INFORMS Annual Picnic

At the end of each academic year, we organize our annual picnic to farewell our graduating senior officers, spend some good time before the summer break as a student chapter, and change the board for the upcoming year. We also evaluate our events and overall performance for the past year with feedback from our officers.

This year’s picnic was held at Schenley Park on May 13th 2018. We played outdoor games before the rain started and board games afterward along with our barbecue. We discussed the events hosted throughout the year and voted for our new board. Neda Mirzaeian was elected as the president for the new academic year with Musa Celdir as the vice president, Ozgun Elci as the treasurer and Nam Ho-Nguyen as the secretary of CMU INFORMS Student Chapter.


YinzOR 2018


3    2

The INFORMS Student Chapter at Carnegie Mellon University held YinzOR 2018 student conference on August 24-25 at Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University. The conference, sponsored by EQT Corporation and Tepper School of Business, consisted of three featured talks, eight regular-track talks, a poster competition with 12 participants, and a few interaction breaks and a happy hour. This year we had the honor of hosting more than 70 attendees.

A nomination and voting process was used by the organizing committee to choose and invite outstanding young researchers from various institutions. We were honored to have speakers from Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh, Duke University, University of Pennsylvania, Lehigh University, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Google, and EQT Corporation.

On Friday August 24, Ramayya Krishnan, the Dean of Heinz College and president-elect of INFORMS, kicked off YinzOR with Opening Remarks. He talked about the importance of bringing ORMS closer to the other related fields and making INFORMS a multidisciplinary organization. At the end of his talk, he asked the participants’ opinions on how to achieve these goals.


Dean Krishnan’s opening remarks was followed by a featured talk by Markus Drouven from EQT. Markus discussed how EQT’s Optimization Engineering team is utilizing OR to optimize pad planning for shale gas development.


The poster competition was held after Markus’s featured talk. There were 12 posters from Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh, Sate University of New York at Buffalo, and Lehigh university. The panel of judges for the poster competition consisted of four CMU faculty members: Gerard Cornuejols, John Hooker, Fatma Kilinc-Karzan, and R. Ravi. In a tough competition, Po-Wei Wang won the first prize.

We wrapped up the first day of YinzOR with a delicious Turkish dinner.


The second day of YinzOR 2018, August 25, started with a healthy breakfast, and hot ORMS discussions.


In the first Saturday session of YinzOR, Abhinav Maurya (Heinz College, CMU), Mohammad Shahab safa (Industrial and Systems Engineering, Lehigh University), and Lauren Steimle (Industrial and Operations Engineering, University of Michigan) presented their work. Abhinav Maurya presented evidence that humans and machines working together outperform either by itself on data annotation. Mohammad Shahabsafa’s Inmate Assignment Decision Support System cuts costs, improves safety/security, and helps inmates get the correctional programming they need. Lauren Steimle presented multi model MDPs as a tractable way to account for parameter uncertainty without sacrificing performance.

Second YinzOR featured talk was given by Miles Lubin (Google, and MIT PhD) on mixed integer convex optimization. He made a strong case for the conic programming-based open source MICP solver Pajarito.


A nice long pasta lunch served as a tasty divider for day 2 of YinzOR, in the Deloitte Foundation Innovation Hub of the Tepper Quad.

After lunch, participants headed back to the conference room for three interesting talks by Arash Haddadn (Tepper School of Business, CMU), Vanitha Virudachalam (The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania), and Maria Ochoa (Chemichal Engineering, CMU). Arash Haddadan presented a polytime algorithm for writing a feasible fractional point as a convex combination of feasible integer points with low total multiplier weight, beating out Christofides for the 2EC polytope. Vanitha Virudachalam explained how she uses OM techniques to elucidate the value of interim assessments in improving school performance. Maria Ochoa showed how to optimize production subject to both electricity price uncertainty and flexibility w.r.t. variable product demand.

A coffee break was followed by Huck Gutman (Math Science, CMU) presenting a unified approach to proving convergence rates of proximal gradient methods via the convex conjugate. Next, David Abdul-Malak (Industrial Engineering, University of Pittsburgh) detailed a MOMDP model for system maintenance incorporating uncertain heterogeneous system qualities.

