Category Archives: Research

Successfully Passed Proposal Defense

A week ago, I passed my dissertation proposal defense. I proposed two essays in energy operations management for my dissertation. I will have to defend the thesis writeup next spring. Thanks to my committee: Owen Wu, Gil Souza, Kyle Cattani, and Kurt Bretthauer, and to the external members of my examination committee: John Maxwell and Shibo Li.

Finalist for POMS College of Sustainable Operations Best Student Paper

Kyle Cattani, one of my co-authors, was left off the original announcement. I have added him below.

Announcement sent out via Tim Kraft and Yannis Bellos:

On behalf of the awards committee, we are pleased to congratulate the finalist for the 2017 POMS College of Sustainable Operations Best Student Paper Competition. The finalist in alphabetical order are:

Karthik Balasubramanian (Harvard Business School)
Inventory Models for Mobile Money Agents in the Developing World
Co-author: David Drake

Eric Webb (Indiana University)
Mind the Gap: Coordinating Energy Efficiency and Demand Response
Coauthor: Owen Wu, Kyle Cattani

Can Zhang (Georgia Tech)
Truth-inducing Mechanisms for Medical Surplus Product Allocation
Coauthors: Atalay Atasu, Turgay Ayer, Beril Toktay

The winning paper will be announced during the College of Sustainable Operations business meeting on Saturday, May 6th at this year’s POMS Annual Conference in Seattle. Thank you to all those who submitted. We had a record number of entries this year with 24 submissions, all of which were of high quality.

Research Page Updated

I’ve deleted my old “Projects” page and created a “Research” page which contains my current and past research projects. The page is split into topics of research:
-Energy, my primary research area
-Behavioral, my secondary research area
-Sports, my fun research area
-Other, including any one-off projects
-Old Projects, from undergraduate and Master’s years or from internships

Talks I Attended at INFORMS 2016

Documented mostly for my future reference.

Sunday 8am, track SA36:
-An Empirical Investigation of Network Effects in Automobile Sales by Tianjun Feng, Fuqiuang Zhang, and Peiwen Yu
-The Operational Value of Social Media Information by Dennis Zhang, Antonio Moreno-Garcia, Ruomeng Cui, and Santiago Gallino
-When you work with a super man, will you also fly? An empirical study of the impact of coworkers on performance by Serguei Netessine and Fangyun Tang
-CEO overconfidence and inventory management by Fuqiang Zhang, Tianjun Feng, and Qing Zhang

Sunday Plenary: Cognitive Computing: From Breakthroughs in the lab to applications in the field by Guru Banavar of IBM Research

Sunday 11am, track SB09:
-Biomass Supply contract pricing and environmental policy analysis: an agent-based modeling approach by Shiyang Huang and Guiping Hu
-On the effectiveness of tax incentives to support biomass co-firing by Hadi Karimi and Sandra Eksioglu
-A game-theoretic model of biomass co-firing policies by Sandra Eksioglu and Armin Khademi
-Evaluation of a wind farm project by Metin Cakanyildirim

Sunday 1:30pm, track SC28:
-Dynamic optimization of multichannel advertising campaigns in an online advertising supply chain by Changseung Yoo, Anitesh Barua, and Genaro Gutierrez
-Variability in labor schedules: Effects on store performance and employee turnover by Hyun Seok Lee, Saravanan Kesavan, and Camelia Kuhnen

Sunday 1:30pm, track SC30
-Managerial Attention, Reminders, and the Energy Efficiency Gap by Enno Siemsen and Suvrat Dhanokar
-Does learning from inspections affect environmental performance? Evidence from unconventional oil and gas wells by Suresh Muthulingam and Vidya Mani

Sunday 4:30pm, track SD29:
-Valuing distributed energy resources in electricity system planning: locational benefits and economies of unit scale by Jesse Jenkins
-Combined heat and power production – valuing flexible operation in an uncertain environment by Chritoph Weber

Sunday 4:30pm, track SD28
-Robust Supply function equilibrium in renewable energy markets by Yuanzhang Xiao, Chaithanya Bandi, and Ermin Wei
-An analysis of demand response programs in the wholesale electricity market by Asligul Serasu Duran, Baris Ata, and Ozge Islegen

