Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Syrian Crisis and a Humanitarian Hero - Dr. Mahmoud Hariri

Today we had the great honor of hosting Dr. Mahmoud Hariri, who is a Scholars at Risk Fellow at Harvard University, as a guest speaker in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class.
 His guest lecture on the Syrian Crisis had been scheduled for March 7, but, since he had gotten into a course at the Macy Institute at Harvard, he asked for a postponement, and I graciously agreed. It was worth waiting for him!

There were logistics involved even in terms of getting him to speak to my class, which meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:30AM at the Isenberg School of Management. Since he is now at Harvard University for a few months, before returning to his home country of Syria, I arranged for a 6:15AM pickup in eastern Massachusetts and he arrived at the Isenberg School at 8:15AM!  Last night he had been busy speaking on a panel at Harvard and meeting with Syrian doctors until midnight.

Dr. Hariri has to be one of the bravest people I have ever met and, in teaching this course and working on disaster relief and operations research, I have communicated and interacted with many courageous and outstanding scholars and practitioners in this field.
He began his presentation by providing us with an overview of the Syrian Crisis and illustrated his presentation with numerous personal experiences. As a trauma surgeon, he has had to work in (and is now even helping to construct) makeshift hospitals, has driven an ambulance (these are usually covered in mud to camouflage), and has seen healthcare facilities targeted with bombs, especially using a double bomb attack tactic.

He shared with us conditions in prison that are so horrific I will spare you the details, but even children are imprisoned for "crimes" allegedly committed by a parent, which could even involve giving medical care to a patient.

Elderly parents are not spared.

He stated that high school students have three options, once they graduate:
1. become a refugee
2. carry arms and become a militant
3. continue one's education, if feasible.

Through incredible creativity and the novel use of technology he is working on educating medical students in Syria, most of whom will not be trained doing dissections, but will work directly on patients, many suffering from war wounds due to bombs and other weapons.

One hospital that he has worked at was targeted 25 times. The health system in Syria has almost collapsed with more than 50% of those working in hospitals now volunteers.

For security, they have moved hospitals underground and emergency rooms are sometimes located separately from hospitals to reduce the chance of detection and strikes. Dr. Hariri, has, at times, had to operate on patients, who are blindfolded, so that they don't recognize him in the community as a doctor, since medical professionals are targeted.

His creativity, drive to do good and help, have resulted in such innovations as having 5 ICUs being monitored from the US, medical education via smart phone, and with students studying on smart phones. He emphasized the importance of learning English among students in Syria and that even a warehouse of books was destroyed by the regime. Many of the books had been provided by the Dutch.  2 and a half million children in Syria are not in formal schools and mothers are trying to home school children.

Some of the bombs that are being dropped are in the form of toys.

There are now 5,000 Syrian doctors in the US but fewer than 2,000 in Syria.

To show you how dire the situation is, when speaking to militants, he was told that they did not want a hospital located in their area, since it was too dangerous!  What a challenge for operations research and applications of location theory!

Dr. Hariri believes that education is essential and will be pivotal in changing the crisis in Syria, a country in which dozens of weapons have been used in experiments.

His presentation, on Prezi, can be viewed here.

The love for his country, his brilliance, ingenuity, dedication, energy, and passion for doing what is right shone throughout his presentation today.

Below is a photo taken after his lecture. I presented him with a plaque for being a Professor for a Day and also a gift from the Isenberg School.

Afterwards, several students lingered to ask him more questions.
Many thanks to a humanitarian hero - Dr. Mahmoud Hariri, for a lecture that noone in the audience will ever forget.

For a nice article on Dr. Hariri in the Harvard Gazette, click here.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Game Theory and Fresh Produce Supply Chains - It's About the Fruits and Veggies

Is there anything more delicious than a ripe peach or mango? Or, perhaps, you love biting into a sweet, crisp apple? I love my fresh fruit and veggies and, frankly, we are spoiled, in a sense, in the US, where we can savor berries and cherries even in the winter. You probably also enjoy a variety of vegetables and I am not speaking of just French fries.

At the same time, when the "fresh" produce is not so fresh, one gets quite disappointed and the wastage associated with this industry is vast. Quality of fruits and vegetables is a topic, hence, of great research and practical interest and not only for food scientists and economists,  but operations researchers as well.

