Jennifer Pazour Awarded NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Grant

ISE faculty, Dr. Jennifer Pazour, has been awarded the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant by the National Science Foundation.  This five-year grant, funded through the NSF Operations Engineering Program, is entitled “CAREER: Distribution Resource Elasticity: A New Hierarchical Approach for On-Demand Distribution Platforms.” 

The goal of this CAREER award is to research a new, more agile way to obtain resource capacity. By accessing underutilized resources where and when needed, on-demand distribution platforms enable spatial and temporal resource elasticity. Current centralized approaches to on-demand platforms excel at meeting demand commitments, but limit supplier autonomy. Decentralized approaches provide supplier autonomy, but sacrifice systematic performance and are time consuming. This award supports fundamental research to create a new hierarchical approach that recasts the platform's role using personalized recommendations and to quantify the impact of supplier choice on platform efficiency, effectiveness, and equity. New bi-level optimization formulations for on-demand distribution platforms will model supplier choice using discrete choice models and will capture performance as a function of both the platform's decisions and suppliers' interdependent choices. New optimization models and algorithms will decide how a platform should make interdependent supplier recommendations (number of choices, which requests, and compensation) and how to categorize outcomes created by supplier choice. Specialized exact approaches will exploit problem structure; heuristic approaches will generate large-scale solutions quickly. To affect suppliers' selection behaviors, compensation decisions will be considered jointly with recommendation decisions. Iterative techniques will set compensation for rejected requests, determine how supplier performance should influence future platform decisions and utility estimates, when to deploy platform resources, and how to manage dynamically arriving requests and suppliers. Use cases, with community and commercial partners, will validate approaches and quantify the impact of supplier choice on platform efficiency, effectiveness, and equity.

Supplier choice increases participation (capacity) and resource utilization when request fulfillment is combined with suppliers' planned tasks. By increasing capacity through more flexible use of suppliers, this approach can impact both commercial and non-commercial supply networks, improving e-commerce profitability and enabling a new on-demand volunteer base.  Undergraduate engineering students, trained on effective communication, will create activities informed by this research to inspire K-12 students to pursue engineering. Undergraduate and graduate students will interact with the research via new curriculum, classes, service learning, and research experiences. 

The NSF Award Abstract is available here: