Tuesday, September 29, 2009

President of Harvard Speaks like an Operations Researcher and the Radcliffe Institute is Celebrating its 10th Anniversary

Yesterday, I listened to the President of Harvard University speak on the state of the university. The speech that President Drew Gilpin Faust made was also videotaped on September 24, 2009 and you can view it and listen to her speech on the following link:

Alternatively, you can read about her speech in the Harvard Magazine here:

I was contacted by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard about her speech. I was a Science Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute in 2005-2006. I wrote about my incredible year in an article that appears on the Radcliffe website and was also printed in ORMS Today.

In listening to President's Faust speech, I could not help but note how she sounded not only as the historian that she is but also like an operations researcher. She spoke about the challenges of constraints, the allocation of resources, and the serious effects of the economic crisis on Harvard's endowment. She also mentioned risk and how Harvard's decentralized decision-making will have to be more collaborative. There are incompatibilities in Information Technology across some of the schools and colleges and that such hurdles need to be overcome. She spoke on the new General Education requirements at Harvard and how painful it has been to let go of staff and personnel. She emphasized that the crisis will not be over soon and that Harvard has to focus not only on having faculty and students of the highest caliber but that efficiency has to also be a theme in operations.

Having spent a year at Harvard recently, and now being officially a Harvard alum (all Radcliffe Institute Fellows become alums of Harvard) I was very impressed by President's Faust sincerity. Dr. Faust was the Dean of the Radcliffe Institute when I was a Fellow and above I share with you some photos of the reception held in our honor on May 24, 2006. You may recognize in the photos some Pulitzer prize winners, President Faust, and others.

Radcliffe soon is holding a symposium to mark its 10th anniversary. You may find the full listing of events and activities here. I won't be coming to the events in early October since I will be going to the INFORMS National Meeting in San Diego to present a paper, to give the 2009 Women in Operations Research and the Management Sciences (WORMS) Award, and to also attend various professional society meetings and award ceremonies. Plus, I will be the subject of a podcast.

I wish the Radcliffe Institute a very happy 10th anniversary!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Reforming Business Schools

The September 26-October 2, 2009 issue of The Economist has an article on reforming business school education. The article argues that business schools should teach more of economic history (I always tell my students the origins of the ideas that I teach, the context and setting of the ideas, and even hand out some of the original papers in which the ideas and innovations have appeared in). In addition, I bring the material to life by including news and events on topics in my lectures. For one thing, if we know the history as well as the scholarly literature, we won't be reinventing the wheel!

In addition, the article emphasizes that business schools need to change their tone and to foster both scepticism and cynicism. In my field, we always state the assumptions underlying the models that we are using. If the problem at hand satisfies the assumptions, then one brings to task the appropriate tools and methodologies.

The article goes on and states rather stridently that It is worth noting that such scepticism is second nature to the giants of financial economics, as opposed to the more junior propellerheads. It then singles out Professor Andrew Lo of MIT (who, by the way, will be speaking this Friday in our Speaker Series in Operations Research / Management Science at the Isenberg School. His talk is co-listed with the Finance Seminar Series).

According to the article, Andrew Lo, of MIT's Sloan School of Management, was fond of pointing out that in the physical sciences three laws can explain 99% of behaviour, whereas in finance 99 laws can explain at best 3% of behavior.

We can hardly wait to hear Professor Lo's talk on Friday, October 2, 2009, at the Isenberg School. The title of his talk is: Kill All the Quants?: Models vs. Mania in the Current Financial Crisis. Additional information on his talk with abstract can be found here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It Rained on Our Parade -- Amherst Celebrates 250 Years

Today, the town of Amherst celebrated its 250 years as a town with a parade. Although it rained during most of it, the groups that marched as well as the spectators enjoyed this very special birthday. Not only did the Chancellor of UMass Amherst march with his family but the Dean of the Isenberg School also did with his older daughter and many of our neighbors and friends.

The UMass Amherst Marching Band was resplendent in uniform as were the smaller marching bands, town groups, and a variety of floats, including a Zamboni, as well as animals (from horses to chickens and even a turkey in a cage complete with an umbrella).

