Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Blizzard of 2010 -- Transportation Disruptions with Cascading Failures

The meltdown of airline transportation in the Northeastern US caused by the New York and Boston airport closures during the December 26-27th blizzard, and the cancellation of over 10,000 flights, is a prime example of propagating failures. Occurring during the peak travel season of the year, it seemed as if the stars aligned for the worst possible scenario. We are now hearing that it will take almost another week until all the passengers originally scheduled to fly during that period will arrive at their destinations (lucky are those who were able to opt for other modes of transportation, where available and feasible).

In trying to determine the causes, and the possible solutions for the future, this natural event, in the form of a blizzard, happened at what was to be the peak travel week. With Christmas and New Year's Day both occurring on Saturdays in 2010, thus allowing many to take December 24th off, many traveled for the holiday. On the 26th , travelers were either scheduled to return home or to begin a post Christmas vacation, with plans to return to their destinations by January 2nd. Because of such timings of these holidays, the load factor for flights was already sky high.

While the weather was the cause that ultimately brought the system to a standstill, the root causes that led to this failure are really decisions made by the airline industry which were ultimately driven by the economy. With the uncertainty in today's economy, airlines have cut their schedules to the bare minimum. Thus, while capacity is consistent with demand, under normal circumstances, and the best scenario, a shock caused the sudden change in capacity which could not be absorbed by the airline system. Moreover, demands got altered at various nodes as people tried to rebook.

Horrific “survival” stories abounded (and continue in this prolonged nightmare) with passengers on five Cathay Pacific flights being kept on the tarmac at JFK airport from 4 to 11 hours and this was after their already lengthy flights!

Moreover, for those trapped in airports, since the number of airline call centers have been cut, also due to economic pressures, many passengers with hopes of rebooking spent hours dialing and redialing at airports, only to be cut-off, whereas a human at the other end may have been able to assist. Even the Internet was not that helpful, since most airline websites have only limited rebooking capabilities. Of course, the airlines do not cancel reservations of those who booked early, so, for example, someone who had a confirmed reservation to fly out of Boston today will have his/her seat today, while someone who had a reservation on the same flight on Monday might still be waiting to be rebooked (and transported).

This blizzard (with the 6th worst recorded snowfall in NYC history) also disrupted train travel and even stopped subways in NYC with passengers being trapped for upwards of 8 hours (and even being treated afterwards for frost-bite). It also affected emergency vehicle transport with numerous ambulances stuck.

In a recent paper of ours, "A Bi-Criteria Measure to Assess Supply Chain Network Performance for Critical Needs Under Demand and Capacity Disruptions," we developed a model of network performance under capacity and demand disruptions. Also, a recent study of ours, "Fragile Networks: Identifying Vulnerabilities and Synergies in an Uncertain Age," provides even measures for robustness of transportation networks (clearly, robustness was severely lacking this past week in the Northeast in our airline infrastructure). I hope that transportation officials and airlines will pay attention to the research.

Personally, our travel plans to NYC were also disrupted by the blizzard as were those of friends' who were hoping to fly in so that we could reconnect.

The timing of the Transportation Research Board panel on Disaster Recovery and Mitigation Planning and Resilience next month could not be better timed.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Figure Skating -- A Truly Unique Sport

With the blizzard of 2010 upon us and New England looking like a winter wonderland (albeit with major travel disruptions and even our trip to NYC rescheduled) I thought the time perfect to write about a truly unique sport -- that of the sport of figure skating.

My daughter donned her first pair of skates as a kindergartener at that fabulous school, the Bement School, in Old Deerfield, Massachusetts. Every winter, the husband of the head of the school, Ms. Shelley Jackson, Rob Jackson, would create an outdoor rink for the children to skate on and there, I suspect, my daughter's love of figure skating was born. Over several winters my husband would build a skating rink in our front yard where neighborhood children would learn to skate and parents and the neighborhood dogs would congregate to watch and have fun (yes, oftentimes, we even served refreshments).

Numerous figure skating lessons followed, along with skating competitions throughout New England, and performances in ice shows even at Lake Placid, where we have gone several times for my daughter to further train. When I was on a Fulbright in Innsbruck, Austria, and our home had a view of the 1964 Olympic ski jump, we brought the figure skates with us but the rink closed in March (we were told that the skaters there trained with weights until it reopened late in the Fall). Her second grade teacher, Frau Shwerma, taught the class to rollerblade, so we compensated with that.

Figure skating demands stamina, terrific balance, endurance, athleticism, and something which makes this sport truly unique -- musicality and artistry. And all of this while one is balancing on metal blades on the ice and trying to land after doing several jumps in the air! Figure skaters have tremendous discipline but many, for a variety of reasons, drop out of this sport. But for those who, sometimes through just sheer drive and love of the sport, continue, it can be used in numerous positive ways -- from entertainment of audiences to teaching the young skills and good sportsmanship.

Now my daughter is a teenager and still goes to school in historic Old Deerfield but at Deerfield Academy.

The above classic books she received from one of our wonderful neighbors recently when she delivered a plate of holiday cookies that we had baked.

The book in the collection, which intrigued me the most, is The Ancient Art of Skating by Robert L. Merriam, which was published by Deerfield Academy in 1957.

It begins with: The Ancient Art of Skating being a brief discussion of man's gliding on the ice from the earliest times to the present and including information about skates, dress, ladies, learning, figure skating, hockey and artificial ice.

Friday, December 24, 2010

What a Year it Was!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way ... Charles Dickens from his novel, A Tale of Two Cities.

The beginning of 2010 was marked, for many of us, by the news of the horrific earthquake that struck Haiti last January 12; with the suffering of its people continuing to this day. It was followed, only two days after, by a "local" shocking event, that happened only one town over from Amherst, and that circulated around the world -- the suicide of 15 year old Phoebe Prince.

As educators and researchers, the above deeply tragic events, had some of us refocus our energies. And, of course, some of us also had personal and familial tragedies to deal with. But as is said, what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.

At the same time, there were so many "best of times" and some of my highlights, as a professor, I list below.

