Monday, March 28, 2016

On Military Logistics for Humanitarian Relief

On Thursday, March 24, 2016, the students in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class and I were honored to have Lt. Col. James Bishop, who is the Chief of Public Affairs at Westover Air Reserve Base, MA, come to speak. In addition, we had Matthew Durham, Director for Public Affairs of the Air Force Special Operations Command,  and Kenneth Hundemer, Director of Operations, Denton Amendment Program, Skyping in. Many thanks to our great Technical Support Specialist, Emid LaClaire, for standing by throughout the class to help out with technology issues.  Both Bishop and Durham had spent time in Afghanistan.

Lt. Col. James Bishop also wrote for the At War blog for The New York Times and you can read just one of his blogposts here.

I urge you to read more of them.

Since one of the students in the class is in the military and is pursuing an MBA from the Isenberg School of Management, this made for a very special class session, indeed. He had also served in Afghanistan.

Mr. Durham, who was a bit delayed since there was a major accident on his commute that morning, focused on the opening up by the Air Force Special Forces team of the Port-au-Prince airport in the aftermath of the Jan 12, 2010, earthquake. Some information on this important operations can be accessed on the following link.

He told us that one of the big challenges was to decide where to park all the planes, which were bringing in personnel and materiel into Haiti. A plane was landing every 2 minutes we were told. He also mentioned how the military assisted in opening up the New Orleans airport post Hurricane Katrina. He noted how many supplies were airlifted by helicopters but also mentioned that when it was considered to airlift 10,000 soccer balls to Haiti years before with Aristide's face on them,  it was ultimately decided, after a physics calculation,  that soccer balls falling out of the sky could injure civilians, so that plan was scrapped.

He also mentioned that post the Haiti earthquake, a videographer was sent out by the military since the media coverage is so omnipresent post disasters and quality coverage is important.  He mentioned that many were just 9 meals away from dying.

There are Special Operations folks in 40 countries but they can only go where they are invited.

Mr. Hundemer, in turn, discussed how humanitarian donations are transported through the Denton Amendment program: 

Ken Hundemer appears, on page 2 in the above article as the Director of Operations.of this important, but it seems not widely known, humanitarian relief program.
Mr. Hundemer has worked for 16 years for the Denton Amendment Program, which moves humanitarian donated cargo to countries by the US military as part of the US Transportation Command. Such transports have to be approved by the State Department, USAID, and DOD. The NGO is responsible for delivering the cargo to specific military sites and must guarantee that there is a consignee upon delivery to the respective country. Interestingly, most of such cargo now goes to Haiti, the Honduras, and Nicaragua! The cargo is transported on any defense transport asset.

He emphasized that they try to do mostly airlifts since there can be problems with corruption at seaports and there is better cargo visibility during airlifts from origin node to the consignee.  There have been shipments of relief supplies to Afghanistan since 2002.

Interestingly, the size of the cargo has both lower and upper bounds in that, at minimum, 2,000 pounds can be airlifted at a time with a maximum of 100,000 pounds. Some NGOs consolidate their shipments so that they have a sufficient amount. The average time for delivery from the time that the relief items are dropped off is 36 days. The military also does its inspections and worries about the perishability of cargo.

We presented Lt. Col. James Bishop with a Professor for the Day certificate and a gift from the Isenberg School.  When I asked him how he managed in Afghanistan he said that it was through: chapel, the gym and that we had each other. I told him that will be the title of his future best-selling book.
Many, many thanks for the US military who are also so essential to humanitarian relief around the world. Your courage, strength, and stamina are simply incredible.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Cybersecurity Workforce Optimization

This afternoon we had the great honor and pleasure of hosting INFORMS Fellow Dr. Les Servi of the MITRE Corporation who spoke in the UMass Amherst  INFORMS Speaker Series, which is organized by our magnificent UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter.

Dr. Servi has two degrees in Applied Math from Brown University and a PhD in Engineering from Harvard. He has had a terrific career, having worked at Bell Labs, GTE (now Verizon), MIT Lincoln Labs, and now MITRE.  He is a champion of Operations Research and our professional society INFORMS and he is a good friend. Les is the Group Leader of the Decision Analytics Group at MITRE. (A disclaimer - he hosted me for my talk at MITRE on March 14).

Joining Les were: Brian Kulig, who is a UMass Amherst alum, and also Ken Kato, both of MITRE.

