Friday, May 17, 2019

A Big Thank You and Congratulations to the Montreal Operations Research Student Chapter

The invitation arrived on April 22, 2019 - towards the end of the Spring semester.

The event that I was invited to speak at was to take place on May 15, 2019, as part of the Optimization Days conference in Montreal, Canada. The conference was at HEC.
Although the date was just a few days past the UMass Amherst graduation ceremonies as well as the POMS conference in Washington DC, I accepted quickly, since it was to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of the Montreal Operations Research Student Chapter. I am a big proponent and supporter of INFORMS Student Chapters and have been the Faculty Advisor to the UMass Amherst one for 15 years (that translates to 30 semesters of activities, including hosting of speakers). The Montreal Chapter has over 270 members across multiple universities in the area. It was co-founded by a group of students, including  Hyame Alameddine and (now) Dr. Carlos Zetina, both from Concordia University. Dr. Zetina was the recipient of the INFORMS Judith B. Liebman Award.

The invitation, which came from Hyame Alameddine, the Chapter's Vice President, said, in part:

Dear Prof. Nagurney,

On behalf of the Montreal Operations Research Student Chapter (MORSC), we would like to invite you to Optimization Days <>  2019, Montreal on May 15, 2019, to deliver the keynote addressing a topic of your choice for our third-anniversary event which we will celebrate during Optimization Days. Given your pioneering work in operations research; we hope you can honor us with your presence and words as we present our chapter's achievements and list of upcoming events to our members, industry partners, well-known Montreal researchers and representatives of our umbrella institutions. Our organization would be happy to cover the costs associated with your travel and accommodation.

Established in May 2016, MORSC is a multi-university, multidisciplinary, graduate student association chartered under the Canadian Operations Research Society (CORS) and the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS). Our mission is to create a collaborative community of Montreal graduate students working on Operations Research topics. Our emphasis is on knowledge sharing and networking among members from various disciplines. We organize tutorials, workshops and panel discussions for students to stay up to date on the field. We also organize student research seminars in collaboration with GERAD and CIRRELT for students to showcase their work and a speaker series for members to learn from highly respected experts in the field. We have created our website (>) that serves as a reference for upcoming events and as an online library of materials on Operations Research (>). In 2017, MORSC received the INFORMS 2017 Student Chapter Annual Award at the cum laude level  and in 2018, it received the INFORMS 2018 Student Chapter Annual Award at the Magna cum laude level.

I offered several topics that I could speak on and they selected the following:
My presentation can be downloaded here. Speaking to this group, which has achieved an immense amount during 3 years, was a great honor, and I wanted to congratulate them and to offer my support. Coincidentally, the first conference that I ever attended as a PhD student was in Montreal and it was with my Brown University PhD dissertation advisor, Dr. Stella Dafermos. And, amazingly, I got to stay in the very same hotel, The Terrasse Royale!

The attention to detail was extraordinary, with posters disseminated about my talk, a delicious cake prepared, and even a request for questions from me about my presentation, with prizes!

 My questions to the audience (I was delighted that even undergraduates came):

 1. What city was the venue of the first conference that Anna Nagurney attended as a PhD student?

2. Which of the following are NOT part of the math academic genealogy of Stella Dafermos and Anna Nagurney:

Maxwell, Galileo, Laporte, Newton?

3. The famous Braess paradox (1968) paper was written in what language?

4. Name TWO perishable products in healthcare.

5. What was the name of the best selling cholesterol reducing drug sold by Pfizer that lost its patent rights in 2011?

Bonus question:

What brand of European chocolates are sold at the nearby Royal Terrasse Hotel in Montreal?

After my presentation, I presented the Chapter with a birthday card and certificate and they presented me with a lovely plaque (so thoughtful and so appreciated).


Also, at the event, many students were recognized for their great writing and papers!
Above I am standing with the Chapter Officers as well as the Chapter's Faculty Advisor, Professor Daria Terekhov. Very cool that, among the officers, is a former classmate of my PhD student, Deniz Besik - Ba┼čak Tozlu.

The cake was as delicious as it was beautiful!
Many thanks also to the excellent photographers! The group photo is a very special memento. I remember fondly many selfies taken with the expert - Dr. Carlos Zetina at INFORMS conferences!
Also, it was a delightful surprise to see  Dr. Alelsandr Kazachkov there (the recipient of the 2018 ICS Best Student Paper Prize, whose committee I chaired), Professor Michel Gendreau, and a University of Maryland  Smith School colleague - Professor Raghavan. I also saw Professor Gilbert Laporte's photo on a nice screen - he was recently elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Sorry to have missed Professor Hani Mahmassani, who was a plenary speaker.