The first paper that my group published on fresh produce supply chains was: Competitive Food Supply Chain Networks with Application to Fresh Produce, Min Yu and Anna Nagurney, European Journal of Operational Research 224(2): (2013) pp 273-282, a paper that is highly cited and was even recognized by the Editors of the journal in a special session last July at the fabulous EURO conference in Poznan, Poland. You can read my blogpost, which even has photos of delicious pierogies here.

In this paper, we utilized game theory to capture competition among food firms, who differentiate their products, which are perishable, and we applied the model to a case study of cantaloupes, subject also to a disruption. Indeed, there have been some major quality issues resulting in food-borne illnesses in this sector. Quality in this paper was modeled using a generalized network framework with link multipliers and it was assumed that as the fresh produce "moved" over links in the supply chain that a certain percentage would "perish" and would, hence, be discarded.

More recently, we turned to short fresh produce supply chains in the form of farmers' markets.  In the paper, Quality in Competitive Fresh Produce Supply Chains with Application to Farmers’ Markets,
Deniz Besik and Anna Nagurney, which is now in press in Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, we used kinetic formulae to model quality deterioration over time and under temperature conditions. I think that this is super cool and very much enjoy bringing scientific disciplines from chemistry to physics to operations research supply chain modeling.  We then applied the model to apple farms in western Massachusetts, and, since one of the farms was Apex Orchards (one of my favorites), below I have photos of their relatively new store in Shelburne Falls.
And I can't resist sharing the photo below of the bridge of flowers in neighboring Shelburne.
In Amherst, we have a farmers' market from May through October in downtown, which is very enjoyable and also highly social. The Farmers' Market then moves indoors for the winter and whenever we are in town we always visit and purchase produce. You know where it is coming from and when it was picked. Our paper we dedicated to Robert Colnes, who owned an orchard in New Salem and who was a fellow Brown University alumnus. Deniz had interviewed him multiple times. He passed away a few months ago at age 96 and before we could share with him the good news that our paper had been accepted for publication. He was so generous in answering questions.

Last spring/summer I spent several months as a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College at Oxford University (a simply heavenly intellectual and aesthetic experience that will be very hard to top). While at Oxford I would regularly go to the Farmers' Market in the center of Oxford and the photos below capture some of the spirit of it.
The food stalls at the Oxford Farmers' Market are fabulous and there is a wide variety of ethnic cuisines for purchase.

In the paper, Supply Chain Network Capacity Competition with Outsourcing: A Variational Equilibrium Framework, Anna Nagurney, Min Yu, and Deniz Besik, in press in the Journal of Global Optimization, we used game theory, but the governing equilibrium concept was a Generalized Nash Equilibrium (rather than a Nash Equilibrium as in the above papers), since the producers' constraints, and not just their utility functions, depended on the strategies of the other producers.  The case study was to apples in western Massachusetts. We used variational equilibrium to formulate the problem.

What I find so special about the discipline of Operations Research is that you can work on what you love and that includes food supply chains!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Opportunities for Doctoral Students to Speak at Regional Conferences

There are so many advantages to going to professional conferences from the networking and exchange of ideas and research results to seeing new places and even practicing your public speaking skills.

It is especially important for doctoral students to have opportunities to present at conferences.

Our major professional conferences usually take place only once a year from the INFORMS conference to the POMS conference. However, if you keep your eyes open you might find that there are conference opportunities in your region. Sometimes you may even still be able to sleep in your bed.

For example, 6 years ago we co-organized the First (and so far the only) Northeast Regional INFORMS conference at UMass Amherst. 

We had a blast. With a team that included Professor Hari Balasubramanian of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department at UMass Amherst and Dr. Les Servi of MITRE, plus a lot of help from the wonderful UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, the conference was a big success. It took place in May with flowers blooming. Plenary addresses were delivered by Dr. Brenda Dietrich of IBM, Professor Alex "Sandy" Pentland of the MIT's Media Lab, and Professor David Simchi-Levi of MIT. Dietrich spoke on a Smarter Planet; Pentland on Building A Nervous System for Humanity: Making Health, Financial, Logistics, and Transportation Networks Work; and Simchi-Levi on Flexibility - From Theory to Practice. Tutorials were given on Transforming U.S. Army Supply Chains and Modern Design of Experiments - Recent Advances in Screening Methods. In addition, panels were organized on: The Academic Job Search Process, Research in Academia and Industry, and How to Run a Successful INFORMS Student Chapter.

