Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bravo - Real World Problem-Solving with Design and Empathy at Stanford University and UMass Amherst

Perhaps you read the article in yesterday's New York Times, which was quite appropriate for this special season and as we get ready to bring in the New 2014 Year. The article was entitled:   "Solving Problems for Real World, Using Design." However, you may have missed the article, also published yesterday, in the Daily Hampshire Gazette (DHG), on "UMass Engineering Team Designs Mechanical Arm to Help Northampton Kindergartener Feed Himself." The DHG is our award-winning local paper in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts.

The Times article by Nicole Perlroth talked about Stanford University's program at its design school known as the D.school, for short, with projects starting at a similar point and focusing on how to ease people's lives. According to one of the design school's founders, David Kelley, at the heart of the school's courses is the development of an "empathy muscle" with students being taught to look beyond computers and spreadsheets to focus on people. One of the successes of this program (others are highlighted in the article) is the product Embrace, which is a pouch  that assists newborns from developing hypothermia. Its inventors attribute it to helping to prevent 22,000 infant deaths. It is also low-cost. More info on this product developed through the D.school's very popular Design for Extreme Affordability course can be found here.

As for the other side of the U.S., here at UMass Amherst, a group of engineering students, working with a nursing student, gave Ryan Wade, a five year old,  his best Christmas present -- a mechanical arm that they designed and then built a test model of and had a final version produced.  According to the DHG,  “I like it and I love it, “ Ryan said the other day after he polished off a plate of grapes, pretzels and orange slices at his home on Union Street, using the device strapped onto his right forearm. “It’s awesome for me. Really, really awesome.” He can now feed himself. Ryan was born with a condition called multiple synostoses syndrome, a genetic abnormality that caused bones in his fingers, elbows, feet and ears to fuse, affecting the movement of his joints. The condition affects his gait and other functions, but the most serious problem for him is that he can’t bend his arms at his elbows, meaning he can’t bring his hands to his face. So, until now, he couldn’t feed himself without using an 18-inch-long extension for his fork or spoon, couldn’t wipe his mouth, blow his nose or brush his teeth.

 Ryan Wade with his mechanical arm    Photo courtesy of the DHG

The UMass Amherst engineering students designed the mechanical arm for Ryan (there were no medical options remaining for him and his mother is a nurse)  as part of a senior design capstone course with support from a nursing student and  under the tutelage of Professor Frank Sup and also Professor Sundar Krishnamurty, who is a neighbor of mine.

And, yes, they used computer models and even a 3-D printer. The printer laid plastic layer upon plastic layer to build the product. The 3-D printer that UMass has on campus made the first version in about a day. For the final product, according to the DHG, made of sturdier plastic than the UMass printer can make, the students sent their design off to an outside printer.

When 5 year old Ryan came to UMass Amherst to an engineering  conference room where the student inventors and faculty had gathered and he was offered Cheezits -- he reached and grabbed them with his new mechanical arm and the inventors screamed with joy. Of course, the professors were also ecstatic and, according to  Professor Sup “This is one of the reasons you teach a course like this,” “not only to have students identify how to use engineering skills but to really see how they can have an impact on an individual in the community.”

This is not the only invention to come out of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at UMass Amherst. A while back, a therapeutic vest that can help children with autism, ADHD, and anxiety  was also invented by Brian Mullen with advice provided by his professors.

I might add that these products are designed and built and are of great benefit to individuals, families,  and society at-large. Their creation also brings satisfaction to the creators and, as we say in Operations Research (O.R.), Doing Good with Good O.R. is very rewarding personally. Plus, I would add that, in developing math models, computer algorithms, and software we also provide design solutions for supply chains that integrate sustainability and/or corporate social responsibility to humanitarian ones to other important systems in our world today.

By focusing on people we can make the world a better place in 2014.

Congrats to the terrific students and faculty at universities who solve problems in the real world!

Happy New 2014 Year!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Operations Research in Disruption Management May Have Helped UPS and FedEx with Timely Deliveries for Christmas

Many of us have enjoyed celebrating the special holidays this time of the year and  are recovering from all the wonderful and, yet, frenetic activities surrounding the shopping, decorating, cooking, visiting, and partying!

