Saturday, June 30, 2012

What Makes a Great Teacher

Since returning from a month in Sweden where I was working as a Visiting Professor at the University of Gothenburg, despite it being early summer, there has been a flurry of activity.

As my colleagues, who are professors and academics,  note, summer is not a time that faculty "don't work." On the contrary, we are busy doing research, writing and revising papers, preparing talks for conferences, designing new courses, working with graduate students, and reviewing papers (I hope that the general public gets the message), just to start.

Monday night, I flew back from Europe to Boston Logan and this week (I think that it was the great food and beauty of Sweden that inspired me) I managed to revise two papers and to take part in a 3 hour comprehensive oral exam for a doctoral student.

When I walked into my office at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst I was surprised to find not only a huge framed poster of my recent Spotlight Scholar award, which I quickly donated to the school since it had a great photo of some of my students, and, without students, being an academic has limited purpose. I had been told that a student had nominated me for this award, which makes it extra special.

I also found an envelope on my desk and, when I opened it, there was an American Greetings card from a student that had just graduated with a degree in Operations Management and had been in my new Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare course this past spring.

The card had a quote by Henry David Thoreau on it, "To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts," and, in the card, the former student had written a letter which concluded with "I truly can't thank you enough and will be forever grateful." I am still carrying around the card and so much appreciate the thoughtfulness behind his extra effort.

Early this morning, I picked up my Association for Women in Mathematics  (AWM) July-August Newsletter and, as is typical of this great publication, once I have a look at it, I have to read it cover to cover. In it was a beautiful essay by Professor Alan Sultan of Queens College in NYC entitled: "Dedicated to Estelle: Teachers Do Make a Difference." In his essay, Sultan writes about his math teacher, Estelle Gurin, whom he first met as a 12 year old student of hers.  He wrote about how her enthusiasm and love for her subject -- math -- brought out the curiosity in him, and how she inspired him, who had many family problems at home, to work hard and to take responsibility for his actions. He ended up going to college even though his family told him: "There are no bums in our family," since they clearly had no understanding of the value of education.

Sultan went on not only to finish college on a full scholarship but also then got  his PhD in Math. He reestablished contact with his former teacher, who, of course, immediately recognized him.

He writes: "Estelle changed my life. In my classroom, I always try to emulate her. I bounce around, just as she did. I try to teach with great enthusiasm, and excitement." A few years after Professor Sultan received a message through a third party from a former student stating that it was because of him he went on for a PhD, and he has continued to receive such messages from former students.

Estelle Gurin passed away on March 16, 2012, shortly after her 95th birthday.

Whether on the elementary school level, high school, college, or university level, great teachers do make a difference.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Beauty of Stockholm and a Thanks to the Royal Institute of Technology

I returned recently to Amherst, Massachusetts from Sweden and have become a bicontinental citizen since I now also have a visiting faculty appointment at the University of Gothenburg, which is in Sweden's second largest city.

During my recent month-long stay in Sweden, I had an opportunity to visit Stockholm, and to speak at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH). My wonderful host was Professor Lars-Goran Mattsson, who is the head of the Deoartment of Transport Science. Sweden is supporting research in transportation and logistics and it is wonderful to see the research community flourishing. The transportation infrastructure in Sweden is also fabulous and I never tire of seeing the trams, ferries, and trains plus the wonderful pedestrian walkways and bicycle lanes.

Despite my seminar taking place on June 18, 2012, which was only a few days before what the Swedes call midsommar and which they take very seriously because it marks the beginning of their summer, the attendance at my talk was great. I even got to see Dr. Dr. PO Lindberg (this is not a typo -- Lindberg did successfully defend his second doctoral dissertation at KTH on June 1, 2012). The photo above is of the three of us after my seminar on perishable product supply chains in health care.

Prior to my seminar, I was treated to a sumptious lunch at KTH. The Swedes are known for their delicious fish, chicken, and even pancake dishes (I'll feature desserts later in this post.)

Having lived in Stockholm, on three different occasions, when my daughter was 2, 4, and 7, it was great to have my husband and daughter with me in Stockholm.

Beauty never fails to inspire. The photos below are of the breathtaking architecture and natural beauty of Stockholm.

And, as promised, below I have posted photos of desserts in Stockholm, the second one below in the form of a dessert, which was made of shrimp and lettuce and I found at one of the train station cafes.

Back now in Amherst, with all the wonderful experiences in Sweden as part of me, I have actually been enjoying revising papers, fortified with images and memories of Sweden.

Thank you, KTH, and, of course, thanks to the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Photo Essay of Gothenburg, Sweden to Capture the Memories

I made it yesterday evening from Gothenburg, Sweden through Amsterdam Schiphol airport on Delta/KLM and had wonderful seatmates on both legs of my flight. On the first leg,  I set next to a chemical engineer who received her degree from Chalmers and was going on a business trip to The Netherlands and, on the second leg (the long one over the Atlantic), I sat next to an electrical engineer from Gothenburg, who also had received his degree from Chalmers, and  who was going for training in Boston. He works on big data and visualization so our conversation flowed.