The Isenberg School of Management Dean Dr. Mark A. Fuller provided welcoming remarks.  Mary Magrogan of INFORMS and Tracy Byrnes (now Cahall) of  INFORMS came out to support us and were a great help.

I posted some photos from this conference on this blog. 

When I saw that the Decision Sciences Institute (DSI) would be holding its Northeast Conference (NEDSI) this month in Springfield, Massachusetts, I thought that this would be a nice opportunity for doctoral students in Management Science at the Isenberg School to present their work. Some of my former doctoral students have presented at DSI but I have never been to this conference.

Springfield is only about 30 minutes from Amherst, Massachusetts and is the site of the Basketball Hall of Fame, some wonderful museums, and the Dr Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden.
The chair of the NEDSI conference is Dr. Minoo Tehrani of Roger Williams University, where one of our former doctoral students, Dr. Farbod Farhadi, is on the faculty of its business school. The university is located in beautiful Rhode Island on the ocean.

The NEDSI conference brochure was posted online today with the program.

My group will be presenting 3 papers there:

1. A Game Theory Model for Freight Service Provision Security Investments for High Value Cargo, which I co-authored with my doctoral student, Shivani Shukla, my former doctoral student, Dr. Sara Saberi, now a professor at the Foisie School of Business at WPI, and Professor Ladime S. Nagurney of the University of Hartford. Shivani will be presenting this paper.

2.  Supply Chain Network Capacity Competition with Outsourcing: A Variational Equilibrium Framework, co-authored with my doctoral student, Deniz Besik, and former doctoral student, Dr. Min Yu, now Professor at the Pamplin School of Business at the University of Portland. This paper is now in press in the Journal of Global Optimization. Deniz will present the paper.

3. Competition for Blood Donations: A Nash Equilibrium Network Framework, co-authored with doctoral student Pritha Dutta, whose dissertation I am co-chairing. Pritha will present our paper.

There will be a banquet on Saturday, as part of the conference, which will be a nice reward for the doctoral students' hard work!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Decision-Making Under Deep Uncertainty With Applications to Energy

I arrived back from Washington DC about 1AM this morning after a late flight. I was in DC to speak and take part in a fascinating international expert panel on Financial Supernetworks.

Today, I had a lot to catch up on but was very much looking forward to hearing my College of Engineering colleague, Professor Erin Baker, speak this afternoon in our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series. Her presentation title is below.
This Speaker Series is organized by the award-winning UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter.

The students had brought food - pizza plus pastries and fresh fruit and rinks, which were served prior to Professor Baker's lecture. She was introduced by the very energetic and hard-working Chapter President, doctoral student in Management Science at the Isenberg School, Pritha Dutta.
Professor Baker's outstanding talk presented a theoretical framework to handle "deep uncertainty," as when experts are in conflict or models are in conflict. She focused in her talk on the former. The very elegant theoretical framework consisting of alternatives, uncertainty, and preferences, along with expert beliefs used in a Bayesian way provide us what she and her collaborators are calling "belief dominance" in contrast to stochastic dominance and Pareto dominance. The framework eliminates bad solutions and from the set of the best ones identifies the robust ones.

Her research focuses on decision analysis and energy, including renewables (and she is head of a big NSF IGERT project on wind energy). She is an active member of INFORMS.

The application of the theoretical framework was to energy R&D portfolios since there is disagreement among experts on the best solutions for climate change.
Part of the motivation for the research that she presented today was that dynamic decision-making under uncertainty and learning has been criticized as lacking external consistency. It does make a lot of sense that in robust decision-making (and multiple stakeholders) one should start with a small number of alternatives and share with the stakeholders.  Stakeholders appreciate transparency. Her application to a portfolio of energy investment choices, such as nuclear, biomass, etc., at 3 different levels, was vividly illustrated in different colors highlighting belief dominance.

There was an excellent Q&A that followed after Professor Baker's talk and I snapped the group photo below).
Many thanks to Professor Baker for speaking today especially since you had even taught a class shortly before!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Congrats to Isenberg Women in Business for a Fabulous Conference!