I hosted the lunch in his honor at the University Club, where the service was great and the food very good. We arrived at 11:30AM to make sure that we would have enough time to eat before his talk at the Isenberg School at 2PM. Joining us were Associate Dean of Engineering Tilman Wolf, Professor Eric Sommers of Math/Stats, and Professor Weibo Gong, of ECE, who shared the same advisor at Harvard with Les - Dr. Ho, who is still publishing at age 82.
The Title of Les's talk was: A Two-Stage Stochastic Shift Scheduling Model for Cybersecurity Workforce Optimization with On Call Options.

We took a photo when we arrived at the Isenberg School for his talk.

His presentation was very interesting and clear. He explained both stochastic programming and column generation in a very accessible way. I was very impressed and intrigued by the possibilities of Operations Research and Optimization in workforce optimization in this challenging sector. The model was for scheduling over a two week period three shifts of workers with quite interesting constraints and uncertain demand with the option of calling in more workers. The three classes of cyber workers included an expert group (which someone caught did not want to work the night shift).  He even compared the results of the stochastic model with a deterministic model and presented quite extensive computational results.

I was very pleased that, although it was a holiday weekend, the audience had undergraduate students, PhD students from Engineering, Math, and the Isenberg School, and even MBA students. Two of the latter have internships at MITRE in Bedford this summer, so the talk was perfectly timed.
And, as always happens after a great presentation, the audience members enjoy milling around, sampling refreshments, networking, and chatting.

Afterwards, I was very pleased that Professor Brian Levine of our Computer Science Department, who is the Director of the new Cybersecurity Institute at UMass Amherst, and the PI on the $4.2 million NSF Scholars for Service (SFS) grant, could meet with Les and MITRE colleagues in my office.

Les has spoken in our series multiple times and he always impresses, whether he is speaking on tracking pirates, extracting information and emotions from social media, including Twitter, or on cybersecurity workforce optimization!

In April, he will be heading u to Montana to investigate research on rural healthcare and then will be off right afterwards to the INFORMS Analytics conference in Orlando!

Many thanks to Dr. Les Servi for coming out to UMass Amherst and speaking in our series today. Special thanks also to MITRE colleagues, Brian Kulig and Ken Kato, for joining in and making the visit very rewarding for students and faculty alike!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Professor Joe Sussman of MIT Speaks on High Speed Rail at UMass Amherst

Today, after hosting Lt Col James Bishop of the Westover Air Reserve base in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class, meeting with collaborators, and having such pleasant office hours that they ran over by an hour, I managed to head to the UMass Mullins Center where a special event was taking place.

The event was organized to celebrate Transportation Professor John Collura's illustrious career at UMass Amherst. The program, featured below, which continue tomorrow morning is wonderful.

And at 3PM today I had the pleasure of hearing Professor Joe Sussman of MIT give the plenary talk which was on High Speed Rail. Professor Sussman had met with me and came to my talk last December at MIT so, of course, I had to return the favor.
Professor Sussman began his presentation by  introducing CSTSs, complex socio technical systems. He noted both nested complexity as well as evaluative complexity, where different stakeholders may measure performance of a system differently. For example, some may care about environmental justice, whereas others may care about social justice. His presentation was very clear, interesting, and well-done.

He emphasized that high speed rail is a CSTS and economic, environmental, and equity criteria all come to bear in this. He noted, which I liked very much, that "sustainability should be the overall design principle" in complex systems. He spoke of the concept of sustainable mega regions supported by high speed rail and brought out that when he received his chaired professorship at MIT in 1991 it was funded by Japanese Railways. When a group from JR landed in JFK and then took the "high speed" Acela from NY to Boston, he knew that their experience was not quite like the Japanese truly high speed rail, the Shinkansen.

He emphasized the importance of high speed rail connecting urban centers and noted that the sweet spot was for distances between 200 and 600 miles. For distances greater than 600 miles it was preferable to fly and for distances less than 200 miles it would be better to use road transport.

He brought out high speed rail in France (I have had the pleasure of riding the TGV there) and  in Germany,   He noted that the Japanese built their first high speed rail in 1964! They needed the capacity and then innovated accordingly and continue to do so.

He mentioned the political gridlock in the US as well as the capital costs associated with high speed rail although projects are under discussion in Florida, Texas, and with Chinese involvement, a link between LA and Las Vegas.