Both confirmed one theme that I have been writing about on this blog for the past month from Sweden where I have been living part-time this year as a Visiting Professor -- work-life balance is not an issue in Sweden due its parental leave policies and other benefits.

I thought it appropriate (and somehow we made it through Logan despite the enhanced security since President Obama was also in Boston), to capture some of the special images of Gothenburg, Sweden  with recent photos.

The photos  speak for themselves. The above joke one was taken in one of the numerous cafes in this city.

No wonder Scandinavians are considered to be the happiest people on earth.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Supernetwork Center Associates to Speak in Orlando, Florida

Summer is a time that academics from around the globe typically do a lot of traveling, writing, regenerating themselves, and speak at conferences.

Next week, several of the Supernetwork Center Associates will be traveling to Orlando, Florida to speak at the 9th AIMS Conference on Dynamical Systems, Differential Equations and Applications, for which Professor Patrizia Daniele of the University of Catania in Italy has organized a special session.

The special session is SS58 and it is on Variational Analysis and Equilibrium Problems.

The papers presented in this special session will include research on supply chain networks and corporate financial risks by Professor Jose M. Cruz of the University of Connecticut and Professor Zugang "Leo" Liu of Penn State University at Hazleton, on electric supply chains  by Patrizia, as well as a paper by her with Professors Fuminori Toyasaki of York University in Canada and Tina Wakolbinger of the Vienna University of Economics and Business on economic equilibrium problems with nonlinear constraints.  Tina will also be presenting a paper of ours on electronic waste flows, co-authored with Dr. Toyasaki and her doctoral student, Thomas Nowak.

 It is great to see our academic genealogical tree growing.

Even Professor Stephen Robinson of the University of Wisconsin will be speaking in this session. There will also be other colleagues from Italy and from Canada so it will be a terrific reunion for some members of our Virtual Center for Supernetworks.

I sometimes refer to our Supernetwork Team as a mini - United Nations because of  the many different countries of origin of the Center Associates (Cape Verde, Italy, Ukraine, Canada, China, Greece, India, Iran, and even the US) and  how well we work together and collaborate (perhaps we do this better than the UN).

I will be missing this conference, however, since I am packing my bags and will be returning soon to the US, having spent most of the month of June in my new appointment as a Visiting Professor of Operations Management at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

Coincidentally, tonight is the England vs. France soccer match in Euro 2012,  and I spoke with Patrizia the other day and recalled fondly how we were at a conference in Erice, Sicily, back in 2006, when Italy beat France in the World Cup and the festivities I will never forget. Somehow I managed to fly back on Alitalia to Boston the day after and all went smoothly (I even got upgraded since I can speak soccer and this helps).

Patrizia will be watching the soccer game tonight before she flies to the US and I will be doing exactly the same.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Women and Men Can Have It All But Maybe We All Need to Move to Sweden

You may have seen the image of the child in a suitcase.

The article by Anne-Marie Slaughter, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All," in the Atlantic Monthly,  in which the photo was featured, has created an explosion of discussions in the blogosphere, in the New York Times,  and has reached me in Sweden, where I am spending the month of June as a Visiting Professor in Gothenburg.

Let me say, at the onset, that I am an academic, a wife, and a mother, and felt Slaughter's pain in missing her children while she served for two years in Washington DC in the State Department, on leave from her tenured faculty appointment at Princeton University. In her article, she eloquently writes about her teenage son's difficulties in school and growing up issues and attributes part of his difficulties to her absence during the week for two years while she served in government and was, in effect, a weekend mom, while her husband, also a tenured professor at Princeton, was in charge of the home base.

In her article,  she points out the pressures of face-time (being in the office early and staying late), the necessity of heavy travel for professional success, and cites studies and quotes from other highly successful professional women, including Facebook's Sheryl Strandberg, who has also recently "come out" in discussing work-life issues as a mother and highly visible female executive. I might add that I have been on panels to discuss work-life balance issues as part of special sessions organized by Women in Operations Research and the Management Sciences (WORMS), which is a forum of the professional society INFORMS.

Being now a Visiting Professor in Sweden, and soon beginning an academic sabbatical, I have gained a lot from living abroad. My husband and daughter had a chance to come visit me for two weeks here in Gothenburg and their insights and observations have added to what may be some solutions.

If only the US would listen and be willing to change.

We are now in the midst of celebrating midsommer, which is actually the beginning of summer, and although I am in my office (after taking a long walk through one of my favorite parks here in Gothenburg) the Swedes are on holiday.

Swedes, in my opinion, have solved the work-life balance issues for both males and females. Even my daughter noticed how many men are pushing baby carriages and are escorting young children around the city and in the parks and playgrounds. The Swedes offer extensive parental leave packages for both males and females and the expectation is that both parents will take advantage of them and these are not just for infants.

