ORSNZ Conference 2019 Recap & Prize Winners

This year’s ORSNZ conference was the first time we haven’t partnered with NZSA since 2012. Across the two days we had 56 people who attended, and 28 presentations. You can see the abstracts for all the presentations here.

There was also an Analytics Forum event on Well-being Analytics aligned with the first-day on the conference, attended by about 150 people.

The OSHA and ENR SIGs each hosted sessions at the conference, which helped to attract people from industry to a day or session of the conference.

YPP Prize Winners

Sponsored by Suez Smart Solutions

Best Paper: Comparison of objective functions for scheduling surgeries. Thomas Adams, Michael O’Sullivan & Cameron Walker. Engineering Science, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Best Presentation: Universal locker systems for urban metros. Parameshwaran Iyer, Ronald Veldman & Yao Zhang.

Highly Commended: The optimisation of milk collection. Snigdha Saha & Olivier Graffeuille.

JAG Prize Winners

Sponsored by Optimity

Winner: Developing a decision making tool for Housing New Zealand. Hrishi Kodthuguli, Michael O’Sullivan & Cameron Walker.

Highly Commended: Who will be covered and who will be left behind? Advising the Norwegian Air Ambulance Foundation on fairness. Maaike Vollebergh, Caroline Jagtenberg & Jo Røislien.

In Memoriam: Shabbir Ahmed

ORSNZ is saddened to share that Shabbir Ahmed,  Anderson-Interface Chair and Professor of the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, passed away on June 19th, 2019.

A tribute by Alejandro Toriello has been published on the INFORMS Open Forum

Reflections from ORSNZ Members

I had the pleasure of visiting Shabbir at Georgia tech during a visit in the course of my PhD. Shabbir was very unassuming. He was easy to talk to about topics within our research, and also outside of research including his hobby of music. From just a short visit and several email exchanges, it was rather surprising to me to learn that someone with Shabbir’s standing could be so honest, approachable and easy-going. Our community has lost a great researcher but also a passionate teacher and mentor.
Regan Baucke

I was very sad to hear that Shabbir Ahmed died on June 19 after battling cancer for the past 10 months. Shabbir was not only a brilliant researcher but a colleague and good friend. He was the external examiner to our Engineering Science PhD student Oscar Dowson last year, and I examined Jikai Zou, one of his recent PhD students. I met Shabbir in 2004 and had stayed in touch with him through our work together in the Committee on Stochastic Programming (COSP). Shabbir was an active participant in this committee, writing a tutorial for the website on stochastic integer programming, and also designing and drawing COSP’s logo (see the home page of https://stoprog.org/).  It was quite clear from early on that Shabbir was going to be a star in the mathematical programming community. Last year he won the INFORMS Optimization Society Farkas Prize, awarded each year to the world’s top mid-career optimization researcher. It seemed as if this was another milestone on a career that would continue to reach even greater heights. Alas that was not to be. We received some heartening news in February that his cancer was responding to treatment, but then the shocking news in June that he had died. He will be missed by many.
Andy Philpott     


PhD scholarship at UNSW

As part of strategic investments to tackle global grand challenges, a new PhD Scholarship opportunity at UNSW Sydney focuses on identifying transformative policies to improve societal well-being. A central component of this complex systems research project involves building a systems model of the evolution of social, economic and environmental capital stocks in response to business and public policies (e.g. land development, population growth, infrastructure spending, science and technology investment). 

The scholarship includes a stipend of $41,200 per year for 4 years, up to $10,000 per year to support the successful candidate’s career development, and covers all tuition fees. The supervisory team includes faculty members from both the social sciences and natural sciences.

Interested candidates should complete an expression of interest by July 12, 2019 using this link: http://bit.ly/ScientiaEOI

For a one-page overview of the research project click this link: http://bit.ly/UNSWSydneyPhD

ORSNZ Conference 2019 Survey

We hope you have all had a good break over the summer. As you know, the work never stops at ORSNZ, so we’ve been eagerly planning the 2019 ORSNZ Conference.

This year, NZSA will be holding their conference in Dunedin, which is not a particularly strong location for ORSNZ. For this reason, we wish to get some (non-binding) feedback from our members on where we should hold the conference.