  • My former student and my co-author of the Fragile Networks book, Dr. Patrick Qiang, was honored with the Charles V. Wootan Award last January by the Council of University Transportation Centers in Washington DC for his doctoral dissertation, Network Efficiency / Performance Measurement with Vulnerability and Robustness Analysis with Application to Critical Infrastructure. Last March, Dr. Qiang joined me in giving a tutorial on the theme of our book at the SBP 2010 Conference at NIH. I then further disseminated our research in my tutorial at the ALIO-INFORMS Conference in Buenos Aires, which brought me, for the first time, to the continent of South America.
  • A female PhD student of mine, Trisha Woolley (now Anderson) received her PhD in 2010 and assumed her Assistant Professorship at Texas Wesleyan University.Her dissertation title: Sustainable Supply Chains: Multicriteria Decision-Making and Policy Analysis for the Environment. She was my 15th PhD student to graduate and my 6th female.
  • We celebrated the graduation of our wonderful undergraduate students from the Isenberg School last May -- another highlight of 2010!
  • A former doctoral student of mine, Dr. Tina Wakolbinger, received an offer of a Full Professorship from the Vienna University of Economics and Business, a position which she will start next May, having been an Assistant Professor at the University of Memphis since receiving her PhD in 2007. Her research in humanitarian operations and, more recently, on electronic recycling, and that of my other former students and collaborators, give me hope for a better future.
  • Two present doctoral students of mine had notable successes with their research: Min Yu had two papers accepted for publication, including: "Supply Chain Network Design for Critical Needs with Outsourcing," co-authored with Patrick Qiang and me. Also, Amir Masoumi completed the paper, with Min and me, entitled: "Supply Chain Network Operations Management of a Blood Banking System with Cost and Risk Minimization."
  • The UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, that I serve as the Faculty Advisor of, received the Magna Cum Laude Award for its activities at the INFORMS National Meeting in Austin, Texas last November. They have started both a Facebook page and are on twitter, thanks to the chapter's new President, Nathan Kollett.
  • The Network Science conference in Yalta brought me to the country of the birthplace of my parents, Ukraine, whereas the Computational Management Science conference at the University of Vienna brought together so many of my favorite colleagues from around the globe.
  • As for the INFORMS conference in Austin, Texas, thanks to all for the wonderful memories!
  • Also, thanks to all of my undergraduate and graduate students (both present and former ones) for being so special and so terrific! You will help to change the world for the better!

Let me end with the words of a new community service organization, Count Me In, that was started in South Hadley, in response to the tragedy of Phoebe Prince's suicide, and an article on which appears in today's Daily Hampshire Gazette.

This organization has its motto emblazoned on the backs of its t-shirts:

Respond with integrity and kindness/Embrace diversity/Stand up courageously for others/Promote a climate of safety/Eliminate hurtful words and rumors/Care for and listen to others with compassion/Take responsibility for my actions.

The above words should be followed in our daily lives.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Meaning of Math, Problem-Solving, and Great Education

I would like to thank Larry, who writes the blog, Maximize Productivity with Industrial Engineer and Operations Research Tools, IEOR Tools, for pointing out, in his latest blogpost, the wonderful essay written by Dr. Robert H. Lewis of Fordham University, entitled: Mathematics: The Most Misunderstood Subject. In the essay, Dr. Lewis takes us on a journey through the education system over time (beginning with Dick and Jane readers) and illustrates effectively the relevance of mathematics not only to a liberal education but to today's highly technological world, in which math and accompanying implemented algorithms, through computations, make our high tech world operate.

In his eloquent essay he states:

Americans like technology but seldom have a grasp of the science behind it. And the mathematics that is behind the science is regarded as even more mysterious, like an inner sanctum into which only initiates may gain entry. They see the rich and nourishing technological fruit on this tree of knowledge, but they see no deeper than the surface branches and twigs on which these fruits grow. To them, the region behind this exterior of the tree, where the trunk and limbs grow, is pointless and purposeless. "What's the use of math?" is the common query. "I'll never use it." When a nation's leaders are composed primarily of lawyers, administrators, military men and stars of the entertainment industry rather than statesmen, philosophers, the spiritual, and the men and women of science, then it should be no surprise that there is so little grasp of the simple reality that one cannot dispense with the trunk and limbs and still continue to enjoy the fruit.

He concludes his piece with words from another essayist, David R. Garcia, which I find especially appropriate as many faculty from around the country are turning in their final grades for the semester:

Teaching is not a matter of pouring knowledge from one mind into another as one pours water from one glass into another. It is more like one candle igniting another. Each candle burns with its own fuel. The true teacher awakens a love for truth and beauty in the heart--not the mind--of a student after which the student moves forward with powerful interest under the gentle guidance of the teacher. (Isn't it interesting how the mention of these two most important goals of learning--truth and beauty--now evokes snickers and ridicule, almost as if by instinct, from those who shrink from all that is not superficial.) These kinds of teachers will inspire love of mathematics, while so many at present diffuse a distaste for it through their own ignorance and clear lack of delight in a very delightful subject.

Interestingly, at the final exam for my undergraduate Transportation & Logistics, which I flew back early from Chicago (where I was speaking at the Measuring Systemic Risk Conference) to proctor, one student, after he handed in his exam, told me the following: Professor Nagurney, I was working on some of the practice exam problems that you gave us and I figured out how to solve one of the problems (which was mathematical) in a different way and I got so much satisfaction from this experience and was on such a high that even if I did not do as well on this final, I feel so good!

By the way, this student aced the final and the course, and, as importantly, experienced the joy that comes with creating a solution to a challenging problem!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Exciting Tutorials at the International SBP 2011 Conference!

I am very pleased that the tutorials have been finalized for the 2011 SBP (Social Computing, Behavioral-Cultural Modeling, & Prediction) Conference, which will take place March 28-31, 2011 at the University of Maryland College Park.

Confirmed tutorial givers and their tutorial titles at SBP 2011 are:

Dr. Alex "Sandy" Pentland of the Media Lab at MIT: "Toolkits for Computational Social Science: Using Honest Signals to Predict and Shape Human Responses;"

Dr. Patty Mabry of NIH and Dr. Nate Osgood of the University of Saskatchewan: "Public Health Concepts: An Introduction for Modelers;"

Dr. Allen Tien of MDLOGIX and two team members: "Social Network Analysis of Personal and Group Networks," and

Dr. Jarideep Srivastava of the University of Minnesota: "Behavioral Informatics: Data Management and Mining Techniques Enabling Computational Behavioral Science."

The above tutorials will be delivered on March 28, 2011.

Tutorials and keynote talks are some of my favorite events at professional conferences so I hope that you can join us next March.

As the tutorial chair for this conference I am delighted with the above list of speakers and look forward to their tutorials!
I might add that the program committee has been wonderful in identifying outstanding keynote speakers, which include Dr. Kim Thompson of Harvard's School of Public Health and Dr. Herb Gintis of the Santa Fe Institute (and a former colleague of mine at UMass Amherst).

Keep on checking the above conference website link, as information will continue to get posted.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Mother who is on a Business Trip in Outer Space

Catherine "Cady" Coleman is a mother and an astronaut who has logged, to-date, over 500 hours of space travel and she will not be home for Christmas or for the New Year.

As part of a six-person crew, Coleman and Dmitry Kondratiev of the Russian Space Agency, with Paolo Nespoli (an Italian) of the European Space Agency, last week launched into space for Expedition 26 aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. They joined NASA’s Scott Kelly, commander of the station, and flight engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka, who will already be there, having launched in a separate Soyuz craft on Oct. 7.