Not so for those who work for our logistics companies such as UPS and FedEx whose trucks you may have seen driving through your neighborhoods many times and even late in the evening this past week to deliver packages for Christmas, which was yesterday.

You may have also caught the news of the package shipment delays this season and were anxiously awaiting the package that you ordered for a relative, neighbor, or friend, which still has not arrived.

Timely deliveries are extremely important, especially when there is a big day such as Christmas. In fact, time is a strategic advantage, as important as cost and even quality, which we have argued in our paper:
A Supply Chain Network Game Theoretic Framework for Time-Based Competition with Transportation Costs and Product Differentiation,
Anna Nagurney and Min Yu, to appear in Optimization in Science and Engineering - In Honor of the 60th Birthday of Panos M. Pardalos, edited by S. Butenko, C. A. Floudas, and Th. M. Rassias, Springer, New York, 2014.

UPS, in a statement, reported on CNN.com, explained that "the volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity of our network immediately preceding Christmas so some shipments were delayed." "We know how hard it is for everyone to receive their holiday packages, and we're working around the clock to resolve this issue," UPS spokeswoman Natalie Black said.

I am sure that many out there who work (and even teach)  in operations and logistics and conduct research on this great subject had an "Aha!" moment. This sounded like the maximal flow problem in operations research, which is a classical problem, but which needed to include stochastic elements associated with possible disruptions. According to Black, UPS underestimated the volume of packages and the previous severe weather in the Dallas area had already created a backlog. Then came "excess holiday volume" during a compressed time frame, since the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas was shorter than usual this year. (Also, UPS gives their employees Christmas off, which they surely need.) This issue lit up social media on the Internet around the globe.

FedEX also apologized for some delays and noted that the company handled 275 million shipments this year between Thanksgiving and ChristmasSome FedEx custimers were able to pick up their packages at local FedEx centers that were open on Christmas day.  "We're sorry that there could be delays and we're contacting affected customers who have shipments available for pickup," said Scott Fiedler, a spokesman for FedEx Corp.

Those of us who work in disaster and disruption management (and soon I will be teaching again my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare course at the Isenberg School of Management) know that there are many synergies and crossovers between corporate logistics and humanitarian logistics and some of the best practices in one space can be adapted to the other.

In a special issue of the journal Transportation Research A on Network Vulnerability in Large-Scale Transport Networks, our article:  A Bi-Criteria Indicator to Assess Supply Chain Network Performance for Critical Needs Under Capacity and Demand Disruptions,
Qiang Qiang and Anna Nagurney,  appeared in volume 46(5): (2012) pp 801-812.  In this paper, we developed a supply chain/logistics network model for critical needs in the case of disruptions. The objective is to minimize the total network costs, which are  generalized costs that may include the monetary, risk, time, and social costs.  The model assumes that disruptions may have an impact on both the network link capacities as well as on the product demands. Two different cases of disruption scenarios are considered. In the first case, we assume that the impacts of the disruptions are mild and that the demands can be met.  In the second case, the demands cannot all be satisfied. For these two cases, we propose two individual performance measures. We then construct a bi-criteria measure to assess the supply chain network performance. An algorithm is described which is applied to solve a spectrum of numerical examples in order to illustrate the new concepts.

This bi-criteria measure  considers the following factors:
  • Supply chain capacities may be affected by disruptions;
  • Demands may be affected by disruptions; and
  • Disruption scenarios are categorized into two types.
And, in order to determine whether the demands can be satisfied under a specific disruption scenario (which, of course, can include weather or another natural disaster)  we first solve the maximal flow problem, which is a classical network optimization problem in operations research.

Both UPS and FedEx perform, in general, amazing work and take advantage of advanced analytics but as this holiday season revealed there is more that can be done! As the incoming President of INFORMS, Dr. Stephen Robinson, alluded in an interview, sometimes it takes many years for research to make it into practice. I think that this needs to  change.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 Was an Amazing Year for the Virtual Center for Supernetworks at the Isenberg School

2013 was a wonderful year for the Virtual Center for Supernetworks and its Center Associates! Below I provide a few of the highlights.