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the 2017 Women of Isenberg Conference, organized by the Isenberg Women in Business Society at the Isenberg School of Management. The conference took place at the Campus Center of UMass Amherst. The conference is now an annual conference, with the inaugural one taking place in 2014. I had the pleasure of being a panelist at the second conference in 2015.

As we registered for the conference and picked up our elegant badges, we were greeted by a sign, and by members of the conference organizing committee.

The conference with about 350 attendees, mostly women, and a few very welcome males, including my Finance colleague, Professor Nikos Artavanis, was a huge success.
I was very much looking forward to the conference, since I had nominated two of my former Operations and Information Management students, now alumna, Johanna Zuber and Zheng Ding, as panelists, and they were selected. Johanna spoke on the Networking panel and Zheng on the Mentoring panel. Johanna and Zheng had been in my Logistics and Transportation class at the Isenberg School of Management and, after working in big companies, are now both at startups in NYC.

The organization of the conference was truly outstanding and the Isenberg Women in Business Society is an undergraduate student club so kudos to the officers, its members, and to all the volunteers for a great day.

There were keynote talks, multiple panels, and a lunch that was exquisite. I had the salmon, salad, mushroom risotto, with roasted veggies (beets, squash). It was served efficiently buffet style and then we brought our food back to the large room to listen to a very interesting panel on career challenges with four professional females from Pratt and Whitney. One, who works on global supply chains, had arrived from Poland at 2AM!

The full list of keynoters, panels, speakers and panel members, can be accessed here.

It was a terrific time to catch up with alumnae and some staff plus faculty.

I very much enjoyed all the panels that I attended and the discussions along with the Q&A. There was a great deal of energy and style present and support for one another at this special conference.

Plus, the treats during the afternoon coffee break were simply exquisite. I thought I was back in Paris.
The advice offered throughout the day will, I am sure, benefit all attendees, as well as the new acquaintances made. The nice canvas bag with amenities inside is a nice memento of a very rewarding day.
 Congrats to Isenberg Women in Business for a Fabulous Conference!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Emergency Management in Healthcare

I am thoroughly enjoying teaching my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class this semester at the Isenberg School of Management. The students are always willing to discuss and share their experiences and the time goes by much too quickly.

A very important feature of this class is the guest speakers that I bring in who are expert practitioners.

Mr. Thomas Lynch spoke on Emergency Management in Healthcare to my recently. (Since February 9 was a snow day at UMass and the university was closed, we are grateful that he was able to reschedule his talk for February 16.) He spent about two decades working in security and emergency management at Baystate Health in Springfield, Massachusetts, and, before that,  about 10 years working in security at Mount Sinai in Manhattan. He was a terrific Professor for a Day! He even brought multiple handouts for the student.

Baystate Health is a major trauma center in Massachusetts and Mr. Lynch shared with the students the importance of drilling, drilling, and drilling. When there was smoke next to an operating room, where a surgery was taking place, the medical team was prepared and had practiced and moved the patient (who was opened up) to another surgical unit where the surgery was successfully completed.

He provided the class with information on a hazard and vulnerability assessment tool for events that a hospital such as Baystate must be concerned about from hurricanes to snowfalls and now even tornadoes, since we had one in June 2011, as well as floods and droughts, along with the estimated probabilities and risk measurement.
There have been plans made that are derived from the hazards and vulnerability assessment for such incidents as: mass casualty, fire, weather events, hazmat (internal and external), bioterror, infant abduction (which worried him the most), evacuation, active shooter, a civil disturbance, and an IT outage.

He also shared with us that, after Hurricane Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in US history,  each hospital must prepare an emergency sustainability plan for 96 hours. This means that a hospital should be reliable/functional for 96 hours post a disaster without outside support. Hence, Baystate has a five day supply of food on hand. There is also a warehouse filled with pandemic supplies of 30 days. Since communications are essential to emergency preparedness and disaster relief, there is a backup phone system, cellphones for redistribution, and even 100 radios that can be put on a single frequency and a mobile satellite phone. The facility has 30,000 gallons on campus of fuel capacity which should be sufficient to sustain operations for 96 hours.

