Saturday, April 30, 2016

First 36 Hours in Oxford, England with Photos

Yesterday morning my flight on Delta from Boston Logan landed in London Heathrow at 7AM. The flight was early and it had been so comfortable - I managed to even stretch out over 3 middle seats and can't remember when I had this luxury in the recent past.

All Souls College at Oxford University had arranged for me to be picked up at Heathrow. Both my suitcases arrived quickly in baggage claim and although customs was a mass of humanity especially the "all passports" queue, I took advantage of the wait by speaking to the female in front of me, who, was from DC and was returning to Oxford for a visit since she had received her Master's last year from Oxford University in environmental sciences. She was wonderful to talk to and told me of several places that I should go to, including University Park, which I strolled through today.

My driver brought me to my apartment, which is gated and requires a combination to get past the gate and another one to get into the building. The apartment has views of greenery from each window and as I am writing the birds outside are keeping me company. The air is very crisp and the temperature just perfect for research, walking, and exploring.

I will be reporting to All Souls College on Monday, which will be by first day as a Visiting Fellow. I am very excited about this great opportunity.

Yesterday I walked to downtown Oxford and found a favorite tea room and restaurant that we had been to last year when we were in Europe for multiple conferences from Greece through Scotland.

I walked at least 10 miles which is always my way of avoiding jet lag since one then switches to the new time zone and collapses in a deep sleep at night. I even managed to get to a Sainsbury food store to purchase some fresh produce, other food, and household supplies.

Everyone is so friendly here and my ears are getting adjusted to the variety of British accents that I hear. I managed to get a monthly bus pass at Debenham's but have been walking exclusively, so far.

Below are some photos taken in my first 36 hours in Oxford.

The first photo below is of Trinity College, Oxford University, which is very close to All Souls College.

All Souls College was closed today (but it is a Saturday). I took the photo below of the entrance.
There were various sports teams and many families enjoying University Park today.
The tree below in the park charmed me - yes, being from Amherst, Massachusetts, I am certainly at tree hugger.
The arch below on the Oxford University campus caught my eye.
The bus I will take advantage of sooner or later since there will be quite a few late evening lectures to attend.
But, this afternoon, I walked the scenic way back from downtown to my apartment.

The beauty of Oxford from the architecture to the natural environment is captivating.
I do believe that living abroad, as an academic, enriches one intellectually, culturally, spiritually, and research-wise.  Tonight, I will enjoy reading a nice, thick British newspaper followed by my copy of the latest issue of The Economist.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Off to Oxford University

I am almost packed and later today will be heading to catch a flight to London Heathrow and then will be picked up and taken to Oxford. My Visiting Fellowship at All Souls College at Oxford University is about to begin.

I am very much looking forward to being able to focus on supply chain network research with emphasis on quality and product perishability, a theme that I have been pursuing with multiple students and colleagues over the past few years.

Next Monday I will be settling into my office, meeting new colleagues, and neighbors, as new adventures in the academic life begin.

The past 4 years I was a Visiting Professor at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and spent about 44 days per year there. The research conducted, friendships made, cultural experiences enjoyed, and beautiful natural scenes explored, I will always treasure and they are part of me.

I do believe that putting oneself into new situations in various countries enriches not only scholarship and mutual understanding but also pedagogy since experiences are shared with students in classes.

I thank the Visiting Fellowship Selection Committee at Oxford for this great honor and opportunity.

I also hope to see Dr. Louise Richardson, the first female Vice Chancellor of Oxford in its history, who was the Executive Dean at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, when I was a Science Fellow there in 2005-2006. She then went on to head St. Andrews in Scotland, and now Oxford.

So, expect postings from England on this blog during my Fellowship at Oxford.

And I heard this morning that one of my Operations and Information Management colleagues will be in England for several weeks in June so it will be nice to see a fellow Isenberg School of Management faculty member!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

New England Security Day at Harvard University

Tomorrow, April 28, New England Security Day (NESD) Spring 2016  is taking place at Harvard University. There will be both paper presentations and posters and the program looks terrific. Many thanks to the organizers.

