Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Broadening Your Horizons - How a Female Operations Researcher Did It

After receiving my PhD in Applied Mathematics, with a specialty in Operations Research, from Brown University, and evaluating offers from both academia and industry, I accepted the offer of  a tenure track faculty position in Management Science, a STEM field, at the business school at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, now the Isenberg School of Management. Since arriving on campus in 1983, I have managed to make “herstory” by becoming the first female Full Professor at the Isenberg School and the first female named chair professor in the UMass system.

Although UMass Amherst is my home and has provided me with the right environment in which I could pursue my research and teach courses on subjects on a variety of network themes including humanitarian logistics and healthcare, I have always felt that to thrive one needs new academic experiences and to challenge oneself by broadening one's horizons.  Such experiences enrich your scholarship as well as teaching.

In 1988, shortly after receiving promotion and tenure, I received a National Science Foundation Visiting Professorship for Women (NSF-VPW) award. I was off to MIT's Civil and Environmental  Engineering Department for a year as a Visiting Professor in the Center for Transportation. At that time,I was the only female faculty member in the department. While there, I taught a transportation network course  and also organized a speaker series focusing on Females in Operations Research at the Operations Research Center. It was a time when MIT Management Professor Lotte Bailyn organized get-togethers for female faculty. I remember them fondly and was able to meet and be inspired by such renowned female scientists as Mildred Dresselhaus. While at MIT I received a UMass Faculty Fellowship, which allowed me to spend another year at MIT, this time at the Sloan School.

In 1996, I was invited to be a Distinguished University Visiting Professor at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Sweden. The goal of this professorship was to broaden the visibility of female Full Professors at the KTH since, at the time, there were only two.  With my husband, who also managed to get a Visiting Professorship there as well, and our 2 year old daughter, we embarked on a 7 month adventure during which I taught a class on optimization, met with many colleagues there and students, and managed to co-author the book, Financial Networks. Picking up my daughter, who was enrolled in daycare in Stockholm, then known as daghis, was always interesting because sometimes I would have to find her in a local park with her group where she was learning to climb trees and rocks. She was well-nourished there with a team of cooks preparing lunches consisting of salmon, potatoes, and carrots, with crunchy bread and fish egg spreads for snacks for the children between ages 2 and 7. We lived in the Wenner Gren Center with 150 other visiting academic families. It was a joy to see groups of children with no common language playing together. We ended up returning to Stockholm for multiple months in 1998 and again in 2001, when I co-authored Supernetworks: Decision-Making for the Information Age.

In 2002, I received a Distinguished Fulbright Visiting Professorship at the SOWI School of Business at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, so with my now 8 year old daughter and husband we were off to live in a villa in the Alps while I taught a series of courses on networks, while our daughter attended school (2nd grade), which was only in the morning, and learned her multiplication tables in German. If the students did well on math questions they got to stand on their desks and be applauded. The teacher also taught the children to rollerblade. Culturally, it is expected that Oma and Opa (grandparents) will take care of children once school is over, which we did not have the advantage of, so there was always juggling. Again, the mountains inspired, and no wonder my daughter ended up majoring in geology and is soon off for her PhD in this field. We have returned to beautiful Innsbruck because of the friendships made and once when we did, a colleague was wearing the Isenberg School t-shirt I had given him. Even the waiters remembered our orders in our favorite restaurants there.

In 2005-2006, I had the terrific honor of being one of twelve Science Fellows in a group of about  fifty Fellows at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. This fellowship in a community of writers, scholars from different disciplines, who listened to one another's guest lectures, and enjoyed lunches and great esprit de corps, cemented my thrust to continue placing myself in new environments. While at Radcliffe, I collaborated with female colleagues that Radcliffe helped to support  and completed my book: Supply Chain Network Economics. It was the year that Larry Summers resigned and the Dean of Radcliffe, Drew Gilpin Faust, became the first female president of Harvard.

Over the years 2011-2015, I held a Visiting Professorship at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, with a commitment of 44 days a year, which was very manageable. Living again in that marvelous country I have come to appreciate my male colleagues serious about their parental leaves, the celebrations associated with having a paper or book published, complete with coffee and cakes, and a quality of life with great transportation systems  and a focus on the environment that I wish I could bring back to the US with me.  My family has continued to travel with me as their commitments allow.

