Surely You’re Joking!

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I cannot believe it has been a year since I wrote about last year’s Tepper PhD picnic in Show, Memory.

You know from Pulp Physics  that I like Princeton. So, it was a treat to receive this email as I was about to go to this year’s picnic earlier today:

Dear Professor Tayur,

On behalf of Prof. Amir Ali Ahmadi, Prof. Bartolomeo Stellato, and the department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering, I am writing to invite you to give a talk at the Princeton Optimization Seminar.

Our seminar runs on Thursdays from 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm (EST). You will give the talk in person at ORFE, Sherrerd Hall, Princeton.

We very much hope that you will be able to accept our invitation and look forward to hosting you.

My seminar will be on Quantum Operations Research (no surprise!), but it is especially thrilling since Feynman graduated (with his PhD) from Princeton (in 1942). I am probably one of the few people who has read Feynman Lectures on Computation (in addition to, of course, his most famous Lectures on Physics).

My first visit to Princeton campus was in 1988, when I was staying – for free, housesitting a cat, for two weeks, when the owner was on vacation, in Freehold, before the Rutgers dorms became open for summer interns at Bell labs (something I have written about before in 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics) when I was a PhD student at Cornell.

Of course, I enjoyed strolling on the campus, visiting various famous locations. More enjoyable, however, was the discovery of a multiplex not too far away from where I was staying!

I remember going there with great enthusiasm one Friday evening, only to be shocked that all the seats were sold out (common in India, but unexpected in the US) for:

Coming to America is a 1988 American romantic comedy film based on a story originally created by Eddie Murphy, who also stars in the lead role.  It grossed about $300 million on a budget of $36 million.

Not wanting to go back without watching some movie, I looked around the multiplex, and found another movie that was starting around the same time, and the theater was almost totally empty. Whatever, I thought, and went in. It was:

Die Hard is a 1988 American action film  starring Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman. It grossed about $140 million on a budget of about $ 25 million.

It was a sleeper hit! I loved it. A week later I went to see Coming to America. It was fun, but Die Hard was so much more exciting. Of course, its sequels have also done very well.

Die Hard is an American action film series. All five films revolve around the main character of John McClane, a New York City/Los Angeles police detective who continually finds himself in the middle of a crisis where he is the only hope against disaster.  The films have grossed a combined $1.4 billion worldwide.

You know from O Broadway, Where Art Thou? how much I like Alan Rickman, especially in:

Seminar is a play by Theresa Rebeck which premiered on Broadway in 2011. Alan Rickman originated the role of the lead character, Leonard.

It was another reminder that sometimes I am pointed away from my intended target, and that is actually for my own good! To this day, I use this to convince myself that if I did not get something I originally wanted, it is because I was not aware of a better option, and that, by not getting what I thought I wanted, I actually got something much better that I should have wanted!

Unlike last fall, where my first in person seminar – as I wrote in Back to the Future – was to a familiar setting, MIT, this invitation for an in-person seminar is from an unfamiliar setting, as Princeton does not have a B-School (and you can see from Back to School that I have been to almost all of the top 20 B-Schools).

Like the case when I was invited to give the NSF Distinguished Lecture last year, I wondered who was the seminar speaker there this coming week at Princeton. Imagine my surprise that it was (as my PhD student Kyra Gan, co-advised with Andrew Li, whose work I have written about in Holy Grail of Holy Grail, is working with her as a post-doc, deferring her tenure track position at Cornell by one year):

Susan Murphy’s research focuses on improving sequential, individualized, decision making in digital health. Dr. Murphy is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and of the National Academy of Medicine.  In 2013 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for her work on experimental designs to inform sequential decision making.

Indeed, Kyra had forwarded me Susan’s email in April:

Hi Krya,

Please see attached for the offer.  Hope you join us!


Very small world.




1 comment

  1. Yes, Alan was a bad-ass in that one … usually a nice guy. Miss him.

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