I enjoyed the first New England Security Day last Fall at UMass Amherst and was on the Organizing Committee. I blogged about this conference and posted photos. It's great to see this event becoming  a regular one since the topic of cybersecurity  is extremely timely and fascinating.

Tomorrow, one of my doctoral students, Shivani Shukla, will be presenting our most recent research on cybersecurity investments.
 The full presentation can be downloaded here.

According to the NESD website, there are only 12 slots for paper presentations, so this is quite the honor. Also, there will be an interesting format to promote discussion and further research: Each slot is 15 minutes long. However, we would like to use an unconventional slot structure. Each speaker will be given 8 minutes to present their material (strict). Then for 4 minutes, members of the audience will form groups of 3-5 people, discuss the talk, filter and form questions. The last 3 minutes of each slot will involve Q&A between the speaker and the audience. This structure encourages members of the audience to interact with each other and exchange opinions, and clarify their understanding of the talk. It is especially beneficial for students as it will allow them to interact with senior researchers. Moreover, the quality of questions filtered up to the speaker is improved.

Shivani has a lot of material to get across on our game theory cybersecurity investment framework including case studies in the retailer, financial services, and energy sectors.

There will be presenters from Yale University, Brown, MIT, Harvard, Northeastern University, Cornell University, the University of Connecticut, and our paper is one of two selected from UMass Amherst.

It is great to have representation from the Isenberg School of Management there.

I wish all the participants at NESD a very stimulating and rewarding conference.

And just this morning, I completed the galleys for our paper, A Supply Chain Network Game Theory Model of Cybersecurity Investments with Nonlinear Budget Constraints, Anna Nagurney, Patrizia Daniele, and Shivani Shukla, to appear in Annals of Operations Research, so it is very exciting to see research in game theory and cybersecurity flourishing.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Celebrating a Great Year for the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter

This past Friday, we celebrated the end of the semester and the end of the academic year with our UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter party.

The officers and members have done an outstanding job this year bringing speakers, two from Europe, from both academia and industry, to share with us the latest on the challenges in the electric power industry, disaster management, healthcare and electronic records, cybersecurity workforce optimization as well as community-based operations research. In addition, the students, who come primarily from our doctoral program in Management Science at the Isenberg School of Management as well as the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering in the UMass Amherst College of Engineering, also organized several social events.

This has been such a great year - and as the chapter's Faculty Advisor since 2004 I can attest to that - that we needed a special celebration at our party.

To honor this year's chapter officers whose esprit de corp, positive energy, innovations, plus logistics knowhow, which allows for such great parties (but, then again, these are operations research and management science students who practice what they preach), I presented the officers with a special award. Last Fall the chapter was honored with the Summa Cum Laude Award from INFORMS another truly memorable accolade.

Below is a photo of the group of officers with their award plaques, to which I also attached personal notes of appreciation for their hard work.
The cuisine at the party included pizza, fresh fruit, chicken wings, Ukrainian food, Indian food, many salads, and healthy sandwiches, and, of course, numerous delicious desserts. Faculty came from the Isenberg School as well as from Engineering even though the party began with a thunderstorm and lots of rain. Last year's chapter President, Michael Prokle, who received the Judith B. Liebman Awad from INFORMS at our annual conference in Philadelphia last Fall, traveled from Boston to the party.
The party began about 4:30PM and ended close to 7PM. There was a lot of laughter and great conversations and it is so rewarding to see everyone having such a great time and supporting one another. The friendships continue after the students receive their PhDs and graduate from UMass Amherst. Even undergraduates enjoy the event and one of my students, who successfully defended his undergraduate honors thesis in humanitarian logistics earlier that day, Emilio Alvarez Flores, also made it to the festivities and enjoyed talking with graduate students and faculty.
Thanks to all the faculty and students who came. The energy and enthusiasm are fabulous.
Clearly, given that next week is the last week of the semester we are all so busy but building our great community is very meaningful.

Below are photos of several of the individual award recipients.
The full roster of officers is recognized below.

