Sagnik Das
Sagnik Das CMU Tepper OR PhD Student

YinzOR - A Journey for CMU INFORMS Student Chapter

YinzOR - A Journey for CMU INFORMS Student Chapter

YinzOR is a single-track conference that brings together students studying operations research and related fields to facilitate interaction and collaboration with peers. YinzOR came into existence in 2017, when Aleksandr Kazachkov, founding President of the CMU INFORMS Student Chapter, envisioned a conference of the students, by the students and for the students. Thiago, the President of our Chapter in 2017, coined the name YinzOR, with Yinz being the local Pittsburghese version of you-ones or yous-ones (2nd person plural pronoun), which derives from the Scots language, sometimes called Lowland Scots, spoken in southern Scotland until the late 18th century; and “OR” stands for Operations Research. More trivia about yinz is in our homepage of YinzOR 2019, courtesy of Professor John Hooker. Christian Tjandraatmadja designed the awesome logo for YinzOR, YinzOR Logo featuring a bridge that symbolizes Pittsburgh, also affectionately known as The City of Bridges. Cristiana Lopes Lara came up with the idea of having the bridge in the logo and Ozgun Elci and Violet Chen helped in the overall design.

True to the original YinzOR vision, we have hosted high quality conferences centered around PhD students for the past two years. The featured speakers at YinzOR are professionals who have recently graduated from their academic program and joined academia or industry. For invited talks, our goal is to feature PhD students from diverse OR/MS backgrounds. A nomination and voting process is used by the organizing committee to choose and invite outstanding young researchers from various institutions.

The inaugural YinzOR was held in August 2017 at the Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). YinzOR 2017 was chaired by Aleksandr Kazachkov, who was assisted by a team of 11 members. We had the pleasure of hosting as our featured speakers Noam Brown, PhD student from CMU Computer Science Department (now at Facebook AI Research); Hamsa Bastani, Postdoc at IBM Research (now Assistant Professor at Wharton) and Francisco Trespalacios from Exxon Mobil. More than 60 students from CMU, University of Pittsburgh (UPitt), and Lehigh University participated and enjoyed valuable networking opportunities with fellow students. More details about the 2017 conference can be found on our conference website.

YinzOR 2017 - Group Photo

Last year marked the second time that CMU INFORMS Student Chapter organized YinzOR. YinzOR 2018 was chaired by Neda Mirzaeian, who was assisted by a committee of 15 members. The conference, sponsored by EQT Corporation and Tepper School of Business, consisted of three featured talks, eight regular-track talks, a 12-person poster competition, as well as a few interactive coffee breaks and a happy hour. During YinzOR 2018, we had the privilege of hosting more than 70 attendees. It was an honor to host invited student speakers from Wharton, University of Michigan, and Lehigh University, in addition to local invited student speakers from CMU and UPitt. The featured speakers were Can Zhang, Assistant Professor at Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, Miles Lubin from Google Research, and Markus Drouven from EQT Corporation.

YinzOR 2018 - Group Photo

A well-received addition to YinzOR 2018 was the poster competition open to all PhD students in related fields. The panel of judges for the poster competition consisted of four CMU faculty members: Gerard Cornuejols, John Hooker, Fatma Kilinc-Karzan, and R. Ravi. In a tough competition, Po-Wei Wang won first prize. YinzOR 2018 ended with the most important event of all: Happy Hour. It was held in the biggest balcony of the Tepper Quad, where the participants enjoyed a nice view of the beautiful city of Pittsburgh, and discussed ORMS (and life!). More details about YinzOR 2018 can be found on our conference website and from this detailed blog written by Neda Mirzaeian .

YinzOR 2018 - Happy Hours

I am personally very excited to share my experiences with the preparation for YinzOR 2019, which will take place on August 23rd and 24th at the new Tepper Building, Tepper Quad. I am part of the YinzOR 2019 Organizing Committee chaired by Violet Chen and Ozgun Elci. Our featured speakers this year are Thiago Serra, who recently joined Bucknell University as an Assistant Professor, and Joann de Zegher and Daniel Freund, who both recently joined MIT Sloan as Assistant Professors. The invited speakers are from CMU Tepper, Chicago Booth, Columbia, Cornell, Georgia Tech and MIT Operations Research Center. For our poster competition this year, we have submissions from students from CMU, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Purdue, Johns Hopkins, Lehigh, MIT, Cornell, Polytechnique Montreal, and University of Illinois. This year, we are also introducing another fun event: Flash Talks, where participants will have to explain their work without using taboo words. The taboo words will be selected by the event coordinator based on the most frequently used words in the abstract.

Our preparations for YinzOR 2019 started on a high note as we were able to secure substantial sponsorship (around four times higher than last year) with FedEx Ground and McKinsey & Company as our Silver Sponsors and Simio, Tepper School of Business, and the OR Department at Tepper as our Bronze Sponsors. The external sponsorship was made possible by the support from our faculty members Sridhar Tayur and Willem-Jan van Hoeve. This additional funding played a role in attracting participation from more major universities on the East Coast. Like previous years, we are giving full travel support and accommodation to all featured speakers. For invited speakers, in addition to partial travel support, this year we are providing accommodation. Furthermore, we are providing accommodation to all the poster competition and Flash Talk participants who reside outside of Pittsburgh.

As YinzOR is expanding, we are actively seeking to outsource as much logistic work as possible to make planning the event smoother. In the past years, most of the logistics of the conference were handled by the organizing committee. This year, we will have catering services take care of the coffee breaks. Our chapter’s vision is to completely outsource all logistics in future editions of YinzOR, which will enable the organizing committee to focus mainly on improving the quality and diversity of invited talks and poster and Flash Talk submissions, and market the conference to a larger base.

Please visit our website to learn more about the conference and our student chapter website to learn more about our chapter!

This is a copy of this article published in ORMS Tomorrow!