What's Your StORy?

Laura Albert

Laura Albert

October 2015 What's Your StORy?
Associate Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison

More questions for Laura Albert ?
Check out the Open Forum on INFORMS Connect!


What interest do you have outside of work that might surprise us?
I’ve blogged and tweeted about so many of my interests over the years that I’m not sure anything will surprise you. I have three daughters—who are 10, 7, and 4—so I don’t have too many interests outside of work that don’t involve my children. Avid readers know my top interests are running and sports analytics. I am currently revising my College Football Playoff forecasting methodology (“Badger Bracketology”) for the 2015 season.


What is your favorite O.R. application?
I’ve been fascinated by how important and interesting homeland security problems are. Homeland security—like any application area—waxes and wanes in popularity. Homeland security problems do not always seem shiny and new and exciting, especially so many years after September 11, 2001, but I am frequently reminded that we will always have security challenges. It’s a great application area.


What has been your best INFORMS experience?
I have three; all at INFORMS Annual Meetings over the years. First and foremost, I thoroughly enjoyed serving on and chairing the Doing Good with Good OR committee. Students talking about how their research is making the world a better place is inspiring. Second, INFORMS meetings give us many chances to celebrate the achievements of our colleagues. I am fortunate to have successfully nominated two colleagues (Anna Nagurney and Jason Merrick) for major INFORMS awards, and it was a pleasure to see them honored for their achievements. And finally, the Forum for Women in OR/MS (WORMS) lunch is my favorite part of the INFORMS Annual Meeting. I was president of WORMS in 2013, and it was an honor to organize and host the lunch.


If we were sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great year it's been for you, what would we be celebrating?
I am running for a position on the INFORMS Board, and I am looking forward to the possibility of serving as the VP of Marketing, Communications, and Outreach. It is an exciting time for our OR/MS, and I hope to have the chance to contribute to our field. Next year, I hope we can celebrate some good press and extra visibility for OR/MS and all the wonderful things we do.


If you had to work on only one project for the next year, what would it be?
The best part of my job is that I get to work with PhD students on a variety of projects. I could never choose just one project, and I’m glad I don’t have to.


What is the best advice you can give to students in your field?
If you have already decided to become part of the OR/MS community, then you have already accepted some good advice. I recommend learning as much as you can about data structures, algorithms, programming, and analytics while you are a student.
After graduation, I recommend evangelizing early and often. Once you enter the workforce, you will encounter and work with others who have not heard of operations research. Your success—as well as the health and vitality of our field—in part depend on us getting the word out so others know about what we do so can use our tools when they are needed.


Tell us something that not many people know about you.
I like to cook and bake. One of my recipes (“Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins”) was published in the Chicago Tribune. I always joke that this is my most widely-read publication. If you’re interested in the recipe, search for it on my blog!