Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bravo - Real World Problem-Solving with Design and Empathy at Stanford University and UMass Amherst

Perhaps you read the article in yesterday's New York Times, which was quite appropriate for this special season and as we get ready to bring in the New 2014 Year. The article was entitled:   "Solving Problems for Real World, Using Design." However, you may have missed the article, also published yesterday, in the Daily Hampshire Gazette (DHG), on "UMass Engineering Team Designs Mechanical Arm to Help Northampton Kindergartener Feed Himself." The DHG is our award-winning local paper in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts.

The Times article by Nicole Perlroth talked about Stanford University's program at its design school known as the D.school, for short, with projects starting at a similar point and focusing on how to ease people's lives. According to one of the design school's founders, David Kelley, at the heart of the school's courses is the development of an "empathy muscle" with students being taught to look beyond computers and spreadsheets to focus on people. One of the successes of this program (others are highlighted in the article) is the product Embrace, which is a pouch  that assists newborns from developing hypothermia. Its inventors attribute it to helping to prevent 22,000 infant deaths. It is also low-cost. More info on this product developed through the D.school's very popular Design for Extreme Affordability course can be found here.

As for the other side of the U.S., here at UMass Amherst, a group of engineering students, working with a nursing student, gave Ryan Wade, a five year old,  his best Christmas present -- a mechanical arm that they designed and then built a test model of and had a final version produced.  According to the DHG,  “I like it and I love it, “ Ryan said the other day after he polished off a plate of grapes, pretzels and orange slices at his home on Union Street, using the device strapped onto his right forearm. “It’s awesome for me. Really, really awesome.” He can now feed himself. Ryan was born with a condition called multiple synostoses syndrome, a genetic abnormality that caused bones in his fingers, elbows, feet and ears to fuse, affecting the movement of his joints. The condition affects his gait and other functions, but the most serious problem for him is that he can’t bend his arms at his elbows, meaning he can’t bring his hands to his face. So, until now, he couldn’t feed himself without using an 18-inch-long extension for his fork or spoon, couldn’t wipe his mouth, blow his nose or brush his teeth.

 Ryan Wade with his mechanical arm    Photo courtesy of the DHG

The UMass Amherst engineering students designed the mechanical arm for Ryan (there were no medical options remaining for him and his mother is a nurse)  as part of a senior design capstone course with support from a nursing student and  under the tutelage of Professor Frank Sup and also Professor Sundar Krishnamurty, who is a neighbor of mine.

And, yes, they used computer models and even a 3-D printer. The printer laid plastic layer upon plastic layer to build the product. The 3-D printer that UMass has on campus made the first version in about a day. For the final product, according to the DHG, made of sturdier plastic than the UMass printer can make, the students sent their design off to an outside printer.

When 5 year old Ryan came to UMass Amherst to an engineering  conference room where the student inventors and faculty had gathered and he was offered Cheezits -- he reached and grabbed them with his new mechanical arm and the inventors screamed with joy. Of course, the professors were also ecstatic and, according to  Professor Sup “This is one of the reasons you teach a course like this,” “not only to have students identify how to use engineering skills but to really see how they can have an impact on an individual in the community.”

This is not the only invention to come out of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at UMass Amherst. A while back, a therapeutic vest that can help children with autism, ADHD, and anxiety  was also invented by Brian Mullen with advice provided by his professors.

I might add that these products are designed and built and are of great benefit to individuals, families,  and society at-large. Their creation also brings satisfaction to the creators and, as we say in Operations Research (O.R.), Doing Good with Good O.R. is very rewarding personally. Plus, I would add that, in developing math models, computer algorithms, and software we also provide design solutions for supply chains that integrate sustainability and/or corporate social responsibility to humanitarian ones to other important systems in our world today.

By focusing on people we can make the world a better place in 2014.

Congrats to the terrific students and faculty at universities who solve problems in the real world!

Happy New 2014 Year!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Operations Research in Disruption Management May Have Helped UPS and FedEx with Timely Deliveries for Christmas

Many of us have enjoyed celebrating the special holidays this time of the year and  are recovering from all the wonderful and, yet, frenetic activities surrounding the shopping, decorating, cooking, visiting, and partying!

Not so for those who work for our logistics companies such as UPS and FedEx whose trucks you may have seen driving through your neighborhoods many times and even late in the evening this past week to deliver packages for Christmas, which was yesterday.

You may have also caught the news of the package shipment delays this season and were anxiously awaiting the package that you ordered for a relative, neighbor, or friend, which still has not arrived.

Timely deliveries are extremely important, especially when there is a big day such as Christmas. In fact, time is a strategic advantage, as important as cost and even quality, which we have argued in our paper:
A Supply Chain Network Game Theoretic Framework for Time-Based Competition with Transportation Costs and Product Differentiation,
Anna Nagurney and Min Yu, to appear in Optimization in Science and Engineering - In Honor of the 60th Birthday of Panos M. Pardalos, edited by S. Butenko, C. A. Floudas, and Th. M. Rassias, Springer, New York, 2014.

UPS, in a statement, reported on CNN.com, explained that "the volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity of our network immediately preceding Christmas so some shipments were delayed." "We know how hard it is for everyone to receive their holiday packages, and we're working around the clock to resolve this issue," UPS spokeswoman Natalie Black said.

I am sure that many out there who work (and even teach)  in operations and logistics and conduct research on this great subject had an "Aha!" moment. This sounded like the maximal flow problem in operations research, which is a classical problem, but which needed to include stochastic elements associated with possible disruptions. According to Black, UPS underestimated the volume of packages and the previous severe weather in the Dallas area had already created a backlog. Then came "excess holiday volume" during a compressed time frame, since the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas was shorter than usual this year. (Also, UPS gives their employees Christmas off, which they surely need.) This issue lit up social media on the Internet around the globe.

FedEX also apologized for some delays and noted that the company handled 275 million shipments this year between Thanksgiving and ChristmasSome FedEx custimers were able to pick up their packages at local FedEx centers that were open on Christmas day.  "We're sorry that there could be delays and we're contacting affected customers who have shipments available for pickup," said Scott Fiedler, a spokesman for FedEx Corp.