My colleagues here at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg who have young children, are on parental leaves which are very flexible. One male colleague is coming in only 1 day a week, for example.

There are wonderful after school programs and a colleague here who has a disabled daughter brought me to the lovely school that takes care of her after the official school day is over with. Also, families get a monthly allowance from the state for their children (and we did, too, when we lived in Stockholm when my daughter was 2 years old.)

I have met numerous successful females here, with children, who have high level positions in academia, commute to work (if only we had the trains, trams, and busses in the US that Sweden has), and even have farms with horses.

Plus, as I have been told, the Swedes take their vacations seriously and have multiple weeks of vacation. Vacation is for public health and must be taken. People are more productive when they have a chance to relax and to refresh themselves. Also, with the Swedish labor laws, there is a lot of job security.

Many of my colleagues who are fathers leave their offices to pick up their children and do it cheerfully.

People in Sweden are very happy as even a recent United Nations study has shown.

To see the working conditions and benefits in Sweden, just have a look at this official brochure.

More expats are interested in moving back to Sweden for their children and, just this past week, I met one of them, who is a professor in North America, and is interested in returning  because of the quality of life here.

Swedes know that there is a time for work and a time for play.

Yesterday, for example, in downtown Gothenburg, just in front of the art museum, there was a free MTV World Concert that I attended for about two hours, which was fabulous. It was for families and all ages were in the audience, which consisted of about 20,000 people. I stood and chatted next to a female who is in her 70s who had seen Bruce Springsteen, the Beatles, and Elton John in concert in Gothenburg and told me that Springsteen has a lot of Swedish friends and loves to go fishing here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Rest in Peace, Professor William Cooper, a Giant in Operations Research and the Management Sciences

I have just returned from lunch in Gothenburg, Sweden, where a job candidate today is being interviewed for a faculty position in Operations Research at the School of Business, Economics and Law. At the lunch following his presentation, I learned that he was in the last linear programming class ever taught by Professor George Dantzig, of Stanford University, so we had some nostalgic  remembrances.

I returned to my office at the University of Gothenburg to learn that Professor William Cooper of the University of Texas passed away yesterday, June 20, 2012. Hence, another titan of our field has passed away.

The obituary on the UTAustin website speaks of Professor Cooper and his truly amazing life, from him being a high school dropout to a revolutionary in business education.

When Professor Bill Cooper turned 96 years of age, I wrote about his kindness. He sent me a personal, typed up congratulatory letter when I was appointed the John F. Smith Memorial Professor at the Isenberg School of Management, which hangs in my home office as inspiration.

At age 96, Professor Cooper, although officially retired, would still come to work, and said that he wanted to die while living and not from a cold or from pneumonia.

He was amazing, as was his research output in terms of breadth and depth, with many seminal papers with his longtime collaborator, Abe Charnes, who predeceased him by several years. Much of his career was spent at Carnegie Mellon University.

 Interestingly, according to the UTAustin obituary:  At age 66 most people are thinking of retirement. At that age in 1980 Cooper started on a whole new leg of his career. George Kozmetsky, then dean of UT’s College and Graduate School of Business, hired Cooper as the Foster Parker Professor of Management, Finance and Accounting. With a nod to Cooper’s broad research interests, colleagues joked that his title naturally would encompass three departments.

Coincidentally, last night, I was at a dinner over a senior administrator's home outside of Gothenburg, and it was a magical evening. Her mother had worked at UTAustin and I spoke of many colleagues there as well as of George Kozmetsky and his IC2 Institute at which I had attended a conference and had even been out to his Texas ranch.

Always a gentleman and a scholar, Professor Bill Cooper, we will miss you!

You have left a tremendous legacy -- thank you.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New Book on Sustainable Supply Chains and RIO + 20

While riding the train back to Gothenburg from Stockholm yesterday afternoon, I devoured my copy of the International Herald Tribune, which had a beautifully written OpEd piece by Gro Harlem Brundtland, Earth Agonistes. To those of you who are passionate about the environment and sustainability, Brundtland needs no introduction since not only is she a former prime minister of Norway but she was also the chair of the committee that produced the UN report published in 1987, Our Common Future, which is now commonly referred to as the Brundtland report and which helped to define sustainability.

Today the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development or RIO + 20 begins.

In her OpEd, Brundtland states that: The proposed Sustainable Development Goals, if aligned with the latest science, offer the prospect for a viable and equitable future for humanity. 

Like no other generation before, we can choose the type of future that we will leave to the next generation. A transition to a safe and prosperous future is possible, but will require the full use of humanity’s extraordinary capacity for innovation and creativity. 

Real leadership is required now to tackle these systemic issues. We therefore call upon world leaders to move beyond aspirational statements and exercise a collective responsibility for planetary stewardship, seizing the opportunity offered by the Rio 2012 summit to set our world on a sustainable path. 

With excellent timing, Springer has announced the publication of a new book, "Sustainable Supply Chains: Models, Methods and Public Policy Implications," edited by Tonya Boone, Vaidyanathan Jayaraman, and Ram Ganeshan and the Table of Contents can be downloaded here.

