Category Archives: Year in Review

2016 Farewell

Goodbye 2016; farewell!  From a macro perspective, 2016 left a lot to be desired; on a day-to-day level, life wasn’t too bad.  Here’s my annual reflection of our research group’s happenings.

fabiana2016

Fabiana’s farewell dinner. Front: Munira, Fabiana, Kaan, Burcu (Kaan’s wife); Back: Shahab, Jen; Missing: Uzma

I have a great research team, which in 2016 included 4 Ph.D. students, a flock of undergraduate students, and an excellent visiting research scholar.  I genuinely enjoyed thinking about and exploring research with them.

Uzma Mushtaque completed her candidacy proposal in Fall 2016 on Context-dependent discrete choice models and assortment optimization for online retail. Her research develops new mathematical models for personalized recommendations capturing different context-effects associated with individual user selection behavior found in the marketing and behavioral research. If you have ever tried to watch something on Netflix, but after searching through their many options, left without watching anything, you could benefit from her research.  A central research question in her dissertation is ‘how many items to recommend in an online environment?’

In 2016, the world discovered what I have known for a while: Shahab Mofidi is a rising star.  This is evident in the number of national and institute-wide awards he was awarded, including:

  • Awarded the Institute of Industrial and System Engineer (IISE) E. J. Sierleja Memorial Fellowship for the next academic year;
  • Awarded the Tompkins International Honor Scholarship for the 2016/2017 academic year from the Material Handling Education Foundation, Inc.
  • Awarded the New York Capital Region Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals scholarship
  • Awarded a 2016 Founders Award from RPI, which “honors students who embody qualities of creativity, discovery, leadership, and the values of pride and responsibility at Rensselaer.”
  • Participated in ComSciCon a communicating science workshop for graduate students at Cornell.

Shahab played a dedicated and instrumental role in preparations for an NSF grant proposal I submitted this summer.  His current research has applications in peer-to-peer resource sharing systems.  In such systems, a central mechanism is needed to facilitate the interactions between users.  Shahab’s research uses a bi-level modeling approach to capture discretion levels of users.  This spring he will complete his Ph.D. candidacy exam and will be on the job market in the fall.

Two Ph.D. students joined our research group this fall.  Kaan Unnu arrives with a wealth of knowledge having spent 7 years as a Production Planning & Quality Manager in the automotive industry.  Prior to that, he worked for 3 years as a Logistics manager of a plastic/paper packaging company.  Kaan’s years working hands-on applying industrial engineering techniques in practice and his maturity have allowed him to quickly jump into the research.  His dissertation research is on designing models to evaluate on-demand logistics services.  We plan to develop optimization models both from a lender of space and a user of space perspective.  The models will be used to capture trade-offs and simulate different scenarios to answer questions like: In what environments should a company build, lease with a 3PL, or go on demand?  Of particular interest is to quantify the benefits of on-demand systems in different environments.  For example, what is the value of access to scale, smaller commitment granularity, or smaller capacity granularity?

Munira Shahir arrives to our group after completing her BS in mathematics from University of Maryland Baltimore County.  Her proposed research is on disaster response logistics, especially focusing on the material convergence problem — in which too often resources donated in disasters are not useful.  “Helping is not always helping” because low priority or not needed donations utilize valuable resource capacities and actually delay processing of needed resources to effected areas. So, please think twice about donating that winter coat to survivors of a natural disaster from a tropical area!    Through modeling, we want to quantify the impact of a more represented mix of incoming donated resources.  Our models will be used to explore and identify strategies able to effectively serve the impacted areas, as well as utilize resources donated.  Some ideas include triage systems, and on-demand Uber-like systems for better coordination.