Last July, I returned from being a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College at Oxford University, where I spent the Trinity Term,  and was provided with an office overlooking a garden and fountain, and an apartment, with delicious lunches and formal dinners, so that I could just think, reflect, and write. Although scientists are the minority among both Visiting Fellows and Fellows of All Souls College, the conversations with a naval historian, medieval historian, archeologist, classicist,  Sanskrit expert, along with the mathematicians, physicists, and, of course, economists, I will never forget.  And I managed to complete the co-editing of the Dynamics of Disasters book and my Competing on Supply Chain Quality book was published with acknowledgment of Oxford, which I presented to the Codrington library. On June 22, 2016, Encaenia took place at Oxford University, during which 9 were awarded honorary degrees, including Mildred Dresselhaus of MIT. I had the special privilege of speaking with her and reminiscing about MIT at a reception and luncheon at All Souls College following the ceremony. Serendipitously, Louise Richardson, who was the Executive Dean at the Radcliffe Institute. when I was a Science Fellow there, is now the first female Vice Chancellor at Oxford University. On June 23, Britain voted to leave the European Union, with major ramifications for the economy as well as for research funding, and with shock waves permeating globally. And on June 24, 2016, we celebrated at All Souls College the 50th anniversary of this magnificent program with a full day of events, despite Brexit.

While a visitor at different universities, I have attracted students to our graduate program at UMass. I have also used the knowledge of the various universities to help advise UMass students on their future. I believe that my research was only propelled by my time away and am looking forward to the next opportunity.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

News from the Supernetwork Center at the Isenberg School of Management

It has been an amazing start to the Fall semester and I am delighted to share with you the latest news of the activities at the Virtual Center for Supernetworks at the Isenberg School of Management.

The Fall 2016 edition of the Center's newsletter, which is published in three editions annually is now out and it is the 40th newsletter that we have produced, which is quite a milestone. It can be downloaded, in pdf format here.

All issues of The Supernetwork Sentinel can be viewed on this page.

The Center was established in 2001 and this year we are marking its 15th anniversary.
In this newsletter, you can find information on our new, edited book: Dynamics of Disasters: Key Concepts, Models, Algorithms, and Insights, which I co-edited with Professor Illias S. Kotsireas of Wilfrid University in Canada and Professor Panos M. Pardalos of the University of Florida. The volume, to be published soon by Springer International Publishing Switzerland, consists of a preface and 18 refereed book chapters. Also, the newsletter contains a section on how the Supernetwork Center research is making a difference and highlights some of our research on topics ranging from supply chains and sustainability to cybersecurity as well as humanitarian logistics and disaster relief.

As always, this issue also contains information on various professional activities of Center Associates and accolades received as well as recent publications.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My Upcoming Plenary Talk in New York City on Cybersecurity, Game Theory, and Operations Research

When the invitation arrived a few months ago from Professor Quanyan Zhu of New York University asking me whether I would be interested in giving a plenary talk at a conference in New York City, I did not hesitate. The conference, SecGames 2016, Decision and Game Theory for Security, will take place November 2-4, 2016.

First, the theme of the conference meshes perfectly with one of my major research themes; secondly, the venue is one of my favorite cities (I grew up in neighboring Yonkers), plus the season - mid-Fall is also perfect, and I had collaborated with Professor Zhu on another initiative.

Also, I do believe in the importance of having female plenary speakers at technical conferences, so it is important, when invited, and it is feasible (I am not on another continent speaking elsewhere), to accept the invitation.

The conference has a great organizing committee and the technical program committee consists of leaders in game theory and cybersecurity.

I have started working on my presentation, which is on: Game Theory Models of Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Investments Under Network Vulnerability. I am having a terrific time preparing my presentation. In my presentation I will focus on research that I have done both independently and with collaborators which integrates game theory and operations research.
As a plenary speaker, one has to generate and sustain interest among the audience members, so, of course, it is important to have great content and a topic that one is very excited to be speaking on.

I am one of two plenary speakers - with the other one being Dr. George Cybenko of Dartmouth.