The duration and fee structure of the conference will be tied to NZSA if we run the conference in Dunedin, so it would be at least 3 days.  If we run the conference separately, we anticipate that it will be 2 days, and we will have more control of the schedule. (We will endeavour to keep fees as low as possible.)

Note that the analytics forum will be running an event with NZSA in Dunedin, so will likely not run an event with ORSNZ, if we elect to run a separate conference.

Please complete the brief survey here; if you have any additional comments about the location / structure of ORSNZ conferences, please comment on this post.


Shane Henderson wins INFORMS Daniel H. Wagner Prize

I am very pleased to announce that Auckland University graduate and ORSNZ member, Prof Shane Henderson, has been awarded the INFORMS Daniel H. Wagner Prize  for Excellence in the Practice of Advanced Analytics and Operations Research. Shane and colleagues at Cornell, Uber and Lyft were awarded this prize for  their application of analytics and O.R. to improve the placement of bike docking stations and create an inventive approach to replenish and rebalance these docking stations. Read more….

Hans Daellenbach Prize Event for Prof Vicky Mabin

By Mike O’Sullivan, ORSNZ President:

It was my pleasure to fly to Wellington to present Prof Vicky Mabin with her Hans Daellenbach Prize. A/Prof Bob Cavana organised an excellent event at which Vicky’s colleagues and students, alongside the Victoria University of Wellington Provost Professor Wendy Larner and local ORSNZ members, honoured Vicky’s distinguished and pioneering career. Special thanks to Bob, Tony Downward (who was responsible for the framed prize in the photos), Andrea Raith, Rosie Read (the ORSNZ Wellington Region contact) and other members of the prize panel (Grant Read and Golbon Zakeri).

My initial impression of Vicky was of a (slightly intimidating) leader of OR in New Zealand. Any discussion of OR in New Zealand at Auckland would inevitably end with “we should talk to Grant (Read at Canterbury), Vicky (at VUW), and Les (Foulds at Waikato)”. I was fortunate at the ORSNZ conference in Christchurch in 2015 to get stuck looking for a taxi with Vicky and Sarah Marshall. In the ensuing conversation I got to know Vicky a little and gained an increased understanding and appreciation of her work. Since then I have enjoyed our discussions on OR and the Theory of Constraints and my experience in OR consultancy over the past 5+ years has convinced me that Vicky’s “soft OR” has a vital part to play if we, as OR practitioners, are successful in embedding best-practice decision making in organisations throughout NZ and worldwide.

Vicky’s colleagues and students were generous in their praise and admiration of Vicky, who responded with an engaging, illuminating acceptance speech (that only increased my interest in collecting stories about the history of the ORSNZ!). Congratulations and well done Prof Vicky Mabin, Hans Daellenbach Prize recipient for 2017!

The full citation for Vicky’s prize is here: http://orsnz.org.nz/Prizes/VickyMabin2017/Prof%20Vicky%20Mabin%20-%20Citation%20for%20Hans%20Daellenbach%20Award.pdf

The Victoria University of Wellington article on the event is here: https://www.victoria.ac.nz/vbs/about/news/1715544-professor-vicky-mabin-receives-orsnz-hans-daellenbach-prize

Winners of the Inaugural John Andrew George Memorial Prize

At the 2017 ORSNZ the first John Andrew George Memorial Prizes were awarded. This prize was established by Grant Read, Vicky Mabin, Bob Cavana, and John Buchanan in memory of former ORSNZ Vice President John George, who passed away in November last year.

While most OR projects are expected to deliver “benefits” of various kinds, the emphasis here is not on purely economic, or even purely environmental, benefits, but on efforts to better the lives of others.  It is thus about the motivation, heart and soul of the project.  So the key consideration was be the following question:

“How will this work contribute to improving the quality of people’s lives, particularly those who may otherwise be vulnerable or disadvantaged, now, or in future?”

This prize was open to all papers presented for the YPP, and was awarded jointly to:

Samuel Ridler – Ambulance simulation and optimisation; and
Samin ArefComputing the frustration index in signed graphs using binary programming.

Left to right: Samuel Riddler (JAG Award Winner), Grant Read, Vicky Mabin, Bob Cavana (judges), and Michael O’Sullivan (ORSNZ President).