Coleman has been a NASA astronaut for more than 15 years and is a veteran of two space missions. The mission that she is on now will involve 5 months of outer space travel during which scientific experiments will be conducted.

She received an undergrad degree in chemistry from MIT and a PhD in polymer science and engineering from UMass Amherst in 1991. She turned 50 this past December 14.

When not training or flying in outer space, she spends time in Shelburne Falls in western Massachusetts (only a few towns over from where I live) with her son, Jamey, who is now 10, and her husband, Josh Simpson, who is a well-known glass artist.

Jamey was in Baikonur, Kazakhstan to see the launch.

The New York Times ran a very touching article this past week in which Jamey said that, over the next five months, he will watch for his mother from his tree house at their home in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, which lost its roof in a storm. “You can just lie on the floor and look up and see all the stars,” he said. The space station “is pretty obvious. It’s the brightest light in the sky.”

And I thought that my business trips to China, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia were long - distance ones and lengthy!

Coleman did ask for permission to take her son to space but permission was not granted.

We support the amazing Coleman-Simpson family and wish all families whose members are on duty, whether in the military, on business, or even in outer space, all the very best now and in 2011!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Collective Intelligence, Successful Teams, and the Female Factor

Does collective intelligence exist?

This was the question that a group of researchers from MIT and Carnegie Mellon set out to answer and the results of their study have been published in the article, "Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups," in the October 29, 2010 volume of Science.

Clearly, the "design" of groups and teams has implications not only for management and a spectrum of organizations but also for engineering and even military operations (and I would even add educational institutions, including universities).

I came upon a reference to this study in yesterday's Boston Globe, in an article written by Carolyn Y. Johnson, entitled: "Group IQ." The article contains an interview with one of the co-authors, Thomas Malone of MIT's Sloan School, and it also included comments from Iain Couzin of Princeton (who was a fellow panelist with me at the World Science Festival's Traffic panel in NYC in June 2009).

The Science article was co-authored by Anita Williams Woolley, Christopher F. Chabris, Alex Pentland, Nada Hashmi, and Thomas W. Malone.

Pentland is the author of the truly fascinating book, Honest Signals, and we had the pleasure of hosting him in our Speaker Series at the Isenberg School.

He will be presenting a tutorial at the SBP 2011 conference on March 28, 2011 at the University of Maryland.

I was sufficiently intrigued by the Globe article to go and read the Science article.

In the article, the authors define a group's collective intelligence, c, as the general ability to perform a wide variety of tasks. Interestingly, they found that:

The "c factor" is not strongly correlated with the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members but is correlated with the average social sensitivity of group members, the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking, and the proportion of females in the group!

The moral from this research study and "bosses" should listen up: do not dominate the conversation and include females (may I even say "diversity" matters) in the group if you wish to enhance collective intelligence and problem-solving, since social sensitivity makes a quantifiable difference.

Interestingly, recently, I published a paper on the wisdom of crowds in transportation networks and the disappearance of the Braess paradox, which received a lot of media attention. I expect the intriguing issues being raised by such studies will stimulate further research. In the meantime, I am enjoying very much working with my fantastic and diverse team at the Virtual Center for Supernetworks!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chairing the Fellows Selection Committee

Many professional societies recognize their most distinguished scholars through election / selection as a Fellow of the society. To achieve a fellow recognition signifies recognition by one's peers at the highest level of professional achievement.

Having served on the Regional Science Association International (RSAI) Fellows Selection Committee for the past two years, this year I am chairing the committee.

The RSAI website contains the following nomination information:

RSAI members are invited to nominate distinguished scholars for consideration to become 2011 Fellows of RSAI. The nomination process can be initiated by any member of RSAI and consists of a letter of nomination, detailing the scientific merit and contribution of the nominee and an up to date curriculum vitae. Current Fellows are not allowed to submit nominations. To ensure full consideration by the committee, these materials should be provided in electronic format (pdf preferred) by January 31, 2011 to Anna Nagurney, Chair 2011 Fellows Election Committee at:

The above RSAI website link also contains names of all previously elected Fellows. There are presently 58 living Fellows and two deceased ones (Reginald Gollege and Walter Isard, the founder of the field of Regional Science, who passed away last month at the age of 91).

The Nobel laureate Paul Krugman of Princeton University was elected RSAI Fellow last year. David E. Boyce, Professor Emeritus of the University of Illinois, and Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University, is both an INFORMS Fellow and an RSAI Fellow.

Among the RSAI Fellows are 5 females: Karen R. Polenske of MIT, Ann Markusen of the University of Minnesota, Janice Madden of the University of Pennsylvania, and Aura Reggiani of the University of Bologna, Italy, and yours truly.

The first group of RSAI Fellows was elected in 2002 and consisted of:
  • Walter Isard, Cornell University, USA
  • Martin Beckmann, Brown University, USA and Technical University of Munich, Germany
  • Jean Paelinck, Erasmus University, NETHERLANDS
  • David Boyce, Northwestern University, USA.
RSAI has an international membership of over 3,000, more than one third of whom are Europeans. According to its web site, “Founded in 1954, RSAI is an international community of scholars interested in the regional impacts of national or global processes of economic and social change. The work of RSAI draws on the expertise of many different disciplines and this multi-disciplinary approach helps to facilitate new theoretical insights for tackling regional problems. In turn, this provides an increasing opportunity for academics within the Association to engage more fully with planners and policy makers. Building on a strong foundation of quantitative methods, regional science is at the cutting edge of research into new model design for regional analysis and impact assessment. The Association fosters the exchange of ideas and research within regional science through its publications and the international scientific conferences it hosts.”

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Because of a Postcard from Yalta I Won a Plate of Holiday Cookies!

Last night, at around 8:30PM, I received a phone call from Phyllis Lehrer, a columnist for the Amherst Bulletin, who writes the column: Network Amherst: The Lehrer Report.

She congratulated me and told me that my postcard from Yalta made me a winner of her winter postcard contest and that she wanted to know what time (today) she could bring over a plate of cookies that she had made. Phyllis runs a contest twice a year and selects the winners of the postcards sent to her that came from the greatest distance.

In the summer, the prize consists of tomatoes that she has grown. In the winter, the prize is a plate of holiday cookies. She gives out two prizes each time.

The competition this year was tough she told me, since she had identified the Pistrang family as one of the winners (and she had not been able to reach them), but then she had to do some research and serious measuring to determine whether my postcard or a postcard from our wonderful state representative, Stan Rosenberg, who had sent a postcard from Russia, had traveled the greater distance to Amherst. She felt confident that I was the winner. Stan had won this competition before when he sent a postcard from Bhutan, so I hope that he is not too disappointed !

I had been to Yalta last August to give a keynote talk at the Network Science conference there. The trip was an amazing adventure and the conference a big success as well. I can't share the postcard with you, since Phyllis has it, but you can read about my experiences and see photos here.