First, I was notified by UMass Amherst Provost James Staros amd Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement Michael Malone that the Evaluation Committee for Centers and Institutes, after review of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks' Self-Study, has recommended that the Center be continued for another 5 years at UMass Amherst, which is fabulous! I founded this center back in 2001.

The book, "Networks Against Time: Supply Chain Anaytics for Perishable Products," co-authored by 4 Center Associates:  Anna Nagurney, Min Yu of the Pamplin School of Business at the University of Portland, Amir H. Masoumi, now of  the School of Business at Manhattan College in NYC, and Ladimer S. Nagurney of the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture (CETA) of the University of Hartford, was published by Springer Science + Business Media in 2013. The co-authors had a great year with Dr. Ladimer S. Nagurney being promoted to Full  Professor of Electrical, Computer, and Biomedical Engineering at CETA, Amir Masoumi receiving his PhD with a concentration in Management Science at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst in May 2013, and Dr. Yu completing her first full year as an Assistant Professor. Amir also received the Judith B. Liebman Award from INFORMS at the 2013 Minneapolis INFORMS Meeting for his great service to the award-winning UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, which was recognized with a magna cum laude award at the same meeting.  This is the 10th year that I am serving as the Faculty Advisor of this great student chapter.

In addition, I was one of twelve elected INFORMS Fellows in the class of 2013, an honor that I am ever so grateful for -- especially since it comes from a professional society INFORMS and colleagues that I have the utmost respect for.

Center Associate Professor Patrizia Daniele of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Catania in Italy received the great news that she has been promoted to Full Professor of Operations Research!

Center Associate Professor Jose M. Cruz of the School of Business at UConn Storrs received the School of Business Graduate Teaching Award 2013. He continues to serve as the Director of the Master's Program in Business Analytics and Project Management.

Dr. Trisha Anderson of the School of Business at Texas Wesleyan University was selected as the 2013 General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church (GBHEM) exemplary teacher for 2013.  Dr. Anderson will receive a monetary award and the honor to speak at the Fall commencement ceremony.

Dr. Tina Wakolbinger of the Vienna University of Economics and Business in Austria  received a grant from the  Austrian Science Fund for the project: Optimal Pricing Policies and Contracts of Outsourcing Humanitarian Logistics Activities. She took part in the AAAS Symposium on Dynamics of Disasters, that I organized, which took place in Boston in February 2013. She also spoke at the Isenberg School of Management that month, hosted by the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter.

Center Associate Professor Patrick Qiang of the Graduate School of Professor Studies at Penn State Malvern received a 2 year grant from the China National Science Foundation for his project: Competition, Efficiency and Coordination Mechanism of Express Service Providers of Online Shopping Supply Networks. He continues to be very active speaking at conferences and conducting research.

Center Associate Professor June Dong of the School of Business at SUNY Oswego is a Co-PI on the project:  Developing an Interactive Web-Application for Instructions Involving Networks funded by an Innovative Instruction Technology Grant (IITG) from the State University of New York (SUNY).

Center Associate Professor Ding Zhang of the School of Business at SUNY Oswego has been busy hosting two Visiting Scholars from China with whom he is working on emergency management and service management with a network focus. In addition, he was a Visiting Professor on a short term research appointment at the Nanjing University of Science and Technology in China.

Center Associate Dr. Dmytro Matsypura of the School of Business at the University of Sydney in Australia spent part of his sabbatical at the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. He presented seminars there and at conference while in the U.S.

Along with Doctoral Student Center Associates Sara Saberi and Dong "Michelle" Li, we continue to work on the NSF-funded project: Network Innovation Through Choice. We have several papers accepted for publication or in press that acknowledge support from this major NSF grant. Professor Tilman Wolf is the PI and I am a Co-PI. Other partners on this project include collaborators at the University of Kentucky, NCState, and RENCI.

Moreover, Sara Saberi has been selected as a 2014 Isenberg Scholar Award recipient.

