Seminar: Understanding the many-dimensioned implications of the Fukushima radiological disaster


Department of Systems Engineering and Engineering Management
The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Title           : Understanding the many-dimensioned implications of the Fukushima radiological disaster
Speaker    : Prof. Eva K. Lee
                   School of Industrial and Systems Engineering
                   Georgia Institute of Technology

Date       : Dec. 19th, 2012 (Wednesday)
Time       : 11:00-12:00 noon
Venue      : Room 513
                  William M.W. Mong Engineering Building

The Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent radiological incidents offer a first glimpse of the devastating impacts of cascading failures and a catastrophic event in an advanced industrialized society. This is the largest-ever release of radiation isotopes to the oceans. The cause was not a single event, but rather a cascading failure; and the release persisted for a sustained period.

It was estimated that more than three-quarters of the radioactivity fell on the ocean. Although the levels of radioactivity up to 400 miles offshore were found by some marine radioactivity experts to be well below biological thresholds of concern to the small fish and plankton, levels of radioactivity found in fish are not decreasing after a year and there appear to be hot spots on the seafloor that are not well mapped.

In Japan, while citizens have been educated about evacuation and response for earthquakes and tsunamis, there is a serious lack of knowledge about strategies and emergency guidelines for radiological emergencies, including rapid screening and decontamination, even for those living close to nuclear plants. In the first part of this talk, we will share our on-the-ground experience regarding the Japanese families who lived within 20 kilometres from the failed nuclear plants. The discussion will be based on data collected regarding timelines for evacuation, screening, health status, radiological awareness and sociological information of the local population and workers, and subsequent psychological and medical impacts.

Strategic planning and operations capabilities for emergency response and medical preparedness for radiological incidents is one of the critical cornerstones for US Homeland Security, along with biological and chemical incidents. The Japan incident underscores the paramount importance of these activities. The needs are widespread, as many nations use nuclear plants for energy generation.

In the second part, we will describe a real-time information – decision support system that is designed for effective disaster mitigation and response efforts. The system offers operations capability to i) rapidly setup shelters to house the displaced / at-risk population, ii) determine optimal resource allocation and operations for rapid screening and decontamination; iii) recommend and facilitate practical steps to minimize exposure risk; iv) perform effective population registry for long-term health monitoring; and v) service the displaced population on day-to-day needs. Application and training of the systems usage on the ground in Japan post-Fukushima will be discussed. The system has real-time computation capability and can be used by emergency management administrators for actual strategic and operational planning and execution; to educate and train current and future personnel on decision making under uncertainties; and to simulate responses to catastrophic events through systematic analysis of numerous scenarios, including worst-case, to learn of erratic as well as efficient response strategies. Real-time data-feeds allow re-configuration on-the-fly as the event unfolds.

Eva K Lee is a professor in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, and Director of the Center for Operations Research in Medicine and HealthCare. She is also a Senior Research Professor at the Atlanta VA Medical Center. Dr. Lee earned a Ph.D. at Rice University in the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics, and received her undergraduate degree in Mathematics from Hong Kong Baptist University, where she graduated with Highest Distinction. Dr. Lee was awarded a NSF/NATO postdoctoral fellowship on Scientific Computing, and a postdoctoral fellowship from Konrad-Zuse-Zentrum Informationstechnik Berlin in 1995 for Parallel Computation. In 1996, she received the NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award for research on integer programming and parallel algorithms and their applications to medical diagnosis and cancer treatment. She was the first OR/IE recipient for the prestigious Whitaker Foundation Biomedical Grant for Young Investigators, awarded for her work on a novel approach for combining biological imaging and optimal treatment design for prostate cancer. In 2004, she was selected as one of the Extraordinary Women Engineers. In 2005, she received the INFORMS Pierskalla award for research excellence in HealthCare and Management Science for her work on emergency response and planning, large-scale prophylaxis dispensing, and resource allocation for bioterrorism and infectious disease outbreaks. In 2006, she was chosen by the American Mathematical Society as the representative mathematician to speak and discuss individually with congressional leaders about her research advances in the medical and healthcare domain, and about the importance of mathematics in scientific advances. Together, Lee and Dr. Marco Zaider from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center were named winners of the 2007 Franz Edelman award for their work on using operations research to advance cancer therapeutics.

Dr. Lee works in the area of mathematical programming and large-scale computational algorithms with a primary emphasis on medical/healthcare decision analysis and logistics operations management.She tackles challenging problems in health systems and biomedicine through systems modeling, algorithm and software design, and decision theory analysis. Specific research areas include health risk prediction, early disease prediction and diagnosis, optimal treatment strategies and drug delivery, healthcare outcome analysis and treatment prediction, public health and medical preparedness, large-scale healthcare/medical decision analysis and quality improvement.

Lee's research in logistics focuses on large-scale optimization and algorithmic advances for optimal operations planning and resource allocation. She has developed decision support systems for inventory control; large-scale truck dispatching, scheduling, and transportation logistics; telecommunications; portfolio investment; and emergency treatment response and facility layout and planning.

Lee has received seven patents for innovative medical systems and devices. Her research has been featured and discussed in numerous news media articles, including articles in the New York Times, London Times, Urology Times, Atlanta Business Chronicle, and Homeland Security IAIP Directorate Daily Report. Her cancer research was featured in a TV science news segment for Discoveries and Breakthroughs, Inside Science, Curing Prostate Cancer, broadcast by television stations nationwide.

Lee's teaching includes Engineering Optimization, Operations Research in Medicine and HealthCare, Cancer Biology and Biotechnology, and Biomedical Informatics and Predictive Models. Besides the graduate program in Industrial and Systems Engineering, she is also a program faculty of several interdisciplinary graduate programs, including Algorithms, Combinatorics, and Optimization (ACO); Bioinformatics; Bioengineering; and Health Systems.

She is currently the secretary and treasurer for the INFORMS Optimization Society, and a Subdivision Council member of the INFORMS Health Applications Section. She is Co-Editor for the Annals of Operations Research sub-series: Operations Research in Medicine -- Computing and Optimization in Medicine and Life Sciences, and Issue Editor for Asia Pacific Journal of Operations Research on Medical and Biological Applications. She also serves on the Editorial Board for Cancer Informatics.

Her love of mathematics and computing is matched by a love of nature and art. In her leisure time, she enjoys painting, calligraphy, poetry, handmade artwork and gardening. She has a deep love of nature, and is fascinated by its beauty and complexity. She loves to collect leaves, petals and other natural things.

************************* ALL ARE WELCOME ************************
Host         : Prof. Janny Leung
Tel          : (852) 3943-8238
Email        :
Enquiries    : Prof. Hong Cheng
               Department of Systems Engineering and Engineering Management
Website      :
Email        :


Wednesday, December 19, 2012 - 03:00 to 04:00