The audience very much enjoyed his presentation.
I had the opportunity to have a photo taken with Professor Sussman and with Professor John Collura, which was a special highlight for me.

I plan on attending the session tomorrow morning with speakers from Virginia Tech and Purdue. The focus will be on critical infrastructure. Thanks to my colleagues in the Transportation program for a special tribute to Professor John Collura, who is now, unbelievably, a Professor Emeritus, but still very active and busy with exciting new professional endeavors, including a big project on aviation in Westover.

Why I Love Teaching at the Isenberg School of Management

Without students we would not have our great university. They drive us to do more as educators and scholars, provide feedback as to our progress, and make no two days of teaching ever alike! They make sure that we, as faculty, are constantly growing professionally, intellectually, and as educators.

Teaching is truly the best job in the world!

I would like to share with you a few stories of several of the students that I have taught at the Isenberg School. They also represent what is so special about our students – in terms of work ethic, intellectual curiosity, and creativity.
There is Christina Calvaneso, who graduated summa cum laude just over a decade ago. She was in the first cohort of the Leaders for the 21st Century Award recipients, an award that I nominated her for. Christina did an honors thesis and conducted research with me under an NSF REU grant at the Virtual Center for Supernetworks. Since graduation, she has worked for GE, Deloitte Consulting, and several startups in NYC. She continues to give back and was a speaker at our inaugural Women in Business conference. In June 2014, in Boston, she was honored with the Isenberg School's Young Alumna Business Leadership Award, which I nominated her for.

There is Jose M. Cruz, one of ten children, who was born in Cape Verde. Jose received 5 degrees from UMass Amherst, from 3 different colleges, including an MBA and PhD in Management Science
from the Isenberg School. I chaired his dissertation committee. His graduation story made the front page of the Daily Hampshire Gazette. Jose is now a tenured Associate Professor and award-winning teacher and scholar at the School of Business at the University of Connecticut. He is educating a new generation of students and his research on supply chain sustainability and corporate social responsibility is making a wide positive impact.

There is Stavros Siokos, who came to UMass from Greece and somehow made it, despite the fact that his application was initially lost. He received his PhD (I also chaired his PhD dissertation committee) and is now managing a fund of hedge funds in London valued at over $10 billion. He had met Mandela, knows Bill Clinton, and has shared stories about dining with world leaders on various continents. However, he tells people that his happiest days were when he was a student at UMass Amherst (a theme that I hear time and time again from other alums). With him, I co-authored the Financial Networks book.

And there is Longjie Dai, who received an undergraduate degree in Operations and Information Management a few years ago. After a stint in industry, he returned for his Master's degree at UMass. Longjie has an incredible curiosity and, a few years ago, I received an email message from him. He had been reading articles in major newspapers on a reported study on the Braess paradox in Boston and on tolls and said that he did not understand what was novel about this since he had learned about these in my Logistics and Transportation class. And, he was right! When I investigated the source on which this ”news” was based, I came upon an article in a major physics journal where proper attribution was not given to preceding research. I wrote a Letter to the Editor of the journal, and eventually an erratum was published by the authors of that article. I also wrote a Letter to the Editor of  The Economist, which was noted by the producers of the World Science Festival in NYC, who invited me to speak on the Traffic panel. All because of the curiosity, attention, and integrity of one of my former Operations and Information Management undergraduates at the Isenberg School!

Teaching at the university level is the greatest and noblest of professions. Every day we interact with students, both in and outside the classroom, to assist them in acquiring knowledge, supporting their interests and curiosity, and nurturing and mentoring them on their journeys in life and chosen professions. The exchanges with students are dynamic, energizing, and stimulating intellectually and lead to further knowledge discovery and the enrichment of education. The greatest rewards for a faculty member are when students tell you that the lecture or course changed her life; the student got
a dream job offer or got into a top graduate school (sometimes a few years after receiving the undergraduate degree) with the help of you as a reference. Students, even, upon graduation, never in a sense, leave us. They are always part of the Isenberg family and the communications and meaningful exchanges continue.