Doctoral Student Center Associate Shivani Shukla was elected President of the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter and has been very active organizing activities.
I spent several months in 2013 as a Visiting Professor of Operations Management at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden as part of my sabbatical this year and was busy collaborating, mentoring students, doing research, lecturing, and speaking at many conferences. This year, I gave invited and plenary talks and seminars at many venues (NYC, Athens (Greece), Evanston (Illinois), Zurich (Switzerland), Vienna (Austria), Gothenburg (Sweden), College Station (Texas), Norman (Oklahoma), Montreal (Canada),  TEDx at UMass Amherst, and more). I was also a Guest Professor at Professor Wakolbinger's university of March 2013.

Center Associate Dr. Stavros Siokos continues as President of the Sciens Fund of Hedge Funds Management in London, UK. I saw Dr. Siokos in Athens, Greece in June 2013.

Center Associate Dr. Padma Ramanujam is continuing working at SAS in Cary, North Carolina and she took part at the INFORMS meeting in Minneapolis with many other Center Associates.
Center Associates collaborated on many research papers and had articles published in such journals as the European Journal of Operational Research, Annals of Operations Research, Service Science, Networks, Computational Management Science, the International Transactions in Operational Research, and many more!

Congratulations to all on their achievements!

Wishing everyone a very productive and wonderful New 2014 Year!

Please visit the Supernetwork website regularly for the latest news and information.

Please visit the various pages on the supernetworks website for many of our recent publications as well as for photos of our events and activities, newsletter, and media coverage.

Thanks for the support!  Happy New 2014 Year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Thank You to a Great Philanthropist After Whom Our Isenberg School of Management is Named

Now is the time of the year when many are solicited to give what they can to various good causes. I am sure that you have your favorite organizations that you regularly donate to and truly believe in. It may be charity organizations, your alma mater, the place where you work, among others.

This post is to thank one of our greatest benefactors and by "our" I mean the Isenberg School of Management and the benefactor -- Mr. Eugene "Gene" Isenberg, after whom our business school is named.

Gene Isenberg is a great philanthropist and I especially enjoyed the definition of philanthropy in Wikipedia: Philanthropy etymologically means "love of humanity" in the sense of caring for, nourishing, developing, and enhancing "what it is to be human" on both the benefactors' (by identifying and exercising their values in giving and volunteering) and beneficiaries' (by benefiting) parts.  As for the more modern or conventional definition:  philanthrophy is private initiatives, for public good, focusing on quality of life. 

Mr. Gene Isenberg was recognized as a philanthropist, with many other household name executives, back in 1998 in The New York Times in a feature Business Day article, which noted that:  Mr. Isenberg's prime cause is education, and the major beneficiary has been his alma mater, the University of Massachusetts. Last year, he pledged $6 million over five years, giving $2 million of that sum in 1997. Separately, he gives $90,000 annually for scholarships at the university in mathematics, engineering, computer science and business.

''It was time to give something back to education,'' Mr. Isenberg said. ''I could afford to do it, and I did it.''

And because of Mr. Isenberg, we have our beautiful atrium, high technology classrooms, and much, much  more. 

Today, we received more good news because of the benevolence of Mr. Isenberg.

One of my PhD students, Sara Saberi, who is also a Doctoral Student Center Associate at the Virtual Center of Supernetworks that I founded in 2001,  was selected to be an Isenberg Scholar Award recipient for 2014 which comes with a wonderful stipend. Sara's PhD concentration is in Management Science. She is also working with me and several collaborators on our NSF project: Network Innovation Through Choice.

In the letter to Sara from the Director of the Isenberg Program for the Integration of Management, Engineering and Science,  it was stated that: This prestigious award is a tremendous honor and its recipients reflect the highest academic standards of the university. As you may recall, this fund was created in 1994 by Mr. and Mrs. Eugene M. Isenberg to encourage students whose study and plans demonstrate a commitment to the integration of science and/or engineering with management.

I have met the Isenbergs on many occasions and we thank them for their support of education of our students! This is philanthropy at its best.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday Cookie Logistics from Baking to Delivery

It is snowing hard here in western Massachusetts and the landscape is beautiful but the temps are not. 

