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MIE Seminar Presentation by Dr. Özlem Ergun: A case study on post-disaster debris operations and solving multi-period network capacity expansion problems

Abstract: Debris is the waste generated by hazardous events such as a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. Post-disaster debris collection operations are in general not planned in advance and are done in an ad-hoc way after an event. Issues in tactical and operational planning include clearing quickly, widely, and in ways that is good for the environment and health. Debris impacts the logistics of humanitarian relief and debris generated in some large-scale disasters can be equivalent in volume to years of normal solid waste production in the affected areas. In the context of the Haiti earthquake, six months after the disaster, only 5% of the debris was collected. Hurricane Ike (2008) generated debris enough to fill a football field stacked 2 miles high. The 30-mile debris along the Texas coast that was standing months after Ike's landfall is a testament to the challenges and the inefficiencies that exist in debris clearance operations today.  

In this research, we consider the decision problems related to the three phases of debris management operations: clearance, collection, and disposal. We develop mathematical models that capture the important characteristics of the debris related operations along with methodologies for solving these models efficiently. These models include considerations on fairness (given the public impact nature of the application) and robustness (given various types of uncertainty in these settings). We also demonstrate the results of some of these models and algorithms on a case study based on the Haitian Earthquake.  

Short Bio: Özlem Ergun, PhD

Faculty Development Fellow and Associate Professor, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Northeastern University  

Dr. Özlem Ergun was the Coca-Cola Associate Professor in the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology until August 2014. She has also a co-founded and co-directed the Health and Humanitarian Logistics Research Center at the Supply Chain and Logistics Institute. She received a B.S. in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering from Cornell University in 1996 and a Ph.D. in Operations Research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2001.  

Dr. Özlem Ergun’s research focuses on the design and management of large-scale networks. She has applied her work on network design, management and collaboration to problems arising in the airline, ocean cargo and trucking industries. Recently, Dr. Ergun’s work has been focused on the use of systems thinking and mathematical modeling in applications with societal impact. She has worked with organizations that respond to humanitarian crisis around the world, including: UN WFP, IFRC, CARE USA, FEMA, USACE, CDC, AFCEMA, and MedShare International.

Friday, October 17, 2014 at 10:30am to 11:30am

Shillman Hall, 305

Event Type



COE, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

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