Alumni and students are recognized at annual INFORMS Conference

They include Blumstein Ph.D. ’60, Barton Ph.D. ’78, Gallego Ph.D. ’88, Barnett ’11 M.Eng. ’11, O’Mahony CS Ph.D. ’15, Girard M.S. ’16

Several individuals affiliated with ORIE were recognized at the annual meeting of INFORMS, the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, held in Nashville in November 2015. 

George B. Dantzig Dissertation Award

2015 Computer Science Ph.D. Eoin O’Mahony won the  George B. Dantzig Dissertation Award for his thesis “Smarter Tools for (Citi)Bike Sharing,” which was advised by ORIE Professor and Director David Shmoys. The prize is given for the best dissertation in operations research that is innovative and relevant to practice, and is named for the pioneer in the development of operations research, and most notably for the simplex method for linear programming.

Efficient management of bicycle sharing systems poses the daily problem of rebalancing the system by moving bikes from areas where they become concentrated to areas where they become depleted.  In August of 2014 there were more than 500 bike sharing systems worldwide – the largest in North America being the Citibike system in New York City.  Working with voluminous data on system activity and novel optimization methods, O’Mahony developed tools (some of which build on Dantzig’s work) to assist Citibike staff in developing daily rebalancing plans, and to evaluate plans for expansion. These tools and the underlying mathematics and insights are broadly applicable to the growing bicycle sharing domain.

O’Mahony commented that "it was an honor to receive the INFORMS Dantzig Dissertation Award. It is wonderful that the OR community awards applied work. Both in my PhD and my work at Uber I have focused on bringing tools from computer science and operations research to bear on real world problems and was excited to see this effort rewarded.".

O’Mahony is currently Data Science Manager for the Dispatch function at Uber headquarters in San Francisco, where he leads the team responsible for the software that dispatches Uber drivers all over the world.  He is seen at right accepting the award from INFORMS President Edward Kaplan of Yale. 

Doing Good with Good OR Student Paper Competition

Christine Barnett became interested in applications of operations research to health as an undergraduate in ORIE, where she worked with her advisor, Professor Jack Muckstadt (now emeritus) on simulating supply chains for emergency distribution of health care supplies.  Their paper was a finalist in the 2010 INFORMS Undergraduate Research Prize and her 2011 M.Eng. project team, advised by Muckstadt, won second place in the annual Silent Crane and Hoist competition. 

As a PhD student at the University of Michigan, Barnett has now won the INFORMS “Doing Good with Good OR” Student Paper Competition for her paper, with fellow student Selin Merdan, "Data Analytics for Optimal Detection of Metastatic Prostate Cancer.”   The paper deals with the crucial problem of determining whether a cancer has metastasized.  Metastases are determined by radiological imaging, but taking too many bone scans and CT scans is dangerous and expensive while taking too few risks missing a potentially fatal development.  

Barnett and Merdan used data-analytics approaches to develop, calibrate, and validate predictive models to help urologists in a large state-wide collaborative make prostate cancer staging decisions.  The Michigan Urological Surgery Improvement Collaborative implemented these guidelines, which reduced unnecessary imaging by more than 40% and is predicted to limit the percentage of patients with missed metastatic disease to be less than 1%. 

INFORMS Impact Prize

Revenue management is the theory and practice of dynamically managing the price and availability of products and services to maximize profitability, experienced originally in airline management of pricing and availability of seats following the 1978 deregulation of the airlines but now applied very broadly. Every two years, INFORMS awards a prize that recognizes contributions that have had a broad impact on operations research, as revenue management certainly has – it has become a mainstream practice across a wide range of industries and is critical now to internet businesses such as Amazon, Airbnb, Google, Microsoft and Uber.  

At the Nashville INFORMS meeting, the Impact Prize was awarded to eight individuals who have played pivotal roles in the creation and widespread adoption of revenue management, including Guillermo Gallego Ph.D. ’88, whose Ph.D. advisor was emeritus ORIE Professor Robin Roundy.   

Gallego, currently head of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Logistics Management and a chaired professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, previously served as chair of industrial Engineering and Operations Research at Columbia University.  At left, he responds at the award ceremony.  

Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Omega Rho International Honor Society

One of the first recipients of a Ph.D. from ORIE, Alfred Blumstein Ph.D. ’60 was honored as a panel member celebrating the 40th anniversary of theOmega Rho International Honor Society for operations research, management science, and related areas.   At the INFORMS meeting, Blumstein and former Omega Rho Distinguished Lecturers John Little, Ralph Keeney and John, revisited their earlier lecture topics. Blumstein is Emeritus University Professor of Urban Systems and Operations Research and former Dean  at Carnegie Mellon University.

For the panel discussion, Blumstein was asked to build on the theme of his Omega Rho talk, “OR/MS for the Public Sector: The New Frontier Under the Next President,” delivered just prior to the 1988 election of George H. W. Bush.  In Nashville, six days after the 2016 election he noted that “evidence-based policy,” with many overtones of Operations Research and Management Science (OR/MS), has become a standard at all levels of government in the US and internationally in the developed world.  He conveyed hope that the newly-elected president, businessman Donald Trump, would come to appreciate the “multidimensional complexity of the public sector.”  He recently reported that now his “hope has been targeted more at state and local governments, which are indeed building evidence-based policies,” and his wish that the “two parties in the Congress would somehow get together to do similarly.” 

Simulation Society Outstanding Publication Award

Russell Barton Ph.D. ’78, won the Outstanding Publication Award of the INFORMS Simulation Society, with coauthors Barry Nelson of Northwestern University and Wei Xie of RPI.  The award was for two related 2014 papers on quantifying uncertainty in stochastic simulation.  A computer simulation of a hospital service system, for example, can be run many times, resampling from input data each time, with a resulting statistical distribution of outcomes such as waiting times.  While much research has been done to help quantify the outcome uncertainty these distributions, the authors point out that the inputs to such simulations, such as arrival rates, are derived from observational data that have inherent uncertainty themselves.   Their papers explore ways to take into account both input and outcome uncertainty in evaluating simulation results.

At the same Nashville meeting, Barton received the INFORMS Quality Statistics and Reliability Section Distinguished Service Award for 2016. He was recently elected Vice President of Sections and Societies for INFORMS., and named a Fellow of the Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineers.     

Barton is professor of supply chain and information systems and senior associate dean for research and faculty in the Smeal College of Business at Penn State University.  Early in 2017, he became the fourth Smeal faculty member to be named distinguished professor, a title established by the Office of the President of Penn State to recognize a select group of professors with exceptional accomplishments in teaching, research and service.  Barton, who is also on the faculty of the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, is distinguished professor of supply chain and information systems in the Smeal College of Business.         

Minority Issues Forum Student Poster Competition

Fourth-year Ph.D. student Cory Girard worked with his Ph.D. advisor, Professor Mark Lewis, on a research presented in the annual Minority Issues Forum Student Poster Competition at the Nashville meeting.  The poster, which describes a way of allocating a set of servers to customers with different priority levels, won Honorable Mention in the competition. The research shows the optimality of simple policies that are easy to implement in practice, for example, in hospital emergency departments where both acute and non-acute patients are served by the same staff.  

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