Above is the plate with wrapping and card that Phyllis brought over this morning. The collection of cookies consisted of: chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, molasses, chocolate with peanut butter chips and peanut butter with chocolate kisses.

As someone who has written several times about baking cookies (and the logistics, thereof, since I practice what I teach at the Isenberg School), Phyllis' generosity and kindness capture in a unique way not only this special time of year but why the town of Amherst is like no other!

Thank you, Phyllis Lehrer. The cookies are delicious!

And as for what Stan Rosenberg was doing in Bhutan, this UMass Amherst grad was hiking the Himalayas!

********* Updated on December 24, 2010*******************************

The official announcement from Phyllis Lehrer in The Amherst Bulletin is here.

Reflections on Brown University and Richard Holbrooke

Last Friday, I was visited by two women from Brown University, my alma mater, from which I received 4 degrees. I had been contacted earlier by the Office of Advancement there to see whether I could schedule in the visit and despite it being the end of the semester and I was preparing for the Measuring Systemic Risk conference in Chicago, I responded that I would fit them into my schedule.

Brown University was interviewing alums who had, I was told, sufficient prominence and had interesting life stories, that were thought of as being appropriate for writeups on the Alumni website and on other advancement materials. Another Amherst resident, now retired, was another alum that was being interviewed that day and he had served as an ambassador to Iceland.

Most of my interview was taped and then many photographs were taken in my office, my supernetworks lab, and even the atrium of the Isenberg School (coincidentally, even our Dean, Dr. Mark Fuller, got a chance to meet them).

It was very special to be able to reflect on the outstanding education that I received at Brown University. I was asked about the faculty that made a difference, about why Brown was so unique, about my distinct memories, about why I continued as a PhD student at Brown, and what impressed me about Brown today. As a recipient of an undergrad degree in Applied Math and another one in Russian Language and Literature, I especially valued the intellectual openness of Brown, the collegiality among undergrads, graduate students, and faculty, and the value of multidisciplinarity and the breaking of boundaries. My passion for networks was established there.

I will write more about these topics in an additional blogpost.

Speaking of ambassadors and someone who had worked so diligently for peace in some of the most strife-ridden parts of the globe, Richard Holbrooke passed away last week. He also was a Brown University graduate, who started off as a physics major and ended up as a political science major. Coincidentally, he had also been a scholarship student at Brown, as I had been, and from Westchester (he from Scarsdale and I from Yonkers).

Sharon Otterman, writing in today's New York Times, eloquently captures the greatness of this man when she spoke of the gathering at his widow's apartment in Manhattan, that took place yesterday and that included the Clintons, Alan Alda, Matt Dillon, Al Gore, Charlie Rose, and Christiane Amanpour.

In the article, his widow, Kati Marton, is quoted as saying:

“They often say the measure of a man is in his friends,” she told the group. “Well, I think a better measure is the devotion of the people who work for him.”

They are all here, she said, gesturing to the people around her, “and they just loved working for this very demanding man.”

His last words, to a doctor, were about ending the war in Afghanistan and about peace.

Peace on earth and goodwill toward's all!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Oprah was not there and neither was George Clooney but Chicago still Sparkled with Intellectual Brilliance

It takes a special event to bring me to Chicago in the months of December and January.

When my students, colleagues, and neighbors heard that I had accepted an invitation to go to Chicago this past week they knew that it had to be something special. Of course, they all told me to say hello to Oprah. I did not want to disappoint them to tell them that she was south of the equator in Sydney, Australia, where the Sydney Opera House was renamed in her honor (for a few days) and she escaped the frigid weather of the north plus all the stranded plane, train, and automobile stories.

The event that brought me to Chicago was the Measuring Systemic Risk Conference that was co-hosted by the Milton Friedman Institute of the University of Chicago and the Federal Reserve Banks of Chicago and New York. This event, which I had written about prior to my departure, brought together academics, bankers, regulators, insurance execs, financiers, and other practitioners, who are deep, passionate thinkers to discuss financial crises and the most recent one, in particular. The conference program was fantastic.

I had the pleasure of serving on the Network Analysis panel on the first day of this conference and the discussions were so fascinating and stimulating that lunch was late. Joining me on the panel were: my colleague from the Finance and Operations Management Department at the Isenberg School, Mila Getmansky Sherman, who spoke on her recent financial network analysis paper with Lo and co-authors plus on system dynamics, Sujit Kapadia, of the Bank of England, who discussed his work there on financial analysis and networks with a focus on measurement, and Kimmo Soramaki, the founder of the company, Financial Network Analytics, who is also a fellow blogger. Soramaki (you may be able to guess from the name) is Finnish but he told me that he now lives in Barcelona. The panel was moderated by Nicholas Economides of NYU, who also spoke.

As Andrew Lo, of the Sloan School at MIT (who needs no introductions), stated when he asked all the participants to introduce themselves, the amount of brainpower in the room was extraordinary (and I would also add that this was one of the most interesting, warm, and engaging groups that I have ever been part of).

I left with new additions to my professional network and a wealth of interesting research ideas. It was also terrific to speak with Perry Mehrling of Columbia and BU, John Liechty of Penn State, Reena Aggarwal of Georgetown University, Sanjoy Mitter of MIT, and even John Birge of the Booth School of the University of Chicago was there (it was great to see him).

I congratulate Professors Lars Peter Hansen of the University of Chicago and Andrew Lo of MIT plus David Marshall of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago for a truly exceptional conference!

The conference presentations, additional readings, and event synopses of the discussions will be posted on the conference website, as they become available.

Above are photos taken at the conference venue, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and at O'Hare airport where I photographed a fantastic jazz band that was playing close to my departure gate, B9. I did not see George Clooney and although we ended up stuck on the tarmac on my United flight (the automatic brakes needed fixing) we eventually got "Up in the Air!" I made it back in time to proctor my undergraduate course final exam since, as torn as I was, I believe it very important to see my wonderful students at the end of the course and to wish them all the best.

I have posted my conference panel presentation on Financial Networks, which may be accessed here.

As for what I was doing in Chicago last January, I spoke at the Symposium on Transportation Network Design and Economics at Northwestern University, which was organized by Hani S. Mahmassani in honor of the visit of Martin Beckmann (another invitation that I could not refuse, although it took me about two weeks to defrost afterwards).

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Financial Networks and Systemic Risk

I will be taking part in a Network Analysis panel tomorrow (see below) at the Measuring Systemic Risk Conference, which is being hosted by the Milton Friedman Institute at the University of Chicago and the Federal Reserve Banks of Chicago and New York.

Network Analysis Panel Moderator: Nicholas Economides, New York University
  • Sujit Kapadia, Bank of England
  • Anna Nagurney, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Mila Getmansky Sherman, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Kimmo Soramaki, Financial Network Analytics
It is terrific that my colleague from the Finance and Operations Management Department, Dr. Mila Sherman, will also be on the panel. Nice to have such solid female representation, I might add.

