When, where and how

to make optimal decisions is what my students from CE 316, Civil Engineering Decision and Systems Analysis learned during Fall 2016. They are now proficient in linear, nonlinear, integer, mixed integer and multiobjective programming/optimization. They also know how to solve network problems like shipping goods, shortest paths, and maximizing flow. They can use the same network structures to make sequential decisions under uncertainty and optimally schedule construction jobs and complete them under budget, ahead of schedule. They know the time value of money and can tell you if a project is beneficial or not in the long run. I am happy to present a few snippets of their term projects, which were identified independently and completed successfully with minimum supervision.

Bidding for Projects: Is your company in constant confusion on what projects to bid for? Are you worried that the projects cannot be completed on time? Soon to be engineers from CCNY have a solution for your problem. Based on the planned duration of any project, they can help you select appropriate and optimal number of projects that will maximize your expected profit under various uncertainties.

Domestic and International Procurements: Do you know which are the best source companies that can supply required quality material (construction or otherwise) at the least cost? Do you want to hire a third party to verify the quality of the material? Don’t worry. We have a sequential decision software to help you pick the best company to procure material from and an associated testing company for quality control.

Operating Water System: Whether you are living in New York City, or in the Catskill area, you can relax, sit back and enjoy the best quality water, even during a drought. Our specialists are at work in satisfying all our competing needs.

CCNY is Starving: With limited food options around the campus, have your ever wondered what to eat to stay healthy and get enough calories to complete the homework, all at a low price? You can do it under $10 per day.

Meal Plan: Are you a high school in the city? Do you know if your daily meal plan is the best? We can give you a nutrition optimized meal plan for high school lunches based on federal regulations and food items approved by the New York City Department of Education.

Where is that food coming from: Do you know what places are best for producing various crops under climate, water, economic and market limitations? Whether you are a farmer or a public planner making water, agriculture, energy policy decisions, we can make your life easier by providing this knowledge in an adaptive framework.

Our secret weapon: Two other secret projects are underway for our design competitions. I will reveal the details of these weapons when we win the competition next semester.


Recent Visit to University of British Columbia

I visited the University of British Columbia over spring break where I participated in a conference on Challenges of Urbanization. The conference had four other invited speakers from Canada, the USA, and India to discuss the recent urbanization experience of India and their lessons for the future. My talk was on assessing and addressing the risk from an unsustainable trajectory of climate, water, food, energy and incomes for India. I was fortunate enough to have shared the stage with Dr. Prathap Bhanu Mehta in this discussion. Dr. Mehta is the President of Center for Policy Research in India. He previously taught at Harvard’s Kennedy School and NYY Law School. He is an eminent thinker and political theorist of today’s time. His work can be found here.

In my talk, I presented the anatomy of the water crisis in India and some reasonable set of solutions that can be implemented to restore water and environmental sustainability. Details of the work can be found in the UNESCO’s Global Water Forum’s Discussion Paper. For the underlying methodologies, you can read my Water Resources Research Article.

Learning from River’s History

Recently, I spoke to Lakis Polycarpou from Columbia University about my trip to
Bozeman, MT for an NSF project meeting on Paleo reconstruction of river discharges using tree rings for the Missouri River basin. Reconstruction of discharge from tree rings spanning past several centuries can provide a more complete picture of the range of variability (the deviation from average conditions) of the flows in the river at decadal to longer time scales. This proxy information (long history of flows) can be used to evaluate how good the current water policies are in the context of history. Here is the link to his article on our discussion.

treeflow.info is a very useful resource on tree rings, climate and water management.

For the more modeling-saavy, you can read my article on streamflow reconstruction using tree rings for the New York City reservoirs.






Source for the tree photograph: Dear friend Uday Maripalli’s Instagram.

Engineering New York City

Next week is the start of a busy Fall semester.

I am teaching “Civil Engineering Data Analysis” again where I cover applied probability and statistics for engineering students. It is an introductory class that provides fundamentals in exploratory data analysis and descriptive statistics, probability distributions and their applications in civil engineering problems, statistical inference and hypothesis tests, and finally introduces regression and non-parametric models.

The student groups will develop statistical models for analyzing the reliability and resilience of New York City engineering systems. This is my take on finding Engineering in New York City:

“From now through your senior years, you will learn a variety of concepts in Civil Engineering that will enable you to solve societal problems by efficient application of the underlying scientific principles. New York City adds a special flavor to your ongoing pursuit of mastery in engineering discipline. It is among a few on the planet where you will witness a collage of interlinked systems working coherently for a smoothly functioning city providing a fascinating urban experience. Perceive the marvels in your city, for nowhere in the world will you notice an entire civil engineering manual in practice.

Some of you may end up as structural engineers where you learn the theory of structuresstrength and properties of materials, building designs and loadings. You will be reinforcedwith the concepts of pre-stressed concrete and steel designs. Remember to stop, think and appreciate the massive building construction projects that you come across daily. You may be designing them in the near future.

Do not curse the subway workers for delays on your way back home during the wee hours. Perhaps they, like you, are finishing up their homework on surveying and site investigation. They are conceivably the best experts on geology, soil and rock mechanics and tunneling.

Occasionally, embrace the complexity of the city’s road and highway networks whether you are simply walking down the block or commuting from suburbs via tunnels and bridges. One of these days, you will be asked to come up with a “lowest toll charge for optimal traffic flow inbound and outbound of the Lincoln tunnel” or infrastructure upgrade for the growing populous. Oh, did I forget how busy you will get, changing signals with your computer models when you have to evacuate people during hurricanes.

Your soaring water and sewer bills are invisibly gravitating oceans of clean water from Catskill Mountains to your house and disposing your sewage to the oceans. While you are grumbling about the raising bills, look for opportunities to repair and retrofit the crumbling water infrastructure in the City and the Country.

If you don’t like water supply, stretch yourself towards the waterfront to power the “city that never sleeps”. While you are at the harbor front, try your luck as an impressive maritime engineer over a hot summer break.

Brag about the Wall Street while you are a New Yorker, for one day, you may also become the director of innovative financial insurance company that hedges the risk to the civil infrastructures.

Recognizing the inherent uncertainties in engineering systems, let us develop “statistical thinking” that will give us valuable tools to understand and incorporate the variability into final decision making process.

Throughout this semester, we will work on analyzing and designing New York City’s engineering systems. So, groom your calculus; assimilate your Math skills; fortify your Csc 102 and finally assemble your logical deductive reasoning for an amazing semester long statistical engineering experience.”


This is an old post when I first got my iPhone. I still like my 5s but may be it is time to upgrade to the 6 series.

January 17, 2014:

For some time now, as I am about to get off the bus every day in Weehawken, I am counting the number of people who are busy with their smart phones. The bus carries about 50 passengers and almost always 40 of them are either on “game center”“networking” (Facebook blah blah) or music (mostly iTunes). I was among the few who are left out of the action, perhaps because of my adamancy on pretending to be a medieval person.

Not anymore, as I recently switched to the most elegant smart phone in the market, the one and only iPhone 5s. Indeed, we have made amazing technological progress since the medieval age and the recent smart phone revolution personifies this brilliance. This is not meant to be a review for iPhone 5s as I am still naïve to smart phones, but soon I may have to participate in the eternal debates of iPhone technology vs Android technology. I just hope that it won’t end up like emacs Vs vim. I created a chronology of my exposure to phones that dates back to the antique ringer phone. Have you given a thought about how may phones you had?