Our paper on the design of sustainable blood supply chain networks with a focus on medical waste management is the fifth chapter in this volume, which is volume 174 in the Springer International Series in Operations Research & Management Science.

My book with Ding Zhang, "Projected Dynamical Systems and Variational Inequalities with Applications," is the second book in this series.

Let's hope that RIO + 20 results in truly transformative ideas and partnerships.

Stockholm and the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden

We took the high speed train from Gothenburg to Stockholm on Sunday and returned yesterday evening riding in a first class compartment. During the train rides the scenery of lakes, birch forests, and rolling green hills made for a perfect backdrop against which we relaxed and caught up with a lot of reading. Yesterday, since we were riding in the first class train car, which was worth the extra 10 dollars or so per ticket,  we even got served  hot drinks and brownies and there was fresh fruit available at the head of the car.

As I had written in my previous post, I had been invited to give a talk at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, an invitation that I could not refuse.

My host was Professor Lars-Goran Mattsson who is head of the Department of Transport at KTH. I was treated to a delicious lunch, got to see such colleagues as Dr. Po Lindberg, who had recently earned his second PhD and has made academic history, as well as Dr. Leonid Engelson, and to meet another guest speaker that day, Dr. John Abraham from Calgary in Canada. What a coincidence that the speakers were both born in Canada!

With my talk on Perishable Product Supply Chains in Healthcare and John's presentation afterwards on Spatial Interaction Modeling, we had a mini-workshop with many great questions and discussions. Given that the date was June 18 and that Swedes are soon celebrating Midsommer, a big holiday, which they take very seriously, it was terrific to see such an engaged audience.

We discussed math modeling issues and possible extensions along with short term and long term equilibria as well as the importance of time and time scales. I was more focused on a particular sector -- that of healthcare, whereas John was describing his work on the city level and his project with the city of Baltimore.

To see research with both theoretical content and practical implications is very exciting to me, as an operations researcher, network scientist, and computational economist. Yes, I believe in algorithms and not purely closed form solutions for problems, because the data can be messy and the functions not simple.

Since my husband and daughter had come to visit me in Gothenburg, where I am now a Visiting Professor of Operations Management, and we had lived in Stockholm of three different occasions, we had a chance to explore the city as well.

After I return to the US, I will post many photos of Stockholm. Stockholm has resurrected one of its tram lines, which is great. In Gothenburg, trams snake through the city and are a marvel to watch and are just one form of the public transportation modes in this second largest city on Sweden.

It was interesting to see that the new transport links that will change the freight flows (with many trucks) around the Wenner Gren Center, where we have lived, should be completed around 2015. We also noticed the increase in traffic, with more honking, as well as the increase in the pace of life in Stockholm (which my Gothenburg colleagues had told me about) since we last lived in  Stockholm a decade ago.

Nevertheless, my daughter's favorite restaurant, Cyprus, was still there, as was our favorite pastry shop, complete with the Princess tortes.

We even peaked through the gates to the daghis (Swedish daycare) to which she had gone and dined for lunch of salmon, carrots and dilled potatoes. Yes, in Sweden, the daycares have chefs and cooks!

The beauty of Stockholm, with the water, the greenery, and the architecture of the buildings lining the archipelagos is breathtaking.

We even had a chance to visit the Museum of Modern Art with a Yoko Ono exhibition.

Last night, when we returned to Gothenburg, Sweden beat France in Euro 2012 with a score of 2-0. However, it still did not make the quarterfinals of this fabulous soccer series, which is taking place in Poland and Ukraine. Ukraine, however, lost, because Rooney of England scored the goal.

It has been a series of blue and gold and it has been fabulous to follow the soccer games here in Europe. I have been getting personal updates from Ukraine from a colleague and a former doctoral student of mine who is Ukrainian.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Off to Stockholm to Speak at the Royal Institute of Technology -- KTH

It is a wonderful time to be living in Sweden (although, regretfully, Sweden lost its recent Euro 2012 soccer match, and we were hoping for some major celebrations).

It is close to midsommer, when the Swedes recognize the beginning of summer and have many get-togethers with family and friends, often in their summer homes, which tend to be small red cottages with, if possible, views of the sea.

When the sun is out, the Swedes are out and I love the emphasis on being outdoors in this country. Even in Gothenburg, where I have been for several weeks, the cafes have blankets on the chairs to warm us up because it is great to be sitting outside to dine.

Today, I will be taking the train from Gothenburg to Stockholm. My family and I lived in Stockholm, and I could not resist an invitation to speak at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), which had hosted me when my daughter was only 2 with visits back when she was 4 and 7. It will be wonderful to see former colleagues in transport, regional science, and optimization there. I also plan on going back to the Wenner Gren Center off of Haga Park, where we lived in Stockholm and made friends from around the globe  and which I have written about.

