Sunday, October 20, 2019

Thoroughly Enjoyed Giving the Opening Keynote at the Mexican OR Society Conference

I returned late Friday night from Mexico City where I had the honor and pleasure of delivering the opening keynote at the VIII Annual Conference of the Mexican Society of Operations Research (OR). The conference took place October 16-18, 2019 in México City at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). The title of my keynote was: Operations Research: The TransfORmative Discipline for the 21st Century.  I had been invited early last March to deliver the opening keynote by Dr. Moncayo Martínez and Dr. Erick Centeno-Moreno of Texas A&M University.
I was very intrigued by this invitation and eager to return to Mexico especially since I had lived in Tulancingo, Mexico the summer between high school and college. I had won a national Spanish exam in the US and was invited to go there and to live with a family as part of the Experiment in International Living.  The experience was very special, so I accepted the invitation to speak at this conference.

I headed to Bradley Airport at 5AM last Tuesday and had two very pleasant flights on Delta, with the connection in Atlanta. I was graciously met at the airport and driven to my hotel, which was very close to ITAM Santa Teresa, the venue of the conference.  The views from my hotel room, which was on the 29th floor, and the neighboring area by the elevators, were spectacular.
Shortly after my arrival, I made my way to the conference site in order to get my bearings and I liked the auditorium very much as well as the gardens and flowers.
Welcoming remarks for the opening of the conference were made by Dr. David F. Muñoz Negrón of ITAM, the President of the Scientific Committee, and Dr. Elías Olivares Benítez, the President of the Mexican OR Society. I was introduced by Dr. Luis A. Moncayo Martínez of ITAM, who was President of the local Organizing Committee.
Interestingly, Dr. Moncayo Martínez had been to my Omega Rho Distinguished Lecture at the 2019 INFORMS Conference in Phoenix!

Many of the scientific talks were in Spanish so this gave me a great opportunity to practice a language that I love and, I must admit, I understood about 85% of what was said, and was even able to ask intelligent questions. What very much impressed me was the passion of the speakers, who clearly enjoy the research that they are doing and also enjoy in communicating it. It was wonderful to meet new professional colleagues and many students, as well. It was fun to be asked to be photographed with them, in addition.

In my keynote, which I have made publicly available, I included several photographs of luminaries in our profession, including one of Professor George Dantzig of Stanford, who has passed away, and who I so enjoyed conversing with during many conferences over the years. I hoped to energize and inspire the audience with my talk. I focused on advances in Operations Research in the form of networks and game theory for applications such as: congested urban transportation networks and the Braess paradox, perishable product supply chains from food to healthcare, cybersecurity, and disaster relief. The work on disaster relief was co-authored with a former student of mine, Emilio Alvarez Flores, an Isenberg School of Management and UMass Amherst Commonweath Honors College alumnus, who is originally from Mexico. He now works for Cisco and we communicate regularly. I also discussed some very recent research on global trade networks and the impacts of tariffs and quotas, with a case study on avocados from Mexico. The latter research was conducted with my doctoral student Deniz Besik. Deniz and I have, with co-authors, published a series of papers on the very timely topic of tariffs, quotas, and trade wars in such journals as the Journal of Global Optimization (the issue is to be featured at the Springer booth at the INFORMS 2019 conference that is now taking place in Seattle), Transportation Research E, and the European Journal of Operational Research.

I mentioned in my keynote that I became interested in trade policy instruments, when I was approached by a group of agricultural economists, researching the dairy industry, from Cornell University two decades ago, who wanted to collaborate on ad valorem tariffs focusing on Mexico! And, together, we published a series of paper. Hence, looking back, Mexico has permeated a nice amount of my research, spearheading both advances in methodologies as well as applications.

No conference would be complete without wonderful social engagement and, last Wednesday, after my keynote, I was treated to one of the most delicious lunches in my life at the restaurant Sylvestre. At the lunch were: Dr. Jose Blanchet of Stanford University (another keynote speaker and ITAM alum), Dr. David F. Muñoz Negrón and Dr. Luis A. Moncayo Martínez as well as Dr. Beatriz Rumboz, a Dean at ITAM who holds 2 PhDs, as well as Dr. Erick Centeno-Morena. The food, ambience, and conversations were all exquisite!
And we topped our delicious meals with a portfolio of desserts, which we shared.
I very much appreciate all the logistics arrangements for me and the outstanding hospitality.
It was also marvelous to hear from the conferees about many mutual friends in our profession, which is global in scale, but always feels local, because of the strength of ties.

I would like to wish all the members of the Mexican Society of Operations Research much continuing success in all of you endeavors and, again, I thank the society and the organizers of this conference for being such exemplary hosts! I returned to Massachusetts with many wonderful new ideas, powerful impressions, and new personal connections, which I value very much.

It was also great to hear that, while in Mexico, I received a book contract from Springer to edit another volume on Dynamics of Disasters, with a focus on risk and resilience, with my fellow co-editors, Professors Ilias S. Kotsireas and Panos M. Pardalos!