I leave you with some photos of the parade above.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Brilliant Lecture by George W. Siguler on a Gorgeous Day

Yesterday, the Isenberg School of Management had the privilege of hosting Mr. George W. Siguler, the founding partner of the investment firm, Siguler - Guff, in its Finance Seminar Series. Mr. Siguler is a graduate of Amherst College and has an MBA from Harvard University. I had the pleasure of meeting him when he was speaking with Dr. Tom O'Brien, our former Dean of the Isenberg School, who served as Dean for 19 years. I then heard the story, as they related it to me, that Mr. Siguler, while on a flight with Ms. Jaymie Chernoff, suggested to her that the next Dean of the School of Management should be Dr. O'Brien, and since she was on the search committee, the contact and history were made.

Mr. Siguler shared with me that, among a spectrum of fascinating initiatives, he was responsible for the introduction of MTV to Russia in 1998!

The timing of his lecture on distressed debt markets was perfect. As I mentioned in a blog post yesterday, I was hosting Italian academics who work in finance, so I was able not only to introduce them to Mr. Siguler and Dr. O'Brien, but they also joined, after lunch, the large group at the Isenberg School for his seminar.

In his lecture, Mr. Siguler provided us with a historical perspective of the subject of distressed debt from his unique vantage point as a true expert and extremely successful practitioner. He discussed arbitrage, bankruptcies in the US over several decades, and even interwove automotive suppliers, oligopolies, and the impacts of the lack of regulations. In discussions, he noted the importance of fiduciary responsibilities and that there was no institute or organization that was tracking the pending financial crisis. (He also mentioned names of so-called leaders in economics and finance who were unaware of the crisis until it came barreling down.)

I asked him the question as to what kinds of skills should we, as educators, be imparting to our students, so that they may be a fraction as successful as he is. I loved his answer. He said that to be successful, one needs to know the theory and also to take advantage of one's intuition. One without the other is not sufficient.

Next Friday, we will be hosting Professor Andrew Lo of MIT, whose seminar is co-listed in the UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series and the Finance Seminar Series. His talk is sure to also attract a large audience. Hosting speakers takes time and effort, plus appropriate attention to logistics and details, but the education that takes place and the knowledge gained are invaluable.

The intellectual void that would be left without seminars and speakers at the Isenberg School would leave a huge black hole.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hosting Italian Academics and a Funeral

Today we will be hosting two female academics from Italy, one of which works in applied mathematics and the other in behavioral finance. They are collaborators and are now in the US prior to going to a conference in Toronto. I have known about this visit for months now and am reciprocating, in part, the hospitality extended to me when I gave a plenary talk in Rome at the NET2009 conference last May. There was no way in which to reschedule this visit.

I have written before how academics have to be very adaptable since no two days tend to be alike, even with a regular teaching schedule.

Last Saturday, a colleague of mine in the Finance and Operations Management Department at the Isenberg School of Management died while walking his dog and his wife saw it happen. Yesterday evening I went to his wake. The day before he died he was at school. Today is his funeral but I am obligated to host international visitors, who are scheduled to arrive precisely at the same time as the funeral. His death also brings to light all the other activities he was involved in, over and above teaching several courses in finance as a senior lecturer. The administration managed to find quickly how to cover the courses, which is something that is essential since one can't reschedule courses either. The programmatic and cross-college activities that he was involved in will be much tougher to fill.

Faculty are now doing more and more with less and less (support). Teaching and research should come first but it is service that ties all the components together.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Healthcare and System-Optimization Flow Management

Students in my Transportation & Logistics class at UMass Amherst do an end of the semester project and the projects have been as varied as studying pedestrian crosswalks and safety, bicycle transportation, PVTA bus scheduling and routing, pizza delivery routes, congestion management at large entertainment venues, and even paper flow management in university administration, traffic management in New Delhi, and flow management in a local hospital. The students are asked to apply concepts learned in the course to topics of interest to them.

The hospital flow management model project was done by a student who is also a nurse and involved data collection at the Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton. She constructed a system-optimization model, which we had learned about in the class, and which had been used for years in transportation planning. Consider a transportation problem, for example, in which there is a central controller (think freight routing) of the network as opposed to user-optimization (in which individual agents act selfishly to determine their own best choices). She included the various links in the network and the corresponding activities associated with patient preparation, surgeries, etc.