It is frigid outside so what could be better, after having graded final exams (appropriately for a course in Logistics & Transportation) as well as paper projects on topics as varied as Cape Cod traffic improvements to transportation in Buenos Aires to the rotary in Haiti to cement logistics, to name just a few, to do something also very creative -- bake holiday cookies!

Baking and distributing holiday cookies has been a tradition in my family for several years and we have gotten quite skilled at it. Nice that we practice what we preach is terms of efficiency, as well!

Every year it seems that we get busier and busier both professionally and personally but one keeps traditions alive for neighbors and family and finds time to do what needs to be done.

The logistics involve planning, purchasing ingredients, scheduling the baking and decorating,  doing the baking and decorating, and, of course, outsourcing the dishwashing tasks and cleanup. 

Then it is time to do the packaging, the writing of the cards, and the deliverying. Timing of delivery is very important since we want to make sure that the recipients are at home.

As an operations researcher, whether by education (or lifeskills or osmosis as is the case with some of my family members, whose assistance I rely upon in this megaproject), I am well-versed in project planning (especially in network-based techniques), scheduling, finding the best route through the supermarket, and the best routes for cookie plate deliveries.

As for this year's holiday cookie "menu," for now, we have made the following cookies:

  • rum balls with walnuts (coincidentally, one of my former undergrad Operations Management majors at the Isenberg School emailed me that he made a batch for his office party this year and they were loved -- special to have students stay in touch even after graduation),
  • pecan sandies with powdered sugar,
  • Swedish jam-filled cookies from my Administrative Assistant's recipe at the School of Business, Economics an Law in Gothenburg that I spent the major part of my sabbatical at last year (thank you, Wivvian!),
  • cherry-filled almond cookies,
  • a variety of colored wreaths and candy-cane cookies, and
  • mitten butter cookies decorated with M&M's.

To be welcomed by warm smiles as the doors open and we deliver the plates of cookies is truly in the spirit of this season.

Happy Holidays to everyone!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Photos from Another GREAT UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter Party

It has been the tradition of the award-winning UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter to host an end of the semester party every semester and we have been doing it since Fall 2003! This is an event that should not be missed and even though this week is final exams week and many of us are extremely busy there is something special about this tradition.

Today is the 12th day of the 12th month and the party was in the Isenberg School of Management Room 112 -- math lovers will appreciate this.

Students divided themselves into 3 groups, each with a driver, to do the logistics of procuring the food (both cold and hot) and today the temps were in the teens plus one student was in a car accident but we are good at disruption management.

I managed to bring Slavic food  - two types of varenyky/pierogies which were warm and kielbasa plus nut rolls and cookies and we feasted on Indian cuisine, Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, Italian (pizza), and more. There were students from many departments in the Isenberg School as well as from the College of Engineering (Industrial Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering) and even students from Polymer Science and a postdoc from Food Science!

The below photos tell it all -- great food and great cameraderie. (Some had to leave before the group photo was taken, but thanks so much for coming to support the students, including the Isenberg School PhD Director, Professor George Milne).

Congrats to the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter for another very special event and thanks for the memories! As the Faculty Advisor I could not be prouder of how these students work together and support one another.

Thanks to everyone for the support of this chapter's activities!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Building Community - Great Reindeer Seminar at the Isenberg School

Today UMass Amherst, because of the ice, did not open until noon and final exams had to be rescheduled, some of which will start at 8:45 PM tonight.

Somehow some of us still managed this morning to make it to a faculty candidate seminar over in Engineering and the presentation was worth it!

During this time of the year, we are reminded of the communities that we belong to -- from our neighborhoods to various professional societies to the places that we work at and the organizations that we support.

On November 25, I took part at TEDx UMass in its Professor Speaker Showcase and I have written several posts since then about the event and some of the speakers.

Dr. Pierre Rouzier's presentation at TEDx UMass continues to resonate with me. He is the Team Physician at UMass Amherst and has volunteered at 5 Boston Marathons, including last year's one on April 15, at which the horrific bombings took place. The New York Times recently had an article on how it may be advisable for medical professionals to go in early at points of attack and, as many ran away, Dr. Rouzier ran towards the victims of the marathon bombings.The Daily Hampshire Gazette had a moving article on Dr. Rouzier's heroism.