 And one of my favorite photos is the one below, which truly captures the spirit of this great group!
Looking forward to another great academic year next year.

Best of luck to all those who are graduating - the class of 2016!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Great Undergraduate Research Conference at UMass Amherst Plus Humanitarian Logistics Thesis Defense

Today I had the pleasure of attending the Undergraduate Research Conference at UMass Amherst held at the Campus Center Auditorium.

This was a system-wide conference and just look at the schools that were represented below.
 I was excited to even get a name tag.
The reason I was there (and this is certainly a very busy time of the year since it is nearing the end of the academic year plus later today we have our UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter party to which I a bringing Ukrainian food), was that one of my undergraduate students in Operations and Information Management, Emilio Alvarez Flores, was defending his honors thesis at this special event.  Professor Ceren Soylu of the Department of Economics and I are co-chairing Emilio's  thesis committee. he title of Emilio's thesis: "Optimizing Non-Governmental Organizations’ Operations and Fundraising: A Game-Theoretical Supply Chain Approach."

Emilio had his presentation as an electronic poster.
Emilio is also a student in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class this semester and his thesis passed with flying colors and it a great contribution to humanitarian logistics.  His interests lie in operations research, economics, and game theory, and his thesis was an excellent example of all three areas.

He begins his dissertation with the following quote by Martin Luther King Jr.:
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is,
’What are you doing for others?’”

The thesis not only develops both Nash Equilibrium and Generalized Nash Equilibrium models for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)  who seek to deliver relief supplies post-disaster to points of demand, while also competing for financial funds, and presents several numerical examples, but, also, contains a realistic case study focusing on Hurricane Katrina. The case study uses the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, as well as other NGOS as the involved disaster relief organizations. In fact, Emilio, Professor Soylu, and I submitted a paper based on the thesis to a research journal because both the model and formulation as well as examples are quite novel. The framework guarantees that there will not be oversupply (resulting in materiel convergence) or undersupply (resulting in suffering and loss of life) of relief items at various demand points, through the imposition of upper and lower bounds on the demands by a higher body or regulatory organization.

As Emilio states in his dissertation:  This research has a host of implications for both coordinating authorities, that is governments and organizing bodies like the United Nations, and managers in the public sector. As far as coordinated authorities are concerned, this research provides a strong argument for their importance in having successful humanitarian relief efforts. In fact, our research suggests that if authorities can impose the constraints on upper and lower demand levels, they can provide an effective mechanism for improving responses to disasters. In particular, it is imperative that we stress the importance having reliable statistics on the population that can be used to create the estimates on the upper and lower bounds on the demand. If NGOs do not believe that this estimates are reliable, it is highly unlikely that a coordinating authority will be capable of imposing the associated constraints in practice. In addition, governments and other authorities should include collaboration with and between NGOs as part of their preparation before a disaster. It is easy to imagine that attempts to perform large-scale coordination efforts during the response phase are likely to go awry or to be ineffective. Coordinating authorities that are successful in doing so should be capable of improving the outcomes of their relief efforts under the assumption that NGOs have the goodwill to be part of this mechanism.

Emilio is graduating from UMass Amherst on May 6 and will be starting his position at Cisco shortly thereafter. The passion and dedication that he has exhibited throughout his research project have been extraordinary. It was truly an honor to co-chair his dissertation and a great experience to also work with Professor Soylu of the Economics Department at UMass Amherst.

It was nice to see some of Emilio's friends come out to support him today.

I enjoyed speaking with several researchers from various colleges and was very impressed by the enthusiasm of the undergraduate researchers for their projects, whether researching Icelandic sagas,  whether journalists should not identify their sources, or the pros and cons of single gender precollege schools, or the effects of  preschool education on high school graduation rates around the world.
Attendance was great at this special event.
Also, I might add, that last week, on April 15, when I was at the University of Waterloo in Canada giving a plenary talk at Analytics Day, Emilio Alvarez Flores was one of ten recipients of an Honors Dean's Award from the Commonwealth Honors College at UMass Amherst. Writing a letter of nomination for him was a joy.

