Doing (a Lot of) Good with (Really) Good OR

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

At the recent INFORMS Annual Meeting, I had the great pleasure to be a judge for “Doing Good with Good OR,”, the student competition that honors projects that greatly impact society. I joined the competition committee this year and will be the co-chair with Dr. Justin Boutilier in 2023.

As a global society of academics and professionals, INFORMS provides a strong network and body of programs to encourage the real-world application of operations research and advanced analytics. I feel fortunate to have been asked to volunteer alongside fellow practitioners and to in turn invite others to participate in positive, recurring activities. Previously I served as a judge for the O.R. & Analytics Student Team Competition. For “Doing Good with Good OR,” we reviewed abstracts from around the world and selected finalists, who then submitted detailed papers describing their research, and gave presentations at the Annual Meeting.

The 2022 winner was Bonn Kleiford Seranilla, advised by Nils Löhndorf, of the Luxembourg Center for Logistics and Supply Chain Management at the Université du Luxembourg for “Optimizing Vaccine Distribution in Developing Countries under Natural Disaster Risk.” The student created and deployed a mathematical model to help cities best locate a limited number of COVID-19 vaccine distribution facilities while incorporating the possibility that a facility may have to shut down because of a natural disaster; this exciting research is especially promising because it can apply to other types of healthcare distribution problems in areas at risk of flooding and other disasters.

In describing the project, the winner explained, “In many developing nations, COVID-19 vaccine facility sites are exposed to the risk of natural disaster, which can slow down vaccination programs that are already lagging. Policymakers seek decision support to plan vaccination resources and to hedge their campaigns against disaster risk to avoid delays and reduce cost.” The project was successfully implemented in Cagayan de Oro, a flood-prone city in the Philippines.

Bonn Kleiford Seranilla and Nils Löhndorf deserve praise for their extraordinary work, as do the other finalists, whose research topics include equitable school assignments, ER nurse scheduling, and resource allocation for maternal care and childcare in India. Students who participate in “Doing Good with Good OR” enjoy the possibility of winning and receiving well-earned recognition. They also experience research and model-building outside their study areas, seeing results in action, and writing and delivering interactive executive presentations—all very valuable activities. Moreover, through “Doing Good with Good OR,” the students, advisors, and judges alike appreciate that the skills we have, when applied to the right problem, can truly benefit society.