In the last featured talk, Can Zhang (Duke Fuqua School of Business) closed the session with surprising structural insights on the value of inventory sharing with perishable goods, applied to blood platelet inventory management.

After Can’s talk some of the participants took a group photo.


YinzOR ended with the most important event of all: Happy Hour. It was held in the biggest balcony of the Tepper Quad, where the participants enjoyed a nice view of the beautiful city of Pittsburgh, and discussed ORMS (or other things!).

YiznOR 2018 team of organizers: Mehmet Aydemir, Franco Berbeglia, David Bernal, Musa Celdir, Violet Chen, Sagnik Das, Ozgun Elci, Nam Ho-Nguyen, Amin Hosseininasab, Melda Korkut, Cristiana Lara, Neda Mirzaeian (conference chair), Thiago Serra, Ziye Tang, and Christian Tjandraatmadja.

Credits: Ryo Kimura and Neda Mirzaeian

SmartOps: from Foundation to Acquisition

The “speaker series” is one of our oldest, yet most well-received event series. Martin Barkman, the Vice President in SAP’s Extended Supply Chain Management Organization, was our second invited speaker this year.

In his current position, Martin works closely with customers to elevate supply chain capabilities in the area of sales, inventory, and operations planning, demand management, and demand networks. Prior to SAP, he was the CEO of SmartOps Corporation, which SAP acquired in April, 2013. SmartOps, founded by Prof. Sridhar Tayur was a leading supply chain software company in inventory optimization and demand sensing solutions. Prior to SmartOps, Martin developed a broad supply chain technology and management experience through roles ranging from consulting at McKinsey & Company to product supply and manufacturing management at Procter & Gamble.

To an audience of more than 40 PhD and MBA students, Martin Barkman talked about his experience as the former CEO of SmartOps. He explained how they competed against the existing big software companies like IBM, and managed to achieve the highest market share in their own division. He also shared with us why, after more than 10 years of running the company, they decided to sell their software to SAP, and be a part of a more comprehensive software package that SAP offers.

After Martin finished his talk, the attendees had the opportunity to ask their questions. This Q&A session lasted for several minutes, and so many great points, including how they first came up with the idea of creating such a software, the way they handled hiring/firing their employees, etc., were brought up.


Women in Academia

In October 2017, during Prof. Margaret Brandeau’s visit, we had an informal tea gathering to discuss the obstacles/inequalities that a woman might face in her academic life, and how to handle such problems. Several faculty members from Tepper and computer science department of CMU and industrial engineering department of University of Pittsburgh participated. Male and female students from all over CMU campus as well as IE department of University of Pittsburgh showed up as well.

Each of the participating female faculty members talked about her experience as a woman during different stages of her academic life, from PhD to the current academic position. They talked about how women should lean in, express themselves, and speak out if they have been mistreated.

In this discussion, Prof. Tayur talked about how he tries to empower women by teaching case studies of companies that have women as their founder or CEO. He also mentioned if we want men to help stop discrimination towards women, it is necessary to inform them about such discriminations.

Students also participated by asking questions and sharing their own experiences. The discussion was very broad and students mentioned a variety of problems that they are dealing with, and many of these issues need to receive more attention. The INFORMS student chapter at CMU is planning to organize more women oriented events, and to do so we have reached out to several people at graduate education center of CMU to organize our next event.

This event was organized under direct supervision of our faculty adviser, Prof. Kilinc-Karzan.


YinzOR Student Conference

The INFORMS student chapter at Carnegie Mellon held the first YinzOR Student Conference on August 26th to 27th. The name of the conference combines the acronym for Operations Research with “Yinzer”, which means a native or inhabitant of the city of Pittsburgh. The goal of the conference was to put together PhD students from a variety of programs related to OR, such as Computer Science, Math, Operations Management, and Operations Research at Carnegie Mellon as well as Industrial Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. The conference program mixed talks from those departments with keynotes by successful young researchers from academia and industry, who presented their work on disjunctive programming for clustering, online data-driven algorithms for healthcare, and AI beating professional poker players. Besides bridging the gap among students in different departments, the conference also served to welcome the new cohort of PhD students.


