Tuesday, January 7, 2020

University of Oklahoma Research Team Helps Weather-Weary Ag Industry


Jeff Basara
NORMAN, OKLA. – You don’t have to look far to find news, opinions and studies about our world’s changing climate and its effects on humans. But what is less accessible is how a changing climate impacts beef cattle production. A team of scientists and researchers from across the region set out to answer this and other questions during the Great Plains Grazing project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Jeff Basara is an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma School of Meteorology and School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science who was a project investigator and team leader during the five-year study. The project consisted of teams from four universities, the USDA and the Noble Research Institute. Basara and five OU graduate students focused on climate variability, including drought and excessive rainfall, how and when those extremes occur, and associated impacts on the agricultural industry.

“We know precipitation variability is a key factor agricultural producers must consider to successfully run their industry,” Basara said. “Our research showed precipitation variability has been rapidly increasing over the years, and we wanted to clearly convey this important research to producers so they could better recognize the environmental changes and adjust to it.”

The USDA hopes to use the research and findings of Basara, his student team and other researchers, to develop decision support tools to help farmers and ranchers learn more about climate effects, plan for and improve future operations, and continue to succeed in the industry.

Though the research on the Great Plains Grazing project has concluded, its impact on the industry and student researchers continues.

Among the graduate students on Basara’s team are Paul Flanigan and Jordan Christian. Flanigan, now a post-doctoral research associate at the High Plains Regional Climate Center at the University of Nebraska, focused on extremes of precipitation (floods versus droughts) and how they impact the Great Plains region. Christian, a current doctoral student at OU, conducted flash drought research.

As a late addition to the team, Christian valued learning from the other specialists on the team, and he now emphasizes interdisciplinary work in his current research.

Instead of solely focusing on one topic or aspect of a project, I now incorporate a variety of expertise into my research and reporting,” Christian said. “Gathering several perspectives helps solidify the knowledge base so we can determine more accurate, long-term solutions.”

Flanigan agrees that his current work is influenced by his role on Basara’s research team. The methods he used to develop research processes and learn new topics while working on the Great Plains Grazing project have been instrumental to his post-doctoral work.

“Working on this specific project, I learned a great deal about the impact of precipitation extremes in the Great Plains region,” Flanigan said. “But I also learned the importance of gathering data from a variety of field experts, and those are valuable standards I now use in my current work.”

In addition to improving processes and efficiencies in the agricultural industry through increased environmental knowledge, the team’s efforts and discoveries earned several national awards. The team and project were selected for a Partnership Award for Multistate Efforts by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and were recognized for their “outstanding efforts to strengthen the stewardship of private lands through technology and research.” The team also received the 2019 Research, Education, and Economics Under Secretary’s Award from the USDA.

Basara hopes to build upon the work and accomplishments of the Great Plains Grazing project to make a greater impact on the agricultural industry.

“The knowledge we learned from the Great Plains Grazing project was just the beginning,” Basara said. “With the foundational support of the USDA and determination of our team, we can start to help an entire industry improve and thrive for generations to come.”

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OU Industrial and Systems Engineering Professor Recognized With Award for Supporting Students


NORMAN, OKLA. Janet Allen, University of Oklahoma professor of industrial and systems engineering, was named the recipient of the 2019 Ruth and Joel Spira Outstanding Design Educator Award.
One of the highest honors bestowed by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the award recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to engineering design education through scholarship creation, instructorship, and as a mentor and role model.
Allen is one of the founders of the National Science Foundation/ASME Travel Grant Program, which she has helped run for more than 20 years. This program created a Student Design Essay Competition, funded by the National Science Foundation. Winners are awarded grants to travel and present their work at the International Design Engineering Technical Conferences annual ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference.
“Students go to the conference and talk to whomever they want, present their ideas and get feedback,” Allen explains. “It gives them the tools to continue to develop their careers.”
Since the creation of the grant, nearly a dozen essay winners have gone into the academic field, even sending students of their own to the conference.
Appropriately, Allen was nominated by a former student, Wei Chen, who is a professor of mechanical engineering at Northwestern University.
“Professor Allen is passionate about encouraging students to rise to their full potential,” Chen wrote. “Through her educational and outreach efforts, she has positively influenced the lives of hundreds of undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty members.”
Allen joined the University of Oklahoma in 2009. Along with Professor Farrokh Mistree, she established the Systems Realization Laboratory, with a focus on engineering design. Additionally, Allen holds the John and Mary Moore Chair of Engineering at OU.
“We’re all extremely proud of our students,” Allen says. “We want to continue to help make their lives better, particularly their experiences in grad school.”
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Friday, December 13, 2019

Doctoral Student's Paper Published in IISE Transactions on Healthcare Systems Engineering Journal


Adrien Badré, an exchange student from Clermont Ferrand, France, earned his Master of Science in Data Science and Analytics from OU in 2018 and is pursuing a doctorate in computer science.

Badré has authored a publication, Secure Decentralized Decisions to Enhance Coordination in Consolidated Hospital Systems, that was published in the October IISE Transactions on Healthcare Systems Engineering journal. Co-authors include Shima Mohebbi, Badré’s academic master’s advisor, and Leili Soltanisehat, a doctoral student serving under Dr. Kash Barker.

The paper focuses on shared decision making, which has become a crucial solution to build a consolidated healthcare system. According to the abstract, while there is some research in the healthcare literature discussing the advantages and disadvantages of shared decision making, its efficiency has not been addressed quantitatively. In this paper, we propose a Decentralized Patients Assignment System (DPAS) as a universal decentralized decision-making architecture. It utilizes the blockchain technology, machine learning, and integer programing to enhance coordination among healthcare providers and patients in consolidated hospital systems. To test the efficiency of the proposed DPAS, a prototype system is developed using an Agent-based model and Ethereum and is compared to the current practice of central referral systems in consolidated hospital systems. The agent-based model consists of four agents including patients, physicians, hospitals, and miners interacting within a decentralized system. The proposed system highlights the importance of interoperability and consensus among healthcare agents in the decision-making process. The results demonstrate the DPAS efficiency in decreasing computational time and rejection rates for patients transfer.