Interestingly, I was reading recently in the Boston Globe about the work of Professor Eugene Litvak, who works in healthcare operations management at Boston University and who has been applying flow management successfully to optimizing hospital operations. His greatest success, to-date, is the savings incurred at Childrens Hospital, which has been estimated at $100 million (since 100 hospital beds did not need to be built due to more efficient allocation of flows given the capacities). You can read the full article: Boston.com

The article also notes that Professor Litvak is from the former Soviet Union. He worked in Kiev, Ukraine before coming to the US in 1988. Hence, his emphasis and appreciation of central control and efficiency may be more natural to him. I recall that while I was at the World Science Festival on the Traffic panel, our moderator, Robert Krulwich of ABC and NPR, teased us and said whether we were Communist in promoting system-optimization.

Clearly, as in the case of hospital operations, when the system is at stake (and peoples' well-being) if one can optimize flows, lives can be saved.

What could be more rewarding in education than seeing that research and education can be put into outstanding practice!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

MacArthur Fellows, Designing Bridges, and an Uncle who Turns 90 Today

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced the 2009 Fellows, each of whom will receive $100,000 a year for the next 5 years to pursue their work without any strings attached. The information on the awardees, which includes 4 recipients from Massachusetts, can be found on the MacArthur Foundation website. There are scientists, an engineer, an applied mathematician, an economist, lawyers, and creative artists and writers on the list. The recipients range in age from 32 to 69.

Theodore Zoli, who received his BS degree in Civil Engineering and Operations Research (one of my major areas of expertise) from Princeton University, is among the twenty-four 2009 MacArthur Fellows. He designs bridges to withstand disasters, a topic dear to my heart, since infrastructure planning and its resilience is one of my research areas. Plus, my uncle, Stanley Jarosz, who turns 90 years old today, still works in Manhattan as a bridge designer and has garnered numerous awards for his bridge designs, including the Roebling Award in 2001.

L. Mahadevan, a Professor of Applied Mathematics at Harvard, and another 2009 MacArthur Fellow, who applies mathematics to problems ranging from the wrinkling of skin to tightrope walking said it well in today's Boston Globe when discussing his research interests: In the end ... it is driven by what drives all of us -- curiosity.

Congratulations to all the 2009 Fellows and Happy 90th Birthday to my amazing uncle!

Monday, September 21, 2009

University Leadership -- Diversity at the Top and Dartmouth

Dr. Jim Yong Kim has assumed the presidency of Dartmouth College and is bringing fresh ideas and a new energy to that Ivy League Institution. Dr. Kim graduated from Brown University, my alma mater, in 1982, and received a PhD and medical degree from Harvard University. He is a medical anthropologist, and the co-founder of Partners in Health, which supports health programs in poor countries. He left his position at Harvard for the Dartmouth presidency, something that has amazed many students. Dr. Kim was one of the subjects in Tracy Kidder's book Mountains Beyond Mountains.

The article, Boston.com, in today's Boston Globe, captures beautifully the excitement surrounding Dr. Kim's presidency. Interestingly, Dr. Kim was born in South Korea, was on his high school's football team in Iowa and on Brown's volleyball team.

Students at Dartmouth are clamoring to meet him. He already has played golf with students at 5:30AM and a thousand students have lined up to shake his hand. He has handled delicate situations with great diplomacy, kindness, and skill. In giving advice to students on leadership he has said, People think leadership is standing up and giving orders but a big chunk of leadership is learning to be a follower, to have an understanding of what it's like to be of service to someone else. After one of his talks, students clamored to further talk to him and, come midnight, his aide was clearly exhausted. Dr. Kim's statement, I'm hanging out until all students are gone.

I was reminded of the Graduate Ceremonies last May, in which the Chancellor of UMass Amherst, Dr. Robert Holub, shook the hand of each and every degree recipient (which obviously took amazing stamina and even courage due to the swine flu concerns).

