Recipients of the Stuewer Fellowship meet the Donor
At this fall’s festivities honoring Professor Jack Muckstadt’s retirement, the first and second recipients of a new ORIE Ph.D. Fellowship had their first opportunity to meet the donor, Sherri K. Stuewer ’73, MS ’75.
Gwen Spencer, who completed her ORIE Ph.D. in 2012, is from Normandy Park, WA, and completed her undergraduate work in mathematics at Harvey Mudd College. She is currently a Neukom Postdoctoral Fellow at Dartmouth College and will join the mathematics department at Smith College in the summer of 2014. “It was a real pleasure to meet Sherri in person,” she said. “It is inspiring that Sherri has been involved at such a high level in shaping the dialog on important energy and environmental issues,” she added. Learning that when entering the job market “helped me reflect on how I will build my own career.”
Alice Paul, a first year Ph.D. student in ORIE from Madison, NJ, also graduated in mathematics from Harvey Mudd College. She won the 2012 INFORMS Undergraduate Operations Research Prize, for her paper “Detecting Covert Members of Terrorist Networks.” Her undergraduate advisor was Susan Martonosi, ORIE ‘99, who received her Ph.D. from MIT and was a visiting Assistant Professor at Cornell in 2008. “I am excited about the Fellowship,” she said, because it “allows me to stay in Ithaca during the summer and explore research ideas.” She was delighted to meet Stuewer, who “was very warm and welcomed me with a hug” when they met, she recalled.
Sherri Stuewer, who earned her undergraduate and MS degrees in ORIE, retired at the end of 2011 as Vice President – Environmental Policy and Planning for ExxonMobil Corporation. She has served Cornell as head of the Engineering College Council and a member of the Board of Trustees. “It was very rewarding to meet the students who are receiving support from the fellowship” she established in ORIE. “I am delighted to be able to support such capable students, and I am a bit in awe of their energy and enthusiasm for their research.”
Spencer’s research deals with the application of operations research to problems in sustainability. Working with Professor David Shmoys, in her thesis she developed algorithms that find provably near-optimal solutions to problems that involve uncertainty and have spatial structure that can be represented by graphs. She applied these algorithms to determining the optimal balance of preventive management and real-time firefighting to contain wildfires, and to a problem related to containment of invasive species. “I love learning from scientific experts such as ecologists and foresters about the systems they study and then thinking about how to really push the set of questions we can ask together,” Spencer said.
As one of three inaugural Neukom Fellows at Dartmouth’s Neukom Institute for Computational Science, Spencer has been recognized as a recent Ph.D. whose research interests have a computational component and cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries. As Dartmouth she is affiliated with both the environmental studies and computer science departments and is working on projects with an ecological economist, a Ph.D. in forestry, a computer scientist, and a linguist.
Paul’s prize-winning paper investigated a mathematical model of communication among terrorists, with the objective of determining the best way to increase the visibility of a key leader of a network by selecting a subset of members whose removal maximizes the communication that is thereby forced to go through that leader. In her work Paul built upon a framework for network disruption and covert networks established by Martonosi and others. At Cornell, Paul says she is likely to work in discrete optimization, and will begin reading and research work with Professor David Williamson soon. Her awareness of Williamson’s work was one of the things that attracted her to Cornell in the first place, in addition to meeting with some ORIE graduate students, including Spencer, during a visit last year.