UMass Amherst has an announcement for my plenary talk at this conference.

I have had some wonderful speaking engagements in NYC, some not very typical. In fact, just yesterday, while teaching my Transportation and Logistics class about the Braess paradox, I showed my students a segment of a videoclip of the World Science Festival panel in NYC on Traffic that I was part of in 2009, which was an extraordinary experience.
 Also, in 2013, I was on the Transportation panel, along with Dr. Janette Sadik-Khan, at the New York Times Energy for Tomorrow conference in NYC. The panel was moderated by the Times columnist Joe Nocera. You can view the video here.

In November 2008 I was a plenary speaker at the North American Regional Science Association in Brooklyn and my presentation can be downloaded here.
I remember walking fondly over the Brooklyn Bridge, which is a favorite bridge of mine, and I hope to do that again next month in NYC!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Academic Promotion Letter Writing Season

This morning I sent off my 6th (and final) letter of the season evaluating a promotion case. In my dreams I had been ruminating about it throughout the night and, when I woke up, the language just flowed. It was a promotion to Full Professor case. A Full Professor is the highest rank in academia, outside of a Distinguished Professor or Chaired Professor rank, which are tops (I hold a Chaired Professorship and am very honored by this recognition).

I already received an acknowledgment that my letter was received  so I have a sense of accomplishment and I hope that the case goes positive up the academic hierarchy.

For my readers who are not in academia, typically, in the mid to late Summer and early Fall letter writers are solicited by Department Chairs or, sometimes, Deans, from academics outside of the candidate's home college or university. When its is a matter of promotion from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor with tenure (which means, essentially, job security for life), there may be as many as a dozen letters required to evaluate the candidate's accomplishments in research, teaching, and service, with the exact number depending on the college or university and, sometimes, even the candidate's department. Usually a candidate provides a list of names and the academic leadership identifies others; not all names on the list may be invited. Normally, the candidate is not informed who has been invited to evaluate his/her case.

Most universities have explicit rules (arms length rules), that state that the letter writer should not be a collaborator, have the same dissertation advisor as the candidate, or have some other close professional association.  

For promotion from Associate Professor to Full Professor, I know that, in my very own case, 13 letters were received. Sometimes more invitations are sent out since some invitations to write are declined. It is an important task, time-consuming, and comes without any compensation. Although, I must admit, that, last year, for a "habilitation" case in France, for which the candidate had requested a letter from me and I had accepted to write one, I received a cake in the mail, which was delicious (and he did get his habilitation, which is actually like a higher elevation than a PhD and is valued in several countries). I also wrote a letter for him last month for his Full Professorship and his promotion was already approved.

The request for a letter of evaluation, once accepted, usually comes with a file of the candidate's cv (a resume in academia), the candidate's personal statement, and copies of several publications.

As a Chaired Full Professor,  I get my share of requests to do promotion evaluations and have done them for faculty candidates in Business Schools, Engineering Schools but also in Math or Math Science Departments. Although my primary appointment is in a business school, I hold courtesy appointments in two engineering departments at UMass Amherst and my PhD is in Applied Math, with a concentration in Operations Research.

What I find rather surprising lately, is that, in several cases, I was asked to provide a letter of evaluation in less than a month. In previous years, usually a 2 month time window would be standard.

The past few weeks, I have evaluated 4 Full Professor cases, 1 promotion and tenure case, and 1 promotion to Distinguished Professor case in England.

Once the evaluation letters are received, depending on the university, there are usually multiple levels of voting that take place by Personnel Committees at the department, school (such as business or engineering school, depending where the faculty member's home base is), by the Dean, and the university level, by the Provost, and upwards to the President and/or Board of Trustees. Faculty who are up for promotion and tenure are necessarily anxious because there have been cases where the case went positive through the Dean's level, only to be overturned at the Provost's level. Faculty may then appeal but not often are appeals successful. Essentially, if denied tenure, one may get a year's reprieve but then must find another job. In the case of a denial of a promotion to Full Professor, once can try again (and again, if need be). To achieve a Full Professorship within 10 years of receiving one's PhD is considered excellent.