I will be speaking on Financial Networks.

Speakers were asked to provide a list of up to 3 readings and mine is below:

Two of my books:

Financial Networks (co-authored with Stavros Siokos):

Fragile Networks: Identifying Vulnerabilities and Synergies in an Uncertain World (co-authored with Qiang "Patrick" Qiang):

One of my book chapters:
Identification of Critical Nodes and Links in Financial Networks with Intermediation and Electronic Transactions (with Patrick Qiang):

The conference organizers are: Professors Lars Peter Hansen of the University of Chicago and Andrew Lo of MIT plus David Marshall of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

The conference website may be accessed here.

This should be a very stimulating and timely conference with a lot of discussions!

I have been told that it is closed to the press.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

From High Speed Rail in the US to the Beijing Traffic Jam to the Chunnel and Rotaries

One of my favorite parts of my semester took place last week, when the students in my Transportation & Logistics class gave their team project presentations.

The team projects this year were on: High Speed Rail in America, The Chunnel, The Beijing Traffic Jam, Dublin Transportation, Nightlife Involving College Transit Systems, and Rotaries.

Many of these terrific team presentations can be accessed and downloaded here.

I was very impressed by the project teams' professional deliveries, their deep and thoughtful analyses, their elegant and very effective visuals, and by how much these undergraduate students enjoyed working with one another on their projects. I invited several graduate students to listen to the presentations and they were also very impressed by these terrific Operations Management students. The students selected their topics, which reflected both their interests and the timeliness and relevance of the topics to the course and to what is happening in the real world.

The group that studied high speed rail in the US brought the latest political issues to bear on this subject (post the recent elections) and emphasized how the US is losing in terms of technological know-how and application in this area. Frankly, I wish that we had had some politicians in the audience, but I hope they do learn from the wisdom of these students (and benefit from their project presentation, which I have posted).

The chunnel group provided a fascinating historical perspective on this relatively new link that connects mainland Europe with England and also discussed recent disruptions (from the Icelandic volcanic eruption to the cold and snow of last winter) as well as the cost tradeoffs associated with using the chunnel as compared to different modes of transportation (such as ferries or air). This project team presented engineering design aspects of the chunnel and the challenges faced in its construction.

The traffic jam group researched the possible causes (and future solutions) to what has been considered the longest traffic jam ever -- on the Beijing-Tibet "expressway." The presentation even included a video of the straddling bus! I very much appreciated how the students noted the mixing of freight with private cars on this expressway with the freight being primarily in the form of trucks shuttling coal. They even noted that if the power generation stations were closer to the coal mining operations, then traffic would be reduced. I mentioned that if there was a greater focus on renewables for electric power generation in China and a greater emphasis on the design of sustainable supply chain networks then some of the congestion (and pollution) could be greatly reduced.

The Dublin transportation group team included one student who has lived in Dublin, so a personal perspective was also provided and a wonderful presentation with multiple levels of transit layers showing in a graphical way the transit network topologies (and which regions are accessible and connects and which are not).

The rotary project was also so very interesting and something we who live in Amherst could very much relate to since not only at UMass was there a rotary completed just recently (which took about a year to construct) but there are several other rotaries under construction in our town and another one completed in Northampton. The students even provided estimates for user link cost functions in a rotary and contrasted the travel time with a typical intersection (even with traffic lights). They also discussed the differences between roundabouts and rotaries and the advantages of rotaries, which are more popular in England than in the US (and after the presentation, it was clear to everyone in the audience as to why rotaries are safer).

The college night life and alternative transportation modes project provided possible solutions to a transportation problem for college students in Boston with a focus of those who attend and/or live close to Northeastern University. With many of the "attractive" night life student destinations being located a distance away (in the Government Center area) and with public transit stopping operation for the night an hour before many of these social outlets close, how should students make it back? This group analyzed different options (including walking) and discussed time/cost/safety issues. They even provided an overview of the evolution of public transit in Boston, beginning with carriage drawn horses which ran on "schedules."

The students will still be handing in papers on their presentations.

Corporations and other organizations are seeking employees who possess problem-solving skills, who can communicate well, and who can work well in teams. The students in my Transportation & Logistics class are role models.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Winter 2011 Edition of The Supernetwork Sentinel is Now Online

The Winter 2011 edition of The Supernetwork Sentinel is now online. This is the newsletter of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks at the Isenberg School of UMass Amherst. This issue contains highlights of our activities over the past semester from participation at the INFORMS Conference in Austin, Texas to the I3P Consortium Meeting at MITRE Corporation. It also contains information about several conferences that will be taking place next year, which we are actively involved in organizing, and a list of our recent center publications.

This issue can be downloaded in pdf format here.

To access all the editions of this newsletter, please click here.

We wish everyone a happy holiday season and a wonderful New 2011 Year!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter Party was Great!

Today we had our end of the semester party hosted by the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter.

Although the temperature was freezing outside, the warmth inside in the Isenberg School from the delicious international cuisine and great company and conversations made for a cozy and lively event! We dined on foods from Turkey, Iran, China, Vietnam, Ukraine, Japan, and the United States. The students truly outdid themselves and even labeled many of the special dishes. We dined on sushi, egg rolls, kielbasa, hummus, felafel, Turkish meatballs, Chinese noodles, pizza from Antonio's, and even potato cheese and cabbage mushroom varenyky (Polish folks call these dumplings pierogies), to name a few of the dishes. The desserts included chocolates, cookies, and cakes from an Amherst bakery.

It was very special to see so many faculty in attendance and even colleagues from the department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (Thank you, Professors Erin Baker and Hari Balasubramanian) trekked across campus to celebrate, in a festive way, the end of the semester (well, almost, since we still have final exams next week),

It was also very special to have several undergraduates in attendance.

The food and atmosphere were fantastic.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

IEEE Conference on Supernetworks and System Management in Shanghai

The IEEE Conference on Supernetworks and System Management will take place May 29-30, 2011 in Shanghai, China. The call for papers may be downloaded here.

The University of Shanghai for Science and Technology (USST) will be the venue for the conference.

I am serving as the Honorary Chair of the conference along with Professor WANG Ying-Luo, who is a Fellow of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

The Conference Chairs are Professor June Dong of the State University of New York at Oswego and Professor XU Fu-Yuan of USST.

The Program Committee Chair is Professor MA Liang of USST and Professor June Wei of the University of West Florida is the Academic Committee Chair.

Professor SUN Shao-Rong of USST and Professor Patrick QIANG of the Pennsylvania State University Great Valley are the Organization Committee Chairs.

Both Professors June Dong and Patrick Qiang also serve as Center Associates of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks at UMass Amherst that I direct.

It is exciting to see the prominence that supernetworks and associated research is getting in China.

