The last academic year was a banner year for the INFORMS Student Chapter in the Operations Research and Industrial Engineering program at The University of Texas at Austin, which received the INFORMS Annual Magna Cum Laude Award. This is the second highest award given to five select student chapters, chosen from hundreds of universities across the world, for their outstanding participation and performance during the last academic year.

You might expect that the risk of a new flu pandemic — or worldwide disease outbreak — is greatest at the peak of the flu season in winter, when viruses are most abundant and most likely to spread. Instead, all six flu pandemics that have occurred since 1889 emerged in spring and summer months. And that got some University of Texas at Austin scientists wondering, why is that?

Assistant professor Evdokia Nikolova has received a National Science Foundation grant for her work on algorithms and mechanisms for the distribution grid. The goal of this project is to “help the distribution grid and its participants transition from its current functionality of serving mostly traditional consumers, to the future grid that needs to sustainably integrate prosumers, renewables and distributed energy resources.”

In keeping with the annual tradition, the ORIE faculty hosted student potluck dinners during the fall and spring semesters. Both events were organized by the INFORMS Student Chapter and attended by faculty members, students, and their family and friends. The fall potluck was hosted in a park where faculty and students were able to flaunt their culinary skills and bond over multiple games of basketball. The spring potluck was hosted at Prof. Ross Baldick's ranch, where everyone was able to hike and splash in the creek. Both events were great fun and very Texas!

Operations Research and Industrial Engineering assistant professor Ben Leibowicz, whose research interests include energy economics, technological change and energy and climate policy analysis, offered his thoughts on what U.S. cities can do to continue fighting climate change in the wake of the country's recent withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. His op-ed was published in Fortune on June 13.