I love teaching my students, whether the students in my Logistics and Transportation class, my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class, or my advanced Management Science classes on Networks and Game Theory. I provide the students with the lecture notes and handouts since I believe in having the latest material available and incorporating many real-world cases and scenarios. The topics that I teach are updated every time the class is offered. For my graduate classes I use excerpts from books that I have authored as well as many research papers. In my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class I bring speakers from the community (and even from abroad) for students to learn from top practitioners. I also believe in field trips for various classes, which students very much appreciate (some have told me they never did this in any other class and they were seniors). The students are free to ask many questions in class and the discussions often continue well past class time. I am a very interactive educator. Homeworks are graded and returned promptly for feedback. I often provide students with opportunities for team-based projects which require field work.

The first course that I ever taught at the Isenberg School, which was an evening MIS course in the MBA program at Holyoke Community College, I remember fondly. There was a student in the class whose wit, energy, sense of humor, and intelligence stood out. His name was Kevin Koswick and I helped him to get him into our MBA program. He was only a bagger at that time at a local supermarket. Kevin is now an Executive Vice President at Ford Motor Company and he has visited me multiple times. He was thrilled when his daughter, Kelsey, got into Isenberg. She has since graduated and has her dream job with the Red Sox. As an educator, I feel it is very important to get to know my students on a personal basis. In that way, I can make sure that they are actively engaged in my classes. For 12 years now, I have been the Faculty Advisor of the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, which has garnered 9 national awards from its parent society, INFORMS, for its various activities. I have helped the students bring close to 100 speakers to campus and have assisted financially in sponsoring their visits. Meeting top scholars and industry experts enhances networking opportunities for the students (undergrads and grad students) and also provides great professional opportunities for them which are long-lasting. I have also helped students in organizing (and have taken part) in many field trips for educational purposes. When a female student does not have proper clothing for a job interview, I have lent my suits. For my mentorship of students and leadership I received the  2007 WORMS (Women in Operations Research and the Management Sciences) Award from INFORMS.

I am very grateful that at the Isenberg School we get to teach classes on subjects that we are passionate about and also experts in. I have taught at MIT, at the University of Innsbruck in Austria on a Fulbright, at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, and also at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. At the Isenberg School, at both the undergraduate and the graduate levels, I make sure that the students are informed of the latest methodologies, applications, relevance to practice, and also challenges. For example, in the humanitarian logistics field, knowledge about best practices is continuing to evolve. In transportation, what will automated vehicles do to alleviating traffic congestion? I also share with students stories about the various developers of techniques and tools and bring the research papers and lectures to life. In my doctoral classes, students write research papers, some of which have led to journal articles. I have even had professors from other schools at UMass (Engineering and Computer Science) sitting in my classes and their work has been revolutionized from what they learned. I make learning fun but have very high standards. I want our students to be able to compete with graduates of top-ranked business programs globally.

I teach at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. I have been the chair of 18 doctoral student dissertation committees. Of these PhD graduates, 12 have already received promotion and tenure and 3 are now Full Professors. Two have top positions in industry. Many of my PhD students continue to collaborate through the Virtual Center for Supernetworks, which I founded in 2001, and which provides research and educational materials on networks, As part of the teaching mission, I also apply for research grants, including those from the National Science Foundation (NSF). This extra effort in grantsmanship has helped to provide additional support for both male and female students and also funds travel to conferences. I regularly nominate students for awards (both undergrads and graduate students). Through INFORMS, I continue to learn about different teaching techniques, especially in courses that are quantitative, and keep current. I also engage colleagues in conversations about teaching whenever I give invited seminars (recently at MIT and Yale). Our Operations and Information Management program and curriculum are gems and I am so happy to be part them

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Had a Great Time Speaking at MITRE on Cybersecurity on Pi Day

This week is Spring Break at UMass Amherst and I began my break by flying last week to speak on perishable product supply chains at the University of Buffalo, which I blogged about.

This past Monday, I did not have to fly, and just drove, to Bedford, Massachusetts, to speak on a different topic - that of cybersecurity - at MITRE Corporation.

My wonderful host at MITRE was INFORMS Fellow Dr. Les Servi, who also happens to be a Brown University alumnus with two degrees in Applied Mathematics. I have a PhD in Applied Math from Brown (and three other degrees from there) but Les's PhD  is from Harvard. We share a passion for Operations Research! He is a member of the Defense Science Board and frequently travels to DC. He has worked on many fascinating problems at GTE, Verizon, MIT Lincoln Labs, and now at MITRE. I still remember the talk he gave at the Isenberg School in our great UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series on tracking pirates. He will be speaking at the Isenberg School on March 25 on cybersecurity workforce optimization, which is not to be missed.