I will be one of the keynote speakers at this conference and am very much looking forward to exchanging ideas.

The conference website is here.

Te last time I was in Shanghai was in August 2006.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Party Hosted by the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter this Friday

The UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter is hosting an end of the semester party to fortify everyone before final exams next week. What a wonderful way in which to thank the faculty, staff, members, and others for support of this chapter and its activities.

This group of students is terrific and it is a pleasure to serve as the Faculty Advisor of this student chapter.

The party will take place at the Isenberg School of Management this Friday.

Date: Friday, December 10th, 2010
Time: 4:30PM-6:30PM
Place: Isenberg School of Management Room 112

The party will give us the opportunity to show our appreciation and to
conclude the semester with great food and lively conversations.

We hope to see you there!

UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter website:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Jeff Immelt, C.E.O. of General Electric, Speaks Brilliantly on High Technology Manufacturing

Steve Lohr has a fantastic article in today's New York Times, in the Sunday Business section, on Jeff Immelt, the C.E.O. of General Electric (G.E.).

The article is a must read!

I have had several of my undergrad students go to work for G.E. and some of you may even recall that Jack Welch, Immelt's predecessor, received his undergrad degree from UMass Amherst.

The two and a half page article in the Times emphasizes Immelt's credo, that we must go back to making stuff and not just be focused on financial engineering but actually be producing products and especially high tech products as G.E. is doing from jet engines to medical equipment to locomotives (love it) to energy-related equipment, including power turbines, nuclear plants, and windmills. (Since I am a faculty member in the Department of Finance and Operations Management at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, I can say that I cover "all bases!")

Immelt received an undergraduate degree in Applied Mathematics from Dartmouth (one of my majors at Brown University as well) and went on to get his MBA from Harvard. He has always been really good with numbers. Would you believe that G.E is the biggest exporter in the U.S. after Boeing?

Immelt believes that technology-based manufacturing will reinvigorate the economy and he is putting his terrific vision into practice by creating thousands of new jobs.

I have my hardcopy of this article, with a half page photo of Immelt, and will show it to my students tomorrow. I am sure that they will be inspired by his vision and that high-tech manufacturing will be a growth industry and the skills needed to excel in this sector include knowledge of math, problem-solving skills, teamwork, and reading abilities.

Coincidentally, a week ago I had dinner with one of my former students, who is a Ford executive, and he told me that he had recently spoken with Immelt. I am looking forward to our next conversation at which I will certainly bring up Immelt and G.E.!

Terrific PhD Student Placement in Management Science from the Isenberg School

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported in a recent article: Master's in English: Will Mow Lawns, that most graduate programs don't say where graduates get jobs, and future Ph.D.s don't demand the data.

I would beg to differ regarding that statement since it does not apply to a doctoral program that I am deeply involved in.

I have served as the coordinator of the Management Science concentration of the PhD program in Business Administration at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst for many years and follow the careers of many of its graduates closely.

Throughout the year I receive inquiries from prospective applicants about our program and many of the applicants specifically ask about placement of our doctoral students. They want to know where our recent graduates have received jobs -- did they go to academia or industry and inquire even as the level of research university that our PhDs have obtained positions at. Prospective applicants also often ask as to the average length of time to receive the PhD in our program, the number of students that we admit each year, and the size of the financial package (and its duration).

Perhaps, since this doctoral program resides in a School of Management, our potential applicants may be more savvy and analytical when it comes to the outlay of time and effort that matriculation into a doctoral program entails and they want to be able to assess the potential benefits (and I am not just speaking of the deep sense of satisfaction that working on important research problems gives). Entering a doctoral program requires a big investment of personal resources in terms of time and effort but the payoffs can be truly spectacular.

Plus, earning a PhD is an achievement that noone can take away from you!

Now, for the data as to where our PhD students have been "placed." Our most recent graduates in the past 6 years have had as their "first" placements positions at: the University of Connecticut, the University of Sydney, McGill University, the University of Memphis, Texas A&M University, Texas Wesleyan University, University of Alabama, Holy Cross College, the University of Idaho, the University of Arkansas at Monticello, Pennsylvania State University at Malvern, and Pennsylvania State University at Hazleton, and Price Waterhouse.

I am extremely proud of our PhD students and the above list is only for the Management Science concentration! For additional placements, click here.

I might add -- and this also signifies the success of our graduates and our doctoral program -- that "second" placements matter, as well. In one's professional career, one may be faced with the "two body" problem in that one may wish to relocate closer to a spouse's or partner's position (or to be closer to a location for family reasons). Hence, being able to find a second position, is also a measure of success (and shows that one's professional trajectory is going in an upward direction).

Among the list of first placements above, I note that one has now moved to Central Washington University and another to the University of Washington at Bothell. Plus, yet another has moved to York University. All of these positions are for tenure-track Assistant Professorships.

I also would like to emphasize that one of our PhD graduates received tenure in three years and another an offer of a Full Professorship within three years of receiving her PhD (which she has accepted)! Since these two were my PhD students and they also serve as Center Associates of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks I could not be prouder. Dr. Dmytro Matsypura holds a tenured position at a top research university, the University of Sydney in Australia, and Dr. Tina Wakolbinger, will be moving from the Fogelman College of Economics and Business at the University of Memphis to a Full Professorship at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration as of this coming May. There she will have funding for 4 PhD students and her dream job!

Of course, a doctoral program is only as good as the students that it attracts, the faculty that work closely with the students, and the curriculum. The faculty in our program are leaders in their field and the courses that we offer our students prepare them deeply in terms of methodology and applications. For a list of faculty in all of our doctoral program concentrations, click here. Plus, all of our doctoral students are required to teach (typically, for two semesters) an undergraduate course for our Operations Management program. This experience clearly enhances their job prospects.

In addition, we provide numerous leadership opportunities for our students through, for example, the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, which has garnered 4 national awards in the past 4 years for its various activities.

Friday, December 3, 2010

And the Winners Are!

Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of attending the sixth annual Innovation Challenge at UMass Amherst in which 11 teams competed during this first phase in the 2010-2011 challenge. These 11 teams were the finalists out of 25.

I highlighted this competition in an earlier blogspost. What impressed me was the number of teams with green / social entrepreneurship themes.

In my humble opinion, ALL of the TEAMS are winners -- they delivered their 2 minute elevator pitches to a large audience and a panel of judges and were subject to intense questioning from the judges about their startup company ideas and business plans. There was at least one case of stage fright when the speaker could not go on. Another team-mate stepped in to save the team.

The event took place on the tenth floor of the UMass Campus Center with gorgeous views, even of the sun setting.

The teams that were selected to receive financial funding (all from private donations) for this phase are:

o 3D Therapeutics - $2,500
o Aha! Productions - $1,000
o Bacteriotix - $2,500
o Flexolyte - $2,500
o Posytive - $1,500.

