STOR-I Masterclass at Lancaster University

Last week I traveled to Lancaster, England to teach a research masterclass at the Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Statistics and Operational Research (OR) in partnership with Industry (STOR‐I) at Lancaster University. STOR‐i was established in 2010. It is funded by EPSRC, Lancaster University and a wide range of industrial partners. It’s goal is to use industrial challenges as catalysts for innovation, and the Centre’s primary aim is to develop future international research leaders in statistics and OR. A masterclass is a series of introductory talks on an area of contemporary research given to the PhD and Masters students enrolled in the program.

My masterclass was entitled “Public sector operational research.”

A brief description:

Public sector applications, such as those in fire and emergency medical services, are complex systems that span people, processes, vehicles, and critical infrastructure. Researchers have been developing optimization models to locate vehicles such as fire engines and ambulances and spatial queueing models for analyzing public safety vehicle deployment decisions for nearly 50 years. A body of literature for locating and dispatching vehicles has grown to lift simplifying assumptions and address important issues overlooked in the early research models in this area. Public sector applications such as homeland security, disaster preparedness and response, and critical infrastructure protection have received a growing amount of attention from operational researchers in recent years. However, many research challenges remain.

In this STOR-I masterclass, we will study the evolution of operational research in the public sector with application to public safety, homeland security, and disasters. Technical topics include network optimization problems, facility location and covering models; network design, restoration, and interdiction models; spatial queueing models; and discrete event simulation. Policy insights as well as issues relating to putting the results into practice in real-world settings in the United States and abroad will be discussed.

Readings I used in my lectures:

  1. Larson, R.C., 2002. Public sector operations research: A personal journey. Operations Research, 50(1), pp.135-145.
  2. Green, L.V. and Kolesar, P.J., 2004. Anniversary article: Improving emergency responsiveness with management science. Management Science, 50(8), pp.1001-1014.
  3. Reuter-Oppermann, M., van den Berg, P.L. and Vile, J.L., 2017. Logistics for emergency medical service systems. Health Systems, 6(3), pp.187-208.
  4. Albert McLay, L., 2015. Discrete optimization models for homeland security and disaster management. TutORials in Operations Research (pp. 111-132). INFORMS.
  5. Simpson, N.C. and Hancock, P.G., 2009. Fifty years of operational research and emergency response. Journal of the Operational Research Society, 60(sup1), pp.S126-S139.
  6. Ansari, S., McLay, L.A. and Mayorga, M.E., 2017. A maximum expected covering problem for district design. Transportation Science, 51(1), pp.376-390.

The masterclass was given in three two hour classes. While I was able to cover a lot of ground over six hours, I had to keep the scope relatively narrow so that we could discuss in depth. I decided to mainly focus on facility location models for siting resources for responding to routine and large-scale disasters.

Goals for the masterclass

Class 1: Public sector OR overview

Understand the history of public sector OR (in the US)
Evaluate when and how to apply public sector OR models
Understand features of emergency medical service systems and identify how these features can be represented in OR models

Class 2: facility location for emergency medical services

Understand and interpret facility location problem features
Apply facility location models to locating ambulances
Model how to locate ambulances by including increasing levels of model realism

Class 3: large-scale emergencies and disasters

Understand disasters concepts
Understand and interpret emergency management concepts for OR modeling
Apply OR models to disasters situations

I enjoyed getting to know faculty, lecturers and students. For example, I found out that there were three Slytherin in the class of about 40.

Six hours of teaching is a lot of teaching, and I’m grateful for the students who gave me their undivided attention for so long. One student had studied at RWTH Aachen (my host institution in Germany) and gave me a list of recommended things to do.

Read more blog posts about my 2020 sabbatical here.


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