INFORMS 2021: Back Together (Almost!)

As we cross one month since the 2021 INFORMS Annual Meeting, we would like to reminisce about all the great memories we had at the conference with people from all over the world who share our passion for OR&MS.

Presenting our research, getting feedback, and learning from the work of others was indeed valuable. INFORMS 2021 provided a multitude of speakers and training opportunities that enhanced our technical expertise. Furthermore, it allowed for much missed human interaction. Reuniting with former Chapter members, recruiting new students to our Chapter, as well accepting our Cum Laude Award together were remarkable experiences that we will always fondly remember!

We thank the Student Chapters’ committee for recognizing the great efforts of our officers, and we feel truly motivated to move forward thanks to a great reminder like this one. We also very much appreciate that our President, Paola P. Furlanetto, and our Secretary, Ogechi Vivian Nwadiaru, were there to represent our Chapter during the students’ reception and receive the award on stage from the INFORMS President-elect Radhika Kulkarni and Executive Director Elena Gerstmann.

UMass Amherst Student Chapter of INFORMS receives Cum Laude Award

(left to right: INFORMS President-elect Radhika Kulkarni, UMass INFORMS President Paola Furlanetto, UMass INFORMS Secretary Ogechi Vivian Nwadiaru and INFORMS Executive Director Elena Gerstmann)
UMass Amherst at INFORMS 2021 Student Reception

Thanks to the organizers’ noteworthy efforts, this year’s Annual Meeting was a “hybrid” experience, as all the attendees were able to enjoy both in-person and online presentations as well as the hybrid content that connected guests attending in-person with attendees joining from miles away. Our Chapter collectively felt energized and inspired once we were able to hear from many professionals and peers about their exciting ideas and refreshing perspectives. Even though we went through challenging times since 2020, upcoming OR&MS studies on COVID response encouraged us to stay hopeful, work harder and together for a brighter future for us and the next generations. As the Student Chapter, we were reminded to support each other through our academic journeys as peers and future colleagues, and were motivated to come up with new ways to do so as soon as we were back in UMass Amherst. During the conference, we were even able to find new members for our Chapter, which made us feel stronger as a community.

A photograph to celebrate recruiting two new members
Past & present UMass INFORMS Officers

We would like to present you some valuable remarks about the Annual Meeting, by our Chapter Officers who attended the conference in-person, and our Faculty Advisor:

What a delight it was to have our student Chapter members, various UMass Amherst faculty, and even alums present at the hybrid INFORMS Annual Meeting in Anaheim.  It was wonderful to see the esprit de corps and the enthusiasm in the presentations and the various other events at this conference. A special highlight for me was to have our UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter again recognized with an award for its activities, the 15th year in a row that the chapter has been thus recognized and every year since INFORMS started this award.  As the Faculty Advisor to this Student Chapter, it is a pleasure to see the students grow professionally and in terms of leadership plus friendship through the chapter events, from panels to the hosting of speakers, as well as social events. In the pandemic, there have been so many challenges for all, but, as a community, we emerge stronger by working together and supporting one another.  Personally, I was also thrilled to be invited to deliver a tutorial at this conference entitled, “Game Theory and the COVID-19 Pandemic,” and to  have a co-authored paper presented by Mojtaba Salarpour, the former Chapter President, and Dr. Deniz Besik and Dr. Pritha Dutta, both former very active past Chapter Presidents, and Isenberg School PhD alumnae, now Assistant Professors at the University of Richmond and Pace University, respectively.

Anna Nagurney, Ph.D. – Eugene M. Isenberg Chair in Integrative Studies

INFORMS 2021 Annual Meeting at Anaheim allowed for long needed human interaction and face to face discussions in multiple topics of Operations Research. I was particularly lucky to present my research in the Energy and Equity Session where I could meet other researchers doing great work to advance justice in the Power Systems. I thank the organization for a hybrid format and look forward to a safer future where we can all meet in person.

Paola Furlanetto – PhD Candidate, IEOR

The INFORMS 2021 Annual Meeting was a fantastic opportunity to present my research focusing on resilient infrastructure management and learn about a variety of projects ranging from innovative transportation and shared mobility systems to optimization techniques in machine learning. The sessions that stood out to me covered specialized modeling routines and solving models on decentralized computing resources. It was great to connect with researchers and industry leaders from far and near and explore the vibrant city of Anaheim.

Nasko Apostolov – MS Candidate, Civil Engineering

Once again, our Chapter thanks everyone who joined us during this exceptional journey, and everyone who made it possible. We are already looking forward to the next year’s meeting, and we are more than ready to be there and get inspired again as a tight-knit community with high motivation!

Posters of some of the INFORMS presentations by our Officers

UMass INFORMS Speaker Series: Dr. Robin Lougee

Our Student Chapter’s Speaker Series keeps bringing us together with excellent researchers, and our last event on November 19th was no exception. We were honored to have Dr. Robin Lougee, a member of the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, for this semester’s first Speaker Series event. Dr. Lougee was the former Global Research Industry Lead for Consumer at IBM Research, and she is the newly elected Vice President of Practice of INFORMS.

Dr. Robin Lougee with our Chapter Officers, our Faculty Advisor, and audience members.

For this talk, Dr. Lougee introduced us to the fascinating world of AI systems used in product development. Thanks to her, we were informed about how great levels of efficiency can be achieved in product design when the developers are assisted by novel AI systems. The talk was based on a multi-year research collaboration between McCormick & Company and IBM Research. Hence, specific cases of AI-aided product design with a focus on flavor innovation were brought up during the presentation. One would initially think that “taste” is such a nuanced concept that could not be captured by inanimate subjects, and yet Dr. Lougee showed us that not only AI systems can explore the flavor space very effectively, but they can also add various constraints of the product developer to the picture while doing so, such as cost or healthiness of the final product.

Dr. Lougee’s presentation about using AI systems in product development.

This highly intriguing research showed all those in the audience that when creativity meets technology and information, results that were previously unexpected can be unveiled and move us towards a greater future. Our Student Chapter was truly motivated by the excellence of this talk, and would like to thank Dr. Robin Lougee once again. We would also like to thank our Faculty Advisor Prof. Anna Nagurney, and everyone in the audience for joining and supporting us for our Speaker Series event. We cannot wait to see what is the next ORMS subject that we will explore thanks to the Speaker Series!

Dr. Lougee as she takes questions from the audience.