Both the first and third teams above had ideas dealing with drug delivery (and testing) mechanisms as service providers. Flexolyte proposed a battery for electric cars that would not be sensitive to exploding (as lithium batteries can be). Posytive has developed software to assist in engineering design and Aha! Productions competed last year and also has potential engineering apps.

Note that out of all the "green" teams only Flexolyte received funding, at this stage.

I was impressed by GreenAgency with its potential to "jump over" the smart grid, and with GreenNav's thrust into determining optimal routes of travel using different criteria (but as someone who researches this topic I hope that a distinction is made between system-optimization and user-optimization). Climate Risk Planning has a potential partner already with an insurance company. I am interested in finding out which peer-reviewed climate models that group would actually be using at a high level of disagreggation. Safety Through Green proposed specially-treated bamboo and house designs so that cement would not be used in production and these structures would be more resilient to earthquakes (and their production more environmentally-friendly, apparently).

I also enjoyed listening to Last Mile Wireless with potential to bring broadband to parts of western MA which lack it now.

The last team, SHM, may give Groupon a run for the money, some day.

What also impressed me was that several teams mentioned the importance of algorithms to their proposed companies.

All can still compete in the second phase with the date of April 28, 2011.

Congrats to all the teams for their passion and ideas and best of luck!

Thanks to VCRE Dr. Mike Malone and to Ms. Heather Demers for a truly thrilling event!

It was an honor to serve as a Faculty Advisor for this competition.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Innovation Challenge Tomorrow!

I am very much looking forward to the Innovation Challenge that will take place tomorrow at UMass Amherst.

Eleven student teams will compete for $10,000 in prizes and support for their business ideas during the first stage of the sixth annual Innovation Challenge. The executive summary and elevator pitch competition will be held at 3:30 p.m. in Room 1009 in the Campus Center. The event is free and open to the public.

The teams are vying in a contest designed to inspire and reward the best entrepreneurial business plans from UMass Amherst students, recent alumni, and their faculty advisors. A second phase of the Innovation Challenge, featuring full business plans and investor presentations, is planned for April 28, 2011.

Over $350,000 has been awarded to 32 teams in previous years.

One of my favorite winners, thus far, was Bug Power, which won this phase 2 years ago (indeed, I am a bit biased since one of the team members was a doctoral student in Management Science, Xuan Huang, who is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama). Bug Power's proposed product was a microbe-powered porta pottie. Specifically, this startup proposed a portable water closet that uses bacteria to clean up waste, eliminate odor and generate its own electricity! This team ended up second in the final round with the $25,000 prize and was quoted on as saying: Our first product is the eToilet—an eco-friendly, electricity-generating toilet that uses waste to power fans, lights and sensors that make portable toilets cleaner, brighter and odorless . We are confident that the eToilet will be a breath of fresh air for the $1 billion portable toilet rental industry.

There are 11 teams that are competing this year at this stage and each team also has a Faculty Advisor. I was approached by two teams to help them out but, according to the rules, can only advise one.

Here is the order in which the teams will be pitching tomorrow --

o 3D Therapeutics
o Aha! Productions
o Bacteriotix
o Climate Risk Planning
o Flexolyte
o GreenAgency
o GreenNav
o Last Mile Wireless
o Posytive
o Safety Through Green
o SHM.

What I find especially interesting is the number of teams with a "green" theme.

We expect to start a little after 3:30PM with opening remarks from VCRE Michael Malone. Dr. Malone, along with my former colleague, Dr. Soren Bisgaard, spearheaded this competition (Dr. Bisgaard died December 14, 2009 of lung cancer).

The full press release can be accessed here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Public Transit and Climate Change

A few days ago I was interviewed by a student journalist for the UMass Amherst student newspaper, the Daily Collegian. I agreed to the interview, since the topic was on transportation and the environment, a theme that I have written a lot about and am very passionate about. The interview focused specifically on public transit and its role in reducing emissions (and congestion, I might add).

As someone, who did not get her license until she became a Full Professor and mother, I have always enjoyed using different modes of transportation, including public transportation. Growing up in Yonkers, New York, we would walk for miles, ride busses, and sometimes take the train to NYC along the Hudson River. I would ride the subway from the Bronx into Manhattan and back regularly.

During my international travels, I always pay attention to the transportation infrastructure in different countries and make a point of taking public transit.

Frankly, I enjoy the social aspects of public transit -- seeing different people from all walks of life. Last Friday and Saturday, I was in Cambridge and Boston and taking the Red Line from Harvard Square to Park Street always takes my breath away as we approach the Charles MGH station with the gorgeous water views. I also got a chance to ride the Green Line.

The article in the Daily Collegian, entitled: UMass Transit encourages students, residents, to hop on for climate change, by Tim Jones was published today. Jones did an excellent job of capturing the major issues and the importance of having more transit alternatives available that reduce carbon emissions. You can read the article here.

So do take a more environmentally-friendly mode of transportation, whenever you can, and do it not just for yourself but for future generations. You may even meet some really nice people en route.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Join Us for the Northeast INFORMS Conference at UMass Amherst in 2011!

We heard today from Tracy Byrnes of INFORMS that the website for the Northeast INFORMS Conference, with the theme, Theory to Practice, which will be held May 6-7, 2011, at UMass Amherst, is now online; see:

This should be an outstanding venue for the exchange of the latest research of faculty, students, and practitioners in operations research/management sciences in different industries.

Please check this website often as details are added in the coming months!

Dr. Hari Balasubramanian of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department at UMass Amherst is the General Chair and Dr. Les Servi of MITRE and Dr. Tamas Terlaky of Lehigh University are the Program Co-Chairs. I will be serving on the Program Committee and Dr. Rina Schneur of Verizon Labs and Dr. Cynthia Barnhart of MIT are on the Advisory Committee.

Below is the Call for Papers.

Abstract Deadline: February 18, 2011

Early Registration Deadline: April 8, 2011

Join us for the INFORMS Northeastern Conference, the fifth in a series of regional conferences. The goal of this meeting is to facilitate communication among OR/MS academics (students and faculty) and practitioners around current research and applied work. Academics and practitioners in the U.S. northeastern region are strongly encouraged to attend and present.

While we anticipate that most attendees will come from the U.S. northeastern region, attendees from across the country and beyond are warmly welcomed.

Read further below about:

1. Guidelines for Submission
2. Abstract Deadline: February 18, 2011
3. Program Online
4. Program Search
5. Student Poster Session and Competition

1. Guidelines for Submission

We invite you to submit a paper to the INFORMS Northeastern Conference. Submissions can be made online on our Abstract Submission page found at: All attendees, including speakers and session chairs, must register and pay the registration fee. If you need an early confirmation for visa or budgetary reasons, please indicate this in the "Comments" field on the online form.