A flock of undergraduate students have been involved in our research group in 2016.  Outcomes included Joan Climes presenting her work on ship-from-store order fulfillment at the 2016 RPI Undergraduate Research Symposium; Ian Shin co-authoring a book chapter on “Logistics Models to Support Order-Fulfillment from the Sea” for the 2016 Progress in Material Handling Research, and Zach Shearin’s paper “The NHL Playoff Picture”, which analyzed the NHL’s point system through an operations research and statistical analysis lens accepted to the MIT Sloan’s Sports Analytics Conference.  Other students researched on-demand peer-to-peer resource sharing, disaster response coordination, and sea-based logistics models.

palleteers

The Palleteers.  Andres Carrano has done a great job capturing our contributions to the design of sustainable pallet management here:

Palleteers: Noun, defined as a group of researchers who study all things pallets.  The palleteers had two papers accepted for publication in 2016 on the topic of “effective pallet management strategies” in TR-E and “Carbon footprint analysis of pallet remanufacturing” in JCP.  Andres has done a great job capturing our groups contributions, check out his page on Sustainable Pallet Management.   A highlight of the fall was hosting Fabiana Tornese in Troy.  She is finishing her Ph.D. in the Department of Innovation Engineering at University of Salento.  She spent last summer with Andres in Auburn; this year in upstate NY.  We were able to take a trip to visit Brian at RIT and watch how pallets are manufactured.  Honestly, who knew I would know so much about pallets!  I’m looking forward to continued pallet management projects with an eye towards the circular economy.

A perk of academics is getting to keep up with and working with members who have moved on to other adventures.  This included finishing up and submitting papers with former group members, Faraz Ramtin (now at Carian group in New Jersey); Mohamed Awwad (now at University of Missouri); and Patrick Reilly (now at Orange County Schools).  Kellie Schneider (University of Dayton) has been instrumental in extending Patrick’s work for journal publication, and she’s (of course) a lot of fun to work with.  Debjit Roy and I continued our research partnership; and he even visited us in Troy this summer.  A nice treat was receiving an IIE Transactions Honorable Mention Best Paper Award in 2016 for our joint work with Rene de Koster on “A Novel Approach for Designing Rental Vehicle Repositioning Strategies.”

I’m glad teaching is part of my job description.  I truly enjoyed my students in Operations Research Methods in the Spring and in Design and Analysis of Supply Chains in the Fall.  My parents attended one of my classes this spring (my Mom said it was good, except I talked too fast).

I was fortunate to be awarded a 2016 Gulf Research Program Early-Career Research Fellowship.  It’s a program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  RPI published a nice write-up about the award here.  I highly recommend applying to the early-career fellowships and science policy fellowships to others.  The orientation event in September was a highlight: meeting the other fellows, getting to geek out with Einstein and Darwin at the NAS building, and hearing about the diversity of career choices available with a Ph.D. in STEM . During fellowship orientation, I was struck by how an Industrial and Systems Engineering perspective is both valued in policy roles and embodies the Gulf Research Program’s mission of considering multiple perspectives, synthesizing results from multiple data sources and fields of study, and using research to guide decision making.   The program has and will continue to have calls for research proposals, so check it out!

pazour-arkansas-seminar

My Last Slide from my research seminar at UofA.  Graduate school was a lot of fun, exposing me to knowledge both in and outside the classroom.  There are 10 Razorback students who became faculty members captured in these pictures, can you find them all?

Another highlight of 2016 was visiting my Alma Mater, the University of Arkansas, to give a research presentation in their seminar series.  Going to graduate school was one of the best professional and personal decisions I have made in my life.

On-demand peer-to-peer resource sharing systems is a continued theme of my research.  I kicked off 2016 with a presentation at a TRB workshop.  This Transport Topics article captures the conversation well:

At TRB, Jennifer Pazour, an industrial and systems engineering professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, agreed that these types of on-demand logistics services can improve asset utilization and flexibility. “What this on-demand economy allows us to do is tap into those unused resources and use them very efficiently,” she said.

Traditional supply chain networks tend to be somewhat static, which can limit their efficiency and resiliency, Pazour said. In contrast, the on-demand model represents a more dynamic supply chain that potentially can incorporate infinite participants, transfer points and pickup and delivery locations, which makes it more adaptable and resilient. However, this “boundless supply chain” also is much more complex, Pazour said. Authenticating personnel and facilities, for example, can become more complicated under the on-demand model.