I had been to MITRE in Bedford before for an I3P meeting with Dr. Kevin Fu, a cybersecurity expert extraordinaire, who is renowned for his hacking into medical devices. Kevin is no longer at UMass but has moved to the University of Michigan.  I admit, when I was graduating Brown, I had interviewed with MITRE, but in McLean, VA, and had offers from 3 different groups there, so I have always had a warm spot for this company, which is quite unique. Les told me that the Bedford campus has 2,500 employees with the remainder, about 6,500, being in Virginia.

Les treated me to a fabulous buffet lunch at Bamboo, which is very close to MITRE, and which had a spread of sumptious Asian cuisines and desserts. Joining us were 7 colleagues of Les's.

Since it was Pi Day I had to snap the photos below.

In addition, Les and I found out that his colleague, also a cybersecurity expert, Harriet Goldman, is a Brown University Applied Math alumna, so we had the photo below taken of the three of us. This made the visit extra special.
Plus, joining us at lunch were two UMass Amherst alums: Brian Kulig, who had received a degree in Engineering, and Peter Salemi, who was an Isenberg School and Math alumnus! Brian went on to get a Master's at Georgia Tech, and Peter went on to Berkeley to study Operations Research and received a Master's there and then a PhD from Northwestern, working with Barry Nelson.
Les gave me a tour of some of the facilities at MITRE and they are stunning.
I also very much liked the room in which I spoke and my talk was videostreamed to MITE in Mclean, Virginia. MITRE has a basketball court and exercise facilities and nice places to meet as well as food areas. It is surrounded by greenery.
 Les did a great introduction.
My presentation was on our latest research on cybercrime and cybersecurity with a fcus on game theory.

I thank him for taking the photo below during my presentation.
Having great questions from brilliant people after my presentation made for a spring break day and Pi Day very well spent and very enjoyable.

Many thanks to Dr. Les Servi, an operations research star, and to his MITRE colleagues, for making my visit to MITRE so pleasant and intellectually rewarding. I hope that new collaborations will evolve from this great visit and experience.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Started My Spring Break By Speaking at the University of Buffalo

While many students and faculty were heading to warmer climates at the beginning of our spring break, I was off to speak at the University of Buffalo. I had been invited to give a Praxair Seminar in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.The title of my presentation was: Supply Chain Networks Against Time: From Food to Pharma.

My great host there was Professor Chase Murray, whose research involves drones and logistics, so how could I possibly refuse? Also, I know quite a few faculty who have spoken or will be speaking in this seminar series this year, including Professor Mike Trick of CMU, Professor Carolina Osorio from MIT, who was my host at MIT when I spoke there this past December, and even my neighbor and Engineering colleague at UMass Amherst, Professor Sundar Krishnamurty. who is the Chair of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering! Plus, I had never been to Buffalo before.

To get to Buffalo, I had to fly via Southwest to Baltimore and then onwards to Buffalo. Ridiculous to have to fly south to end up north eventually. I missed a nice dinner on Thursday night since there was a delay in Baltimore for my flight to Buffalo. Everything else worked smoothly and I had nice seat mates on all of my flights on Southwest. If I had continued on the same plane that I flew from Bradley to Baltimore I could have gone on to Orlando and probably seen at least one of my students who was off to Disney for spring break.  My students had hoped that I could arrange a class trip there since operations research is very important at Disney.

The logistics for my talk were incredibly well-done. Having a nice lunch was pleasant after my talk and meeting very bright students was also a highlight. Special thanks to Professor Jamie Kang for picking me up at the Ramada Inn on Friday and for driving me to the University and for also meeting with me. I was honored when she asked me to autograph her copy of the Supernetworks book that I co-authored with Professor June Dong and, of course, I did so. It was also wonderful to meet with Professor Chi Zhou who is doing fascinating research on biological (tissue) 3D printing and with Professor Alex Nikolaev, who is a good friend of Professor Vladimir Boginskii's in Florida, whom I also know quite well. Accompanying us to lunch was Professor Jun Zhuang. Afterwards I met with Professor Jose Walteros, who was Professor Panos Pardalos' PhD student at the University of Florida and who is from Colombia.
I even got to fly a drone, courtesy of Professor Chase Murray, who is a great instructor. Another highlight was meeting the new Chair of the Department of Computer Science, who knows my collaborators on the NSF Future Internet Architecture project and our NSF EAGER grant, including my UMass colleague, Associate Dean Professor Tilman Wolf.
I was very impressed by the outstanding research at the University of Buffalo and thank so many for coming to my presentation, although it was also the Friday before their spring break. Although I did not see Professor Rajan Batta since I had missed the dinner and he was off to Chile, I had a great time speaking with his students on topics that included global health.

