Sunday, March 28, 2021

Celebrating Two Amazing Female Operations Researchers, Both 93 Years Old, for Their Contributions to Algorithms

Since this blogpost was published, sadly, Professor Ailsa Land passed away on May 16, 2021. Please refer to this obituary posted on the London School of Economics website. It was truly extraordinary that she and her husband could view virtually the panel in her honor on February 25, 2021,  that I wrote about below. Also, Dr. Land will be honored next month with the posthumous receipt of the EURO Gold Medal at the EURO Conference in Athens, Greece, which will have a flexible format. Rest in Peace, Dr. Ailsa Land, and thank you for all you contributions to OR and to making herstory!

This month is Women's History Month and also the month in which we celebrate International Women's Day.

I am writing this blogpost in order to recognize and to celebrate two amazing females, both born in 1927, whose algorithmic contributions and impacts continue to this day. Specifically, this post is about Dr. Ailsa Land and Dr. Marguerite Frank. Both are now 93 years old and I have had the pleasure of recently being involved in supporting tributes to them.

Dr. Ailsa Land is an Emeritus Professor of the London School of Economics (LSE) and the first female recipient of the Beale Medal.  She is renowned for her contributions to the development of branch and bound, an algorithm for discrete and combinatorial optimization problems. A nice biography of her can be found on the INFORMS website. An outstanding interview by Professor László Végh of LSE, along with the transcript, can be found on the INFORMS oral history page. Many thanks to the INFORMS History and Traditions Committee (I served on this committee for many years and regularly argued for the importance of having interviews done and posted of female luminaries) for making this possible. 

A few months ago, several of us were approached by Professor Emeritus Doug Shier of Clemson University to take part in a special panel honoring Professor Land's receipt of the Beale Medal, and organized by The OR Society of Great Britain. Professor Shier was a PhD student of Land's at LSE. The truly remarkable and very moving panel took place on February 25, 2021, and The OR Society has now made the video available for all to view. Joining me on the panel were: Professors Jeffrey Camm, Karla Hoffman, Ivana Ljubic, and Susara van den Heever of IBM, with Professor Shier as moderator. 

The video of the panel can be accessed here.

We heard from Dr. Land and her husband, Dr. Frank Land, that they very much enjoyed the special tribute.

I have posted my presentation from the panel on the Supernetwork Center site. I used direct quotes from the interview with Dr. Ailsa Land as the construct for my presentation.

After the panel,  Professor Karla Hoffman wrote that this was the best webinar experience that she has ever had! 

And, how remarkable, or should I say "serendipitous,"that  recently I was contacted to a top scholar from a major university in a lovely European capital asking whether I knew how to contact Dr. Marguerite Frank. Dr. Frank is the "Frank" in the Frank-Wolfe (1956) algorithm for convex optimization. I always enjoy asking my students about who they think the algorithm is named after - I have yet to receive an answer that the first one is a female (but maybe this post and other accolades will help). Some nice, fairly recent coverage of this algorithm, with input and reflections by Dr. Frank can be found in the Optima newsletter. I had coded the algorithm and even used it in my PhD dissertation at Brown University for computational comparisons with other algorithms for the solution of user-optimized traffic network equilibrium problems with separable user link cost functions. I have known Dr. Frank for many years - she and I share a passion for the Braess paradox and both of us have published a series of papers on this paradox. I even hosted Dr. Frank at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a visit I remember very fondly. Dr. Frank's PhD is in Mathematics from Harvard University.

In 2014, Dr. Frank took part in a special interview panel in honor of her contributions to the Frank-Wolfe algorithm. 

I very much like this article in which Dr. Marguerite Frank also mentions my dissertation advisor, Dr. Stella Dafermos, and the spelling of my surname has now been corrected from "Nagourney" to "Nagurney."

It is quite remarkable that the Frank-Wolfe algorithm is even being used now for machine learning.

What struck me so much about these two amazing women, who are also mothers, is their humility. They truly, until fairly recently, did not realize the impact of their research! 

And, as for an honor recognizing Dr. Marguerite Frank, I will let you know as soon as it becomes official. Through LinkedIn, I managed to connect with both of her daughters, who put me in touch with Dr. Frank, who had moved from New Jersey, where she had been a Professor at Rider University, to Palo Alto, when her husband moved from Princeton University to Stanford University. He had been a renowned scholar on Dostoevsky (one of my favorite authors of all time)! Marguerite is delighted by the forthcoming honor and I am thrilled that this initiative was taken by a male scholar, who had reached out to me. I am stubborn and I was determined to (re)connect with her and what a delight that has been.

