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.