I did not have time to cover all the material in the slides that I had prepared. Hence, I have posted them for those who would like to look over them at their leisure.
There was no snow in Buffalo and the temperature was about 50 degrees. Of course, we reminisced about last winter, which was the worst one in 180 years in the northeast, and, thank goodness, this one was so easy on us.

Thanks to the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering for the wonderful hospitality! I was even presented with the gift below.
Happy spring break!

Today I will be speaking at the MITRE Corporation in Bedford, MA on an entirely different topic - that of cyber crime and cybersecurity.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Transformative Lectures by a Disaster Researcher - Challenges in the Arctic and Beyond

How often do students get to hear from a disaster researcher who has written 20 books, some of which are science-based Nordic disaster novels, with one of his books being commissioned now for a TV series?!

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of hosting Mr. Rasmus Dahlberg, who is Fellow at the Center for Disaster Research at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. Mr. Dahlberg presented two talks yesterday (but, then again, he is a marathoner and is running the DC marathon next Sunday). He was coming to the Isenberg School from the University of Colorado Boulder where he had been conducting research for a month.

His first presentation, which was given in my 8:30AM Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class (after he had had a 7:30AM  interview with a Danish radio station on Tom Clancy, a writer that Dahlberg is an expert on),  was titled: "Offshore is Onshore" Building a Scalable Search and Rescue (SAR) Infrastructure in the Arctic.

This presentation of Dahlberg can be downloaded here.

Dahlberg also works with the Danish Emergency Management Association as well as with the Danish Red Cross so he has an immense amount of practical experience, which, coupled with his research, provides him with amazing narratives to share with audiences.

His first presentation focused on how to handle uncertainty and unpredictability in emergency management. He began with a possible crisis of a cruise ship with thousands of passengers sinking between Greenland and Iceland. He has been advising Greenland and Iceland on emergency management. He says such potential disasters keep him awake at night. He mentioned the Costa Concordia which sank in the Mediterranean in January 2012. When it comes to Arctic regions, the survivability of those in such a cruise ship disaster would be questionable. Fishermen know, for example, that, without protective gear, if they fall into such waters, they die in 2 minutes. He spoke of covered lifeboats (and also made references to the Titanic) as well as protective gear but said that what would really work, but which is not popular, would be to have two cruise ships transiting together in proximity. If passengers needed help on one, there should be sufficient capacity on the other to provide rescue and assistance.

He also spoke about Iceland, which has been the site of erupting volcanoes and earthquakes. Now the former US military base is being used as a potential triage site and not just a hangar in which to store blankets. He is working also on a big Nordic project to mitigate the affects of climate change, which will last until 2020. The Iceland Coast Guard has only 3 helicopters and 3 ships and, of course, Greenland, is even more short of transport equipment. He mentioned one big helicopter which he has flown in, in which 96 mushing dogs were transported once for a dog sled race in the middle of Greenland. What an image.

We got to hear stories of polar bears (they love Nutella)  and how Iceland is building up capacity for search and rescue missions in the region. It shocked us when he said that Iceland alone could handle no more than 7 hypothermia patients at a time. Greenland can handle no more than 8 trauma victims at a time!  All the search and rescue folks in Iceland are volunteers and they were the first country to respond to Haiti post the 2010 earthquake disaster. They are incredible and digging out folks, often using dogs for assistance, in avalanches, and clearly can even respond to earthquakes in warm climates! He noted that many hospitals in Scandinavia are specializing which can create capacity issues in disasters.

He told us that "safety science is driven by events" and  we all know of some major disasters that spurred new policies and actions afterwards. He emphasized Nassin Taleb's work and black swans and not just dealing with risk in terms of probabilities and impacts but also thinking of possibilities and worst case scenarios - just like a cruise ship with 4,000 passengers sinking in the Arctic.