Leadership at the top matters and great leadership can make a tremendous difference in the lives of many. We wish the new leaders of universities and other complex organizations much success.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dr. Helander on Food Safety, Social Networks, and IBM to Receive National Medal of Technology and Innovation

Yesterday, Dr. Mary Helander of IBM, spoke in our Speaker Series. Since she arrived the evening before and overnighted at the Black Walnut Inn in Amherst, we had a chance to host a reception for her in the Supernetworks Lab at the Isenberg School prior to her presentation on food safety in a global supply chain. The audience for her presentation was standing room only since who does not care about food and staying healthy?! I was so pleased that even several of my undergraduate students in my transportation & logistics class showed up for her talk.

We learned about the initiatives that she is involved in at IBM and such critical issues as visibility and traceability in food supply chains. We also learned about the low margins in terms of returns in food supply chains and what kinds of investments would be needed to ensure a high degree of safety in food supply chains. She discussed concepts of risk and asked whether outbreaks of food adulteration are (or are not) rare events. She also noted how (powerful) companies such as Walmart can raise the stakes for suppliers to provide safe ingredients and products (a member of the audience then added, Walmart is NOT going to be the next FDA). In addition, she spoke on how consumer product companies are rebranding themselves as nutrition companies and how not only analytics are essential in quality control, traceability, and visibility but also food science knowledge. Even RFID technology was mentioned and issues of data analysis and information sharing plus noncompliance brought up.

I was especially intrigued by her statement that perhaps economics could help to identify potential food safety crises (such as the melamine crises, which actually cost, after the fact, millions of dollars) due to different demands for certain supplies. The most valuable asset of a company is its reputation -- something, which it cannot afford to lose!

Dr. Helander even interwove social networks and their importance in the context of supply chains and, speaking of social networks, her first paper based on her doctoral dissertation, supervised by Professor Rajan Batta at the University of Buffalo, appeared in a book edited by Professor Ed Kaplan of Yale; Professor Batta's advisor at MIT had been Professor Dick Larson, and the Head of Dr. Helander's Mathematical Sciences Division at IBM is Dr. Brenda Dietrich. Drs. Larson, Kaplan, and Dietrich had all spoken in our Speaker Series! We had also hosted Dr. Grace Lin and Dr. Robin Lougee-Heimer of IBM in our Speaker Series and their talks were also outstanding.

Dr. Helander gave the kind of talk that will stimulate discussions for a long time to come!

And, as for the "icing on the cake," and we very much enjoyed the lunch and dessert at the University Club after Helander's talk, President Obama yesterday announced that IBM is the recipient of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. You can read the press release here. There was clear serendipity in our scheduling of Dr. Helander's presentation on the same day as the announcement of this truly prestigious award for IBM!

We thank Dr. Helander for the time that she took to come and speak at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. It was also the perfect first lecture for the Fall 2009 Series since the Department of Resource Economics has now joined the Isenberg School of Management and the Chair of the Department, Professor Julie Caswell, could even join us for lunch (and then had to host another speaker, who was giving a lecture on dynamic pollution taxes).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Operations Research is Fascinating -- Dr. Helander of IBM on Food Safety in a Global Supply Chain and More

Operations Research is a Fascinating Subject with topics that capture one's attention. This is one theme that we try to get across (and we believe that we are succeeding) through our Speaker Series in Operations Research / Management Science.

Our Fall 2009 lineup begins tomorrow with the presentation of Dr. Mary Helander of IBM who will speak on Food Safety in a Global Supply Chain. The announcement of her presentation even made the UMass Amherst homepage 4 days before her talk, which is testament to the importance of her topic and interest surrounding it! Tomorrow, Friday, September 18, Dr. Helander will be giving her talk at the Isenberg School of Management at 11AM in Room 128. The UMass Amherst Student Chapter of INFORMS is delighted to be hosting her talk and visit. The talk is open to the public.

There is palpable excitement around our campus about our speakers and their topics this Fall. We begin our 2009 Fall Series with Dr. Helander's work on food safety and supply chains and our series will end in December with Professor Brian Levine of the Department of Computer Science at UMass Amherst speaking on cyber forensics. Topics of importance and fascination --- those are themes that operations research and operations researchers and management scientists tackle!

You can read more about the speaker series and other activities that we have been involved in, in the Fall 2009 edition of the Supernetwork Sentinel.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Good News Happens in "Threes"

My mother, from Eastern Europe, always used to say that "good news happens in 'threes'." Yesterday, was another datapoint for this insight. Sometimes, given the patience that we in academia have to have, I wish that the good news would spread out a bit and not bunch up so. In any event, we have A LOT to celebrate and I am so grateful for the following.