It is very interesting to see that certain universities in requesting a letter of evaluation will spell out in detail what a candidate should be evaluated on; some even note citations on Google Scholar as being important and major awards and recognitions received, whereas other don't provide much guidance.

A few years ago I received a telephone call from a Department Chairman saying that a letter writer was hospitalized and could I take over, which, I did, since I knew the candidate and could write a solid letter.

I presently serve on the Personnel Committee of the Isenberg School of Management, and have also served on this committee in the past and it is interesting to see letters evaluating candidates in different areas of business and management, from my own area of Operations Management and Management Science, to Finance, Accounting, and Marketing, and even Organizational Behavior and Strategy, and Hospitality and Tourism Management as well as Sports Management. Of course, the representative from the candidate's department is the one that has to argue the case before us because of familiarity with the area.

And when you hear that a strong positive letter that you wrote had the desired outcome, congratulations are in order!

Luckily, I have done all of my external case evaluations for tis promotions season but, the "letter writing" does not end for a faculty member, since we also write letters of recommendation for our students who are seeking excellent jobs - our undergraduates and MBAs in industry and our PhD students, primarily, in academia. And then there are those letters of nomination for colleagues and students for various awards and recognitions!  I am glad that I had such fabulous English teachers both in elementary school and in high school and, I must admit, I do love to write!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Awe of A Beautiful Fall Day in Amherst

Last Sunday, you may have seen the cover article in Parade magazine, along with the Sunday newspaper, on Awe. I thought that it was a very pleasant read and agree that having feelings of awe and wonder certainly add to happiness.

As an academic I experience feelings of awe especially while traveling and exploring new places but also sometimes, as the article emphasizes, you can get the sense of wonder even from your own neighborhood. Of course, as an academic, I also experience awe when I figure out a tough research problem, get a paper accepted, have a book published, receive a special recognition, and see my students succeed.

I had returned last night around 11PM from Washington DC where I had served on a panel. I had the serendipity the day before of seeing Professor Larry Samuelson and his wife at Bradley airport in Hartford while waiting for my flight to Reagan National. Samuelson is an economist at Yale University and he and I were Visiting Fellows at All Souls College at Oxford University this past spring and part of the summer and we lived at Beechwood Circle and had offices in the same beautiful building. We had always said that we would probably meet at that airport. On my return last night I was seated next to a colleague from the Computer Science department at UMass, which was also quite cool. You can see a photo of Larry and me and other Visiting Fellows at All Souls College  on my blogpost here.

Having spent a lot of time in DC yesterday indoors on business and with today, being such a beautiful Fall day, a nice hike was in order and it did not disappoint.

One of the best aspects of living in Amherst is the beauty of the natural environment and I hike throughout the year in every season when I am here.

The photos below were taken today during a hike around Puffer's Pond, which is an Amherst natural wonder. Not only is the beauty of the season revealed through the landscape and colors of the foliage but I must also say that the smells were also delightful from the pine trees to some fall flowers.

Reinvigorated and refreshed it's now time to go back to working on a paper with collaborators on supply chain networks with freight transportation and sustainability.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Those Wonderful Thank You Notes from Students

It has been a very busy new Fall semester with exciting events, teaching my Transportation & Logistics class, and also finishing up 4 research papers that we have submitted on topics as varied as auction mechanisms for an affordable Internet, supply chain network capacity competition with outsourcing, consumer learning of product quality with time delays, and even short supply chains in the form of farmers' markets. Plus, I have been busy revising a paper on cybersecurity. Interestingly, all the above papers have been co-authored with my present or former doctoral students, including a present doctoral student whose committee I am on who is in Colombia,  and also faculty colleagues.

There is something very special about the Fall in New England, which marks the beginning of our academic calendar and I suspect that some former students, from undergraduates and even MBAs and doctoral students,  are reminiscing about their time at the Isenberg School and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. At least it certainly feels like that to me given the wonderful messages I have been receiving from former students. Some have come through email whereas others have sent me actual hand-written Thank You cards, which I very much appreciate. I am a big fan of Thank You cards and below I have included a photo of some of them which I enjoyed reading through this afternoon while waiting for a co-author to get back to me. I have also received cards from doctoral students when I was a Visiting Professor in Sweden at the University of Gothenburg over a period of 4 years, which is very sweet.
It has been especially pleasant to receive messages from students that I taught 3 decades ago!