Those of us who work in disaster and disruption management (and soon I will be teaching again my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare course at the Isenberg School of Management) know that there are many synergies and crossovers between corporate logistics and humanitarian logistics and some of the best practices in one space can be adapted to the other.

In a special issue of the journal Transportation Research A on Network Vulnerability in Large-Scale Transport Networks, our article:  A Bi-Criteria Indicator to Assess Supply Chain Network Performance for Critical Needs Under Capacity and Demand Disruptions,
Qiang Qiang and Anna Nagurney,  appeared in volume 46(5): (2012) pp 801-812.  In this paper, we developed a supply chain/logistics network model for critical needs in the case of disruptions. The objective is to minimize the total network costs, which are  generalized costs that may include the monetary, risk, time, and social costs.  The model assumes that disruptions may have an impact on both the network link capacities as well as on the product demands. Two different cases of disruption scenarios are considered. In the first case, we assume that the impacts of the disruptions are mild and that the demands can be met.  In the second case, the demands cannot all be satisfied. For these two cases, we propose two individual performance measures. We then construct a bi-criteria measure to assess the supply chain network performance. An algorithm is described which is applied to solve a spectrum of numerical examples in order to illustrate the new concepts.

This bi-criteria measure  considers the following factors:
  • Supply chain capacities may be affected by disruptions;
  • Demands may be affected by disruptions; and
  • Disruption scenarios are categorized into two types.
And, in order to determine whether the demands can be satisfied under a specific disruption scenario (which, of course, can include weather or another natural disaster)  we first solve the maximal flow problem, which is a classical network optimization problem in operations research.

Both UPS and FedEx perform, in general, amazing work and take advantage of advanced analytics but as this holiday season revealed there is more that can be done! As the incoming President of INFORMS, Dr. Stephen Robinson, alluded in an interview, sometimes it takes many years for research to make it into practice. I think that this needs to  change.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 Was an Amazing Year for the Virtual Center for Supernetworks at the Isenberg School

2013 was a wonderful year for the Virtual Center for Supernetworks and its Center Associates! Below I provide a few of the highlights.

First, I was notified by UMass Amherst Provost James Staros amd Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement Michael Malone that the Evaluation Committee for Centers and Institutes, after review of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks' Self-Study, has recommended that the Center be continued for another 5 years at UMass Amherst, which is fabulous! I founded this center back in 2001.

The book, "Networks Against Time: Supply Chain Anaytics for Perishable Products," co-authored by 4 Center Associates:  Anna Nagurney, Min Yu of the Pamplin School of Business at the University of Portland, Amir H. Masoumi, now of  the School of Business at Manhattan College in NYC, and Ladimer S. Nagurney of the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture (CETA) of the University of Hartford, was published by Springer Science + Business Media in 2013. The co-authors had a great year with Dr. Ladimer S. Nagurney being promoted to Full  Professor of Electrical, Computer, and Biomedical Engineering at CETA, Amir Masoumi receiving his PhD with a concentration in Management Science at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst in May 2013, and Dr. Yu completing her first full year as an Assistant Professor. Amir also received the Judith B. Liebman Award from INFORMS at the 2013 Minneapolis INFORMS Meeting for his great service to the award-winning UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, which was recognized with a magna cum laude award at the same meeting.  This is the 10th year that I am serving as the Faculty Advisor of this great student chapter.

In addition, I was one of twelve elected INFORMS Fellows in the class of 2013, an honor that I am ever so grateful for -- especially since it comes from a professional society INFORMS and colleagues that I have the utmost respect for.

Center Associate Professor Patrizia Daniele of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Catania in Italy received the great news that she has been promoted to Full Professor of Operations Research!

Center Associate Professor Jose M. Cruz of the School of Business at UConn Storrs received the School of Business Graduate Teaching Award 2013. He continues to serve as the Director of the Master's Program in Business Analytics and Project Management.

Dr. Trisha Anderson of the School of Business at Texas Wesleyan University was selected as the 2013 General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church (GBHEM) exemplary teacher for 2013.  Dr. Anderson will receive a monetary award and the honor to speak at the Fall commencement ceremony.

Dr. Tina Wakolbinger of the Vienna University of Economics and Business in Austria  received a grant from the  Austrian Science Fund for the project: Optimal Pricing Policies and Contracts of Outsourcing Humanitarian Logistics Activities. She took part in the AAAS Symposium on Dynamics of Disasters, that I organized, which took place in Boston in February 2013. She also spoke at the Isenberg School of Management that month, hosted by the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter.

Center Associate Professor Patrick Qiang of the Graduate School of Professor Studies at Penn State Malvern received a 2 year grant from the China National Science Foundation for his project: Competition, Efficiency and Coordination Mechanism of Express Service Providers of Online Shopping Supply Networks. He continues to be very active speaking at conferences and conducting research.

Center Associate Professor June Dong of the School of Business at SUNY Oswego is a Co-PI on the project:  Developing an Interactive Web-Application for Instructions Involving Networks funded by an Innovative Instruction Technology Grant (IITG) from the State University of New York (SUNY).

Center Associate Professor Ding Zhang of the School of Business at SUNY Oswego has been busy hosting two Visiting Scholars from China with whom he is working on emergency management and service management with a network focus. In addition, he was a Visiting Professor on a short term research appointment at the Nanjing University of Science and Technology in China.

Center Associate Dr. Dmytro Matsypura of the School of Business at the University of Sydney in Australia spent part of his sabbatical at the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. He presented seminars there and at conference while in the U.S.

Along with Doctoral Student Center Associates Sara Saberi and Dong "Michelle" Li, we continue to work on the NSF-funded project: Network Innovation Through Choice. We have several papers accepted for publication or in press that acknowledge support from this major NSF grant. Professor Tilman Wolf is the PI and I am a Co-PI. Other partners on this project include collaborators at the University of Kentucky, NCState, and RENCI.