Good (Great) Morning!

We have now heard officially the following news:

1. Our UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter has been selected for the TOP chapter award -- summa cum laude (and this is from an elite group of chapters that include those at: Stanford, Berkeley, Cornell, Princeton, MIT, Michigan and 25 other chapters). The award will be given on October 13 at the San Diego Annual INFORMS Meeting. Needless to say, this is a great honor. Many thanks to the officers, members, faculty, and staff for their hard work in support of our chapter! We could not accomplish as much as we do without all of your support provided to our Speaker Series and numerous other professional, social, and educational activities!

2. In addition, Dr. Patrick Qiang, Management Science, who received his PhD from UMass Amherst in May 2009, has been selected as the recipient of the 2009 Judith Liebman Award of
INFORMS. He will also be receiving this award at the INFORMS Annual Meeting in San Diego in October.

Patrick was a recipient of a UMass Graduate Fellowship for 2008-2009.

More info on the Judith Liebman Award and other INFORMS awards can be found on the ff. link: http://www.informs.org/index.php?c=36&kat=-+INFORMS+Prizes+and+Awards

Coincidentally, Judith Liebman was a doctoral student at Johns Hopkins University while my dissertation advisor, Stella Dafermos, was also a student there. Both were pioneering females in operations research.

Dr. Qiang is now an Assistant Professor of Operations Management at Pennsylvania State University Graduate School of Professional Studies; see:

I nominated Patrick for this award, and I know how meaningful this award is.

This is the third time that the chapter has received a national award within the past three years. Also, Dr. Tina Wakolbinger, Management Science, PhD 2007, received the Judith Liebman Award in 2006. Both Dr. Qiang and Dr. Wakolbinger are Associates of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks.

3. Plus, yesterday, we were informed that the paper, An Integrated Framework for the Design of Optimal Web Banners, which was co-authored by three females, Professors Lili Hai and Lan Zhao of SUNY Old Westbury and me, has now been accepted in the journal Netnomics. Given the importance and relevance of web-based advertising, we are very excited about the acceptance of this paper, which is now in press in the above journal.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Integration of Social Networks and Financial Networks: Read the Book and Our Papers

The New York Times has an article, Wall Street’s Math Wizards Forgot a Few Variables, which emphasizes that variables "were missed" in some of the financial models and this, in turn, helped to precipitate the financial crisis.

In particular, the article quotes Professor Figlewski of Cornell and Professor Andrew Lo of MIT, both of whom differ in how the financial models should have been extended and made more realistic, but do concur that important variables were missing in the math financial models.

The article also emphasizes that trust and relationships should have been incorporated and factored into the models since many financial problems/issues rely on social networks. In addition, more general representations of risk should have been incorporated.

Actually, in a series of publications, we did include additional variables, and quite general risk measures, and we demonstrated how social and financial networks can be modeled in an integrated manner! In social networks, the flows are relationships, whereas in financial networks, the flows are financial transactions.

In 2007, we (Dr. Anna Nagurney, Dr. Jose M. Cruz of the School of Business at UCONN, and Dr. Tina Wakolbinger, now at the Fogelman College of Business and Economics at the University of Memphis) wrote the invited chapter, The Co-Evolution and Emergence of Integrated International Financial Networks and Social Networks: Theory, Analysis, and Computations, which appeared in the book, Globalization and Regional Economic Modelling, edited by B. Cooper, K. Donaghy (now at Cornell), and G. Hewings. This paper extended the results in our paper, The Evolution and Emergence of Integrated Social and Financial Networks with Electronic Transactions: A Supernetwork Theory for the Modeling, Analysis, and Computation of Financial Flows and Relationship Levels, published in 2006 in the journal Computational Economics, to the international domain. Another related paper of ours is, Financial Engineering of the Integration of Global Supply Chain Networks and Social Networks with Risk Management, which appeared in the journal Naval Research Logistics in 2006.

In fact, Dr. Wakolbinger's 2007 doctoral dissertation was entitled, A Dynamic Theory for the Integration of Social and Economic Networks with Application to Supply Chain and Financial Networks. For the abstract and other relevant dissertation information, click here.