Friday, March 26, 2021

A Big Thank You to the Exceptional Nursing Leadership Team at Cooley Dickinson Hospital for Speaking in My Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare Class

This past week, the students in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class had the great honor and privilege of having a panel of 8 nursing leaders from the Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Massachusetts, speak virtually via Zoom. The topic of the panel was: Cooley Dickinson Hospital - A Year of COVID: Readiness, Response and Resilience. The presentations from 8 experts provided the class with extraordinary information and insights on this very challenging year and the tremendous response by the healthcare professionals at our local hospital! This was truly a transformative educational experience. We have heroes amongst us and we are so grateful to the Cooley Dickinson Hospital for the incredible care that they have provided over the past year in the pandemic. The panelists were: Angela Belmont, VP, Patient Care Services & Chief Nursing Officer, Lynn M. Grondin, Director of Nursing for Perioperative and CVIR Services, Mike Netta, Director of Operations for Perioperative and CVIR Services, Alexandra Penzias, Director of Nursing and Professional Practice Education, Sara C. McKeown, Nurse Director, Emergency Department, Ann LeBrun, Nursing Director, Critical Care Services, Margaret-Ann Azzaro, Director, Medical Surgical & Childbirth Services, Jacquelyn Ouellette, Director, Behavioral Unit.

Below, I have posted several of the slides that I captured from the panel that demonstrate the incredible creativity, work ethic, empathy, science-based decision-making, and so much more of these leaders and the staff, in general. They had anticipated the pandemic and had put processes in place ahead of time. It was  fascinating to see the reskilling (I have been publishing a lot on labor and supply chains in the pandemic), as well as the emphasis on the importance of communication and education. It was very interesting to hear about the repurposing of space to make room for more ICU beds and to hear the important role that association with MGH had in terms of provision of much needed PPEs. Amazingly, not a single staff person contracted COVID in the hospital. Plus, the importance of having an incidence command center was emphasized as well as having a single phone number that staff could use for questions. We even got to hear about the impacts of COVID on the behavioral unit and on the birthing unit. Tough for mothers to be separated from their babies. The situation was evolving very dynamically and learning about the new virus was taking place at an incredible pace.

It was also very special to hear how important it is to celebrate both small and big successes, which the staff did. This helps to improve morale. I don't think there was a dry eye among the students - I was shedding tears as well - when the panelists showed us a celebratory video of a patient, who had recovered from COVID, being discharged.

The students had, as an assignment, to writeup highlights and what surprised them from the panel and several wrote that this was the best guest lecture of their college education.

And, on March 25, 2021, I watched a very special remembrance organized by CDH, which was streamed on youtube, and which included Angela Belmont, as the master of ceremonies! 

It was very special, in the remembrance, to see Dr. Brown, the Interim President and CEO of Cooley Dickinson, to whom I wrote a thank you letter acknowledging the fabulous panelists! Our great dean, Dean Anne Massey, also signed Professor for a Day certificates for each panelist, which I emailed to them. In addition, a survivor of COVID, who was treated at the hospital for 30 days, and had been intubated for 2 weeks, spoke very movingly of the great staff and the fabulous care that she had received. Some news coverage of this event can be seen here, along with the link to the video of the remembrance.

Monday, March 15, 2021

The Book: Dynamics of Disasters: Impact, Risk, Resilience, and Solutions is Published by Springer Nature!

On March 12, 2021, I received an email from Springer Nature, which is the publisher of the book: Dynamics of Disasters: Impact, Risk, Resilience, and Solutions, that I had co-edited with Ilias. S. Kotsireas, Panos M. Pardalos, and Arsenios Tsokas. The email was addressed to Frau Anna Nagurney and stated that the book had been published and was being shipped to my home. I hope that in future correspondence I would be addressed either as Professor or Dr. since my marital status should not be relevant, I would think. 

The next day, quite amazingly, a box with 3 copies of the new book was delivered to our door!

This book is a collection of 16 refereed papers, plus a preface, and is based on the latest Dynamics of Disasters conference that I co-organized with Professors Kotsireas and Pardalos, which took place in Kalamata, Greece in 2019, plus several invited contributions. More information on this international conference can be found here. It was a wonderful conference and the third that I had the pleasure of co-organizing with my outstanding colleagues.

The conference attracted participants and speakers from many different countries, including Canada, Greece, Italy, Germany, Russia, Japan, Nepal, and the US and was a fabulous forum for the exchange of ideas and scientific discussions at a beautiful venue. It is remarkable how our world has changed since due to the COVID-19 pandemic!

