What's Your StORy?

Amanda Andrei

Amanda Andrei

March 2016 What's Your StORy?
Senior artificial intelligence engineer, MITRE Corporation

More questions for Amanda Andrei?
Check out the Open Forum on INFORMS Connect!


What prompted you to enter this field? Why?
I became involved in the area of social media analysis when I was awarded an Early Career Research Project (ECRP) from MITRE. My topic was studying mixed-language social media in the Philippines. Around the time I started working on this project, Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda hit the Philippines, and I focused on analyzing the Twitter communication emerging from the country. Since then I’ve applied social media analysis to various other topics, including healthcare and judiciary reform.


If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor?
Dream mentor? Gabriel Garcia Marquez. As a writer and a journalist he changed the face of literature and brought to light the hopes, fears, abasements, and dreams of his nation and continent. It would be amazing to give such a gift to the world.
Realistic mentor? I already have one—Dr. Alison Dingwall, a social psychologist and healthcare expert at MITRE who guided me through my ECRP and has helped me navigate aspects of my career. She’s also really fun and cares about my personal life—she gave me great advice through grad school and when I became a new mom.


What has been your best INFORMS experience so far?
Attending INFORMS 2015 in Philadelphia was excellent: the experience that shines in my mind is when I attended another talk on my current topic of study, disaster communication and management during Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda (which struck the Philippines in November 2013). The other scholar was from the Philippines, and it was a wonderful chance to network and talk about the changes and trends in the Philippines, as well as learn more about operations and logistics research as applied to the disaster


Which celebrity do you get mistaken for?
This has never happened to me. Maybe Vanessa Hudgens, if someone was trying to be cute.


What is something you learned in the last week?
I finished the book Why We Make Things and Why It Matters by Peter Korn, a furniture maker. Part memoir, part philosophy, his writing made me think about different ways of thinking—for example, how carving a chair was a way to think without language and instead think with tools and wood.


How do you define “analytics”?
Using tools and techniques to pick apart a problem. These tools can be physical or conceptual, and the end goal is not necessarily to solve the issue, but can be to monitor, problematize, or explore.


What is your favorite part about being involved in INFORMS sections and chapters, like the Social Media Analytics section?
I love working with highly intelligent and passionate people who want to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world problems. The Social Media Analytics section is interdisciplinary and diverse, which adds to the complexity and fun of working on a topic so new and rapidly changing.


If you had to work on only one project for the next year, what would it be?
I’d love to work on something interdisciplinary and collaborative at the intersection of science and art—like a theatrical performance that deals with artificial intelligence (I once saw a play where the Constitution was an automated text projected and interactively moving with the other characters—at the end of the show, we all applauded the software), or a computational problem like trying to get machines to recognize and analyze stories (right now at MITRE I’m on a project where one of our subjects is investigating narrative analysis from a machine-learning perspective – one of our main questions is, “How do you define a narrative?”).


What do you think are the most significant barriers for women/minorities in OR/MS careers? How could they be remedied?
Short answer: Attitudes, perceptions, and implicit beliefs. Change them.
Long answer: I have so much to say about this, it’s hard to know where to start. We need to encourage women and other minorities to pursue STEM fields by making STEM education and play easily accessible early on, both physically and culturally. We need to assume that women and minorities are capable individuals and be sensitive and flexible to their ideas and needs.


Tell us a funny math joke.
I give all the credit to my buddy with the stats PhD for this one: “I don’t always derive x^2, but when I do, I get dos exies.”