The NYTimes article also notes that an econophysics approach is being used at the Santa Fe Institute to study complex networks and contagion. Already in 2003, Dr. Ke and I published a paper on financial networks in Quantitative Finance, which is a journal published by the Institute of Physics.

Another aspect of the critical importance and relevance of our integrated social and financial network models is that one can then assess, in the case of disruptions, the effects of the failure of particular nodes (think: banks, households, etc.) as well as links, be they electronic or physical.

Our Fragile Networks book, see image above, reveals how one can also measure financial network efficiency as well as financial system vulnerability.

As for the degree of separation, we are delighted that Professor Andrew Lo will be speaking in our Speaker Series at the Isenberg School of Management on October 2, 2009. We will also be hosting Professor Sam Bowles of the Santa Fe Institute in November.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Another Female PhD -- Time to Celebrate

Today, my doctoral student, Trisha Woolley, successfully defended her doctoral dissertation with a concentration in Management Science and a minor in Resource Economics at the Isenberg School of Management. The title of her dissertation was: Sustainable Supply Chains: Multicriteria Decision-Making and Policy Analysis for the Environment. What could be more gratifying for an educator than to have one of her own students earn a PhD. It was a pleasure to be the Chair of Dr. Woolley's dissertation committee. The other committee members were: Professor John Stranlund, Professor Bob Nakosteen, and Professor June Dong.

Dr. Woolley has already assumed her Assistant Professor position in Management at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth. She is the 15th PhD student whose dissertation I have chaired. Lucky are the students who will now have Dr. Woolley as their professor.

Dr. Woolley's parents accompanied her as well as her beautiful baby daughter.

It is fantastic to have students fly on their own wings!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

And the Winners Are -- Happy 5th Birthday and a Chapter like the United Nations

Yesterday, the UMass Amherst Student Chapter of INFORMS (the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences) held its first meeting of the new academic year and elected the new roster of officers. Yesterday, September 9, 2009 (9/9/09), also marked the fifth anniversary of the first meeting of the chapter, after a period of dormancy (and you can read the minutes of meetings on the above chapter website). As Faculty Advisor to this terrific chapter, whose members hail from not only the Isenberg School of Management, but also from the College of Engineering, the Department of Computer Science at UMass and other departments, I would like to congratulate all the elected new officers (see the above website for their names). Both the officers and all the chapter members are true winners! For example, how thoughtful of last year's Chapter President, Amir Masoumi, to bring a chocolate frosted birthday cake to the meeting yesterday to celebrate the 5 year milestone!

The chapter reminds me of a mini- United Nations. Its members come from the United States, China, India, Iran, Turkey, Armenia, Thailand, and Vietnam, to name a few countries of origin.

I leave you with the above photos, which should elicit smiles.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

To Outsource or to Do It Yourself and Boeing

Sunday's NY Times had a terrific article, A Dream Interrupted at Boeing, that highlighted what went wrong in the design and production of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner airplanes, which are two years behind schedule. Specifically, it analyzed how Boeing's missteps in outsourcing have taken a huge toll. The CEO, W. James McNerney Jr., is even recognizing that Boeing lost control of its production of the Dreamliner by outsourcing more design and production work than previously and not monitoring closely its suppliers. The Dreamliner's novel design lies in its use of plastics reinforced with composites for half of its structure. The composites of carbon fiber are both lighter and stronger than aluminum and, hence, will allow the planes, once operational, to fly further and to significantly reduce fuel costs.

However, there are now new stresses identified where the wings join the fuselage. Also, the outsourcing partners agreed to "share the risk" and to share in the Boeing profits but not when they delivered the parts to Boeing but, rather, when the planes were actually delivered to the airlines (now years behind schedule). Certain suppliers are demanding that Boeing now pay them in advance since they are angry about the delivery delays, understandably.

The article concludes that Boeing still believes in its model of teaming up with partners that share in the risks, but it intends to retain a greater share of the engineering on future projects and to monitor its partners' work more closely. There are, nevertheless, potential positives -- if the technology works, given that the only possible competitor is Airbus, the 850 advance orders for the Dreamliner at $125 million each could bode well for Boeing.