And, of course, I had to purchase Leonidas (Belgian) chocolates in the shop at my hotel to being back to Amherst!
Also, I had some lovely long walks in the area.

Congratulations to the MORSC Chapter Officers and members on all of your achievements and thank you for the outstanding hospitality - you set new standards! Wishing you all much continuing professional and personal success.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Celebrating My 21st PhD Student - Dr. Pritha Dutta - Research, Teaching, Service, and Friendships

The past 24 hours have been extraordinary.

Yesterday, the robing of PhD graduates at the Isenberg School of Management took place. This is an initiative, which has now become a tradition, thanks to our PhD Program Director, Dr. George Milne.
15 Isenberg School PhD students in multiple disciplines were recognized, including 3 from Management Science:  my 21st PhD student, Dr. Pritha Dutta, Dr. Amir Yazdi, and Dr. Yueran Zhuo. Pritha will soon be added to my Math Genealogy list.  My Math genealogy (and hers) goes back to scientific giants, including Maxwell, Newton, and Galileo.

The robing tradition includes a speech by the  PhD Dissertation Advisor, and I am sharing my prepared speech about Pritha below.

From the moment I saw Pritha's application to the Isenberg School program, I knew that she would be exceptional and she is.

She contributed immensely to research, teaching, and service.


Pritha received her Master's in OR from the University of Delhi and her Bachelor's from the University of Calcutta.


Her original PhD advisor, Dr. Adams Steven, left after working with her for 3 years. What she has accomplished speaks to her resilience and creativity.

Her thesis title: Blood Supply Chain Networks in Healthcare: Game Theory Models and Numerical Case Studies.

Pritha is graduating with 3 published journal articles in Transportation Research E, Omega, and Annals of OR!

She has presented her research at numerous conferences, including INFORMS and POMS (just a few days ago in DC and at an 8AM session, no less). In 2017, she received the best PhD student presentation award at the Northeast DSI Conference in Massachusetts.

Her research is fundamental and she has a passion of doing work that helps society.

A fascinating fact: she practices what she preaches ad she is a universal blood donor with blood type O-. Needless to say, she is regularly called by the American Red Cross to donate blood.


Pritha has been able to accomplish so much even while teaching: OIM 240: Business Data Analysis (face to face and online) and OIM 301 Intro to Operations Management, which she taught online.

Her students adore her and look to her as an educator and mentor (some have switched their major to OIM, because of her teaching).

Some comments from students:

One student wrote: “Pritha is the best professor I have had at UMass Amherst. I attended her office hours every week and she has always been collaborative and engaging. She is never willing to give up and will take time out of her day to help students. I have never felt intimidated by her, she makes the classroom environment very welcoming.”

Another student stated: “Pritha took pride in teaching us and she always wanted us to do well. She was sure to thoroughly explain topics to us that we did not understand.”

Other examples of comments from students on Pritha's excellent teaching of challenging material: “The instructor is fantastic. She is super dedicated and caring and will always make time to help you. One of the most dedicated teachers.”

And another quote from a student: “I like how we learned about Excel and a lot of its functions, since it is a helpful tool to utilize now and down the line. I like how passionate Pritha was and how willing she was to help students. She truly cared about us, our understanding, and our grades.”


Pritha was President of the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter and one of our most active members - helping to organize 2 STEM Slams at UMass, interviewing speakers for our chapter Youtube channel, and not missing a single event during her time here. She has been instrumental in the Chapter receiving an annual award from INFORMS every year during her 5 years at the Isenberg School.

Her positivity, creativity (she is also an artist), and energy will support her as she launches her academic career. She will be an Assistant Professor (tenure track) at the Lubin School of Business at Pace University in NYC, beginning this Fall. I am sure that she will have many visitors, because her PhD defense was the best attended in my career at UMass.

After the robing ceremony yesterday, there was a lavish reception for all those receiving graduate degrees from the Isenberg School in our stunning new Business Innovation Hub. It was fabulous to celebrate with Pritha's family members, who had traveled from India, with faculty, and numerous friends from the Isenberg School and the College of Engineering, all of whom have been very active members as well as officers of the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter. 
And, this morning, we had the majestic UMass Amherst graduate graduation ceremonies!
In the photo immediately above, Dr. Pritha Dutta is standing next to Dr. Destenie Nock.  Dr. Dutta will be an Assistant Professor at the Lubin School of Business at Pace University in NYC. Dr. Destenie Nock (of the UMass College of Engineering) will be an Assistant Professor in Engineering Policy at Carnegie Mellon University.  Dr. Nock's PhD advisor was Associate Dean of Engineering Professor Erin Baker.