He stated in his TEDx talk that "UMass is his Community." And he has traveled far and wide not only with UMass sports teams that he avidly supports, treats, and heals, but also to Haiti.

Today, we had our Reindeer Seminar, which is an end of the Fall semester celebration that takes place in our lovely Isenberg School of Management atrium. We celebrated with great food and cameraderie plus the giving out of staff awards. I took the photos below, beginning, of course, with the dessert table.

A fabulous time was had by all and we received great fortification for the final exams and subsequent grading this week.Such special events bring us together and help to build communities.

For the Love of Networks

When the invitation came from Dr. Adilson Motter to speak at the 2013 Network Frontier Workshop that he was organizing at Northwestern University I was very intrigued, even though the workshop was to take place in early December. Since I live (most of the time) in Massachusetts, I have experience with cold weather but, for some reason, that cold on Lake Michigan is quite unique.

But, since I love researching networks and teaching about the subject and find it one of the most powerful of scientific topics in bridging disciplines, of course, I said "yes!"

This workshop, which was a huge success, and I am still savoring the talks and discussions as well as the people that I met, was a three-day event, that took place last week, December 4-6, highlighting leading-edge research on complex networks. According to the workshop website: Participants working on innovative aspects of complex systems will communicate recent results and ideas relevant to fields as diverse as brain, climate, and socio-technological research. Sessions will include theory and applications of nonlinear dynamics and statistical physics in the context of synchronization, cascades, transportation, control, and failure recovery in complex dynamical systems.

The program, which featured talks on applications ranging from climate science to brain physiology and envisioning the future Internet (my topic) can be downloaded here.  The list of invited speakers can be viewed here.  Invited speakers were from the US, Europe, and Asia, and one industrialist told me that he flew in from China just to hear me speak. I hope that I did not disappoint.

I loved the applications described as well as the methodologies, which included innovations in dynamical systems and control theory applied to networks.

Thanks to Dr. Motter  and his team at the Northwestern Institute for Complex Systems (NICO) for putting this great workshop together. You succeeded in bringing researchers, practitioners, and students together to Evanston in December for the love of networks!

Below are some photos that I managed to take even though, honestly, my digital camera seemed to freeze (although I had charged it before flying out to Chicago).

The lunches and refreshments were delicious!

And, today, UMass Amherst has delayed its opening until noon because of the inclement weather but since we are interviewing a candidate for a faculty position, I will be going in. This afternoon, we are having our annual Isenberg Reindeer Seminar in the Isenberg School of Management atrium, which is a holiday party but first there will be a Personnel Committee meeting to attend. Never a dull moment in academia!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Environmental Applications and Computational Management Science


The special issue of the journal Computational Management Science on Environmental Applications is now published. It is volume 10, issue 4, December 2013. Thanks to the Editors, Professors Breton and Zaccour,  for putting together this great volume. We are honored to have our latest work on supply chains, freight, and sustainability in it. 

Additional information on the full issue can be found at: http://link.springer.com/journal/10287/10/4/page/1

Michèle Breton & Georges Zaccour
Dynamic decentralization of harvesting constraints in the management of tychastic evolution of renewable resources
Jean-Pierre Aubin, Luxi Chen & Marie-Hélène Durand
A robust meta-game for climate negotiations
Frédéric Babonneau, Alain Haurie & Marc Vielle
Spatial control of invasive species in conservation landscapes
Christopher M. Baker & Michael Bode
Ecological-economic modelling for the sustainable management of biodiversity
L. Doyen, A. Cissé, S. Gourguet, L. Mouysset, P.-Y. Hardy, C. Béné, F. Blanchard, F. Jiguet, J.-C. Pereau & O. Thébaud
Computation of viability kernels: a case study of by-catch fisheries
Jacek B. Krawczyk, Alastair Pharo, Oana S. Serea & Stewart Sinclair
Supply chain network sustainability under competition and frequencies of activities from production to distribution
Anna Nagurney, Min Yu & Jonas Floden
Shallow lake economics run deep: nonlinear aspects of an economic-ecological interest conflict
Florian Wagener

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Being Thanked in a Book - A Great Compliment

I love writing books and also reading books.