Below is a sample of the messages that warm my heart and make me smile. The first two were received since September.

Back in 1986 I was lucky enough to take one of your first classes, while I forget the name (logistics) and the number (I can find it in a box up in the attic) I will never forget how you changed my prospective on so many things.  It is amazing, other than you and Prof. Whitman (taxes), I do not remember another class or Professor like I remember you.  I know I have said it before, but thank you…for molding me for the world.  You are an amazing educator!

I was a student of yours way back in 1985 or so, and I am just sending this to give you a shout out for what you taught me.  For years I worked in operations and accounting of various small businesses, and now I am finally at a company that is doing some high-level academic research, Abt Associates in Cambridge.  Mostly I will still be handling the numbers behind the scene but working on a couple of projects that have real-world, life saving implications sure feels better than maximizing profit at a garage door company.
Thank you for teaching me about the problems with user-optimized systems, I have used that thought many times in my life to date.  And all of the rest too.

And the following messages came a few weeks ago. The second one below was from a student that Professor Ceren Soylu and I co-chaired his dissertation.

Dear Professor Nagurney,

I am very excited to report that I just received a letter from the Penn
State President, informing me that I have obtained my tenure and have been
promoted to the rank of associate professor.  I would like to take this
opportunity to thank you for your support and endless care all these
years, without which I could not have been where I am now. Thank you!!!

Dear Professors Nagurney and Soylu,

To to honest, I don't know how best to start this letter. Part of me wants to begin describing a destination, but another with a reflection on the path that led to it. Ultimately, I think I gravitate towards the latter.

Not too long ago, when I first started reflecting about topics for my thesis, I knew two things: that I wanted it to be at the intersection between game theory and operations research, and that I wanted the research to have the potential to do good. With your guidance, I was fortunate to find a topic that was not only interesting and that met my academic goals, but one that impassions me and that I strongly believe will give me the opportunity to fulfill my lifelong dream of helping those in need. And even beyond that, I feel very lucky to have found advisors who are as passionate, supportive, and engaged with their students as you.

About a month ago, I decided to apply for a scholarship in the CHC that recognizes 10 students the quality of their theses. I am very excited to let you know that, mostly due to your dedication and support, our work was selected among them. To be honest, I don't know what the best words are to thank you for your guidance, for your willingness to brainstorm with me, and for your commitment to help me overcome barriers as the arose. In a strange way, the more I try to think of the "best" adjectives to describe what I want to say, the more I feel that the phrases are trite. And so it may be best to leave it at a more simple, but heart-felt, "thank you for everything you have done for me along the way".

I've also been putting some thought into what to do with the award. I've come to the conclusion that, given the nature of the research, I want to donate the funds to a charity - and would love to include both of you in the process of selecting one.

Thank you again for all your support.

Finally, I end this blogpost with two handwritten messages in two of the Thank You cards in the photo above.

Professor Nagurney,

I just want to thank you for all the support you have given me this year. You are a passionate and inspirational teacher who cares deeply for your students. Personally you had a big impact on my experience at UMass. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know you.

Professor Nagurney,

You were instrumental in starting and sustaining the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter. Without you we would not have come together for this wonderful organization.

Thank You...and we would never be able to thank you enough.

We are highly appreciative and filled with gratitude for your guidance and support.

Being an educator at the university level is truly the best job in the world. No two days are ever alike and sometimes we actually make a difference! Now it is my turn to thank: Thank you to all my students - you challenge me, energize me, and together we address problems in the hope of making the world a better place.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

A Fabulous Conversation with Steve Wozniak - Co-Founder of Apple

Yesterday, after a three and a half hour journey (it was the Friday before the Columbus Day long weekend), from the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, via the Mass Turnpike (a journey that should take no more than 2 hours), we arrived at The UMass Club in downtown Boston.

We were driven by a UMass student, Jenna, on a courtesy van provided by the Isenberg School to attend an event with Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple. The event was an inaugural lecture in a new series, part of the Isenberg School's #Driven campaign.