Read more at: http://www.ttnews.com/articles/basetemplate.aspx?storyid=41949&page=3  © Transport Topics

Fast Forward interviewed me to highlight a career in Logistics.  My interview, which provides an overview of my interest in on-demand logistics, geared towards high school students is available here.

werc

Crowdsourcing and Collaborative Warehousing and Logistics, WERC Annual Meeting; Brett Parker (President and Co-Founder Cargomatic); Jen Pazour (RPI); Karl Siebrecht (CEO Flexe), and Brett Spector (Director of Noth America Channel Sales, Iron Mountain)

In May, I presented with the executives from FLEXE (Karl Siebrecht), Cargomatic (Brett Parker), and IronMountain (Brett Spector) at WERC’s annual meeting.  Karl provides a nice overview of our presentation in his blog post here.  This summer I submitted a grant proposal on the topic.  This fall I presented in RPI’s Lally School of Management, Center for Supply Networks and Analytics Seminar Series.  Next week I am headed to New Jersey to give a presentation about on-demand logistics at an APICS/WERC event.

It’s my 15th anniversary of discovering Industrial and Systems Engineering.  While our field has made some progress on informing the world about what we do, I believe we need to do more.  To get the word out, I led the development of an introduction to RPI ISE video, targeting high school students and undecided engineering students: https://youtu.be/f6Ps5SyimMg.

2016 has confirmed moving to Troy was the right move.  I love my job, but weekends are even better.  We’ve made a number of interesting and kind friends, Luke continues to work at the intersection of data analytics and video games, we eat too much pizza and I never drive my car.

In terms of 2017, I’ll rely on the great Bob Dylan for inspiration.

It’s hard to speculate what tomorrow may bring. I kinda live where I find myself.

Bob Dylan, 1984 Rolling Stones Interview

2015 End-of-Year Update

IMG_2084

Art done on my whiteboard by my talented brother-in-law Blake Neubert.

The red ink from grading exams combined with the still-green grass on campus has me in the holiday spirit.  Here’s my blog tradition of an end-of-year update.

The biggest update from 2015 was a change in location.  I made the move to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute this summer and it has proved to be a Pareto-optimal life solution.  The Industrial and Systems Engineering department at RPI is a nice place to be a junior faculty.  Already, interactions with my colleagues have led to new insights and directions for my research, and mentoring has led to a potential industry project and an award nomination.  We love our new community in Troy, and my husband found a super-charged job as a data analyst for Vicarious Visions.

In 2015, I have been lucky to lead a talented research team that has helped further research on the development of mathematical representations of complex systems and processes to better understand the implications of their design and operation.  My research has focused on three main stems of discovery: military logistics, distribution systems, and peer-to-peer sharing systems.  In 2015, I received my first NSF funding.  The project focuses on peer-to-peer sharing systems, which are systems where a resource owned by an individual is collectively shared with a group of users. The shared resource can be a physical resource (like a power drill) or a human resource (like the ability to perform a task). By focusing on access over ownership, these Systems allow physical assets to be consumed as services and tasks to be completed by independent individuals. Examples include sharing economy companies like Uber, Flexe, Cargomatic, and Instacart.

I’m thankful that I was able to convince Shahab Mofidi to transfer with me from UCF to RPI.  He is working on his Ph.D. research on two-stage multi-product procurement decisions with cost fluctuations.  He did an excellent job presenting his work at ISERC (to 3 generations of his academic family) and INFORMS.  It’s fun to jointly put our heads together during our weekly research meetings.

4Generations

Shahab Mofidi presents to three-generations of his academic tree at the 2015 ISERC conference (Mofidi, Pazour, Meller, [Bozer, not pictured], White)

I started working with Uzma Mushtaque this summer, and she has jumped right into her research on developing and using models that incorporate assortment properties into random utility models.  Specifically, she is interested in how to explicitly model no-choice probabilities associated when individual users are recommended an assortment of options to choose from.  Her work has wide application from recommendations in e-commerce and Netflix, as well as facilitating freelancer options in peer-to-peer resource sharing apps.  Shahab and she gained valuable experience attending the Purdue CIBER PhD Consortium on International Operations Management.  Uzma is excited to have her first research abstract accepted to present at ISERC in 2016.  Finally, I am excited to have Yuan (Eric) Meng join my group.  He will research bi-level optimization models for peer-to-peer sharing systems.

