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STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 04/22/2013

Mathematics Meets Logistics

Mike VeatchMath professor Mike Veatch watches the field of operations research and logistics constantly reinvent itself. “The field is always tackling the next problem—whether that is online marketing, financial derivatives, delivery of health services, or big data,” he says.

But it is humanitarian logistics—how to plan and deliver humanitarian aid—that most fascinates and excites him. It’s an incredible feat, he says, to organize logistics when dealing with human uncertainties. “You have to live with a lack of control. The question is how to deliver needed aid effectively in light of changing variables, and a certain amount of unpredictability.”

Working with collaborators at MIT, Veatch has researched the logistics surrounding the disastrous earthquake in Haiti in 2010. Assessment of past relief efforts, and what did and didn’t work well, lays groundwork for mathematical models to guide future disaster response.

Veatch’s students have worked with a Kenyan nonprofit, researching how to save on travel costs, and then presented their research at a national conference. Veatch has lit a fire among Gordon students about the humanitarian applications of mathematical models. “It excites me, and it excites Gordon students as well,” Veatch says.