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Faster, Safer, Healthier with Operations Research

Mathematics Green Chair Public Lecture

Speaker: Sommer Gentry (United States Naval Academy and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine)

Abstract: While mathematical advances of all sorts have impacted our world for the better, operations research is a branch of mathematics that is expressly focused on applying advanced analytical methods to help make better decisions.  Operations researchers have eased traffic jams by closing selected streets, and gotten packages to you more quickly by planning U.P.S. routes with fewer left turns.  Operations researchers have shown which personal decisions are the leading causes of death, and planned maintenance schedules to minimize bridge collapses.  The mathematical tools of
operations research, like using random numbers to simulate a range of outcomes when some data are unknown, or finding clever algorithms that shortcut the need to try every possible decision in order to find the best one, can be recycled to solve problems everywhere in our world. These days, I am using O.R. to increase the supply of kidneys available for patients who need a transplant and to make organ allocation more equitable to patients across the U.S.  In this talk, I will describe some of my O.R. forays into far-flung fields, and tell my favorite stories about O.R.

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Sommer Gentry is Professor of Mathematics at the United States Naval Academy, and is also on the faculty of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She is a senior investigator with the U.S. Scientific Registry for Transplant Recipients. She has a B.S. in Mathematical and Computational Science and an M.S. in Operations Research, both from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer
Science from MIT.

Professor Gentry builds operations research models to improve access to organ transplantation. She has ignited revolutionary changes in the distribution of organs for transplant, by showing that redistricting U.S. liver allocation areas would reduce geographic disparity in access to liver transplants and save hundreds of lives each year.  She also designed optimization methods to maximize the number of kidney transplants possible through kidney exchanges, and served as an advisor to the United States and Canada in their efforts to create national paired donation registries. Her work helped convince Congress to clarify the legal status of kidney paired donation in December 2007.

Her research is funded by the National Institutes of Health and her findings have been highlighted in major media outlets including Scientific American, Time Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Science, the Discovery Channel, and National Public Radio.  Gentry has also received the MAA’s Henry L. Alder award for distinguished teaching.

Monday, February 24 at 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm

Betsy and Steve Palko Hall, 130
3000 Bellaire Drive North, Fort Worth, TX 76109

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