Congratulations to all undergraduate researchers who presented today at the Undergraduate Research Conference at UMass Amherst. I hope that you never lose that intellectual curiosity!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Fabulous Analytics Day at the University of Waterloo in Canada

This past Thursday, I flew (after a two hour delay) on Air Canada from Bradley Airport to Toronto since I was to speak at Analytics Day at the University of Waterloo. The conference was organized by Dr. Fatma Gzara, who is a faculty member in the Department of Management Sciences there and who had also hosted me almost exactly 5 years ago for a seminar!

I accepted the invitation to be a plenary speaker at this conference and the experience was tremendous plus I always enjoy not the flight delays but the serendipity of whom you may meet while traveling.

I was put up in the stunning Delta hotel, which opened about two yeas ago,  and not only was I staying at the hotel but Dr. John McCarthy, who is the Graduate Dean at UMass Amherst and a Vice Provost, was also there. I found this out while talking to two academics in the elevator and went to see him at a breakfast. I had seen John only two days prior at the UMass Honors banquet. He was in Waterloo for the annual meeting of the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools!

And there was another luminary staying at the same hotel, whom I had seen Thursday evening on the Canadian news - none other than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. I had thought that all the nicely dressed men were actually hotel staff but they were security guards. I saw Trudeau not only yesterday morning as I was getting picked up to go to the conference but also when I returned to the hotel. I took the photo of him entering the limo below. Since I was born in Canada, this was extra special.
My plenary talk was on: Predictive and Prescriptive Models of Cybercrime an Cybersecurity Investments Under Network Vulnerability. The conference was well-advertised and attracted practitioners as well as academics from numerous universities in the Toronto area. Dr. Gzara runs the Waterloo Analytics and Optimization Lab. She had taken part in the recent INFORMS Analytics conference in Orlando and in her presentation included the following slide which was generated by a text mining program of all the abstracts at the INFORMS conference.
Great to see Optimization Models prominent  in the text cloud along with Big Data and Supply Chains!

There were opening remarks by the Associate Dean of Engineering at Waterloo. The full conference schedule can be viewed here.

Dr. Gzara did a wonderful job of introducing each speaker and had a slide prepared on each.

I very much enjoyed the talk Optimizing Supply Chains with Advancd Analytics presented by Pete Devenyi and Scott Wahl of Dematic North America.

The Detamic presentation was on electronic commerce and grocery distribution centers. Dematic is a global software engineering firm with 6,500 employees and $70 million spent on R&D a year (I assume that is in Canadian dollars). Their clients include Tim Hortons, Amazon, and Walmart, so I enjoyed speaking with them about my experiences last October at Amazon's first Supply Chain Optimization Conference in Seattle. They talked about predictive analytics to get items to customers in 1/2 a day and placing warehouses closer to customers. I very much enjoyed their presentation which had videos and was very dynamic. They noted that "warehouses" in the future will be truck.

Since there were both industry and academic talks the discussions were great and the day flew by much too quickly. The Dematic presenters stated that they are trying to solve the problem "of the tyranny of now". Customers when ordering online want their orders to be delivered asap. Without the right analytics firms don't have visibility, which is critical in e-commerce.  Dematic also uses descriptive analytics to figure out bottlenecks and is looking towards work force optimization and item storage optimization. Visualization analytics can reveal where there are bottlenecks in terms of processes in a grocery distribution center, for example. Grocery distribution centers are completely different from e-commerce ones, since grocery orders are placed every day. It may cost $100 million to automate a grocery DC. There is even pallet optimization that needs to be done.

The third presentation was by Chad Elkadri, Reza Farahani, and Hany Kashif of SOTI.
As you can see from the photo below, the audience was very attentive and interested in the talks.
SOTI develops software for enterprises and was founded in Canada 20 years ago. It, through its Research and Innovation Lab, has been working on the Internet of Things. Specifically, the company focuses on managing devices including connected devices in the enterprise. I was also very interested in this presentation because only 10 days ago, my collaborator, Professor Tilman Wolf, presented our latest work on the Internet of Things at the IEEE Berlin conference.  