I will be speaking at KTH tomorrow on perishable product supply chains in health care and will be describing some of our recent research on oligopolistic competition in pharmaceuticals, blood supply chains, as well as medical nuclear supply chains, which combines operations research and network economics.

Sweden has always felt like my second home -- its natural beauty, architecture, emphasis on sustainability, elegant design, and its fascinating history and architecture plus its people and food captivate me.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Very Special Graduation Photos from the School of Business, Economics and Law in Sweden

The ceremony is now over and it could not have been more elegant.

It took place at the University of Gothenburg grand building and we celebrated the recipients of the Masters degrees.

It was very special to deliver the diploma commencement speech. After the speech, I received a big bouquet of pink flowers.

The procession was led by Swedish flag bearers and the Masters degree recipients were called out individually.

Prior to the graduation ceremony, I had the honor of attending a lunch at which the recipients of the 10,000 kronor awards for the masters dissertations were recognized.

Congratulations to all those receiving the Masters degree today!

Congrats to Another Female Management Scientist and Operations Researcher on Promotion and Tenure

I received an email this morning with a copy of the official letter attached.

One of my former doctoral students, Dr. Ke "Grace" Ke, who had done very interesting work on financial networks, which are of particular relevance these days because of the financial crisis and systemic risk issues, shared the great news with me.

She has been promoted to Associate Professor with tenure at the Department of Finance and Supply Chain Management at the School of Business at Central Washington University.

Ke came from China and received her PhD from the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst with a concentration in Management Science and with a minor in Finance. I was her doctoral dissertation committee chair.

Her dissertation was entitled:, "Statics and Dynamics of Complex Network Systems: Supply Chain Analysis and Financial Networks with Intermediation."

Some of our joint research has appeared in the European Journal of Operational Research, in Quantitative Finance, and in Environment & Planning B.

Dr. Ke managed to even solve the "two body problem" and to relocate from her first academic appointment, post the PhD, which was at the University of Arkansas Monticello, to Washington state, since her husband had positions first at Microsoft and then at He holds a PhD in Computer Science from UMass Amherst.

Just two months ago, another former doctoral student of mine, Dr. Jose M. Cruz, received his promotion with tenure at the School of Business at the University of Connecticut and was also named an Ackerman Scholar.

2012 is turning out to be a great year for me as an Academic Mom.

It is wonderful to see faculty with expertise in operations research and management science being so successful at business schools!

I am so happy for my former doctoral students, who are now colleagues!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Rest in Peace Dr. Elinor Ostrom, the First Female Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences

I had just arrived into my office in Sweden at 7:30am and was about to start putting the final touches on the commencement speech that I will be giving tomorrow at the University of Gothenburg, when the news arrived.

The announcement came through an email message from the Chronicle of Higher Education that Dr. Elinor Ostrom, who received the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, in 2009, and was the first female to receive this Nobel prize, had died. She shared the 2009 prize with Dr. Oliver Williamson.

She passed away on Tuesday, June 12, 2012.

In my commencement speech, I had a few words prepared about Dr. Ostrom, since I had heard her speak at UMass Amherst on climate change and, together with one of my doctoral students, Min Yu, we had gone up to her afterwards to talk with her. I wrote about this special event that took place at UMass Amherst on September 22, 2011, and included photos. Her energy, enthusiasm, and kindness touched all of us.

She had been a visitor to Gothenburg and I was hoping that our paths would cross again here. Last year I had invited her to give a keynote talk at the SBP conference but she had had other commitments.

Elinor Ostrom died from pancreatic cancer with which she was diagnosed in 2011. She, nevertheless, managed to travel to India to speak, despite her diagnosis.

Her amazing work and insights will continue to inspire research and practice on the commons and on the environment and sustainability.

Elinor, you will be greatly missed! I know that those who had the honor and privilege of meeting you will carry on your work along with present and future generations of students.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Jon Quick, UMass Amherst Hockey Player, Leads the Kings to the Stanley Cup and Hockey History

As those of you who read this blog know, I am now spending time in Gothenburg, Sweden as a Visiting Professor. The experience has been fabulous, professionally and personally.

While residing in Sweden, I can't help but absorb all of the wonderful events, including sports events, since the Swedes not only care about their environment but also are very big on physical fitness and sports.

When I turn on the TV (always entertaining to see the programming in different countries) there are always sports events being televised and lately it has been hockey and, of course, the 2012 Euro soccer matches (more on this later).

Yesterday, sports history was made and the news hit very close to "home."

First, Jonathan Quick, the LA Kings goalie, and former UMass Amherst hockey player, led his team to its first Stanley Cup and on their home ice in LA!

I remember watching Jon Quick play hockey as the goalie at UMass Amherst at the Mullins Center. Since my daughter is a competitive figure skater, over the years we have spent a lot of time at ice rinks, including the wonderful Mullins Center at UMass.

