Thursday, June 30, 2016

Great Time Speaking on Disaster Relief in the Management Science Department at Lancaster University in England

Tuesday evening, we returned from Lancaster, England, an hour late because there was a broken down train on our line in Lancaster and we had to wait for it to be repaired.

We had traveled to Lancaster the day before from Oxford by train, with a change in Birmingham.

I had been invited by Professor Graham Rand, very well-known in Operations Research internationally, several months ago to speak in the Management Science Department at Lancaster University. He had become aware that I would be a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College at Oxford University during the Trinity term so he had cordially extended the invitation, which I could not refuse.

Lancaster University's Management Science Department is the largest MS department in the United Kingdom with about 45 faculty focusing on Operations Research, Operations Management, and Information Systems. It is housed in the university's School of Management, which is located in proximity to the Lancaster House Hotel, where I overnighted, and which was very comfortable and very convenient.

Lancaster University is only about 50 years old and it has an excellent reputation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) as well as in Management.   The School of Management will be getting a new building soon but the existing one I found to be spacious with many windows. The university is close to the beautiful lake region and to the sea and is surrounded by green spaces so the air quality is great there.  Given that Oxford University dates to 1231, I found it very interesting to see a relatively new university in England.

I had presented Graham with a list of topics that I could speak on and, after canvassing his colleagues, the topic of disaster relief was selected, so my presentation was on Disaster Relief Supply Chains: Network Models, Algorithm, and Case Studies.
A nice announcement was prepared for my presentation, which I am very grateful for, and even though the date for my talk was June 28, 2016 and in the US it would be tough to find faculty and students to fill up an audience, I had a great attendance.  My full presentation can be downloaded here.

After arriving (my husband had accompanied me since he loves train travel), we took a walk around the campus and then it was time to meet Professor Konstantinos Zografos for dinner. Professor Zografos received his PhD from our UMass Amherst neighbor, the University of Connecticut, and I have known him since my days at MIT as a Visiting Scholar and Professor. He was recently inducted into UConn's Distinguished Academy of Engineers with a nice photo of him and other inductees with their medals on the UConn website.  Professor Zografos is an academic powerhouse with major contributions to different areas of transportation and the recipient of millions of dollars/pounds in research grants. He has been at Lancaster for about 3 years and has previously been at the University of Miami and also in Greece. He has just been appointed the new Associate Dean of Research at Lancaster's School of Management, a fantastic choice, I must say.

We had a great time at dinner, which lasted almost 4 hours and felt like 5 minutes. When we left, we heard that England got eliminated from the Euro 2016 soccer competition, as it got beaten by the lowest ranked team and the underdog, Iceland. It has been a very tough week for Britain with Brexit and now the soccer game loss.
Professor Graham Rand organized a terrific schedule for me. Prior to my seminar at noon, I met with a postdoc and a Visiting Scholar and the postdoc had been interviewed at Oxford University  on June 22 (the day of our Encaenia which I had blogged about) and had received an offer for another postdoc at the Environmental Institute there. I had an excellent conversation with him on network vulnerability, one of his research themes.

The questions after my talk were interesting and I have had requests for the presentation and so it has been posted. The talk had three parts to it: work on network performance assessment and vulnerability, a mean variance integrated disaster relief optimization model, and our latest work, which is a Generalized Nash Equilibrium model for disaster relief. There are very few game theory models in humanitarian operations so we are very excited about this work.

After my talk, it was time for lunch, and joining me were Professor Rand and the Head of the Department, Professor Matthias Ehrgott, who I last saw at a multicriteria decision-making conference that he was involved in organizing in Auckland, New Zealand, and I was an invited speaker. he has been at Lancaster for 3 years. We have many mutual interests in reseaarch so it was wonderful to see him and chat.

After the lunch I got to meet with the university's cybersecurity experts since we have been also doing a lot of research in this area and we spoke for over an hour on topics as diverse as the Desmond storm that resulted in a power outage last Fall that closed the university for almost a week to ransomware!

While I was busy, my husband had a chance to tour the downtown and to see the castle. Supposedly where the jurors meet is the room where a long time ago people would be hanged.

Then it was time to leave and we enjoyed, because of the delay, speaking to others at the Lancaster train station who were affected by the broken down train. Nevertheless, our train eventually arrived and since we had extra time in Birmingham before our connection to Oxford, I marvelled at the Birmingham train station, which resembles an airport!
I enjoyed reading the latest edition of the elegant, informative, and glossy IMPACT magazine that Professor Graham Rand gave me.  The impact that operations research / management science has had and continues to have in areas of transportation, healthcare, manufacturing, and security is tremendous. So glad to be part of such a wonderful professional community where you find friends and colleagues wherever you may go.
I will see Professor Graham Rand next week at the EURO 2016 conference in Poland, where he told me that he will be having breakfast with Professor Mike Trick of Carnegie Mellon University, the new IFORS (International Federation of Operational Research Societies) President and is very much looking forward to it and to the conference, of course.