making under uncertainty, to enhancing efficiency, to disruption management, cost minimization and profit maximization. Our supernetworks group has also worked on capturing the complexity of flows associated with supply chain networks, such as informational, logistical, and financial flows and the impacts of relationships on profits. Applications of supply chains abound since they act as the backbones of the delivery of products (and services) in our Network Economy.

Sustainability and supply chains
has also emerged as an important topic, since by reducing the environmental impacts of the manufacturing, storage, and transportation of products, we all benefit (as do future generations). Hence, sustainability, including corporate social responsibility, has been another supply chain theme.

However, there is another element in supply chains that our models are not (yet) capturing in its full complexity -- and that is the human element.

For example, as supply chains for many of our products extend across our globe, as noted in a recent article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette (our great local newspaper): multinational companies often face the stark reality that they are supporting exploitive labor systems.

Dan Viederman, the CEO of Verite', a nonprofit organization in Amherst (my town), has been working with multinationals, since 1995, to make globalization more equitable and sustainable for workers around the world.

For his work, he was recently recognized with the Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the Schwab Foundation in Geneva, Switzerland. As part of this award, he traveled to Dalian, China to take part in the Summer Davos, hosted by the World Economic Forum (that the Schwab Foundation also initiated).

Dan Viederman is also my neighbor and he has graciously agreed to speak in our "Meet the Executive" initiative that the students of the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter and I began last year.

He will be speaking on his amazing work on November 18, 2011 in Room 210 at the Isenberg School at UMass Amherst at 11AM. More details will follow. This is a talk that should not be missed.

Friday, October 7, 2011

UMass Amherst to Host $7.5 Million Climate Science Center

UMass Amherst has been awarded a major grant to host the $7.5 million Northeast Climate Science Center (CSC).

The announcement was made today in Washington DC by the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar.

The Principal Investigator is Professor Richard Palmer, who is also the Chairman of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UMass Amherst. The Co-Principal Investigator is Professor Raymond Bradley, a renowned climate scientist. This is the eighth climate science center established since 2009.

We had the pleasure of hearing Professor Palmer speak when he spoke in our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series in Fall 2009. I heard Professor Bradley speak in the Daffodil Lectures on Sustainability and the Environment at UMass at which Andrew Revkin of the NYTimes also spoke.

In addition to UMass Amherst, other Northeast CSC members are: the University of Wisconsin Madison, University of Missouri Columbia, University of Minnesota, the College of Menominee Nation in Keshena, Wis., the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass. and Columbia University in New York City.

The full press release can be read here.

Specific research challenges that this center may be involved in could include climate impacts on water resources, agriculture and grazing, fish and wildlife and responses to climate change, forest resilience, invasive species, protecting migratory fish and waterfowl, sea-level rise, coastal erosion, flood management and water quality.

This is terrific news and given all the research accomplishments that UMass Amherst has had in sustainability and the environment, well-deserved.

The Boston Globe has some nice coverage of this news along with a list of the other CSCs in the US.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thanks for All that You Did, Steve Jobs, and Rest in Peace

I got up early this morning, as I usually do, to do what I love -- get ready for teaching my class today and working on research.

I first checked the news online to read that Steve Jobs, the great technology innovator, and Apple co-founder, has died.

The remembrances, tributes, and accolades are filling up both the virtual world and the real world and they are coming in from President Obama to Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and chief executive of Facebook.

Even one of our local papers has an article with the headline:

The world reacts to the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs with kind words, tributes and makeshift shrines

Steve Jobs taught us all how to live, work, and how to create.

In Steve Jobs' own words:

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work," Jobs said in a 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University, following a battle with cancer. "And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life," Jobs said. "Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

Rest in peace, great one, and thank you.