Yesterday (I admit, I am of Ukrainian heritage and Ukrainian is my first language, which I learned in Canada as a child), was also the 2012 Euro soccer match between Sweden and Ukraine, which took place in the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv. Here in Gothenburg, the fans were decked out in blue and gold, and the same in Ukraine, since the flags of both of these countries are blue and gold.

The first half of the soccer game was scoreless. Then, the Swedes scored, and Ukraine's amazing soccer player, Shevchenko (also the surname of the famous Ukrainian poet, Taras Shevchenko), scored two headers and the Ukrainians, who are the co-hosts of 2012 Euro, with Poland, won the game.

Sports draw the audience in not only because of team loyalties but also because of the uncertainty of the outcome of a game and the ongoing suspense.

Two sports that I love to watch, because of the athleticism of the players, are hockey and soccer, and yesterday was a double treat!

Carrots vs. Sticks to Reduce Traffic Congestion

I am sitting in my office at the School of Business, Economics and Law in Gothenburg, Sweden and am catching up on some reading before I head back to doing research.

In this city, the public transportation is outstanding and I have ridden the trams, ferries, and busses and, as someone who teaches and research transportation and logistics, frankly, I just enjoy seeing the multimodal traffic flow so well through the beautiful streets of this city (and the public transport is highly utilized).

I have also been told by my transport and logistics colleagues here at the University of Gothenburg that soon the city will be instituting congestion charging and it also plans on developing additional transport links to the periphery of the city so that the region grows economically.

Each year (while not on sabbatical) I teach a transportation & logistics course at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst and I enjoy teaching this class very much. Of course, one of the topics is tolls or congestion pricing.

There is an article in The New York Times, which quotes a bunch of researchers that I have cited, notably, Frank Kelly of the UK, who has also done some nice work on the Braess paradox. The article describes a recent $3 million transportation grant awarded to a Stanford researcher, Dr. Prabhakar, who is a computer scientist, and who, while stuck in traffic in India, came up with a system to offer incentives via a lottery for commuters to change their time of departure for a commute and then get, depending on the value, a financial reimbursement in one's paycheck. This system has now been implemented at Stanford and, given the competitive nature of employees there, it seems to be working quite well, reducing the commuting time from 25 minutes to 7 minutes, in some cases . However, whether it can scale up to a city such as NYC, for example, is questionable.

This reminds me of how I try to motivate students -- usually through carrots,  rather than sticks, although sometimes, albeit,  infrequently, the latter may have to be implemented but gently. Peer pressure also works well when it comes to motivating others towards hard work and success.

Given the technology for  Prabhakar's system, called Capri, Congestion and Parking Relief Incentives, which combines computer networks, smartphones, and travel behavior with economics, we are seeing another excellent example of supernetworks in action.  As for the acronym of his system, Capri, I was flooded by some remarkable memories of a computational economics conference that I spoke at a few years ago on that magical island of Capri, which entailed taking a taxi from Naples through a tunnel and then a hydrofoil, followed by a bus winding up and around the cliffs to the top, where the conference hotel was located, appropriately named, Annacapri.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sweden Lets its Citizens Speak Through Twitter @Sweden

Sweden has a new program which lets a nominated (no self-nominations allowed) citizen of the country speak for Sweden on its Twitter account @Sweden for a full week.

Since I am now living in Sweden and working as a Visiting Professor at the University of Gothenburg, I think that this is another great Swedish experiment.

Interestingly, it was The New York Times that featured an article on this, if I may say, social experiment, in this wonderful and very progressive country.

But, as the article stated, be careful about your spelling and do not confuse "finish" with "Finnish."

I am very much enjoying living again in Europe during another major set of soccer games. It's not the World Cup, the last one taking place in 2010, which I recall fondly since we were at the ALIO-INFORMS Conference in Buenos Aires during part of it. 

It is now time for the Euro Cup and, since I am of Ukrainian heritage and Ukrainian is my first language, the soccer game tonight between Sweden and Ukraine in Euro 2012 with both flags being yellow and blue will be one that we will be avidly watching (probably from one of the many venues that will be showing the game in downtown Gothenburg). It is very exciting that the 2012 Euro Cup is taking place in Poland and in Ukraine. I have academic colleagues that will be going to many of the soccer matches in Ukraine.

I wonder whether this week´s Swedish citizen will be tweeting about the soccer game tonight.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Academic Humor -- Swedish Style

I have been blogging from Sweden since arriving in Gothenburg in June where I am now a Visiting Professor.

I very much enjoy my Swedish colleagues at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg and am being spoiled with the cafe latte and cappuccino maker in our general office area, along with the weekly arrivals of big fruit baskets as well as afternoon cake treats.

Of course, given all these luxuries, sometimes the sink here gets filled up with dirty dishes.

A few days ago the sign in the photo above got posted over the sink. My colleague in Finance, Professor Stefan Sjogren, is featured in the sign.

Since I am not a speaker of Swedish I think that the translation to English perhaps was meant for me or one of the other Visiting Professors?!