Moreover, Sara Saberi has been selected as a 2014 Isenberg Scholar Award recipient.

Doctoral Student Center Associate Shivani Shukla was elected President of the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter and has been very active organizing activities.
I spent several months in 2013 as a Visiting Professor of Operations Management at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden as part of my sabbatical this year and was busy collaborating, mentoring students, doing research, lecturing, and speaking at many conferences. This year, I gave invited and plenary talks and seminars at many venues (NYC, Athens (Greece), Evanston (Illinois), Zurich (Switzerland), Vienna (Austria), Gothenburg (Sweden), College Station (Texas), Norman (Oklahoma), Montreal (Canada),  TEDx at UMass Amherst, and more). I was also a Guest Professor at Professor Wakolbinger's university of March 2013.

Center Associate Dr. Stavros Siokos continues as President of the Sciens Fund of Hedge Funds Management in London, UK. I saw Dr. Siokos in Athens, Greece in June 2013.

Center Associate Dr. Padma Ramanujam is continuing working at SAS in Cary, North Carolina and she took part at the INFORMS meeting in Minneapolis with many other Center Associates.
Center Associates collaborated on many research papers and had articles published in such journals as the European Journal of Operational Research, Annals of Operations Research, Service Science, Networks, Computational Management Science, the International Transactions in Operational Research, and many more!

Congratulations to all on their achievements!

Wishing everyone a very productive and wonderful New 2014 Year!

Please visit the Supernetwork website regularly for the latest news and information.

Please visit the various pages on the supernetworks website for many of our recent publications as well as for photos of our events and activities, newsletter, and media coverage.

Thanks for the support!  Happy New 2014 Year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Thank You to a Great Philanthropist After Whom Our Isenberg School of Management is Named

Now is the time of the year when many are solicited to give what they can to various good causes. I am sure that you have your favorite organizations that you regularly donate to and truly believe in. It may be charity organizations, your alma mater, the place where you work, among others.

This post is to thank one of our greatest benefactors and by "our" I mean the Isenberg School of Management and the benefactor -- Mr. Eugene "Gene" Isenberg, after whom our business school is named.

Gene Isenberg is a great philanthropist and I especially enjoyed the definition of philanthropy in Wikipedia: Philanthropy etymologically means "love of humanity" in the sense of caring for, nourishing, developing, and enhancing "what it is to be human" on both the benefactors' (by identifying and exercising their values in giving and volunteering) and beneficiaries' (by benefiting) parts.  As for the more modern or conventional definition:  philanthrophy is private initiatives, for public good, focusing on quality of life. 

Mr. Gene Isenberg was recognized as a philanthropist, with many other household name executives, back in 1998 in The New York Times in a feature Business Day article, which noted that:  Mr. Isenberg's prime cause is education, and the major beneficiary has been his alma mater, the University of Massachusetts. Last year, he pledged $6 million over five years, giving $2 million of that sum in 1997. Separately, he gives $90,000 annually for scholarships at the university in mathematics, engineering, computer science and business.

''It was time to give something back to education,'' Mr. Isenberg said. ''I could afford to do it, and I did it.''

And because of Mr. Isenberg, we have our beautiful atrium, high technology classrooms, and much, much  more. 

Today, we received more good news because of the benevolence of Mr. Isenberg.

One of my PhD students, Sara Saberi, who is also a Doctoral Student Center Associate at the Virtual Center of Supernetworks that I founded in 2001,  was selected to be an Isenberg Scholar Award recipient for 2014 which comes with a wonderful stipend. Sara's PhD concentration is in Management Science. She is also working with me and several collaborators on our NSF project: Network Innovation Through Choice.

In the letter to Sara from the Director of the Isenberg Program for the Integration of Management, Engineering and Science,  it was stated that: This prestigious award is a tremendous honor and its recipients reflect the highest academic standards of the university. As you may recall, this fund was created in 1994 by Mr. and Mrs. Eugene M. Isenberg to encourage students whose study and plans demonstrate a commitment to the integration of science and/or engineering with management.

I have met the Isenbergs on many occasions and we thank them for their support of education of our students! This is philanthropy at its best.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday Cookie Logistics from Baking to Delivery

It is snowing hard here in western Massachusetts and the landscape is beautiful but the temps are not. 

It is frigid outside so what could be better, after having graded final exams (appropriately for a course in Logistics & Transportation) as well as paper projects on topics as varied as Cape Cod traffic improvements to transportation in Buenos Aires to the rotary in Haiti to cement logistics, to name just a few, to do something also very creative -- bake holiday cookies!

Baking and distributing holiday cookies has been a tradition in my family for several years and we have gotten quite skilled at it. Nice that we practice what we preach is terms of efficiency, as well!

Every year it seems that we get busier and busier both professionally and personally but one keeps traditions alive for neighbors and family and finds time to do what needs to be done.

The logistics involve planning, purchasing ingredients, scheduling the baking and decorating,  doing the baking and decorating, and, of course, outsourcing the dishwashing tasks and cleanup. 

Then it is time to do the packaging, the writing of the cards, and the deliverying. Timing of delivery is very important since we want to make sure that the recipients are at home.

As an operations researcher, whether by education (or lifeskills or osmosis as is the case with some of my family members, whose assistance I rely upon in this megaproject), I am well-versed in project planning (especially in network-based techniques), scheduling, finding the best route through the supermarket, and the best routes for cookie plate deliveries.

As for this year's holiday cookie "menu," for now, we have made the following cookies:

  • rum balls with walnuts (coincidentally, one of my former undergrad Operations Management majors at the Isenberg School emailed me that he made a batch for his office party this year and they were loved -- special to have students stay in touch even after graduation),
  • pecan sandies with powdered sugar,
  • Swedish jam-filled cookies from my Administrative Assistant's recipe at the School of Business, Economics an Law in Gothenburg that I spent the major part of my sabbatical at last year (thank you, Wivvian!),
  • cherry-filled almond cookies,
  • a variety of colored wreaths and candy-cane cookies, and
  • mitten butter cookies decorated with M&M's.