SOTI builds partnerships with OEMs and is in 170 countries. Partners include device manufacturers and also operating system companies such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft.
SOTI speakers noted how sensors are paving the way for Big Data and it is essential to recognize the varying levels of the importance of data. Also, there is "demand for new analytical models." SOTI is building a performance-aware engine, which was the topic of the presentation. Also, one of the noted challenges is how to extract data without changing the behavior of the system. They also presented a model, which I liked, which had a parameter that captured the value of a data element at a point in time, and I asked a question about this. Performance-aware analytics must take constraints into consideration. Such constraints can include QoS (Quality of Service) constraints. The case study that was presented was on connected cars.

Then it was time for lunch which included all sorts of wrap sandwiches - I chose the salmon one as well as salads and fresh fruits plus a tray of sweets.
After lunch, an academic talk was given by Joe Naoum Sawaya of the Ivey School at the University of Western Ontario. His title was: Optimization in the Age of Modern Analytics and Internet-of-Things. Saway discussed: descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics and emphasized that now algorithms need to be intuitive, distributed, scalable, and have a niche or application. He talked about sensors for Smart Cities since he had worked for IBM for 5 years.  He focused on the automotive industry.  He presented a nice model focusing on SPONGE, which is an energy matching supply and demand framework but that ensures privacy since the central authority does not now the individuals' utility functions.  He noted that because of the Internet of Things, we no longer can assume centralized decision-making.

The second presentation after the lunch was by the Deloitte Consulting Canada group. The speakers were: Snehar Patel and Niraj Dalmia and a consultant. Since I have had one of my former students work for Deloitte (Christina Calvaneso) I also was looking forward to this talk.
They spoke on use cases including one in the oil and gas sector, in which there has been tremendous economic upheaval. Hence, figuring out where costs can be reduced is imperative. They talked about system dynamics approaches (top down) and also agent-based modeling (bottom up).  They noted that "analytics is an opportunity." One example was a mine in Chile in which they use predictive analytics to prepare for possible disruptions.

Another example, which they spoke on, which reminded of a project that some of my Opertaions Management students did a while back in my Transportation and Logistics class at the Isenberg School  and that was on modeling patient flow from an emergency room in a hospital.  Deloitte is taking data from clients and then building models and this is the direction that consulting is going in they told the audience.

Dr. Gzara, the organizer, was the last speaker of the day and gave an excellent talk on working with one of her industry partners - Dematic. She spoke on her group's work on using data from a client's warehouse (and the data is by no means complete) to do diagnostics and to evaluate bottlenecks and where the system processes might be improved. She presented a series of innovative models and also spoke on how descriptive analytics showed them that there is a high variability in orders and some orders have as many as 31 products in them.She discussed network flow models and also a model that I very much liked - using community detection to also graphical depict orders as a network. How can one use community detection and network learning to identify which products are co-ordered. She also stated the need to do predictive dynamic analytics for product order groupings over time.

I made sure that a photo was taken of me with Fatma for a keepsake of an intellectually rich and very stimulating day.
My trip via a shuttle to the Toronto airport was pleasant and there was not so much traffic although it was rush hour.  And, would you believe, I took Route 401 both to and from the Toronto airport to the Delta hotel in Waterloo and the shuttle driver then informed me that the route, Route 401, is the busiest freeway in North America!  I also saw signs of $10,000 penalties if a driver exceeds the speed limit by 50 kilometers (which is 30 miles) and the car also gets confiscated by the police for 7 days. This is to prevent drag racing but, given the congestion, drag racing would be a challenge in itself.

And, as one would expect, I had a delay on Air Canada on my flight back to Hartford. So I took a photo at the airport of one of the national foods of Canada and that is the Tim Hortons donuts.
For the flight back I purchased the last copy of The New York Times and in it was an OpEd piece co-authored by my Provost at UMass Amherst, Dr. Katherine Newman!  My day began with a UMass administrator and in a sense ended with one. The academic network is global and far-reaching and wonderful, I must day.

Many thanks to Dr. Fatma Gzara for a fabulous Analytics Day!