He envisions a Search and Rescue Academy in which practitioners and researchers can be working together, side by side. I loved this.

He also noted that what is needed in disaster relief and emergency management - and disasters are those events that can't be managed by existing resources - is a coordinator of coordinators. This also very much resonated with me.

We took a group photo with the Professor for a Day plaque that was presented to Dahlberg.

Then Dahlberg and I went out for coffee and delicious scones at a downtown Amherst cafe and it was time for lunch at the University Club, which I hosted. It was extra special to have both undergraduates and graduate students make time (it was a Tuesday and not our usual seminar day of Friday) to attend.

At 2PM it was time for Dahlberg to present in our great UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series. His presentation was: Bridging the Gap: Preparing for Long-Term Infrastructure Disruptions and it can be downloaded here.
 In this presentation, Dahlberg focused on what is critical infrastructure and emphasized multidisciplinary perspectives. He had a lot of great quotes from anthropologists including that infrastructure is "matter that enables movement of other matter." This brought out vividly that infrastructure may be invisible until it fails - we lose power, a bridge collapses, water is undrinkable, etc.

In doing his research on the importance of bridges and especially the Oresund bridge that he studied deeply, he spent days riding the train on the bridge which connects Malmo, Sweden with Copenhagen, Denmark,  interviewing people as to what they would think if the bridge was inoperable, say, for one day, one month, or a more extended period of time.  The knowledge workers could work at home for a period. The sewer truck driver told him that "he does not take his work home." To have a 20 minute commute each way change to a two and a half hour commute because with a bridge closure one would have to make use of multiple modes of transport, including a ferry, over greater distances, would clearly have an impact. However, this bridge was not considered a European Critical Infrastructure and, in fact, nothing in western Europe was! A small airport in Bulgaria, nevertheless, was.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Dahlberg at the Dynamics of Disasters conference, which I coorganized last summer with Professors Panos M. Pardalos and Ilias Kotsireas in Kalamata, Greece. He was the first speaker and made such a powerful impression that when he said he wanted to visit me I knew that having him come and speak would be a transformative educational experience. And I am thrilled that his work on the topic that he spoke on is now a finalized chapter for the book that Kotsireas, Pardalos, and I  are co-editing on the conference.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Inspiring Lecture by Professor Michael Johnson on Community-Based Operations Research

Today, we had the great pleasure of hosting Professor Michael Johnson of the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at UMass Boston.

Professor Johnson spoke in our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series at the Isenberg School of Management and the students from the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter prepared the nice poster below.

His visit and talk were inspirational.

It began with a delicious lunch at the University Club. We ended up sharing the chocolate cake and the lemon mascarpone cake for dessert.
The title of Professor Johnson's presentation was: Community-Based Operations Research: Data Analytics and Decision Modeling for Community Development and Social Change. At lunch, we discussed what inspired Dr. Johnson to focus on CBOR and to become a leader in this subdiscipline of Operations Research. He even brought copies of his slides for the audience and also brought copies of his two books for us to look at. One of his books, Decision Science for Housing and Community Development, published by Wiley, was co-authored with my colleague, Dr. Senay Solak, who, of course, came to the presentation.
The wonderful UMass Amherst INFORMS Chapter President, Zana Cranmer, introduced our guest speaker.
The audience learned that CBOR is an extension of multiple traditions in Operations Research and the Management Sciences to produce research for local change; that it attempts to incorporate critical thinking, evidence-based policy design and prescriptive decision modeling, and that it also aims for social justice.

The audience was clearly entranced hearing about the problems that Professor Johnson has worked on. The success of Professor Johnson's  work in Community-Based Operations Research in foreclosed housing development and the revitalization of neighborhoods, in identifying alternative uses for vacant properties to ensure municipal stability, and in community data analytics for economic development was awe-inspiring. His unique and diverse solution approaches to tackling some of the most challenging problems in urban and other environments with a focus on rigor, community engagement, and social justice demonstrate his great thought leadership and scholarship.

After the great presentation, Zana presented our speaker with a gift from the Isenberg School and then it was time to take a group picture.
Students lingered as did some faculty to continue the conversations as well as to enjoy the refreshments!
Many thanks to Professor Michael Johnson for coming to UMass Amherst today and also for his great work in CBOR! Congratulations also to Professor Johnson on being elected as the INFORMS VP of Student Chapters and Fora.