To be welcomed by warm smiles as the doors open and we deliver the plates of cookies is truly in the spirit of this season.

Happy Holidays to everyone!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Photos from Another GREAT UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter Party

It has been the tradition of the award-winning UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter to host an end of the semester party every semester and we have been doing it since Fall 2003! This is an event that should not be missed and even though this week is final exams week and many of us are extremely busy there is something special about this tradition.

Today is the 12th day of the 12th month and the party was in the Isenberg School of Management Room 112 -- math lovers will appreciate this.

Students divided themselves into 3 groups, each with a driver, to do the logistics of procuring the food (both cold and hot) and today the temps were in the teens plus one student was in a car accident but we are good at disruption management.

I managed to bring Slavic food  - two types of varenyky/pierogies which were warm and kielbasa plus nut rolls and cookies and we feasted on Indian cuisine, Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, Italian (pizza), and more. There were students from many departments in the Isenberg School as well as from the College of Engineering (Industrial Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering) and even students from Polymer Science and a postdoc from Food Science!

The below photos tell it all -- great food and great cameraderie. (Some had to leave before the group photo was taken, but thanks so much for coming to support the students, including the Isenberg School PhD Director, Professor George Milne).

Congrats to the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter for another very special event and thanks for the memories! As the Faculty Advisor I could not be prouder of how these students work together and support one another.

Thanks to everyone for the support of this chapter's activities!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Building Community - Great Reindeer Seminar at the Isenberg School

Today UMass Amherst, because of the ice, did not open until noon and final exams had to be rescheduled, some of which will start at 8:45 PM tonight.

Somehow some of us still managed this morning to make it to a faculty candidate seminar over in Engineering and the presentation was worth it!

During this time of the year, we are reminded of the communities that we belong to -- from our neighborhoods to various professional societies to the places that we work at and the organizations that we support.

On November 25, I took part at TEDx UMass in its Professor Speaker Showcase and I have written several posts since then about the event and some of the speakers.

Dr. Pierre Rouzier's presentation at TEDx UMass continues to resonate with me. He is the Team Physician at UMass Amherst and has volunteered at 5 Boston Marathons, including last year's one on April 15, at which the horrific bombings took place. The New York Times recently had an article on how it may be advisable for medical professionals to go in early at points of attack and, as many ran away, Dr. Rouzier ran towards the victims of the marathon bombings.The Daily Hampshire Gazette had a moving article on Dr. Rouzier's heroism.

He stated in his TEDx talk that "UMass is his Community." And he has traveled far and wide not only with UMass sports teams that he avidly supports, treats, and heals, but also to Haiti.

Today, we had our Reindeer Seminar, which is an end of the Fall semester celebration that takes place in our lovely Isenberg School of Management atrium. We celebrated with great food and cameraderie plus the giving out of staff awards. I took the photos below, beginning, of course, with the dessert table.

A fabulous time was had by all and we received great fortification for the final exams and subsequent grading this week.Such special events bring us together and help to build communities.

For the Love of Networks

When the invitation came from Dr. Adilson Motter to speak at the 2013 Network Frontier Workshop that he was organizing at Northwestern University I was very intrigued, even though the workshop was to take place in early December. Since I live (most of the time) in Massachusetts, I have experience with cold weather but, for some reason, that cold on Lake Michigan is quite unique.

But, since I love researching networks and teaching about the subject and find it one of the most powerful of scientific topics in bridging disciplines, of course, I said "yes!"

This workshop, which was a huge success, and I am still savoring the talks and discussions as well as the people that I met, was a three-day event, that took place last week, December 4-6, highlighting leading-edge research on complex networks. According to the workshop website: Participants working on innovative aspects of complex systems will communicate recent results and ideas relevant to fields as diverse as brain, climate, and socio-technological research. Sessions will include theory and applications of nonlinear dynamics and statistical physics in the context of synchronization, cascades, transportation, control, and failure recovery in complex dynamical systems.

The program, which featured talks on applications ranging from climate science to brain physiology and envisioning the future Internet (my topic) can be downloaded here.  The list of invited speakers can be viewed here.  Invited speakers were from the US, Europe, and Asia, and one industrialist told me that he flew in from China just to hear me speak. I hope that I did not disappoint.

I loved the applications described as well as the methodologies, which included innovations in dynamical systems and control theory applied to networks.

Thanks to Dr. Motter  and his team at the Northwestern Institute for Complex Systems (NICO) for putting this great workshop together. You succeeded in bringing researchers, practitioners, and students together to Evanston in December for the love of networks!

Below are some photos that I managed to take even though, honestly, my digital camera seemed to freeze (although I had charged it before flying out to Chicago).

The lunches and refreshments were delicious!

And, today, UMass Amherst has delayed its opening until noon because of the inclement weather but since we are interviewing a candidate for a faculty position, I will be going in. This afternoon, we are having our annual Isenberg Reindeer Seminar in the Isenberg School of Management atrium, which is a holiday party but first there will be a Personnel Committee meeting to attend. Never a dull moment in academia!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Environmental Applications and Computational Management Science


The special issue of the journal Computational Management Science on Environmental Applications is now published. It is volume 10, issue 4, December 2013. Thanks to the Editors, Professors Breton and Zaccour,  for putting together this great volume. We are honored to have our latest work on supply chains, freight, and sustainability in it. 

Additional information on the full issue can be found at: http://link.springer.com/journal/10287/10/4/page/1

Michèle Breton & Georges Zaccour
Dynamic decentralization of harvesting constraints in the management of tychastic evolution of renewable resources
Jean-Pierre Aubin, Luxi Chen & Marie-Hélène Durand
A robust meta-game for climate negotiations
Frédéric Babonneau, Alain Haurie & Marc Vielle
Spatial control of invasive species in conservation landscapes
Christopher M. Baker & Michael Bode
Ecological-economic modelling for the sustainable management of biodiversity
L. Doyen, A. Cissé, S. Gourguet, L. Mouysset, P.-Y. Hardy, C. Béné, F. Blanchard, F. Jiguet, J.-C. Pereau & O. Thébaud
Computation of viability kernels: a case study of by-catch fisheries
Jacek B. Krawczyk, Alastair Pharo, Oana S. Serea & Stewart Sinclair
Supply chain network sustainability under competition and frequencies of activities from production to distribution
Anna Nagurney, Min Yu & Jonas Floden
Shallow lake economics run deep: nonlinear aspects of an economic-ecological interest conflict
Florian Wagener

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Being Thanked in a Book - A Great Compliment

I love writing books and also reading books.

