Sunday, January 15, 2017

Your First Conference Presentation and Amazing Coincidences

Do you remember the first professional conference presentation that you ever gave on your research?

I suspect that no matter how many years ago or how recent it was that you remember it very well.

In fact, I even recall the outfit that I wore but, then again, I was the only female presenter at the conference and, not surprisingly, the only one wearing a skirt suit, which was bright blue. There were numerous MIT professors in the audience and several admirals as well.

I decided to write on "your first conference presentation" not only because one of my doctoral students is giving hers this week at the INFORMS Computing Society (ICS) Conference, which is taking place, January 15-17, 2017 in Austin, Texas, but also because of an amazing coincidence between her first talk and my first talk. It is coincidences such as these or may I say, "serendipity," that makes being an operations researcher so much fun, interesting, and filled with surprises. And some of the surprises and special delights involve the great people in our profession.

This morning, my doctoral student, Deniz Besik, who last week endured a 12 hour wait at the Istanbul airport for her flight back to Boston because of snow there, and finally made it back from a winter break, emailed me the photo below of herself with a "celebrity" that she met at the ICS Conference.
The operations research superstar, and member of the National Academy of Engineering, is Professor Dimitri Bertsekas of MIT, who is one of my favorite professors on the planet! He is one of two plenary speakers at the conference.

I smile every time I look at this photo because guess who was on the program of the first conference that I ever spoke at - indeed, Professor Bertsekas!

That conference was the second MIT/ONR Workshop on Distributed Communication and Decision Problems Motivated by Naval C^3 Systems. It took place at the Naval Postgraduate School in beautiful Monterey, California. I was working at Systems Consultants then in Newport, Rhode Island,  and had not even completed my Master's degree from Brown University.  In fact, this was also my first publication since the conference resulted in a 4 volume refereed proceedings.
You can see my name and paper title below on the same page as Bertsekas'! My talk was on: "The Role of Optimal Routing in Multiplatform Naval Task Force Operations." Networks were always a favorite research theme of mine! Only volume 2 is online and there you can see the list of all presenters, many quite renowned.

What is also quite amazing is that I ended up continuing at Brown University for my PhD in Applied Mathematics, with a specialty in Operations Research, and my advisor was Professor Stella Dafermos, who was a good friend of Bertsekas'. Yes, they are both Greek. She passed away at age 49 but left a tremendous intellectual legacy.

Deniz' talk at ICS is on: "Quality in Competitive Fresh Produce Supply Chains with Applications to Farmers' Markets" and her full presentation can be downloaded here.

I even blogged about some great advice that Professor Bertsekas gave me a while back, which I still follow. Hope that everyone has an amazing time in Austin, Texas!