There is much to be learned in terms of supply chain management from Boeing's experiences. Indeed, our group at the Virtual Center for Supernetworks has been conducting studies on mergers and acquisitions and horizontal integration of supply chains. We are now moving to researching tradeoffs regarding the risks associated with outsourcing and the costs versus the benefits, but from a system-wide perspective. Ultimately, our network models will be able to identify when to outsource and when to "do it yourself." In recessionary times and when quality matters the latter may be the best solution of all.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Student Chapters and Networking

This Wednesday, September 9, 2009, will mark the fifth anniversary of the UMass Amherst INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences) Student Chapter. Coincidentally, last year's chapter officers will be holding a meeting that day to discuss elections for this year's officers and to plan additional activities. The Fall 2009 Speaker Series has already been organized and we are delighted that Dr. Mary Helander of IBM will be speaking on Friday, September 18, 2009, on food safety and global supply chains.

This chapter has been an outstanding outlet for networking among students and faculty who have been involved with it. The chapter is now hosting its eleventh semester of speakers, and we are looking forward to a fabulous new semester and new academic year.

Above I have posted photos from last year's INFORMS conference in Washington, DC, and the visits and talks of Tom Vanderbilt, the author of Traffic, and Dr. Alex Pentland of MIT, the author of Honest Signals, at which many chapter members participated.

Students who have been members of this chapter have assumed faculty positions at: Virginia Tech, Tulane University, the University of Idaho, the University of Memphis, the University of Sydney in Australia, York University in Canada, Texas Wesleyan University, two Pennsylvania State University campuses, as well as other institutions. Undergraduates have also been active participants in chapter activities and its Speaker Series.

Nationally, there are over 30 INFORMS student chapters that are active and that submit annual reports to INFORMS, a society of over 10,000 professionals in operations research and the management sciences. Support for chapters is provided by INFORMS and the UMass Amherst Chapter, whose Faculty Advisor I have been since 2004, also garners additional support from my John F. Smith Memorial Funds, the Finance and Operations Management Department, and the Isenberg School of Management. The chapter attracts members from many departments and colleges at UMass, including the College of Engineering, the Computer Science Department, and the Economics Department.

The professional society INFORMS has materials on how to organize and run a student chapter and our first Chapter President, Dr. Tina Wakolbinger, was one of the co-authors of the chapter guidelines handbook.

In short, it is very important to have a solid, energetic, and committed group of students as officers and as members. It is also very important to have valuable activities, a well-maintained and updated website, frequent news and announcements, and support from the Faculty Advisor and other faculty. Staff members at the institution also play an important role since they may handle the receipts and payments for speakers, events, etc.

What the students gain by belonging to a student chapter: networking opportunities through the speakers who come to campus as well as through their colleagues and fellow members, leadership opportunities through experiences as chapter officers, membership in the larger community of INFORMS, and friendships that last even after they graduate. Indeed, how many acknowledgments in the doctoral dissertations have I read that thank fellow students and chapter members!

Membership in a student chapter creates synergies, memories, professional gains, as well as lasting friendships and support.

When last semester, due, in part, to the economic crisis and drops in endowments, it appeared that I would not be able to contribute any funding towards the speaker series, one of the chapter's premier activities, the void that would have been created was noted by students and numerous faculty as well as administrators throughout campus! We thank those that interceded so that the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter could continue its fantastic activities! In the past 5 years, this chapter's members have garnered the following recognitions from INFORMS: the Judith Liebman Award in 2006 awarded to Dr. Tina Wakolbinger, the Moving Spirit Award given to me in 2007, the summa cum laude award and the magna cum laude award received by the chapter in the past two years!

Plus, we have all learned a tremendous amount and have built an incredible esprit de corps!

We thank all of our supporters and we congratulate the chapter on the success of its past 5 years!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Exciting New College Majors -- From Service Science to Sustainability

The September 4, 2009 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, which I just finished reading (and it is a thick issue but a cover to cover read), has a feature article and accompanying pieces on "5 College Majors on the Rise." These college majors are: service science, health informatics, computational science, sustainability, and public health. All of these "new" majors are interdisciplinary and in the case of service science, computational science, and sustainability involve business schools, engineering schools, and departments of math, computer science, and/or resource economics working more closely together.