Every once in a while these two are connected as in the book recently written by Dr. Christian Mullon, "Network Economics of Marine Ecosystems and their Exploitation," and published by CRC Press.

Dr. Mullon in the book's Preface writes: The origin of the idea of applying network economics to ecological problems has been the reading of Anna Nagurney's book: Network Economics, A Variational Inequality Approach. I have found there the level of abstraction, the level of complexity, the mathemtical tools I was seeking for several years to model real marine systems. I acknowledge this influence and I thank her for the collaboration we have initiated since.

Network Economics: A Variational Inequality Approach, was the first book that I ever wrote and it also appeared in a second edition.

I have read Dr. Mullon's book and will continue to go back to it many times as one always does with great books.  It demonstrates, as the first paragraph of the first chapter states, and I fully agree: This book shows how to apply the principles and tools of network economics, such as variational inequalities and complementarity problems, to study large exploited natural systems, especially the marine systems, at a global, continental or regional level. These systems are exposed to both climate change and economic globalization, a phenomenon referred to as "double exposure."

I met Dr. Mullon and his lovely wife in Paris after I spoke at the NetGCoop conference there in October 2011. We had already started our collaboration but had never before then met face to face.

The elegance of his research, which combines theoretical and computational tools with important ecological applications and data, continues to inspire me and I have written about our related work on predator prey networks, which blends economics, operations research, and ecology, as nature's supply chains.

I would like to return the thanks and compliment to Dr. Christian Mullon on his fabulous new book and congratulate him!

Monday, December 2, 2013

How to End a Course + 10,000 Letters of Recommendation

How do you end your course?

Do you write the final equation  on the board, show your last slide, and walk out?

Or do you have a tradition?

Last Monday (hard to believe it was just one week ago), at UMass Amherst,  we had the pleasure of taking part in the TEDx Professor Speaker Showcase, which I blogged about and the Isenberg School posted a nice summary of its 3 faculty who presented at it (out of the 8 presenters).

I am still digesting (not only the Thanksgiving food) but also the advice and wisdom shared last Monday at this great event (thanks to the student organizers, including Stephen, Henry, Cara, Shannon, and so any others).

With the end of the semester upon us and this being the last week of classes on many campuses, I would like to highlight what one of the speakers shared with us last week.

Dr. Brian O'Connor, a biologist, who retired only last Spring after 45 years teaching at UMass Amherst (and he told us that his last class was in the same classroom that he had interviewed in decades before so some things really do not change at UMass), told us about what he did at every last class at every course he ever taught.

Students who graduated and became very successful scientists, medical doctors, and dentists would tell him that maybe they did not remember all the material in his courses but they certainly remembered his last class and the poem that he always read to them.

The poem is Desiderata, written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann,  and I have reprinted it below, thanks to Wikipedia.
It is very appropriate, given this busy holiday season,  and any season, actually.

UMass Magazine had a marvelous article about Dr. O'Connor entitled, "Scientist, Advisor, Mentor, Friend" which highlighted his great influence. In his TEDx talk he admitted writing about 10,000 letters of recommendation for students who were applying to medical school or dental school and he still, although retired, helps his wife (5 days a week) since she works at UMass as an advisor for premed students.

Interestingly, he shared a story with us how, just about 2 weeks ago, his wife fell and broke her wrist, so off to the Emergency Room (ER) at a local hospital in western MA they went. There  they waited for 6 hours before, luckily, a doctor came out and saw Dr. O'Connor and immediately recognized his former professor. Mrs. O'Connor was then treated. I wrote about my own experiences in the ER there a while back.    As he told us, if you are breathing and not having a heart attack get ready to wait.

Another favorite story, as retold in the UMass Magazine article, is:  "A few years ago, W. Brian O’Connor’s father was admitted to a hospital in the family’s native Brattleboro. As he rushed to his father’s bedside, O’Connor caught sight of four familiar faces—those of two nurses and two physicians—and knew his father was in good hands and would make a full recovery."

What an amazing impact a single professor, named Dr. Brian O'Connor, has made and continues to make through the thousands that he has guided into the medical professions!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Optimal Number of Scientific Journal Article Co-Authors

As an Associate Editor of over a dozen journals, I have seen an increase in the number of submitted articles with multiple authors.

In a recent issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, an article by Paul Voosen had the following interesting table from Thomson Reuters Web of Science:
I enjoyed seeing that Economics & business were included in the list of scientific fields especially since my areas of research include Management Science & Operations Research and, on many days, Network Economics.

In the past 30 years, as the above table reveals,  there has been a precipitous drop in the number of single-authored papers. In Computer Science, for example, only 9% of the 2012 scientific articles were single-authored, whereas, in Mathematics, the percentage of single-authored papers in 2012 was 31% with the Social Sciences having the highest percentage of 38%.

A paper by Ding, Levin, Stephan, and Winkler, published recently in Management Science, had some fascinating facts: A number of studies have identified a significant increase in the number of coauthored papers by individuals at different academic institutions and in  different countries, as well as in the number of coauthors per paper. An analysis of approximately 13 million published papers in science and engineering from 1955 to 2000, for example, found an increase in team size in all but one of the 172 subfields studied, and average team size was found to have nearly doubled, going from 1.9 to 3.5 authors per paper (Wuchty et al. 2007). Adams et al. (2005) found similar results for the top-110 research universities in the United States, reporting that the average number of authors per paper in the sciences grew by 53.4%, rising from 2.77 to 4.24 over the period 1981–1999.