Every once in a while these two are connected as in the book recently written by Dr. Christian Mullon, "Network Economics of Marine Ecosystems and their Exploitation," and published by CRC Press.

Dr. Mullon in the book's Preface writes: The origin of the idea of applying network economics to ecological problems has been the reading of Anna Nagurney's book: Network Economics, A Variational Inequality Approach. I have found there the level of abstraction, the level of complexity, the mathemtical tools I was seeking for several years to model real marine systems. I acknowledge this influence and I thank her for the collaboration we have initiated since.

Network Economics: A Variational Inequality Approach, was the first book that I ever wrote and it also appeared in a second edition.

I have read Dr. Mullon's book and will continue to go back to it many times as one always does with great books.  It demonstrates, as the first paragraph of the first chapter states, and I fully agree: This book shows how to apply the principles and tools of network economics, such as variational inequalities and complementarity problems, to study large exploited natural systems, especially the marine systems, at a global, continental or regional level. These systems are exposed to both climate change and economic globalization, a phenomenon referred to as "double exposure."

I met Dr. Mullon and his lovely wife in Paris after I spoke at the NetGCoop conference there in October 2011. We had already started our collaboration but had never before then met face to face.

The elegance of his research, which combines theoretical and computational tools with important ecological applications and data, continues to inspire me and I have written about our related work on predator prey networks, which blends economics, operations research, and ecology, as nature's supply chains.

I would like to return the thanks and compliment to Dr. Christian Mullon on his fabulous new book and congratulate him!

Monday, December 2, 2013

How to End a Course + 10,000 Letters of Recommendation

How do you end your course?

Do you write the final equation  on the board, show your last slide, and walk out?

Or do you have a tradition?

Last Monday (hard to believe it was just one week ago), at UMass Amherst,  we had the pleasure of taking part in the TEDx Professor Speaker Showcase, which I blogged about and the Isenberg School posted a nice summary of its 3 faculty who presented at it (out of the 8 presenters).

I am still digesting (not only the Thanksgiving food) but also the advice and wisdom shared last Monday at this great event (thanks to the student organizers, including Stephen, Henry, Cara, Shannon, and so any others).

With the end of the semester upon us and this being the last week of classes on many campuses, I would like to highlight what one of the speakers shared with us last week.

Dr. Brian O'Connor, a biologist, who retired only last Spring after 45 years teaching at UMass Amherst (and he told us that his last class was in the same classroom that he had interviewed in decades before so some things really do not change at UMass), told us about what he did at every last class at every course he ever taught.

Students who graduated and became very successful scientists, medical doctors, and dentists would tell him that maybe they did not remember all the material in his courses but they certainly remembered his last class and the poem that he always read to them.

The poem is Desiderata, written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann,  and I have reprinted it below, thanks to Wikipedia.
It is very appropriate, given this busy holiday season,  and any season, actually.

UMass Magazine had a marvelous article about Dr. O'Connor entitled, "Scientist, Advisor, Mentor, Friend" which highlighted his great influence. In his TEDx talk he admitted writing about 10,000 letters of recommendation for students who were applying to medical school or dental school and he still, although retired, helps his wife (5 days a week) since she works at UMass as an advisor for premed students.

Interestingly, he shared a story with us how, just about 2 weeks ago, his wife fell and broke her wrist, so off to the Emergency Room (ER) at a local hospital in western MA they went. There  they waited for 6 hours before, luckily, a doctor came out and saw Dr. O'Connor and immediately recognized his former professor. Mrs. O'Connor was then treated. I wrote about my own experiences in the ER there a while back.    As he told us, if you are breathing and not having a heart attack get ready to wait.

Another favorite story, as retold in the UMass Magazine article, is:  "A few years ago, W. Brian O’Connor’s father was admitted to a hospital in the family’s native Brattleboro. As he rushed to his father’s bedside, O’Connor caught sight of four familiar faces—those of two nurses and two physicians—and knew his father was in good hands and would make a full recovery."

What an amazing impact a single professor, named Dr. Brian O'Connor, has made and continues to make through the thousands that he has guided into the medical professions!