We are proud that our colleague Irv Lustig received the INFORMS 2017 Volunteer Service Award for Distinguished Service. Irv has recently helped develop and improve programs and outreach to businesses and professional practitioners, a critical initiative for INFORMS. Irv points out how, since he began his career 30 years ago, the landscape for Operations Research has transformed on both the technology side and the human side.
Data availability is obviously much greater than it was before the Internet, but more exciting to Irv is the evolution of the associated tools to explore and understand data, making it easier to then choose the right data for an analytics application. Improvements in the performance of optimization software algorithms and implementations have far exceeded the improvements in hardware performance, making it possible to solve ever larger and more complex problems.
Irv observes that, more than ever, business executives understand and value analytics capabilities and solutions. Their demand for data scientists and advanced analytics specialists has led to a talent shortage. Interestingly, many of the data science skills that are so hot today are the same skills that the O.R. community has emphasized and championed for decades. For many businesses, assembling an analytics team and accelerating analytics capabilities—while achieving quantifiable successes—is a top priority that presents opportunities that Irv and Princeton Consultants embrace.
The Volunteer Service Award recognized Irv’s many other contributions to INFORMS as well. He has led the project to create a collection of video interviews of trailblazers in Operations Research, which can be viewed here. He has been both a judge and coach for the prestigious INFORMS Franz Edelman Award, which recognizes the world’s most outstanding examples of advanced analytics in practice. Additionally, Irv has provided key inputs to the INFORMS Certified Analytics Professional accreditation program, chaired the INFORMS Computing Society, served as an Associate Editor for the journal Operations Research, and served on the board of the INFORMS Roundtable.
Irv’s service to INFORMS began when he joined the association as a graduate student in O.R. at Stanford University, and continued through a unique career path that has afforded him first-hand experience with many of the challenges faced by different types of INFORMS members and practitioners. After his PhD (his thesis advisor was George Dantzig, the father of linear programming), Irv was an associate professor at Princeton University, where he won the Beale-Orchard-Hays award for computational mathematical programming. He left academia to be an executive at CPLEX/ILOG/IBM, where he variously led or managed technical services, sales and product development. At IBM Research, Irv investigated forecasting and optimization integration.
Three years ago, Irv joined Princeton Consultants because he felt driven to apply his insights and expertise to real-world problems. My colleagues and I, and our clients, are fortunate that he did so, and we stand with him in supporting INFORMS as it continues to lead the global advanced analytics community in positively impacting business and society.