Growth in the number of authors on a paper is due not only to a rise in collaboration within a
university—and an increase in lab size—but more importantly to an increase in the number of institutions collaborating on a research project. A study of 662 U.S. institutions that had received National Science Foundation (NSF) funding one or more times found that collaboration across these institutions in science and engineering, which was rare in 1975, grew in each and every year between 1975 and 2005, reaching approximately 40% by 2005 (Jones et al. 2008). Collaboration has increased internationally as well. The Levin et al. (2009) study of authorship patterns across a wide array of four-year colleges and universities in the United States found that the percentage of papers with one or more international authors went from 6.6% in 1991 to 19.2% in 2007.

I recall my dissertation advisor at Brown University, Professor Stella Dafermos. Her many papers published mostly in the 1970s and 1980s were mainly single-authored except for earlier ones with her dissertation advisor and several with her doctoral students. I recall also being told that it was important to have single-authored papers before promotion to Associate Professor and tenure. Luckily, I achieved both at UMass Amherst just 4 years after getting my PhD at Brown.

These days, interestingly, several of my former doctoral students were urged (and are being urged) to have one or more single-authored papers before they come up for promotion and tenure whereas I know of folks who are up for tenure that have never published a single-authored paper (all these cases I am mentioning have PhDs in the Management Science/Operations Research/Industrial Engineering/Operations Management areas and are in business schools).  Some are also told that papers with their advisor do not count "as much." Of course, there is also the pressure to publish in "premier" and "A" list journals.

I continue to write single-authored papers but very much enjoy collaborations and working also with doctoral students (present and former) as well as with other colleagues across the globe.

And these days, with a very tight deadline -- of tomorrow -- we are trying to finish a paper with 7 co-authors (based on our NSF project).

Thanks to Marc Abrahams in his,  Scientists Find Safety in Numbers,  for noting that:  "If there were a prize for the largest number of co-authors, it would have gone to the 2,512 people credited with writing "Precision Electroweak Measurements on the Z Resonance," which appeared in the journal Physics Reports in 2006." He also reminds us that: "at least one prize has been awarded for the highest number of co-authors. In 2003, the Ig Nobel prize for literature went to the approximately 976 co-authors of a medical study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. That paper also had the distinction of having 100 times as many authors as pages."

The "optimal" number of co-authors will depend, hence, on the project/problem and very much on the field and subfield. Coauthors may provide expertise, proper instruments,  act as sounding boards and assist in the data analysis, etc.

Also, the "optimal" number of co-authors may depend on what stage one is in one's career and the expectations of your environment.

Clearly, the data show that single authorship of scientific articles has decreased dramatically. Let's, nevetheless,  hope that we are still educating students who "can stand on their own feet," if need be.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Speaking on Future Internet Architecture at Network Frontier Workshop at Northwestern

First, I hope that all those celebrating had a very pleasant Thanksgiving and for all those who still have journeys ahead of you, I wish you safe and comfortable travels!

Next week, I will be speaking at the Network Frontier Workshop at Northwestern University. This should be a fascinating event and has been organized by Dr. Adilson E. Motter.

The workshop will bring scientists from different disciplines together who are passionate about networks and are contributing to their study and understanding in numerous ways.

The full list of invited speakers can be seen here.

The full program with all speakers' talk titles is available in pdf format here.

After the great TEDx UMass Amherst Professor Speaker Showcase event last Monday at which I spoke on The Traffic Circle of Life I started to prepare my presentation for Northwestern.

I will be speaking next Thursday on "Envisioning a Future Internet Architecture: The Network Economics of ChoiceNet." My presentation is based on our NSF multi-university project: Network Innovation Through Choice. Our great team already has several papers published or in press -- some of which are highlighted below:

A Network Economic Game Theory Model of a Service-Oriented Internet with Choices and Quality Competition, Anna Nagurney, Dong Li, Tilman Wolf, and Sara Saberi, Netnomics 14(1-2): (2013) pp 1-25.

ChoiceNet: Network Innovation Through Choice, George N. Rouskas, Ilia Baldine, Ken Calvert, Rudra Dutta, James Griffioen, Anna Nagurney, and Tilman Wolf, invited paper for the 17th Conference on Optical Network Design and Modeling (ONDM 2013).

Choice as a Principle in Network Architecture, Tilman Wolf, Jim Griffioen, Ken Calvert, Rudra Dutta, George Rouskas, Ilia Baldine, and Anna Nagurney, in the Proceedings of ACM SIGCOMM 2012, Helsinki, Finland, August 13-17, 2012.

I will be focusing my presentation on one of our most recent papers: A Cournot-Nash–Bertrand Game Theory Model of a Service-Oriented Internet with Price and Quality Competition Among Network Transport Providers, Anna Nagurney and Tilman Wolf, in press in Computational Management Science.

I am very much looking forward to being back at Northwestern!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and Marching Band Logistics

Many are traveling these days to reach their destinations to celebrate Thanksgiving Day tomorrow with family members and friends.The weather has not been auspicious, which, according to CNN, threatens holiday travel. I am reminded of one of my favorite "transportation" movies starring Steve Martin, Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

But this is a celebratory post about Thanksgiving and about some of the logistics behind an event that has been occurring since 1924  -- the Thanksgiving Day Macy's parade in NYC. The parade is televised on Thursday morning, and is over around noon. Many families that are not taking part in it or spectating may be watching it on TV as the turkey and other delicacies are being prepared and cooked! We always try to catch about an hour of the parade especially the last hour.

This year the parade is extra special since the UMass Amherst Minuteman Marching Band  will be one of only two college bands selected to march in the Macy's parade. The other one is James Madison University's band. Our band is known as The Power and Class of New England and was led for thirty years by George Parks.

