Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Fun of Public Speaking and Giving Invited Seminars

When faculty (or students) complete research, it is important to disseminate it.  Of course, one should always disseminate research results through publications such as journal articles, OpEds, and, if you have a substantive amount around a central theme, even through books. Speaking at conferences is another wonderful way in which to share one's research and also to get feedback on it.

Another great venue at which to share your research and to educate is through forums such as invited seminars that many departments within colleges and universities organize and hold at regular intervals.

If you have a great talk (or, better yet, since sometimes it is more fun not to be repeating oneself even if the faces in the audience are different, several talks) and are willing to travel, then, when the right invitations come, giving an invited seminar can be great fun.

You may get to go to places that you might not otherwise have gone to and meet new colleagues and students during your travels and also learn about other schools and their challenges.  I recall giving the Kleber-Gery lecture at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where the faculty have survival gear, including snowshoes, in their car trunks. I was put up in a hotel where Jesse James stayed and I got the bridal suite, complete with a canopy bed!  I spoke at the University of Oklahoma as part of their Dream Course series, instituted by President Boren and was put up in my own villa with multiple rooms decorated with U. of Oklahoma paraphernalia.

I have also given quite a few invited seminars abroad in other beautiful locations such as Stockholm and Gothenburg, Sweden, Vienna, Austria,  and in Catania, Italy. Some of the questions I received from the audiences have turned into research problems that we are now pursuing. The food was also amazing in all those locations and the hospitality!

Other very enjoyable experiences I have had, in terms of speaking engagements, were through the INFORMS Speakers Program. I have traveled to Dallas to speak at SMU through this program, where the audience consisted of academics, students, and practitioners, many from the airline industry, and also to Boston to speak at the Boston INFORMS Chapter with my wonderful host, Dr. Les Servi of MITRE.  For the former presentation, I made it with just minutes to spare - the taxi driver was asking me for directions to SMU  and I had never been there, plus it was after 7PM and pitch dark!

Every audience that you speak to generates new ideas for you and that has something to do with the give and talk of a lively seminar.

Sometimes the invitation to speak may come from an organization or venue, which is unique and also very rewarding. Examples of the latter that I have had have included being a panelist at the World Science Festival on Traffic in NYC and also a panelist on Transport and Traffic at the New York  Times Energy for Tomorrow Conference, also in NYC, with a theme of Building Sustainable Cities. One member of the audience, from Toronto, at the former venue still communicates with me and told me that my panel and presentation changed his life! This year's Energy for Tomorrow conference is taking place in Paris next week under heightened security.

At times the audience may even be a bit "frightened" of your talk. When I organized a team residency at Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center on Lake Como in Italy back in 2004 and was there for 2 weeks, my group, which consisted of three females - we were the first Operations Research group invited for a residency in the center's 50+ year history, gave a talk to other Center Fellows, who included civil rights activists, poets, and even a Lincoln historian. Some were a bit scared that we would be showing some math. I think that we made our talk quite enjoyable but then, to me, networks can be a global language. A similar experience I had while speaking on Dynamic Networks at Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, while I was a Science Fellow there in 2005-2006.

In my previous blogpost, I wrote about how thrilled I was that so many students showed up to my game theory and cybercrime seminar late in the day just  two days before Thanksgiving, when the talk was not even required and no faculty member was taking attendance!  Now, that was an energizing experience and so rewarding.

I will be busy on the lecture circuit over the next few months.

This coming Wednesday, I will be speaking in a Cyber Security Faculty Seminar Series at UMass Amherst (no travel reuiqred). The week after, on December 9, 2015, I will be speaking at MIT in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Seminar Series. I was invited to speak there last year but I was booked with travel and other professional commitments so am very glad that I can do it this academic semester.

On February 17, 2015 (I picked the date), I will be giving a Distinguished Lecture at Yale University in its YINS  (Yale Institute  for Network Science) seminar series, which I am very much looking forward to!

Then the day that our spring break begins, March 11, 2015, I will be speaking at the University of Buffalo (the invitation came before UMass Amherst's football team beat Buffalo's and knocked them out of a bowl game). The seminar series is the Praxis Seminar Series and it was very neat to see Michael Trick, a fellow blogger and INFORMS Fellow,  will be speaking there later this week and my colleague, Sundar Krishnamurthy, who is the chair of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at UMass Amherst will follow me in this seminar series (Maybe it is because the U. of Buffalo is located in Amherst (NY)).

I have also agreed to speak at Carnegie Mellon University of April 4, 2016.

Many thanks to all those who extended such wonderful invitations!