Monday 8am, track MA35:
-The use of technology to improve engagement through accountability by Gad Allon
-Innovations in teaching operations management at UCLA by Guillaume Roels
-Architecting new business models (in the classroom) by Karan Girotra
-Ideo: Human-centered service design – multimedia-enhanced teaching and learning by Ryan Buell

Monday Plenary: Public health preparedness: Answering (largely unanswerable) questions iwth operations research by Margaret Brandeau

Monday 1:30pm, track MC29:
-Operational response to climate change: Do profitable carbon abatement opportunities decrease over time? by Christian Blanco, Felipe Caro, and Charles Corbett
-Closing a supplier’s energy efficiency gap: The role of assessment assistance and procurement commitment by Quang Dang Nguyen, Karen Donohue, and Mili Mehrotra
-Mind the Gap: Coordinating Energy Efficiency and Demand Response by Eric Webb, Owen Wu, and Kyle Cattani

Tuesday 8am, track TA29:
-Energy efficiency contracting in supply chains under asymmetric bargaining power by Ali Shantia, Sam Aflaki, and Andrea Masini
-An analysis of time-based pricing in electricity supply chains by Asligul Serasu Duran, Baris Ata, and Ozge Islegen
-Investments in renewable and conventional energy: The role of operational flexibility by Kevin Shang, Gurhan Kok, and Safak Yucel
-Explaining the variation in progress in the US nuclear industry by Christian Blanco, Felipe Caro, and Charles Corbett

Tuesday 11am, track TB29:
-Green sourcing – the role of premium sharing and consulting services by Xi Chen
-Inducing prompt disclosure in the presence of evasive effort by Shouqiang Wang, Peng Sun, and Francis De Vericourt
-The adoption of smart home appliance form energy shifting by Wenbin Wang and Yannan Jin
-Incentives for joint product and process improvement under collective extended producer responsibility by Luyi Gui

Tuesday 1:30pm, track TC34:
-Do mandatory overtime laws improve quality? Staffing decisions and operational flexibility of nursing homes by Lauren Lu and Susan Lu
-Predicting Nurse Turnover And Its Impact on Staffing Decisions by Eric Webb and Kurt Bretthauer
-Hospital readmissions reduction program: An economic and operational analysis by Dennis Zhang

Tuesday Keynote: Optimizing the future – supply chain at Amazon by Jason Murray

Tuesday 4:30pm, track TD37:
-The impact of carbon pricing on improving supply chain energy efficiency by Quang Dang Nguyen, Karen Donohue, and Mili Mehrotra
-Quantifying the impact of intermittent renewable generation on German electricity market by Shadi Goodarzi, Derek Bunn, and Syed Basher
-Designing hydro supply chains for water, food, energy, and flood nexus by Kwon Gi Mun, Raza Ali Rafique, and Yao Zhao
-Reversing the death spiral: A new business model for utility firms under social network effects by Safak Yucel, Gurhan Kok, and Kevin Shang

Wednesday Keynote: The goals of analysis are understanding, decisions, and influencing policy by Gerald Brown

Wednesday 11am, track WB31:
-Ethics, Bounded Rationality, and IP sharing in knowledge-based outsourcing by Manu Goyal and Krishnan Anand
-Accurate estimation of retail store traffic from people counters to achieve better conversion by Anup Hanamant
-Mitigating digital discrimination with reviews in the sharing economy: Field evidence from Airbnb by Dennis Zhang, Jun Li, and Ruomeng Cui
-Impact of operational risks in financial organizations by Yuqian Xu, Fangyun Tan, and Sergeuei Netessine

Wednesday 12:45pm, track WC31:
-Rational abandonment from observable priority queues by Philipp Afeche and Vahid Sarhangian
-Design of discretionary service lines: An operational driver of variety by Laurens Debo and Cuihong Li
-Linking Customer Behavior and Delay Announcements: Are Customers Really Rational? by Eric Webb, Qiuping Yu, and Kurt Bretthauer

Wednesday 2:45pm, track WD27:
-The effect of discrete workshifts on non-terminating queues by Robert Batt, Diwas KC, Bradley Staats, and Brian Patterson
-A near-term mortality indicator for terminal cancer patients using high frequency medical data by Donald Lee and Edieal Pinker
-A machine learning approach for personalized health care outcome analysis by Guihua Wang, Jun Li, and Wallace Hopp
-Are patients patient? The effect of universal healthcare on emergency department visits by Diwas KC

