CHEPS Pulse: Conferences in the Virtual World, November 2020

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Conferences in the Virtual World

Understandably, 2020 has been full of a lot of virtual firsts for CHEPSters – first virtual kick-off, first all virtual semester, and now we’ve added our first virtual conferences to the list. CHEPS students along with CHEPS Faculty Director Amy Cohn recently had the chance to present at IISE and INFORMS Annual Conference, both of which went virtual for the first time this year. We also have four students preparing for the virtual Winter Simulation Conference where CHEPSters have had three papers and one case study accepted.

BME undergraduate Emmett Springer presented at INFORMS. He appreciated the opportunity to share the work he’s been doing to help hospitals after a COVID surge to begin re-opening their surgical capacity to process the backlog of waiting patients and to treat newly-arising clinical cases. “I really enjoyed the process of putting together my presentation and answering questions about it after my presentation. It was great to know that the work that we are doing at CHEPS is getting out there for other people to see!” he said.

Emmett delivering his virtual presentation

Ziqi Wang presented her work on simulating a cardiac ICU at both INFORMS and IISE. She said, “It is my first time to attend a conference and give presentations and it is really impressive. I really enjoyed the keynotes that were given by some professors to share their research and hotspots in the industry. Meanwhile, I got to know how to apply engineering and data analysis methods in some real-world cases, such as ventilator rationing among states during COVID19, which made me realize the importance and power of engineering methods to solve healthcare issues.”

Isaac Smith, who shared his work on the processing of surgical instruments, also found some pluses to presenting virtually, including one attire related. “I enjoyed being able to present to people located anywhere in the world from my bedroom. Additionally, I found it amusing to present wearing a suit top with basketball shorts,” he said.

Adam VanDeusen and Junhong Guo are Ph.D. students who have plenty of experience presenting at in-person conferences. Adam presented his work on using simulation to inform healthcare policy decisions and Junhong shared his work on residency block scheduling. While virtual conferences took some adjustment, they both appreciated the ways they were able to connect with other attendees in the virtual space. Adam said, “The biggest connections for me came during the Michigan Night that the IOE Department and INFORMS at UM student chapter organized. We met in Gather, a virtual social space and I got to catch up with alumni and other students.”

The INFORMS virtual ‘conference hall’

Junhong explained, “The platform for this virtual event, Gather, is very fancy and funny to use. Each person controls a character which hangs around in a virtual room to gather in different groups to start/join conversation…. It was truly a wonderful night. I met so many friends and we had a lot of chats, talking about almost everything, research, life, new position/environment, future plans, etc.”

While we all appreciated the opportunities presented by virtual conferences, we’re hoping we can safely get back to the unique experience of in-person conferences soon!

The presentations given by CHEPS students at IISE were:

The presentations given by CHEPS students at INFORMS were:


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Sebastian Munoz

“I can confidently say that my short time here so far has been fantastic. There is definitely a steep learning curve and working in a virtual environment is interesting, to say the least, but the CHEPS family truly does a fantastic job in making everyone feel welcome. No questions are bad questions, and people truly care about how you are doing in spite of everything that is going on.”
-Sebastian Munoz, Industrial & Operations Engineering Undergraduate


Center for Healthcare Engineering & Patient Safety | University of Michigan
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