Every time I see the sign with a photo of my colleague, though, I can't help but smile.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Photos of High School Celebrations in Sweden

When students graduate from high school in Sweden they don sailor caps and often are driven around the town/city in trucks decorated with flowers and greenery and with music blaring.

Now is the high school graduation season in Sweden.

The photos above were taken in Gothenburg, Sweden over the past couple of days, where I am spending a few weeks as a Visiting Professor at the University of Gothenburg.

One can't help but be drawn into the festive atmosphere.

Very Much Looking Forward to Giving Commencement Speech in Sweden

You may have heard of the brouhaha regarding the commencement speeches given recently by the journalist, Fareed Zakaria, at Duke University and at Harvard University, that were essentially the same, and two weeks apart. Those at Duke are saying that at least they got to hear it first.

Supposedly, the speech was also not much different from his commencement/graduation speeches given at other universities over the past few years, including one at my alma mater, Brown University, from which I have 4 degrees, including my PhD.

The Boston Globe has a report on this.

Coincidentally, I will be giving a commencement speech at the Master's graduation ceremonies at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden this coming Thursday.

Given the honor of giving such a speech, one should be original, out of respect to the audience and to those who have invited you. This is not like giving a keynote speech at international academic conferences in which your latest (and also most interesting and important research) is welcomed so there may be some overlap. Personally, if I am giving multiple invited academic talks, I like to prepare different presentations because then I get more excited in delivering them.

I have worked many days on my commencement/graduation speech and have the text prepared. It will be original and, clearly, given the new venue and the  international audience, it will not be the same as the commencement speech that I gave to the Isenberg School of Management graduates a few years back.

It is expected that there will be about 450 in the audience from the graduates to special guests and dignitaries as well as friends and family members of the graduates.

I have been asked to be inspirational and I hope that I will be.

The event is preceded by a lunch and followed by strawberries and champagne.

I will be wearing my Brown University cap and gown (actually, my husband's since one size, more or less, fits all).

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Software Codes, Medical Devices and Cybersecurity or Lack Thereof

Cybersecurity is certainly getting a lot of attention in the media lately, and justifiable so.

At UMass Amherst there have been several initiatives in this area, given interests on, may I say, both sides of our campus (from the Isenberg School of Management located in the southern part of campus to Computer Science and Engineering in the north). I suspect that the campus layout designers thought that we would not collaborate but actually some of the most interesting projects (at least the ones that I continue to be drawn to) are across these schools.

Yesterday, after a morning of working in my office at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg, where I am now a Visiting Professor, on what was actually a national holiday in Sweden (and, yet,  several of my colleagues also showed up to work), I picked up the latest issue of The Economist, which included one of my favorite segments -- the technology quarterly.

The article, "When code can kill or cure,"  immediately grabbed my attention and, in the third paragraph, my colleague, Dr. Kevin Fu of the Computer Science Department at UMass was quoted. The article also ended with a quote from Kevin, justifiable so, given the fascinating research that he has been doing in identifying how easy it is to hack into many medical devices.

In fact, Kevin, spoke in our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speakers Series in 2008, the same year that an article that he co-wrote on the topic was published. 

In the article in The Economist, some fascinating facts are highlighted:

1. More than half of the medical devices sold in the US (the world's largest health care market) rely on software.

2. Over 80,000 lines of software code may be needed in a pacemaker.

3. A drug infusion pump may have 170,000 lines of code.

3. An MRI scanner may have more than 7 million lines of code.

I have worked on major projects in industry that have also involved security, but of another kind -- I developed assembly language software for the transiting of submarines. I have written about the importance of coding in the curriculum on this blog.

In medical devices, there are now serious issues of both software correctness and remote accessibility and hacking. Kevin calculates that medical device recalls due to software failures have affected over 15 million individual devices since 2002.  His famous 2008 paper, in turn, demonstrated (and he spoke about this very issue in the presentation that he gave in our Speaker Series), how an implantable defibrillator could be reprogrammed wirelessly and remotely. As he noted in the closing paragraph in The Economist article -- "When a plane falls out of the sky, people notice," "But when one or two people are hurt by a medical device, or even if hundreds are hurt in different parts of the country, nobody notices."

There is a call for a government agency, under the recommendation of the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) , to have the responsibility for approving and tracking cybersecurity in medical devices. There is also a push from the academic sphere for open source software for such medical applications so that errors can be tracked (but there are then challenges to the regulation).

The more technology advances, the more we need to deal with complexity and vulnerabilities. But now the hardware, that is powered by software, may be residing in our bodies or in our loved ones.

Monday, June 4, 2012

What if Your PhD Advisor for Your Second PhD Was Also Your PhD Student

Life in academia is never dull and the surprises continue.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to be on the doctoral dissertation committee of a student at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Sweden. For logistical reasons -- the defense was to take place on June 1 in Stockholm and since my apartment in Gothenburg was not yet confirmed I declined (although I very much wanted to be on this committee).

In the meantime, my wonderful hosts at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg found me a wonderful apartment in which I will be staying for the month of June.