Wednesday 4:30pm, track WE32:
-An analysis of world baseball softball confederation premier 12 schedule by Seong Kim and JC Kim
-The role of offensive system in the NBA draft by Ryan Chen, Eli Shayer, Travis Chen, and Nicholas Canova
-Using Past Scores and Regularization to Create a Winning NFL Betting Model by Eric Webb and Wayne Winston
-An optimal pacing strategy for ultramarathons by Kristoper Pruitt and Justin Hill

Qualifying a Worthy Problem

Great talk by Professor Gerald Brown on the last day of INFORMS. If you ever have a chance to hear him speak, take it. Slides from his talk, which started with some motivating examples of military OR, are available here.

5 steps to qualifying a worthy problem to study/solve:
1. What is the problem?
If you can’t describe the problem, how do you know there is one? How would you ever solve it? The client never gives an unambiguous problem description, so work to get to the heart of the matter. If you can describe the problem, move to step 2.

2. Why is this problem important?
Don’t waste your time on trivialities. If the problem is important, move to step 3.

3. How is this problem now solved?
Few problems are entirely ignored, so be sure to understand how the problem is currently solved to ensure you are providing adequate improvement. If you can do significantly better, move to step 4.

4. How will you solve this problem?
Up until now, “solving the problem” has been agnostic toward the type of analysis. Now, choose an appropriate methodology and ensure the problem is tractable.

5. How will you know when you have succeeded?
Answer this before you start solving. It’s difficult/impossible to succeed if the goal is constantly moving, so hammer out what success looks like for this problem.

INFORMS 2016 Presentations

Come show me some love in Nashville. Here are my presentations:

1. Session MC29 – Issues in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
November 14, 2016, 1:30 – 3:00 PM, 202A-MCC
3rd Presentation (of 3): Mind The Gap: Coordinating Energy Efficiency And Demand Response
Authors: Eric Webb, Owen Wu, Kyle D. Cattani, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University
Abstract: Traditionally, energy demand-side management techniques, such as energy efficiency (EE) and demand response (DR), are evaluated in isolation. We examine the interactions between long-term EE upgrades and daily DR participation at an industrial firm. We find that EE and DR act as substitutes in terms of reduction of peak electricity demand, and the long-studied energy efficiency gap between firm-optimal and societal-optimal levels of EE is smaller when DR is considered. We suggest three approaches to reducing the energy efficiency gap, including an original suggestion that relies upon the interactions between EE and DR.

2. Session TC34 – Public Policy and Healthcare Operations
November 15, 2016, 1:30 – 3:00 PM, 204-MCC
2nd Presentation (of 3): Predicting Nurse Turnover And Its Impact On Staffing Decisions
Authors: Eric Webb, Kurt Bretthauer, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University
Abstract: Nurse turnover remains a significant problem in skilled nursing facilities across the United States. High turnover leads to two important questions: (1) Hiring decisions – What applicant attributes should be valued when hiring nurses, in order to hire nurses that are effective at their jobs and likely to stay for a long duration? (2) Staffing decisions – How should nurse workload be managed in order to prevent burnout and decrease turnover? Based on a large dataset from skilled nursing facilities in the United States, we first use a survival model to predict nurse turnover. For this talk we then focus on staffing and incorporate these empirical results into analytical models for nurse staffing decisions.

3. Session WC31 – Consumer Behavior in Services
November 16, 2016, 12:45 – 2:15 PM, 202C-MCC
4th Presentation (of 4): Linking Customer Behavior And Delay Announcements: Are Customers Really Rational?
Authors: Eric Webb, Qiuping Yu, Kurt M. Bretthauer, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University
Abstract: We empirically explore customer abandonment behavior in the presence of delay information using data from a call center. Previous work has assumed that customers are at least partially rational in responding to announcements. In contrast, we relax all rationality assumptions. Our findings indicate that customers exhibit loss aversion behavior. In addition, customers may update their announcement-induced reference point as they hear subsequent announcements. Our results also indicate that customers may fall for the sunk cost fallacy while waiting in the queue. We show the impact of these effects on staffing decisions using a classic staffing model.