The van ride was long but what made it fun was being with colleagues such as my department chair, Iqbal Agha, the chair of the Finance department, Sanjay Nawalkha, and our new clinical professor, Charlie Johnson, who was hired for our entrepreneurship program, and has been a Boston lawyer for over 30 years. Also with us was our wonderful Isenberg School Communications Director, Lou Wigdor.

The faculty on the van had been invited to be table facilitators with the evening program consisting of a 60 minute conversation with Steve Wozniak, moderated by the fabulous Tom Ashbrook, the host of NPR's, On Point, followed by a dinner. Other faculty facilitators included the chair of the Marketing Department, the one and only Bruce Weinberg, and my colleague, Alan Robinson.

Attendance was great at this event, and several remarked to me that they heard of it on NPR a few days ago and decided to come. The view of Boston from The UMass Club, which is on the 32nd floor, was stunning. I saw several alums, including Vinnie Daboul!
Sitting with me at the table were several GE employees, an employee of Nuance Communications, of the Markley Group, and  Mendix, as well as an Operations and Information Management (OIM) undergraduate student who had volunteered to help out. We talked about our jobs, Wozniak, high tech, and had a great time.

It was fabulous to see the UMass President, Marty Meehan, there and I told him how one of my former students shared with me that, when he turned 21, and was then a student at UMass Lowell, President Meehan took him out to celebrate. The student will never forget this.

While nibbling on some canapes the conversation began and the energy of Wozniak was incredible. I had caught up with his travels by checking out his Twitter account and he had come in from London just the day before and the week before he had spoken in Canada. He lives in California.

He spoke on the founding of Apple, his childhood, during which he loved ham radios (my husband is a ham radio operator so I very much appreciated this) and also electronics. I am sure that many of you have read both the book on Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and Wozniak's book iWoz. But it was extra special to see him in person and also to meet with him afterwards with a group asking for autographs. He, like Jobs, was a prankster, and usually got away with his pranks, since he did not advertise them.  He loved soldering and constructing computers so as to minimize resources, typically, computer chips. He clearly has a mindset of an Operations Researcher! He recalled fondly his time with the Homebrew Computer Club and thought that he would spend his entire life as an engineer at HP and could design computers in the off hours. His design of the Apple I and Apple II computers revolutionized personal computers and the computer industry.
He emphasized that happiness is important and his integrity was vivid throughout his presentation/conversation.  He said that he builds computers since he was inspired by social causes. Steve Jobs was the one with the business mind and, together, originally they had to hustle for the computer parts that they needed. He did mention that the Lisa and Apple III computers were not successful but he was not involved in their designs.

Interestingly, although the general public believes he is no longer with Apple, Wozniak actually still gets a paycheck from Apple. Apple II provided the company with revenues for 10 years. He also spoke about gaming and the importance of color and how the fact that Visicalc could run on an Apple computer very much helped in sales. People wanted computer solutions. Steve Jobs wanted computers to get easier and easier to use. He was not technical, according to Wozniak.

He said that in order to lead you have to be willing to take risks. Ashbrook asked him about the future of technology and Wozniak emphasized that we had earlier the advantage of Moore's Law. As for Artificial Intelligence, the question is how can it improve the world? 

He was proud that he eventually received his college degree from UC Berkeley but since he was already very well-known at that time, it is "Rocky" Raccoon Clark that appears ob his diploma.

He still has the first Apple I computer that he ever made.

Wozniak noted that we should be partners with computers.

He told us it is about "food, fun, and friends," and that his equation for happiness is: smiles minus frowns. He also mentioned that his wife is from Kansas.

We had time but only for a few questions and I enjoyed his insights on autonomous vehicles. 

It was a fantastic evening and we made it back to the Isenberg School in less than 2 hours. Joining us on the van back was Susan Boyer. The conversations were fabulous and the evening is one we will long remember.

Many thanks to Steve Wozniak  and to Tom Ashbrook as well as to the Isenberg Dean, Dr. Mark Fuller, and to Assistant Dean Chris Pilsner for organizing and making possible this great inaugural lecture! Also thanks to Associate Dean Tom Moliterno for inviting me to be a table facilitator at this great inaugural lecture.