The "student" who was defending his doctoral dissertation, and, I might add, successfully passed it, was PO Lindberg, who already has a PhD, which he received in 1975.  PO even achieved  the rank of Full Professor. He is well-known in operations research and mathematical programming circles and has been a friend since I received my PhD.

Those of you who are reading this post closely, must now be impressed that someone, who already has a PhD, got a second PhD and 37 years after his first! His second PhD is in Transportation Science.

However, that is not the full story.

PO´s former doctoral student, Lars-Goran Mattsson, was his dissertation advisor for his second PhD!

As PO stated in the acknowledgments in his dissertation, what will this do to his mathematics genealogy tree!

In academic genealogy and the academic family tree,  the son (Lars-Goran Mattsson) of his father (PO Lindberg) is now his father´s father.

Repairing Roads -- Why Can't the US be More Like Sweden?

I read the excellent OpEd piece by Robert Frank of Cornell University that was published in The New York Times on how the repair of roads in the United States might end other types of gridlock (political, let us hope, and also economic by putting people to work).

I arrived in Gothenburg, Sweden, this past Thursday. This is my second extended stay in this lovely city, which is the second largest in Sweden.

As is appropriate, I am a Visiting Professor of Operations Management at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg and am seated in my office surrounded by my Transport & Logistics colleagues and my Finance colleagues (similar to my situation back at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst).

I continue to be impressed about the wonderful transport, including road infrastructure, in this city (and wherever I have traveled in Sweden before the contrast with the US has stunned me).

There is a lot of activity here now in parts of the city in repairing the sidewalks and the roads. The workers in their uniforms have even been planting flowers down the major avenue.

No wonder there are so many people of all ages promenading around the city as well as in the lovely parks and cafes.

In addition, the traffic flows well and I continue to be impressed by the multiple modes of transport that are available here -- from the trams and busses to the ferries and even bicycles, which one can borrow at various locations.

There are also bicycle lanes and pedestrian lanes.

Thanks to Robert Frank for again emphasizing what we have been writing about from our Fragile Networks book to various other writings, including an invited commentary for Resources for the Future.

When will the US get some of its pride back? Without repairing and investing in our networks, we cannot move the economy forward. Physical goods and services cannot be delivered digitally.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Sunday Morning in Sweden Working on Operations Research and Network Economics

I am sitting in my office at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden working on a supply chain problem that integrates network economics and operations research.

Wandering into my building here,  I spoke with several students who were eager to get their grades and several others who are finishing their projects. As I gaze outside my window at the beautiful Swedish sky and the trees blowing in the wind, I can't help but be inspired.

I have a big cup of cappuccino in hand, that I got from the machine around the corner from my office just by pressing a button (couldn't  we all use one of those back in the US).

Once I formulate the network model I will reward myself with a walk in the beautiful huge park only a few blocks from the School of Business, Economics and Law and will then head to the art museum which has a special Munch exhibit.

I very much enjoy being back in an urban environment (but one in which greenery and flowers permeate) and where one can walk to so many interesting locations, shops, and parks and, if one needs transportation, then one can just hop on one of the trams or busses that snake through the beautiful city of Gothenburg.

How can I not feel at home here -- last evening I went to a restaurant that I had enjoyed when I was in Gothenburg for two weeks back in March and the waitress even remembered my order. I guess I had left an impression.

Plus, even the clerks at the international press store and the 711 that has the most delicious coffee and croissants remember me as well.

Thanks to the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg for giving me this incredible opportunity. Every day here is very special and the beauty and functionality of the built and natural environment in Sweden should be replicated in the US (at least in my dreams).

Friday, June 1, 2012

Back in Beautiful Sweden

It is wonderful to be back in Gothenburg, Sweden.
The flight on Delta-KLM from Boston Logan to Schiphol Amsterdam was one of the smoothest I have ever been on. The pilot deserved a standing ovation (but we were still buckled in with out seatbelts)  for the softest landing that I have ever experienced. I had no seatmates on this flight leg since the plane was half empty (and the dinner was great as well).
On the flight leg from Amsterdam to Gothenburg, I was seated next to a lovely lady who was going back to visit her brothers. She is Swedish but is now a US citizen and works as a potter on an island off the coast of Maine. Her husband had gone to Yale and to Cranbrook for  high school  (Mitt Romney´s alma mater). We spoke about the education system in the US, social issues, life on on island in Maine, and had a wonderful time. She had also been on my flight from Boston.
Gothenburg is in the midst of high school celebrations with trucks, festooned with banners and greenery, carrying the cheering and dancing graduates, who are dressed in sailor caps, and with rock music blaring.
The city is in bloom with lilacs and rhododendrums and, although it is a bit chilly, it is wonderful to be back.
Today, I was treated to a delicious lunch as part of the Visiting Professor Program at the School of Business, Economics and Law. It is great to see colleagues and students that I met way back in March and to meet new ones.
I am looking forward to a very exciting month in the beautiful country that is Sweden.