What does an INFORMS Student Chapter do? A 2015 review at Carnegie Mellon University

(Originally posted at the CMU INFORMS website).

Our annual report to INFORMS was due yesterday. What a year! After compiling everything we did, it would be a waste not to share it more publicly. Except for the chapter and fora breakfast at the INFORMS Annual Meeting, we don’t know much of what happens elsewhere.

The big things

We had two major events in 2015. Thanks to sponsorship from the Tepper School of Business, we had a seminar and a tutorial with MIT students Joseph Huchette and Miles Lubin: “JuMP, a modeling language for mathematical optimization”. We also had a happy hour followed by an ORMS job market panel with alumni that were in Pittsburgh to attend the ISMP 2015 conference. The panelists included Amitabh Basu, Fatma Kilinc-Karzan, Qihang Lin, Marco Molinaro, Selvaprabu Nadarajah, Viswanath Nagarajan, and Negar Soheili.

Among our social gatherings, we had a joint happy hour with the University of Pittsburgh chapter:
Besides that, we had two “pizza social” events to talk about what the chapter could do and a picnic on our elections day, which also served to welcome the incoming PhD students:

Our (short) history

The Carnegie Mellon University INFORMS Student Chapter is quite young. In fact, I still remember Alex Kazachkov going down the hall asking which students were INFORMS members to submit the chapter application, aiming to bring to CMU something that meant a lot to him as an undergrad in Cornell. We took off in June 2014 gathering students from the doctoral programs in ACO (Algorithms, Combinatorics, and Optimization), OM (Operations Management), and OR (Operations Research) at CMU’s Tepper School of Business, which together account for 24 students (about 4-5 students per year). With time we also attracted students from Computer Science, Math, Chemical Engineering, and Tepper MBA students. We also put some effort into attracting undergraduate students at the activities fair last Fall:

Our tradition

Although short in existence, we have found some interesting niches thanks to the effort of our members. In particular, thanks to Tarek Elgindy, we have started our main tradition: the Monday discussion dinners. Tarek felt that we were often unaware of each other’s work and lead himself the first discussion. This thing gained momentum and we had 20 discussions throughout 2015. Some people spoke once, twice, or even more (me included). Sometimes this was about our research, something we were learning about, or even experiences like summer internships and having attended the INFORMS Doctoral Student Colloquium. You can have an idea by the list below:

01/19 - Tarek Elgindy: Stochastic network design problems
01/26 - Vince Slaugh: Managing rentals with usage-based loss
02/02 - Ryo Kimura: Petri nets
02/09 - Thiago Serra: Disjunctive cuts
02/23 - Aleksandr Kazachkov: Algorithms, complexity results, and open problems in Vertex Enumeration
03/02 - Christian Tjandraatmadja: Aiming and shooting: Thoughts on an empirical exploration of facets
03/23 - Tarek Elgindy: A cryptocurrency which changes the proof-of-work component used in the bitcoin protocol
03/30 - Jeremy Karp: Primal-dual methods for online problems, including online matching
04/06 - Tony Johansson: Random minimum matchings and Riemann’s zeta function
04/13 - Ryo Kimura: Robust scheduling with uncertain processing times
04/27 - Thiago Serra: Generation of cutting planes from non-convex lattice-free sets and some of empirical results obtained so far
05/18 - Gerdus Benade: The minimum bandwidth problem
09/14 - Jeremy Karp and Christian Tjandraatmadja: Summer internships
09/21 - Christian Kroer: Inner Approximation of the Realizable Polytope: Solving Hard Prediction Market Pricing Problems
10/05 - Aleksandr Kazachkov: Final point cuts
10/12 - Siddharth Singh: Delay announcement for admission control under competition
10/19 - Thiago Serra: Cadoux and Lemarechal's Reflections on generating (disjunctive) cuts
11/16 - Leela Nageswaran and Thiago Serra: INFORMS Doctoral Student Colloquium
12/10 - Xin Wang: Green technology development and adoption: Competition, regulation, and uncertainty - A global game approach
12/16 - Christian Tjandraatmadja: Relaxed decision diagrams and integer programming

Thanks to Alex Kazachkov, since 2014 we have been running review sessions prior to important seminars, where we go over the paper that will be presented or some material that would help the students follow the talk. The feedback about these gatherings has been great, since the preliminary discussion prevents students from getting lost too soon in more advanced talks. We had 5 of those last year:

02/13 - Daniel Schmidt (University of Cologne, visiting CMU)
03/06 - Vineet Goyal (Columbia University)
03/20 - Joseph Huchette and Miles Lubin (MIT)
03/26 - Egon Balas (CMU)
04/10 - Robert Vanderbei (Princeton University)

The next big things

So far we have not used the INFORMS Speakers Program and neither have we targeted our MBA audience properly. Our goal is to use this program to bring speakers with vast experience in the industry. We are also looking into interacting more with the chapters in our region, keeping our connection to UPitt and possibly going further. Hopefully, the 2016 report will have its own lot of new ideas that worked out.

The people behind it

Our chapter is greatly indebted to the efforts that Alex Kazachkov has put since it all started. Our main events in 2015 were his idea, not to mention many of the social gatherings. In addition, Tarek Elgindy’s discussion dinners became our identity as a group. There are many other people now on the board doing a great job. Alex and Tarek can be sure we are taking good care of what they started!

We are also grateful for the constant support and insights from our faculty advisor, Professor Fatma Kilinc-Karzan.

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