4. Session WE32 – Sports and Entertainment
November 16, 2016, 4:30 – 6:00 PM, 203A-MCC
3rd Presentation (of 4): Using Past Scores And Regularization To Create A Winning NFL Betting Model
Authors: Eric Webb, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, and Wayne L. Winston, Bauer College of Business, University of Houston
Abstract: Is the National Football League betting market efficient? We have devised a profitable betting model that would win 52.7% of the 7,705 bets against the spread it would have made over 34 seasons. Scores from previous weeks are used to estimate the point value of each team’s offense and defense. These values predict next week’s scores, and a bet is placed against the advertised spread. The sum of squares of offensive/defensive point values are constrained to be less than a regularization constant.

Presentation Week 2016

I’m going to start a yearly tradition. For one week in October/November, I will create a week’s worth of posts about giving presentations. I am constantly striving to improve my own presentation ability, and I think a lot of researchers need help to present their research effectively. Presentation Week will occur in advance of the INFORMS annual meeting in early/mid November, which is my main academic conference. Posts will be archived here.

Here are the posts for this year:
Monday: Planning the Length of Your Talk
Tuesday: Memorize your talk?
Wednesday: Slide Do’s and Don’ts (probably a post I’ll re-visit each year)
Thursday: Handling Questions Gracefully
Friday: Focus on What You Want the Audience to Remember

Much of the material I use comes from two books I read this year: TED Talks and Presentation in Action.

Book Review- TED Talks

TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking
by Chris Anderson, 2016

ted-talks

While the book is geared toward TED-style talks, it does have useful pieces of advice for any presenter. You just have to see a bit past the inflated discussion of presentation motivation. Not every talk’s topic is so all-important/all-consuming as to be your life’s work and worthy of a national audience. I am giving four talks at an upcoming conference. While I think they’re all awesome, I don’t make the mistake of believing each is life-altering.

I will use some of the advice from this book in future posts. I do suggest academic presenters read it; again, take it with a grain of salt, though. Here are some quick quotes from the book:
-“Your number-one mission as a speaker is to take something that matters deeply to you and to rebuild it inside the minds of your listeners.”
-From Sir Ken Robinson: “There’s an old formula for writing essays that says a good essay answers three questions: What? So what? Now what? [My talks are] a bit like that.”
-“To make an impact, there has to be a human connection. You can give the most brilliant talk, with crystal-clear explanations and laser-sharp logic, but if you don’t first connect with the audience, it won’t land.”
-From Salman Khan: “Be yourself. The worst talks are the ones where someone is trying to be someone they aren’t. If you are generally goofy, then be goofy. If you are emotional, then be emotional. The one exception to that is if you are arrogant and self-centered. Then you should definitely pretend to be someone else.”
-“Many speakers use their slides as memory nudges… What you mustn’t do, of course, is to use PowerPoint as a full outline of your talk and deliver a series of text-crammed slides. That’s awful. But if you have elegant images to accompany each key step of your talk, this approach can work very well, provided that you’ve thought about each transition. The images act as terrific memory nudges, though you may still need to carry a card with additional notes.”

There’s a useful appendix at the back of the book that contains all the TED talks that the author, who organizes the TED movement, references. You could watch those for inspiration.

Amazon Link: TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking

On the Operations Job Market: Reflections and Insights

The pdf is available here. Written by Renyu (Philip) Zhang in April 2016 after receiving placement at NYU Shanghai. The discussion is tuned for students looking for placement in OM departments of business schools. The advice is not overly surprising, but rings true. One snippet:

Compared to the need and connection attributes, the communication attribute is more controllable by a PhD student. I want to emphasize again that, in order to excel on the OM job market, you have to be a great communicator to convince schools that you have the potential to become a good colleague, a good researcher, and a good teacher. You need to train yourself to become a great communicator through continuous practices, both in casual small talks and in formal seminar presentations/teaching/public speaking. To improve the communication skill in small talks, it is advised that you regularly attend some social events (including the ones during conferences) to practice talking with others. You should also learn from the great small-talkers. Your school may also offer some communication classes that you can take. Your objective should be that, after years of practices, any stranger that speaks with you would find you a delightful person to talk with. For presentation skills, I would recommend you take as many opportunities as possible to present in classes, seminars, and conferences. You can also learn some presentation skills by taking presentation classes and/or watching videos of great presentations in, e.g., YouTube or TED Talks. Your objective of the year-long presentation skill practice is that your presentation will be clear, engaging, technically solid, and broadly appealing to the audience not familiar with your work or even your area of study.

Thanks to Xuan Feng for sharing.