What's Your StORy?

Anna Nagurney

Anna Nagurney

June 2015 What's Your StORy?
John F. Smith Memorial Professor of Operations Management at the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and director of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks.
Visiting professor at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

More questions for Anna Nagurney?
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What is the best advice you can give to students in your field?
Operations research is a very exciting, creative, dynamic discipline that will open many doors for you on your life's journey. Obtain as many skills as you can while a student in terms of modeling and math, algorithms, and their development and implementation, and coding, and find applications that you are passionate about. After graduation, professionally you will continue to learn and your interests will evolve. Having excellent foundations will help to support you and give you confidence and build your reputation. Make sure that if there is an INFORMS Student Chapter at your university that you join it and do become an active member. You will advance your leadership and communication skills and meet many outstanding researchers and practitioners through speakers, programs, and other activities. Your network will grow.

If you are a graduate student, start going to INFORMS conferences as soon as you can. You will make lifelong friendships through INFORMS communities, learn a lot, and have wonderful adventures and fun!


What interest do you have outside of work that might surprise us?
I've run several marathons so I am not always dressed in a suit and high heels. And with a lot of exercise comes the need for delicious nourishment so I love to cook, especially bake, and to entertain. I have quite a few oil paintings to my credit that I hope will last as long as my papers and books.


What is your least favorite mode of transportation? Can you apply a routing problem to make it better?
My least favorite mode of transportation is driving myself. I did not get a license until after I was a full professor. Having grown up in the NYC area I loved taking buses, subways, and trains, so I saw no need for a car and my family did not even own a car until my brother and I went to college. Not knowing how to drive made me objective when it came to my research in transportation and logistics.

One of my favorite routes to UMass Amherst is via foot through the woods and past fields and, while in Sweden, I love taking the trolleys and even ferries or walking for miles, depending on the destination. Many interesting destinations I need to fly to and I adore travel and exploring new cities, and, luckily, professional conferences are very often located in venues that are conducive to walking and even dancing the tango, as at the ALIO-INFORMS conference in Buenos Aires.


What has been your best INFORMS experience?
There have been so many experiences that I can't possibly choose just one, so here are a few, beginning with introducing students to their first INFORMS Annual and Analytics conferences, having students being recognized at a conference, whether with a dissertation award, the Judith B. Liebman Award, or our UMass Amherst Chapter getting a slew of annual awards. The happiness on the students' faces I will always treasure. Seeing students come back as professors or as successful professionals in industry is also always thrilling and so rewarding. Other great memories have included celebrating with those who have been recognized for their work in transportation with the Robert A. Herman Lifetime Achievement Award, and organizing multiple sessions at an INFORMS San Francisco conference to mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of the classic book, Studies in the Economics of Transportation, with two of the three still living authors, Martin Beckmann and Bart McGuire, in attendance. That conference some of you may recall, was originally scheduled for New Orleans and then Hurricane Katrina hit. Flying to the first INFORMS conference post 9/11, which was in Miami, is also a vivid memory including that, once we landed, there was a chance of a hurricane hitting and my hotel room had a balcony view of the frothy ocean waves. Irv Lustig said not to worry and we did not have to evacuate.

Of course, I will always hold dear the memories of conversations with George Dantzig, Peter Hammer, and my dissertation advisor, Stella Dafermos, with whom I shared a room at INFORMS conferences until she passed away, and others who contributed so much of themselves to O.R. Meeting the Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences Harry Markowitz in an elevator at an INFORMS conference and talking with him is another favorite experience. Such an experience further shows the serendipity and value of INFORMS conferences.

Events at INFORMS conferences such as the WORMS award lunch and the INFORMS Fellows lunch are also favorites of mine.


If we were sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great year it's been for you, what would we be celebrating?
First of all, we would all be having tea and scones with clotted cream and sherry in the common room at All Souls College, Oxford University, where I will be a visiting fellow during the Trinity term, a year from now. We'd be reminiscing about Philip M. Morse, a founding father of operations research. In 1946, 70 years earlier, Morse was recognized with the Presidential Medal of Merit, the nation’s highest civilian award, for leading the team that was known as the Anti-Submarine Warfare Operations Research Group during WWII and, after their role grew, the Operations Research Group. The group was formed, in part, because of the success of Patrick Blackett and OR for the British military.

That same year, 1946, the ENIAC, the first programmable general-purpose electronic digital computer, was unveiled and OR was on its way.

We would also, at Oxford, be toasting the publication of my latest book and the graduation of my 19th PhD student. We would be celebrating my daughter’s graduation from college and reminiscing how she attended her first INFORMS conference in Boston at three months of age.


What are current issues/trends/challenges in O.R.?
O.R. has made immense positive impacts on many sectors of our economy and societies, as well as government. Through methodological and algorithmic innovations, new models, software, and exciting applications ranging from cybersecurity to disaster management and advanced transportation systems, and even Future Internet Architectures, novel supply chains and services, social media analytics, renewable energy and sustainability, coupled with partnerships with collaborators in different disciplines, such as computer science and economics, as well as in medicine and healthcare, the discipline is reaching new heights and levels of recognition. With Big Data and our expertise and contributions to analytics, there are great opportunities to synergistically enhance education, research, and practice. Demands for expertise in O.R. and analytics from industry, the non-profit sector, and government will be keeping us all very busy in pushing the frontiers. These are truly exciting times.


Do you believe in Big Foot?
I believe in Big Foot because she is proof that you can go to fascinating places without knowing how to drive, and like me, she was born in Canada.