Next year, we expect additional Operations Research / Management Science PhD students to be receiving their doctorates: my Isenberg student, Deniz Besik, and Professor Erin Baker's student Rodrigo Mercado as well as Professor Ana Muriel's student, Ekin Koker. I am sure that, with the lifelong friendships that have been established, our recent PhD alums will return to campus to celebrate with them.

Congratulations to all the 2019 graduates, and congrats also to their family members, faculty, and friends!

I end this blogpost with a photo of a gift I will treasure from Pritha, which her parents brought all the way from India for me.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Exciting POMS Conference in DC with Great Talks and Social Events

The 30th Production and Operations Management (POMS) Conference has now come to an end. It was a wonderful experience with over 2,000 conferees converging on Washington DC for the conference.

It started with some drama, because of the weather on Thursday, May 2, with big storms and temps in the 90s in DC. This resulted in flight delays for some including one of my doctoral students, Deniz Besik, who had a 4 hour delay from Bradley Airport to Reagan National Airport. The next morning, we had the first of a series of papers to present, beginning in the 8AM session. She made it to her hotel past 1AM and managed to register and to show up on time - clearly a sign of grit and success.  Some of us had taken earlier flights so we were spared delays. Also, Deniz was selected for and took part in the POMS Doctoral Colloquium on Saturday. Special congratulations to her since on Thursday afternoon, she was recognized by the Isenberg School of Management with the 2019 Outstanding Doctoral Student Researcher Award - quite the accomplishment, since our school has 7 different departments. I am very proud of her and very happy for her. Below is a photo that was shared on Twitter of Deniz with the award and with PhD friends: Rodrigo Mercado, Pritha Dutta, and Destenie Nock. Both Pritha and Destenie are receiving their PhDs at UMass Amherst ceremonies later this week and are off to academic careers. I am sure that they will be amazing professors at Pace University in NYC and at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, respectively!

Our papers at POMS were presented in sessions on economics and operations management; healthcare, and humanitarian operations. The second and third presentations below were based on papers recently published in the journals Omega and the International Journal of Production Economics, respectively.

We have posted our presentations on the Supernetwork Center website.

The quality of the presentations in all sessions that I attended was excellent (generating many ideas and even possible new collaborations). It was a delight to see colleagues from Canada, Turkey, the UK, and across the US. Because of the location and also timing of the conference, it was a draw for many first timers and also quite a few INFORMS members, which was great. As a memento, we had photos taken of the speakers at the first session and then of even the audience as well as speakers of the third.
It is truly fabulous to see the interest in a spectrum of highly relevant topics for both research and practice!

In the below photo I am standing with Pritha Dutta, who is my 21st PhD student. She has done fundamental work on game theory and blood supply chains.
Socializing and networking are important components of any conference, as is reconnecting, and I love the serendipity of encountering colleagues and friends.
Plus, is is always thrilling to see the great Springer editors and, in this case, Matt Amboy, at the exhibits.

Of course, what would a conference in DC be without some exploring from Georgetown to the fabulous art museums. Luckily, Saturday's weather was ideal for walking.

It was a delight to see Renoirs, Van Goghs, and Monets, as well as the portraits of President Obama and Michelle Obama. I was captivated by the audience viewing the latter - so many women!
My tradition at almost any conference is to treat a group that includes Supernetwork Center Associates, some of whom were my former doctoral students at the Isenberg School of Management, and friends to a dinner. On Saturday evening we enjoyed a scrumptious dinner at La Tomate, in proximity to the Hilton, which was the conference hotel. The food was magnificent and the company event better! We had an area just for us, which was very cozy.
After desserts, we took a group photo.
It is so rewarding to see my former PhD students, now professors at wonderful universities and colleges, thriving both professionally and personally.

And on a very rainy Sunday, the conferees and guests convened for a lavish awards luncheon and service was very prompt - extraordinarily efficient, but, then again, it was a POMS conference.
A special thanks to the "other" Professor Nagurney, for not only being a co-author of our first paper presentation at POMS, but for also helping me with the luggage and logistics.
Congratulations to the organizers of the 30th POMS Conference on its success!