Funding and resources for YinzOR were provided by the CMU Activities Fee and the Tepper School of Business.



The State of CMU INFORMS in 2016

A lot of great things happened in 2016 at CMU INFORMS. Since we already compiled all of that for the annual report to INFORMS, we are sharing it publicly in the hope that other chapters find it useful and share back with us, just like we did with 2015 activities.


We launched the seminar series Industry Leaders in Analytics in partnership with the MBA Data Analytics club, which sponsored receptions after the talks. We first brought Steve Sashihara through the INFORMS Speakers Program and later Sebastian Ceria.

Princeton Consultants CEO Steve Sashihara came in April to present “The Executive’s Guide to Optimization”.


Axioma CEO and CMU PhD alumnus Sebastian Ceria came in September to present “What’s in a Name? In the Case of Smart Beta, It’s Hard to Tell”.


Both talks were preceded by an informal gathering with PhD students and followed by a happy hour with all attendees.

We also launched the academic seminar series Research & Analytics @ CMU with the goal of presenting research done at CMU in an accessible language to undergraduate students, thanks to input from our undergraduate officer Michael Rosenberg. Our first speaker was Prof. Mor Harchol-Balter (School of Computer Science) in September.


We also invited Prof. John Birge (The University of Chicago) for an academic seminar through the INFORMS Speakers Program in November. Prof. Birge met with PhD students for dinner on the night before and to talk about research after his seminar.


The publication of our 2015 review ignited an amazing exchange of ideas among INFORMS chapters. Similar reviews were later published by the chapters from University of Massachussets-Amherst and University of Michigan. We also were approached by officers of other chapters at the Annual Meeting that found helpful advice in our posts. These exchanges also made us realized how much we could benefit from the Speakers Program.

While many conversations happened in the halls, INFORMS helped us connect too. Here is a picture of the student chapter officers meeting after the chapters and fora breakfast:


These breakfasts and meetings happen every year on Tuesday mornings. If you are an officer attending the next Annual Meeting in Houston, show up and take a seat!

At that meeting in Nashville, our chapter was awarded the Summa Cum Laude Award for our activities in 2015, the highest distinction granted by INFORMS to student chapters.


We also had a short piece on our student-led seminars in the most recent issue of ORMS Tomorrow. Other chapters have also implemented this program recently: University of Michigan launched theirs in September 2016 and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in January 2017.


We extended our most successful initiatives from 2015. We held another 2 joint happy hours with the INFORMS chapter at the University of Pittsburgh. Interestingly, the attendance at these happy hours is growing exponentially: from about 10 people in Fall 2015, we got 20 in Spring 2016 and 40 in Fall 2016. The latest one had a better venue and improved organization thanks to our new officer Neda Mirzaeian.

It is not clear at this point if the exponential trend will persist, but we can always hope!

We also increased the number of student-led discussion dinners in 15%. That was only possible thanks to the continuous effort of Siddharth Singh. Here are the list of talks:

02/01 – Yang Jiao: Student question posets
02/08 – Thiago Serra: Sound decision diagrams: a .zip file of near-optimal solutions
02/15 – Dabeen Lee: On some polytopes contained in the 0,1 hypercube that have a small Chvatal rank
02/22 – Nam Ho-Nguyen: Second-order Conic Formulation of the Trust Region Subproblem
02/29 – Stelios Despotakis: Attribution models in marketing
03/21 – Tarek Elgindy: Topics in AC optimal power flow
04/04 – Gerdus Benade: Formulating a branching dual
04/11 – Aleksandr Kazachkov: Small representations for large kidney exchange graphs
04/25 – Thiago Serra: Reformulating the Disjunctive Cut Generating Linear Program
05/09 – Siddharth Singh: Net Metering Policies for PV solar electricity
05/16 – Dabeen Lee: Optimizing over the Chvatal Closure of a 0,1 Polytope is NP-Hard
05/23 – Bo Yang, Franco Berbeglia, and Mehmet Aydemir: Summer paper proposals
08/15 – Thiago Serra and Siddharth Singh: MOPTA practice talks
09/14 – Arash Hadadan, Gerdus Benade, and Nam HO-Nguyen: OR summer paper practice talks 1
09/19 – Bo Yang, Franco Berbeglia, and Mehmet Berat Aydemir: OM summer paper practice talks
09/28 – Amin Hosseini, Dabeen Lee, and Ryo Kimura: OR summer paper practice talks 2
10/10 – Thiago Serra and Siddharth Singh: Summer internship experiences 1
10/19 – Jeremy Karp, Ryo Kimura, and Yang Jiao: Summer internship experiences 2
10/31 – Siddharth Singh: That’s not fair – Tariff structures for electricity markets with rooftop solar
11/07 – Abhinav Maurya, Siddarth Singh, and Thiago Serra: INFORMS practice talks 1
11/09 – Gerdus Benade, Amin Hosseini, and Leela Nageswaran: INFORMS practice talks 2
11/30 – Siddarth Singh, and Thiago Serra: INFORMS Combined Colloquia
12/05 – Ahmad Abdi (U. Waterloo): Ideal clutters that do not pack

We have also increased the number of review sessions in anticipation of important talks:

01/21 – Laci Babai (The University of Chicago)
01/29 – Nina Balcan (CMU)
02/05 – Javier Pena (CMU)
02/26 – Yanjun Li (Purdue University)
03/04 – Andrea Lodi (Polytechnique Montreal)
04/08 – Rakesh Vohra (University of Pennsylvania)
12/09 – John Birge (The University of Chicago)


We found good sources of funding. We successfully pitched the doctoral program for $1,500 and obtained another $1,000 from student government funding.

Our MBA officers have contributed to make the chapter more professional in a variety of ways. Former secretary David Sandora led the reformulation of our bylaws and helped us develop a mission, vision, goals, and more tangible roles for the officer positions prior to the 2016 elections. His slides are available here. Chris Boccio is serving his second term as treasurer and first as secretary. He has working on proving the maturity of our organization before CMU to obtain more funding from the student government in the next academic years. Since April, Lauren Wilson has joined the team with her marketing expertise and is helping to reshape how the chapter is seen at CMU and outside.


Bidding for an Omega Rho chapter at CMU: We are supporting the application of a group of undergraduate students from a variety of departments at CMU for a Carnegie Mellon chapter of the Omega Rho International Honor Society. Fingers crossed for their success!


Keeping Moore’s Law going with happy hours: We cannot keep doubling happy hour attendance for long, but for sure we can double the number of happy hours. We are considering another joint happy hour with the Chemical Engineering department.

MDD #50: We are likely to reach our 50th student-led discussion at some point in Spring 2017. We are still discussing how to make it a special happening to celebrate the consolidation of this great initiative started by Tarek Elgindy in 2015.

Big Data Challenge: CMU INFORMS was invited by the Texas A&M chapter to participate in their traditional big data challenge. Details to follow.


We are grateful for the support of faculty and staff from the Tepper School of Business: our faculty advisor Fatma Kilinc-Karzan; the Associate Director for the PhD Program Lawrence Rapp; the heads of the PhD Program Alan Scheller-Wolf, Gerard Cornuejols, Nicola Secomandi; the Associate Dean Michael Trick; and many others in the OR and OM programs. We are also thankful to all our speakers, volunteers, officers (listed on the website), members of the MBA clubs that partnered with us, faculty of other schools at CMU. And thank you INFORMS for all the help, recognition, and support since 2014!

Spring 2016 at the Carnegie Mellon INFORMS chapter: new activities, better organization, and more funding

A great deal has happened since 2015 at CMU INFORMS. The chapter debuted on big events, became widely known by the MBA student body, and got further faculty support.

Continue reading “Spring 2016 at the Carnegie Mellon INFORMS chapter: new activities, better organization, and more funding”

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

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.

Continue reading “What does an INFORMS Student Chapter do? A 2015 review at Carnegie Mellon University”