As new members joined, a number of students graduated in 2015.  Patrick Reilly defended his Master’s Thesis this spring on “Propagation of Unit Location Uncertainty in Dense Storage Environments”.  With help from Dr. Kellie Schneider, a journal out of his work has been submitted for review.  Mohamed Awwad defended his Ph.D. dissertation this Fall, which focuses on searching in dense storage environments.  We have received constructive reviews back on a submitted paper and are currently working on revisions.  Finally, Faraz Ramtin (who was the first student to jointly work with me) graduated this Spring with his Ph.D. His work on MIAPP AS/RS is ongoing and has led to interesting discussions with other facility logistics researchers who are modeling other aspects of the technology used for distribution.  He has two accepted publications in IIE Transactions and is preparing a third contribution for publication.

 

MohamedDefense

Mohamed Awwad defends his dissertation at UCF, while I attend proudly from NY.

Undergraduate researchers bring a rad perspective to our research.  This semester I had six undergraduates who worked on projects associated with supply chain modeling of ship-from-store fulfillment, sharing economy models for supply chains, and seabased logistics.

On my drive from Florida to New York, I got an awesome tour of Duke’s campus from Catherine Ninah, who was an undergraduate researcher at UCF and conducted research via an REU.  Catherine Ninah and Kristin Elias were involved with ICubed at UCF – their collaborations with art students created some cool art based on our seabased logistics research.

 

In 2015, I finally got to teach a logistics course in the spring, and enjoyed incorporating my research and the material handling and logistics US roadmap into the course.  I just wrapped up a rewarding class on the Design and Analysis of Supply Chains.  One of the introductory assignments was to have students create a “Supply Chain and You” slide to motivate the students to think about the importance and impact of the course topics on the students’ lives, and also allowed me to get to know the students better.   Here’s mine:

Supply Chains and Me

The course ended with a review of the topics helped by students’ memes.  Here is my favorite, which reminds students when calculating the amount of safety stock you need to use the square root of the lead time.

Final Exam Review - Fall 2015

My mission to create more Industrial Engineers has continued in 2015.  I enjoyed participating at CAMP Connect, presenting to the Eureka! Program of Girls Incorporated in the Capital Region, to the RPI student chapter of IIE about “What is Industrial Engineering and Why Does it Rock?” and attending the Women at Rensselaer Mentor Program.

IMG_2017

Attending the Women at Rensselaer Mentor Program.

My 2016 calendar already contains a number of projects that will allow me to learn a lot.  Some I am most excited about include an interdisciplinary academic-industry partnership proposal on smart, secure on-demand authorization systems for logistics and distribution  (with material scientists and computer science researchers from SDSMT), presenting at the Transportation Research-Board workshop on “On-Demand and Sharing Economy for Freight” and leading a panel discussion at the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC) on Crowdsourcing and Collaborative Warehousing and Logistics.

Cheers!

Jen

2013 In Review

2013inreview

Being in my role as an assistant professor for a few semesters, 2013 was a year of me settling in and finding my groove.  Not only did I finally know where to find paper when the printer ran out, I also began to feel more comfortable in my role as a scholar and a teacher.  Here are my professional highlights of 2013 (in no particular order).

1.

I received two Congratulations-your-manuscript-has-been-accepted emails this year – both from IIE Transactions.

  • Ramtin, Faraz, and Pazour, Jennifer A., (to appear) “Analytical Models for an Automated Storage and Retrieval System with Multiple in-the-Aisle Pick Positions,” IIE Transactions. 
  • Roy, Debjit, Pazour, Jennifer A. and de Koster, Rene’, (to appear) “A Novel Approach for Designing Rental Vehicle Repositioning Strategies,” IIE Transactions. 

Both papers were started since I came to UCF and thus represent to me the beginning of my independent research agenda on logistics system design.  An exciting academic first was that one of the publications was with my Ph.D. student Faraz Ramtin.  I was also able to get a few more journal articles submitted and in the pipeline this year.

2.

