2016 MS&E Reunion Recap
A Festive Yet Informative Event!
With nearly 300 people in attendance from a variety of geographic areas, professional disciplines and personal backgrounds, there was no shortage of interesting conversation at the 2016 MS&E reunion on Saturday, October 22. Adding to the mix was a pop-up bookstore, topic tables, social media photo ops and, of course, lots of food. Three MS&E researchers opened the event with what turned out to be extremely newsworthy presentations.
Prof. Sharad Goel kicked off the day’s program with a look at “The Art, Science and Guesswork of Election Forecasting.” He discussed the findings of a recent paper co-written with researchers at Stanford, Columbia and Microsoft Research. The key takeaway? The margin of error on election polls is much greater than previously thought. So, it’s quite possible that seeming upsets in election outcomes could be explained by the data. He also cautions that narrow margins in polls may be misleading not only for the outcome of a single race but also for related races. You can view the original research here or check out the October 5 New York Times piece he co-wrote with David Rothschild. Also, you can look at his post-election article, “How the presidential election flummoxed the pollsters.”
Next, PhD candidate Cora Lynn Bernard shared “A Data-Driven Approach to Reducing the Spread of Infectious Disease.” Focused on public health under the guidance of MS&E Professor Margaret Brandeau, Bernard studies the optimal combination of prevention strategies in epidemic contexts where budgets are limited. She discussed how she is using an analytic model to determine whether a Seattle drug offender diversion program will help break the cycles of incarceration, drug abuse and disease transmission in that area. Ms. Bernard hopes to determine if there are public health benefits and cost savings with such programs. In case you missed it, you can watch her presentation here.
Last, Prof. Elisabeth Paté-Cornell discussed, “Protecting Our National Infrastructure: How Risk Analysis Can Improve Cybersecurity,” a particularly timely topic, given the wide-ranging cyberattack that had occurred across the U.S. the day before. She shared data on the effectiveness of relatively simple measures that significantly reduce risks, such as full-disk encryption, two-step authentication (e.g., password plus access code texted to the user), and user training on recognizing and not responding to phishing emails. She stressed that it’s possible to quantify the risks an organization faces and assess and compare the effectiveness of different countermeasures. Then, an organization can apply the optimal level of resources to protect the most critical assets. You can view a video of the talk here.
After the presentations, attendees enjoyed an elaborate buffet brunch while catching up with former classmates and making new acquaintances. Many with similar interests gathered around special topic tables focused on themes such as finance, analytics, technology, product management and more. Amidst balloons, orchid centerpieces and tables overflowing with food, attendees took pictures with each other, purchased books by MS&E authors, and reminisced with the more than 30 faculty and staff in attendance. The Stanford Technology Ventures Program hosted an information table that attracted many visitors, and ten lucky visitors won gift bags in a raffle for alumni who have attended past MS&E events.
It was a festive event filled with MS&E spirit. Some alumni came from as far away as London and Japan to participate. The MS&E Department is grateful to all who came and made it a special event. Whether or not you were able to come this year, we hope to see you next year!