Our local paper had a full page announcement, compliments of Macy's, which I posted on my Isenberg School office door:

For those of you who may have missed the news, UMass is celebrating its sesquicentennial, that is, its 150th birthday! And this special year may be why, as noted by our wonderful alum  and MA State Senator, Stan Rosenberg, we got selected. (He did put in a plug for the band.) And our Chancellor has noted in a statement that participating in this annual tradition will be a highlight of the university’s 150th anniversary. “Being selected for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a high recognition of our band’s reputation for excellence and excitement,” Subbaswamy said.

UMass Amherst issued a nice release on its selection and when you are all cozily tucked in tonight the band will be up with a schedule that will certainly be challenging (but it is all about logistics). As the article in our local paper reports:  The 2½-mile march on the streets that takes about 60 to 90 minutes, is much longer than a 15-minute football halftime show.

The members expect to wake up by 3 a.m., be at Macy’s by 4 a.m. for a run through and final rehearsal, then take buses to the top of the route and be there by 7:45 a.m.

During the parade, the marching band will have to play constantly, with a cycle of four songs including “Fight UMass,” “God Bless America,” “Roll Down the Field” and “Sweet Caroline.” Ramsay said this will be a tribute to the Boston Red Sox.

The marching band ends its day with the featured number at the Macy's star. It is scheduled to be there at 11:24AM on Thanksgiving!

Rain, snow, or shine, the show and parade will go on (but perhaps if the wind gets bad there will be no huge balloon floats).


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Photos from the Fabulous Professor Speaker Showcase at TEDx UMass Amherst

First, THANK YOU to the students who organized last night's TEDx UMass Amherst event: Professor Speaker Showcase! Thanks also to all the students who came and energized the speakers with their enthusiasm, applause, and presence during a cold November night just before Thanksgiving.
My wonderful doctoral students were behind the photos taken and posted below at the TEDx event. I am sure that more will be posted on other sites. The inspiration gained and words of wisdom exchanged I know will support many of us.
The full list of speakers and their presentation titles can be found below.
6:00 - Doors open
6:15 - Cynthia Barstow on "Nurture Your Nature"
6:30 - Peter Skott on "Power, Luck, and Ideology"
6:45 - Anna Nagurney on "The Traffic Circle of Life"
7:00 - Ryan Wright on "Mindfullness Use of Tech"
7:15 - Musical Intermission
7:25 - Shaheen Pasha on "What's Your Story?"

7:40 - Brian O'Connor on "Desiderata"
7:50 - Pierre Rouzier on "Community Involvement"
8:05 - Susan Whitbourne on "Achieve Your Goals by Tweaking Your Mindset"
8:20 - Snacks, Questions, and Networking.

(The order did get changed from the original program with Professor Whitbourne being moved up and Dr. Rouzier being the grand finale!)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Operations & Information Management + Isenberg School will be Well-Represented at TEDx UMass Amherst

Tomorrow is the TEDx UMass Amherst event: Professor Speaker Showcase, which will take place in the Flavin Auditorium at the Isenberg School of Management from 6-8PM.

The organizers -- a group of visionary students at UMass Amherst -- are doing all the logistics, publicity,   and event management for this event. Plus, several of the TEDx team members  have interviewed the faculty involved multiple times!

The students have created a nice Facebook page and, in dramatic fashion, have been announcing one speaker per day, beginning a week ago, with the full list available tomorrow.

There are 8 speakers -- 4 males and 4 females, which is great.

Students submitted nominations of the professors they want to hear speak outside of the classroom setting, so this makes the event extra special.

There will be two faculty from my Operations & Information Management department, Dr. Ryan Wright and I, and one from the Marketing department, Cynthia Barstow.

This makes 3 faculty out of 8 from the Isenberg School of Management!

The others who are officially identified (I also know #8 but will keep the name  a secret until the announcement): Dr. Susan Whitboune of Psychology, Dr. Brian O'Connor of Biology, Dr. Shaheen Pasha of Journalism, and Professor Peter Skott of Economics,.

I put some finishing touches on my presentation today and am very much looking forward to speaking tomorrow evening.

I have heard that there will even be a red carpet and a musical ensemble from the Berklee College of Music in Boston!

According to the TED website: Created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading,” the TEDx program is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level. TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis

AND this just in, thanks to Stephen Chan, and hot off the press: the full roster and titles: 

Here are some details for tomorrow's event:

6:00 - Doors open
6:15 - Cynthia Barstow on "Nurture Your Nature"
6:30 - Peter Skott on "Power, Luck, and Ideology"
6:45 - Anna Nagurney on "The Traffic Circle of Life"
7:00 - Ryan Wright on "Mindfullness Use of Tech"
7:15 - Musical Intermission
7:25 - Shaheen Pasha on "What's Your Story?"

7:40 - Brian O'Connor on "Desiderata"
7:50 - Pierre Rouzier on "Community Involvement"
8:05 - Susan Whitbourne on "Achieve Your Goals by Tweaking Your Mindset"
8:20 - Snacks, Questions, and Networking.

The Value of Q&A Sessions with Top Operations Researchers from Industry

Last Friday, we had the pleasure and honor of hosting Dr. Mary E. Helander of IBM Yorktown Heights at the Isenberg School of Management through our UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter. I help the students to organize chapter activities and since Dr. Helander wanted to visit us, we decided to do something a bit different. The event was so successful that one of the students present said afterwards: "Professor Nagurney we have to have more of these Q&A sessions!"
Amazingly, it was almost entirely a female audience!

Dr. Helander told the students that they could ask her ANY question.

First, some background on Dr. Helander. She is on the program committee of the INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research that will take place in Boston next spring. She is a Master Inventor and Research Scientist and is currently the IBM Research Division leader for Consumer Products. Presently, she is the technical lead for two interdisciplinary research projects involving food safety and traceability.  Not only does she hold a PhD in Operations Research but she is also a Docent in Quality and Software Engineering from Linkoping University in Sweden. At lunch she and I talked about living in Sweden and she told me some mesmerizing stories about her surname -- I'll let you do the research -- another movie should be made.