2. Abstract Deadline: February 18, 2011

Abstracts received by the submission deadline will receive preference in scheduling. We will continue to accept contributed abstracts after February 18 as long as space is available on the program. We encourage you to submit early.

3. Program Online

Once the preliminary program has been finalized and posted on the Web, all speakers will receive an e-mail directing them to the online program for the date and time of their presentation, registration info, A/V info, and other speaker guidelines. For further information on submitting papers, contact Les Servi or Tamas Terlaky.

4. Program Search

The online preliminary program will be updated regularly. You can search easily on keywords, authors, clusters, and sessions. You can also create a personalized itinerary. All meeting attendees will receive a printed copy of the final program at the meeting.

5. Student Poster Session and Competition

We strongly encourage undergraduate and graduate student participation in the conference. To spur this activity, we plan to hold a student poster session and competition.

Cash prizes will be awarded to the best three undergraduate and three best graduate posters which will be selected by a panel of judges. This is a great opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to present their research and meet with OR/MS academics and practitioners from the region. Students pay a reduced registration fee.

Space for posters is limited; hence the organizing committee will evaluate abstracts based on clarity and content. Abstract submission for posters follows the same guidelines as for regular papers. Details about poster dimensions and availability of isles will follow.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Professor who Loves to Bake and Give Out Cookies

Now that Thanksgiving is over, I engage in one of my favorite activities this time of year -- the baking and distribution of holiday cookies, with help from my daughter.

This year, thus far, we made a variety of delicious cookies from chocolate-dipped macaroons, to rum walnut balls, to butter sugar cookies in the shapes of holiday mittens, to cherry-decorated almond morsels, to start. The planning and completion of this major production involved numerous activities, from the shopping, to the preparation, to the grating, and the mixing, the baking, and the decorating.

I very much enjoy putting into practice what I teach for a living and just before Thanksgiving I covered the critical path method and project planning in one of my classes, which was perfectly timed.

The most fun of all is the assemblying of the plates with the cookies, which are festooned with colorful ribbons, along with a holiday card, and the delivery to our neighbors and friends.

In the photo above are some of the cookies that we baked over several shifts!

For photos of some of the delights from last year, click here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Our Road Trip to the Boston INFORMS Chapter Meeting

Yesterday, while many were starting their journeys home for the Thanksgiving holidays via plane, train, bus, or auto, a group of my students (graduate and even an undergraduate one) joined me in traveling to my talk at the Boston INFORMS Chapter meeting.

We hired a van from UMass Transit, which came with a terrific chauffer, named Andrew, who drove us from the Isenberg School via Route 2 to the venue for the meeting, Emptoris, which is in Burlington, MA. We met at 4PM and arrived at our destination, even with a pitstop, in less than 2 hours.

My host, Dr. Les Servi of the MITRE Corporation, greeted everyone with stacks of pizza and refreshments at the reception, which began at 6:30PM, introduced the Boston Chapter and highlighted its upcoming activities. We are very excited that UMass Amherst will be the site for the Regional INFORMS conference, which will take place May 5-6, 2011. Dr. Servi is a program co-chair of the conference and I have agreed to serve on the program committee. My colleague, Dr. Hari Balasubramanian of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at UMass Amherst, is the conference chair. The tentative theme of the conference is: From Theory to Practice with the goal being of having 50-50 participation by industry practitioners and academics, which would be fantastic.

Dr. Servi and I go back to Brown University days, since we both received undergrad and Master's degrees in Applied Math there (he then went on to Harvard and I got my PhD at Brown) and we are very active members of the professional society INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences).

My presentation was entitled: "Supply Chain Networks: Challenges and Opportunities from Analysis to Design," and it may be downloaded (in pdf format) here. The presentation gave an overview of some of the exciting supply chain projects that we have been involved in with applications ranging from electric power supply chains in New England to healthcare supply chains for critical needs products, from vaccines to medicines, as well as blood supply chains.

It was terrific to mingle with the audience, which included practitioners from many different industries in the Boston area. I enjoyed talking with employees of Oracle, BAE Systems, and Fidelity Investments after my presentation. Time was too short, though, and Andrew, our driver, was waiting for us. We made it back safely to Amherst at 10:30PM.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Why Small Gestures are Big and What Great Leaders Already Do and Know

It is always so interesting to observe and see how those in positions of "substance" behave and act, especially when it comes to those that they oversee or who may report to them.

I continue to be impressed by those who lead by example and -- who

  • take the time to write a nice note, which need not be on fancy stationery, or send a timely, enthusiastic and supporting email;
  • congratulate those who have achieved something special and do so publicly, which makes it even more special;
  • praise members of the organization for a job well-done;
  • show up to events even when bosses may not be there to take attendance;
  • do what should be done without extra financial compensation;
  • mentor and advocate for those less fortunate or without the "right" connections;
  • create opportunities that build up people and an organization rather than use tactics that "divide and destroy;"
  • add humor and spirit to daily interactions.
As people move up (and down) the hierarchies of various organizations, institutions, corporations, and even universities, great leaders are those that will be followed because they took the time to acknowledge others.

One cannot be successful by doing it alone.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Looking Forward to Speaking at the Boston INFORMS Chapter on Supply Chain Networks

I will be speaking next Tuesday evening (right before the Thanksgiving rush) in the Boston INFORMS Chapter Speaker Series.

I am very much looking forward to giving my talk, Supply Chain Networks: Challenges and Opportunities from Analysis to Design. The talk will take place at Emptoris.

My hosts will be Dr. Les Servi of MITRE (a fellow Brown University alum with two degrees in Applied Math and a Harvard PhD and long-standing, very active member of INFORMS) and Dr. Olga Raskina of Emptoris (a Columbia University PhD).

More information on my talk and the venue is available here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Celebrating International Week and the New NSF Director on NPR

This week we are celebrating International Week at the Isenberg School and our atrium is festooned with flags of different countries as featured above.

There are also special activities planned this week to commemorate different countries and international experiences.

And today's Boston Globe is reporting that Massachusetts is one of the top states attracting international students for education, with Boston University, MIT, Harvard, Northeastern, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, being the leading such universities within the state!

Speaking about international experiences, I very much enjoyed the interview on NPR by Ira Flatow with the new NSF Director, Dr. Subra Suresh. In the interview, the transcript of which is available here, Dr. Suresh said: I've been fortunate to have had the experiences that I've had, having been born abroad. And here is the basic truth related to that: Science has no borders, no boundaries, and science is nonpartisan. If you look at the United States, more than half of all the American Nobel laureates in the last 60 years were born abroad.

He also spoke about the importance of collaborations and in bringing different disciplines together to solve the most difficult problems whether in clean energy or transportation (I concur)!

The US continues to be a mecca for education but it is essential that researchers have the support necessary to make fundamental discoveries and breakthroughs. Research requires uninterrupted time for intense work and concentration.