For example, the Chronicle of Higher Ed notes that Although the service sector makes up fully 80 percent of the economy, there has been little effort to study service as a science or to prepare workers who can improve productivity and increase innovation in the sector.

I would argue that it is also the responsibility of educational institutions to produce the educators of tomorrow who can educate the next generation in such fields.

At the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst for the past 11 semesters, we have been bringing speakers to campus who truly represent frontiers. For example, in the Fall of 2007, Dr. Brenda Dietrich of IBM, presented a lecture on Service Science, which was brilliant, and we were delighted to be able to host her. Dr. Dietrich was recently selected by Fast Company as one of 100 most creative in business.

As for "health informatics," we were delighted last Spring to be able to host Dr. Hari Balasubramanian, who spoke on topics related to health informatics. Another UMass Amherst faculty member, who has gotten tremendous press coverage, Professor Robert Pollin of the Department of Economics, also last term educated everyone in the audience about his research on green jobs. This UMass Amherst Speaker Series in Operations Research / Management Science is organized by the award-winning UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, whose members include students from the Isenberg School, the College of Engineering, the Departments of Mathematics and Statistics, Computer Science, and Economics.

In terms of educating the faculty of tomorrow (and today), I am delighted that my doctoral student, Trisha Woolley, will soon be defending her dissertation entitled, Sustainable Supply Chains: Multicriteria Decision-Making and Policy Analysis for the Environment. She has begun her new position as an Assistant Professor of Management at Texas Wesleyan University.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Number 100 -- Oh, the Places You'll Go!

This is my 100th blog post, since starting this blog in January 2009. It is also the first day of September and a gorgeous, crisp day in Amherst, Massachusetts.

The anticipation of the new academic year is clearly in the air!

I decided to name this blog post, "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" after the famous Dr. Seuss book. Dr. Theodore Seuss Geisel was born in Springfield in Western Massachusetts. Western MA is the home of numerous writers and creative folks, and I like to think that academics strive to be creative and productive.

As someone who works on networks from transportation and logistical ones to social networks, I practice what I write about and "preach." One of the best benefits/recognitions of doing solid research is the invitations that one garners and the places that one gets to go to. Indeed, one of my favorite senior colleagues is Professor Martin Beckmann, who is the co-author of the classic book, Studies in the Economics of Transportation, and who was on my dissertation committee at Brown University. He is a brilliant economist whose love of life and good food and friends has taken him around the world. I have been at conferences with Professor Beckmann from Mallacootta in the outbacks of Australia to Stockholm, Sweden, one of my favorite parts of the globe. Although he is in his mid80s he still travels and meets with colleagues in Europe and Asia. He is an amazing scholar, individual, and lover of life! You can see some photos of Professor Beckmann (even with me on a beach in Australia) if you click here and scroll down the page. Professor Beckmann is the recipient of the Robert Herman Lifetime Achievement Award in Transportation Science, among other notable recognitions.

I received an invitation a few weeks back to be a plenary speaker in Cape Town, South Africa, at a conference on life cycle management that will take place next week and, regretfully, I had to turn down this invitation since the new academic year begins next week at UMass Amherst.

Yesterday, I received an invitation to speak at a conference, which also really piqued my interest -- a conference in Mongolia! This conference, which is on Optimization, Simulation and Control will take place July 25-28, 2010, and it is worthwhile to check out the website. However, and this is painful, I have already made a commitment to be a plenary speaker at the Computational Management Science Conference to be held in Vienna, Austria, July 28-30, 2010, an invitation that came first and that I could not refuse.

Also, I have already committed to giving a tutorial on Fragile Networks at the ALIO-INFORMS conference to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 6-9, 2010, which I am very much looking forward to, and where I will really put my Spanish to practice!

Since beginning this blog, I have in 2009 alone given talks in Dallas, Ithaca, Northfield (Minnesota), Cambridge, Vienna, Rome, New York City, and Chicago and in Davis, California (but virtually). Each year brings new destinations and new adventures! The life of an academic is never dull but does require spirit, flexibility, and stamina! Some photos taken at conferences, speaking venues, and of other activities can be found here.