Plus, Mary was part of one of the 2013 Edelman Award finalists:

McKesson: A Holistic Supply Chain Management Solution

Presented by:
Don Walker, McKesson; Kaan Katircioglu, IBM Research; Bob Gooby, McKesson
McKesson Corporation: Robert Gooby, Nathan Mott, David Wagnon, Graeme Case, Matt Johnson
IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center: Kaan Katircioglu, Pawan Chowdhary, Youssef Drissi, Mary Helander, Karthik Sourirajan, Lin Li, Karthik Subbian
IBM Global Business Services: James Kalina, Howard Smith
IBM Japan: Takashi Yonezawa.

The Edelman Award is like an Academy Award for analytics and operations research, so although her team did not win to be a finalist is a huge achievement!

From Mary we learned a lot about IBM, and about her research and contributions there. We learned about functional foods and microtoxins and my favorite takeaway and quote from the Q&A session.

Mary said: People that you work with will bring you joy.

Frankly, I think that it is Dr. Mary Helander who is making such a positive impact on all those around her and beyond through her great operations research contributions and dynamic personality, which the students really appreciated!

Thank you so much, Dr. Mary Helander, for coming to the Isenberg School at UMass Amherst!

You are an operations research rockstar!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What an Amazing Week - It's All About Our Students!

Anyone who thinks that professors have a life of routine and their weeks are just punctuated by the classes that they teach are completely wrong.

If you like a predictable routine each day then being an academic is certainly not for you.

On the other hand, those of you who crave novelty, excitement, interactions with fascinating people, the exchange of new ideas as well as dynamism and being surrounded by energy and activity, then being an educator and a college professor is a dream job.

What makes being a college professor so special is the students and all that we do is really for the students!

This week is one of those weeks that highlights the span of activities that a fculty member is engaged in so let me tell you what we have been up to.

On Monday, I was videotaped by a UMass Amherst undergrad who is a member of the Isenberg School of Management Marketing Club for an Isenberg Youtube series that the club started on Meet the Professors. The students are editing my interview and it will be posted soon. I got to hear about the student's major and we reminisced about New Jersey, where he is from. The extracurricular activities that our students are engaged in are diverse and they acquire numerous skills through them.

Then,  after meetings with advisees and doctoral students, it was time to march across campus for a search committee meeting. I am serving, with my great colleagues in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, on a faculty search for an Assistant Professor in Systems Engineering. We went over the piles of applications and reached a consensus as to the top candidates, which was gratifying. There are fabulous PhD students out there. We will be very busy with their visits and interviews in the coming weeks. And if you want to see how in demand systems engineering expertise is just read about UTC's gift of $10 million to UConn to create an institute with faculty positions.

On Tuesday, I taught my OIM413 Logistics and Transportation class, which I love teaching and will soon be teaching a class today, as well. The students are now identifying the topics that they will be doing their project papers on. These will be individual projects, rather than team projects, due to the late Thanksgiving this year and only one week of classes afterwards. I worked on a rubric (never had one of these in my Brown University days) to help them with their papers. Then, after more meetings it was time for our "weekly" National Science Foundation (NSF) project teleconference. Our project: Network Innovation Through Choice is one of 5 Future Internet Architecture projects selected by NSF. Our project team, consisting of  Professor Tilman Wolf of the College of Engineering, me, and our doctoral students, with Professors Ken Calvert and Jim Griffoen of the U. of Kentucky, Professors Rudra Dutta and Georre Rouskas of NCState, and Dr. Ilia Baldine of the Renaissance Institute at UNC, and their students, is working on a new Internet. We discussed the recent Principal Investigators Meeting that took place in San Diego and you can view the presentations (ours was given by Dr. Dutta)  here.

Then it was time to complete my talk for the TEDx UMassAmherst Professor Speaker Showcase, which takes place next Monday, November 25, in ISOM's Flavin Room. Students had nominated me for this special event and I am so honored and excited to be part of it. On Tuesday, some students had made an elaborate colorful announcement in chalk in my classroom, which was such a surprise -- I was redder than the bright red jacket I wore that day!

On Wednesday, I received a wonderful message from the Founding Editor of the Goteborg Daily, which is an English language newspaper published in Sweden's second largest city, sometimes also spelled and pronounced as "Gothenburg." My interview was published with photos and it brought back so many memories. Many nice messages followed from colleagues and students in Sweden, Austria, and the U.S. (and even from a few thoughtful top administrators) who had seen the article -- Thanks for the support!

My TEDx talk "completed," I met with several of the organizers of this event -- the students are so creative and their attention to detail is impressive -- there will be a red carpet, a spotlight, and even music provided by a group from the Berklee College of Music in Boston! We went through my talk and discussed the background, etc. Plus, I was videotaped also for this event. As one of my doctoral students said, "You always have to look fresh, Professor!"

Then it was time to discuss another pending project with fellow faculty and when I arrived home, after also meeting with a student about her doctoral dissertation proposal, I found in my mailbox a new book that I will be blogging about -- will keep you in suspense as the TEDx folks are doing in announcing one professor speaker each day before next Monday's gala event!

Plus, I heard wonderful news from a student in Vienna, Austria, who had taken my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare intensive short course that I taught at the Vienna University of Economics and Business last March (while on sabbatical in Europe).  He had been accepted into its doctoral program to work under my former doctoral student, Tina Wakolbinger, who is now a Full Professor there -- I had written him a letter of recommendation -- so happy about this great outcome!

Today, Thursday, after teaching my class, I will be getting ready for two big events tomorrow. I am serving as a co-supervisor of a doctoral dissertation at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg, and, tomorrow, Friday, the student, Niklas Arvidsson, will be defending his dissertation. I will be Skying in early in the morning for the defense. I have been very much enjoying reading his dissertation and attended his Kappa when I was in Gothenburg. The dissertation includes 5 papers that he has published on the overall theme of sustainable freight, which I am very interested in.

After Niklas' defense I will be off to support the students of the award-winning UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, since we are hosting Master Inventor Dr. Mary Helander of IBM with a reception at 10:30AM in the Isenberg School followed by a one hour Q&A. Then Mary and I will go out to lunch. She has a PhD from Sweden so her visit will be quite special for all of us!