Mr. Lynch emphasized that it is important in an emergency to take care of yourself first and that is what the medical professionals are also trained to do. They also must take care of their families since otherwise they would be distracted about their welfare to do work. Only then does one worry about property.

It was very impressive to hear how the regional hospitals meet regularly to exchange best practices and also work with firemen and police departments. Relationships are critical and are built over time and they must be in place when an emergency or disaster strikes.

Mr. Lynch shared with us his varied experiences as to the responses various scenarios from barricades (which required rerouting of staff and ambulances) to shootings to a major explosion with 8 burn victims that were not readily identifiable. He also stated that when the Ebola crisis in western Africa peaked a few years ago that Baystate Health was one of a handful of centers in Massachusetts selected to be a treatment unit and it took them 18 months to prepare for this.
Mr. Lynch's presentation can be downloaded here.
Bay State Health (and we) are very lucky to have such a consummate emergency and security professional in our midst as Mr. Thomas Lynch and we thank him for all that he has done for our major hospital and its community!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Wonderful Conversation with Robin Chase, Cofounder of Zipcar, Thanks to the Isenberg School

The Isenberg School of Management started this year a great speaker series, which takes place at the UMass Club in downtown Boston.

Last Fall, the inaugural lecture was given by Steve Wozniak, the cofounder of Apple, and I blogged after this event.

This evening, the speaker was Robin Chase, an entrepreneur and cofounder of Zipcar, who, as she said, has become a real transportation wonk. Given that I teach a course on Transportation and Logistics and have also done a lot of research in this field, it was a fantastic opportunity to hear from her.

She was introduced by our Associate Dean, Professor Tom Moliterno, and Asma Khalid from Boston's NPR station, WBUR,  was the interviewer.

Robin has a degree from Wellesley College and an MBA from Stanford.

She took us back to 2000, when she cofounded Zipcar, and knew very soon that it would be very successful, so her husband left his day job and became a full-time parent for their three children, ages 6, 9, and 12 then.

Zipcar, according to her, was the third consumer product with wireless.

She emphasized the importance of origins and destinations  for trips as well as the types of different trips that people take in cars. She believes that Uber and Lyft could not have raised a penny if we didn't have Zipcar. Although there may be some cannibalization, Zipcar users use this service for different trips than those who utilize Uber and Lyft. She called them taxis and finds them to be complementary to Zipcar.

She also talked about Buzzcar, which she founded and which has been successful in France. It is a peer to peer car sharing service. She tried to get insurance for it in the US without any success and after 5 years gave up but managed to secure insurance in France within a year. I appreciated very much that she advised that one should not break rules on health and safety as a company. Four years ago she co-founded Venium, which provides low cost, reliable connectivity in vehicles and uses radio technology. She believes that Venium will be bigger than Zipcar.

Some of the conversation focused on whether  there is a place for car ownership in the US in the future. She believes that private cars will be excluded in dense cities in the US by 2030 and that this will happen in Europe and parts of Asia much sooner. She envisions the increase in land as providing space for bicycles, more greenspace, more low income housing, and cleaner air as well. Why spend $9K per year for a car if transport can cost you only $3K.

I liked her statement that "people will follow the economics."

She was very honest and sincere and spoke of the failure of her startup Goloco, which received $2 million in funding in 2009 and then she had to give back half of the funding two years later. People in the US just did not like sharing rides. She also emphasized the importance of a critical mass and mentioned that BlaBlaCar has been successful.

She believes that we will have use of self-driving cars by 2020-2021 because of automation in the car sector. Of course, there will be impact on truck drivers and bus drivers as well as insurance companies. With 35,000 people dying in traffic accidents last year in the US autonomous vehicles can improve safety.

She also noted that the single biggest barrier to alleviating poverty is access to quality transportation Clearly, car ownership of the future will differ for those residing in dense urban areas and those living in suburbia.

We are now in a platform economy and there is a political opportunity to do better than we have done in the past.

The Q&A were excellent an I especially appreciate the question about cybersecurity and autonomous vehicles since we have published several papers on cybersecurity and cybersecurity investments and network vulnerability.

The Isenberg School livestreamed this event, which had not been done for the Wozniak evening.

Many thanks to Robin Chase for a fascinating conversation and to Asma Khalid for keeping the conversation flowing so well.