The edited volume contains results on many timely topics and the full list of chapter titles and additional information can be found on the publisher's website for the book. Some of the topics in the volume include: drones for disaster assessment, impact of labor disruptions to food supply chains in the COVID-19 pandemic, problems of human migration, infrastructure network resilience, cyber crises, the prevention of geological disasters, the use of blockchain technology, and many others!

UMass Amherst produced this nice news article on our new book.

We are also in the planning stages for the 5th Dynamics of Disasters Conference, which is to take place in Athens, Greece, in mid July in 2021. More information on the conference can be found on the conference website.

The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly added additional complexity to all phases of disaster management and, with disasters increasing in frequency as well as in negative impact, holding such a conference in 2021 is very much needed. Hoping that, with vaccinations and mitigation procedures, it can take place face to face.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

A Big Thanks to Dr. George Karagiannis for His Brilliant Guest Lecture in My Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare Class

This past week, we had the honor and pleasure of hosting Dr. George Karagiannis in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class, which, this year, is being taught remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An integral part of this course is having guest lecturers who are expert practitioners. Hearing from such experts reinforces the course material and provides for a rich educational experience for the students.

Now, for some background on Dr. Karagiannis, whom I met back in 2015, when I co-organized the Dynamics of Disasters conference in Kalamata, Greece, with Professors Ilias S. Kotsireas and Panos M. Pardalos, and Dr. Karagiannis was a speaker. We also hosted him for a seminar at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the Fall of 2015.

Dr. George Karagiannis is Greece's Deputy Secretary-General for Civil Protection, the US equivalent of Deputy FEMA Administrator. From 2016 to 2019, he was a Technical Officer at the European Commission Joint Research Center, where his area of expertise revolved around emergency management, critical infrastructure protection and hybrid threats. Prior to joining the Joint Research Center, he was a Disaster Management Consultant. He has worked in four countries, developed two strategic national risk assessments, organized over 60 exercises, led the development of a dozen emergency operations plans and responded to disasters in the field. He also was a Research Scientist at the Technical University of Crete in Greece, where he his interdisciplinary research lay at the intersection of systems engineering and disaster resilience. George earned his Doctorate in Environmental Science and Engineering from Saint-Etienne School of Mines in France. He also holds degrees in Civil Engineering and in Disaster Management and Business Administration, and is a Certified Emergency Manager by the International Association of Emergency Managers.

Dr. Karagiannis's presentation title in my course was, "Humanitarian Needs Assessment & Information Management." He zoomed in from Athens, Greece, which was lovely since the students in this class are physically located not only in Massachusetts but across the US, with a student even enrolled, who is now in Turkey.

Due to multiple inquiries and requests, Dr. Karagiannis has given me permission to post the slide deck of his excellent presentation.

So many excellent insights and recommendation are contained in his presentation, which I urge you to study. Some of the takeaways that very much resonated with me and also reinforced the material that we have been covering in the class and will be addressing in subsequent weeks are the following:

1. Help flows were there are cameras. This statement demonstrates the importance of media in getting the news out but also emphasizes that, at times, people who are victims of disasters may not get the help that they need.
2. Goods may be donated and delivered that do not help the victims - such as fur coats from Greece following the Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006! The wrong goods create extra stressors (even if they are donated in good faith) since they require human resources to offload and also take up valuable storage space. In the case of the furs, they ultimately created a health hazard. I recall tuxedos being delivered to victims of Hurricane Katrina, and there are many other such incredible stories of the wrong goods.
3. When do you stop gathering data? How much data is "good enough" for needs assessment?
4. The recognition of the importance of time is paramount. If it takes a time t for needs assessment, it will take a time of 2t for making a decision.
5. One must distinguish primary data from secondary data.
6. Comparison over time is also essential in terms of the number of people displaced by the disaster.
7. One of the greatest challenges is learning to make decisions with only incomplete information when everything is at stake!
8. There is a shift of Emergency Management now in addressing infrastructure, which makes tremendous sense due to the negative impacts of climate change on infrastructure.

I very much like that he noted the UN Cluster Approach to support sector emergency functions, which we had emphasized in the course just a few days prior.

We also had a great discussion on how well Greece mitigated the spread of the coronavirus, starting their preparations already in early January! The country was very agile and reacted quickly.

The students were prepared with questions for the speaker. Dr. Karagiannis was so generous with his time - staying way past the class time window to answer questions.

And we honored him with a Professor for a Day certificate recognizing that his contributions.