Probably the most newsworthy event of 2013 was getting awarded a Young Investigator Award from the Office of Naval Research (I even received a congratulatory letter from the Orlando Mayor).  This 3-year grant focuses on using operations research models to quantify the impact that imperfect information has on sea-based logistics operations and to recommend how to design logistics operations in the face of imperfect information.  I have a great team of students working on the project and I have been impressed with the interest and involvement from ONR, the Marine Corps, and the Navy.  It is exciting research and I am learning a lot.

3.

“The Industry that Makes Supply Chains Work” is the tagline for the Material Handling Institute (MHI), which awarded me a “Start-Up” Grant in 2013.   From the beginning of my research career, material handling and logistics have been an integral part of my research portfolio.  I have continued research in analytical modeling of material handling systems as evident by the research being pursued by the Ph.D. students under my guidance. This include analysis of automated storage and retrievals systems with multiple pick points in the aisle, analysis of dense storage systems, and supply chain network design considering financial and environmental impacts.

4.

I am happy that my career is in the “education business” and that our product is knowledge, as well as empowerment and development of students.  Teaching is one of my favorite things about my job and I truly enjoy my time in the classroom.   In 2013 I taught a graduate course (EIN 6336 Production and Inventory Control) and an undergraduate course (EIN 4545 Industrial Engineering Applications in the Service Sector).  I must be doing something right, as I was awarded the most outstanding faculty member of 2012-2013 as voted on by the students of the UCF IEMS department.

5.

Finally, I want to say thank you to everyone that made 2013 successful. Whether it was an undergraduate researcher who jumped right in and started modeling cool operations research problems, or research collaborators that make the hazards of scheduling across three different time zones 10.5 hours apart totally worth it, or students in my classes who ask interesting questions – Thank you!

2012 In Review

2012InReview

With the discovery of the Higgs boson and Mars being visited by Curiosity, 2012 was an epic year for science.

2012 was a fun, educational, and productive year for me as an Assistant Professor, as well. When I began on this little blog endeavor, I had high hopes of posting much more often than what occurred in reality. So instead of a continuous review policy, I have instigated a periodic one. Here’s my professional highlights of 2012 (in no particular order).

1. I had three journal articles get accepted for publication in 2012. And they are…

  • Pazour, Jennifer A. and Meller, Russell D., 2012, “A Multiple-Drawer Medication Layout Problem in Automated Dispensing Cabinets,” Health Care Management Science, 15, 339–354.
  • Pazour, Jennifer A. and Neubert, Lucas C., “Routing and Scheduling of Cross-Town Drayage Operations at J.B. Hunt Transport,” to appear in Interfaces.
  • Pazour, Jennifer A. and Meller, Russell D., “The Impact of Batch Retrievals on Throughput Performance of a Carousel System Serviced by a Storage and Retrieval Machine,” to appear in International Journal of Production Economics.

2. I was named the CAE Link Faculty Fellow from the College of Engineering and Computer Science at UCF.

3. I just began an endeavor of mentoring five undergraduate researchers, which includes four female students and one African-American student. I’m excited to explore research from a new set of eyes, and hopefully encourage at least one or two of them to enjoy research enough to pursue advanced degrees. My graduate students will play an integral role in the mentorship, which I believe should be beneficial to both the mentee and mentor.

4. I truly enjoyed teaching three courses in 2012:

  • EIN 6333 Production and Inventory Control,
  • EIN 5306 Operations Research, and
  • EIN 4545 Industrial Engineering Applications in the Service Industries.

I can honestly say that I learned something from teaching each of the courses and hopefully the same is true for my students.

5. I became the faculty adviser for the UCF Alpha Pi Mu chapter, which is the Industrial Engineering honor society. I was spoiled with a great group of officers and eager students who happily volunteer.

6. Although I didn’t get any wins in the funding department, I submitted some grant applications, made some lasting collaborations, received some feedback, and feel well positioned to give it a good go in 2013.

7. I attended some great conferences, where I was able to present some of my research, meet face-to-face to collaborate with my fellow co-authors, and learn about what new research is taking place in our field. A highlight was the International Material Handling Research Colloquium held in France.