Fall 2006 UMASS Amherst
Operations Research / Management Science Seminar Series

Date: Friday, March 9, 2007

Time: 11:00 AM
Location: Isenberg School of Management, Room 112

Speaker: Professor Richard C. Larson

Center for Engineering Systems Fundamentals
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139 USA

Biography: Richard C. Larson is the Mitsui Professor of Engineering Systems and Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Founding Director of the Center for Engineering Systems Fundamentals at MIT. He received his Ph.D. from MIT.

The majority of his career has focused on operations research as applied to services industries. He is author, co-author or editor of six books and author of over 75 scientific articles, primarily in the fields of technology-enabled education, urban service systems (esp. emergency response systems), queueing, logistics and workforce planning. His first book, Urban Police Patrol Analysis (MIT Press, 1972) was awarded the Lanchester Prize of the Operations Research Society of America (ORSA). He is co-author, with Amedeo Odoni, of Urban Operations Research, Prentice Hall, 1981.

He served as President of ORSA, (1993-1994), and is Past-President of INFORMS, Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. He has served as consultant to the World Bank, the United Nations, Johnson Controls, EDS, United Artists Cinemas, Union Carbide Corp., Rand Corp., the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science, Predictive Networks, WebCT, Hibernia College in Ireland, Hong Kong University and the U.S. Department of Justice. With outside companies on which he serves as board member, most recently Structured Decisions Corporation, Dr. Larson has undertaken major projects with Citibank, American Airlines, Actmedia/Turner Broadcasting, the U.S. Postal Service, the City of New York, Jenny Craig, Conagra, Diebold, BOC and other firms and organizations. Dr. Larson's research on queues has not only resulted in new computational techniques (e.g., the Queue Inference Engine and the Hypercube Queueing Model), but has also been covered extensively in national media (e.g., ABC TV's 20/20). Dr. Larson has served as Co-Director of the MIT Operations Research Center (over 15 years in that post). Dr. Larson was first listed in Who's Who in America in 1982. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and is an INFORMS Founding Fellow. He has been honored with the INFORMS President's Award and the Kimball Medal.

TITLE: Simple Models of Influenza Progression and Control
Abstract: The threat of an impending pandemic of virulent influenza is being viewed seriously by virtually all nations of the world.  While no one knows whether the current H5N1 influenza virus will mutate to become efficiently transmittable from human to human, most 'experts' say that an influenza pandemic is inevitable.  Like earthquakes, it is not a matter of 'if', but 'when'.  Since literally hundreds of millions of lives may be at stake, it is essential for the scientific community to explore to the limits of our abilities the consequences of alternative actions that may be taken in the presence of a pandemic situation to mitigate its deadly effects.

Here we introduce the need for new mathematical modeling of pandemic  influenza and its control.  By reviewing relevant history and literature, one key concern that emerges relates to how a population's heterogeneity may affect disease progression.  Another is to explore within a modeling framework 'social distancing' and 'hygienic measures' as disease progression control methods, where social distancing refers to steps aimed at reducing the frequency and intensity of daily human to human contacts.  To depict social contact behavior of a heterogeneous population susceptible to infection, a non-homogeneous probabilistic mixing model is developed. Partitioning the population of susceptibles into subgroups, based on frequency of daily human contacts and infection propensities, a stylistic difference equation model is then developed depicting the day-to-day evolution of the disease.  This simple model is then used to develop a preliminary set of results.  Two key findings are (1) early exponential growth of the disease may be dominated by susceptibles with high human contact frequencies and may not be indicative of the general population's susceptibility to the disease; and (2) social distancing with appropriate hygienic measures may be effective non-medical ways to limit and perhaps even eradicate the disease. Much more decision-focused research needs to be done before any of these preliminary findings may be used in practice.
This series is organized by the UMASS Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter. Support for this series is provided by the Isenberg School of Management, the Department of Finance and Operations Management, INFORMS, and the John F. Smith Memorial Fund.

For questions, please contact the INFORMS Student Chapter Speaker Series Coordinator, Ms. Trisha Woolley, twoolley@som.umass.edu