By William RocheJuly 15, 2019
One Army Cyber Command officer is demonstrating what ARCYBER minds are made of, making great strides in the world of academia, building academic collaboration, and piling up accolades along the way.
Maj. Jaison Desai, an Operations Research and Systems Analysis officer with the Data Warfare Division of ARCYBER's Technical Warfare Center (TWC), recently presented his research on infrastructure management at the 2019 Engineering Project Organization Conference in Vail, Colo.
The annual conference sponsored by the Engineering Project Organization Society brings together scholars and practitioners from multiple disciplines by invitation only, placing Desai in an elite group of some of the world's most prominent researchers in the fields of construction, public-private partnerships, management and sociology, for three days of presentations highlighting ongoing research. Participants represented more than 25 prestigious universities in 10 countries, including Desai's alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU); the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Stanford University; Georgia Tech; Virginia Tech; the Indian Institute of Technology at Madras, India; Universiteit Twente, Netherlands; University College, London; Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien), Austria; and Tongji University, China.
The major's research presentation at the conference stemmed from part of his Ph.D. dissertation work, and focused on using machine learning methods to help policymakers and engineers manage deteriorating infrastructure.
Desai used 20 years of inspection data from across the national network of roadway bridges in the U.S. to demonstrate the benefit of mathematically-based algorithms in helping to identify critical factors that contribute to bridges' ability to remain in service. Desai explained that his research shows design and management-based elements have more impact than actual bridge use, but other factors such as age, clearance heights, and available bypass routes are relevant as well. He said his co-authors from CMU, assistant professor Daniel Armanios and professor Burcu Akinci, hope this methodology will serve as a proof of concept of a relatively straightforward yet mathematically rigorous way to leverage machine learning in engineering management. The authors plan to submit their article to a major engineering journal for review in the coming months.
"I am truly honored to be able to present an important portion of my Ph.D. research in front of such a distinguished audience of scholars," Desai said. "I am very grateful to the ARCYBER command for allowing me this opportunity and for their support and encouragement of my continuing academic research."
In a follow-on report to ARCYBER leadership, the major added that while the topics at the conference were viewed through the lens of physical engineering projects, they can be applied to operations in the cyber realm. Those applications include the way artificial intelligence is driving changes in the nature of work; impacts of technological, climate and demographic shifts; stakeholder engagement in project management; evidence-based intervention and the role of data; organizational dynamics; and managing projects involving new technology, "smart" infrastructure and sensors.
"The members of academia represented by this society provide a unique perspective that can be leveraged toward relevant cyber-related goals," Desai wrote in his report. "Over the past decades, researchers have focused on the engineering and construction communities - fields consisting of a tight core of highly technical experts - and relating them to broader challenges with organizations, public-private interactions, and society. Today, the cyber world represents a similar situation in terms of expertise and challenges. Past and present research and lessons learned in the world of physical engineering management can likely be applied to the cyber realm as well."
"Major Desai is a tactically and technically competent leader with incredible energy and initiative. His ability to apply his extensive knowledge and expertise to developing innovative approaches to ARCYBER's operations and lines of effort make him an extremely valuable member of our team," said TWC Director David Kim. "He's a standout performer, but he's also indicative of the kind of world-class talent we're so fortunate to have, and continue to cultivate, in Army Cyber."
Desai is by no means a stranger to academic achievement. He completed his Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy at CMU in 2018, and also holds master's degrees in Engineering and Public Policy, Business Administration, and Public Policy, and a bachelor's degree in Political Science.
In 2017 he became the first student in CMU history to earn both the Herbert L. Toor Award for outstanding Ph.D. qualifier research paper and the Robert W. Dunlap Award for outstanding Ph.D. qualifier solution, from the school's Department of Engineering and Public Policy. The following year he was named distinguished honor graduate in his Army Command and General Staff Officer Course. And this year he was selected as a Best Dissertation Award finalist by the Academy of Management and earned the academy conference's award for Best Paper on Environmental and Social Practices for a paper on the economic impacts to local communities as the result of creation of a new bridge that he co-authored with Armanios and Sunasir Dutta, assistant professor at the University of Minnesota. He was also published in the December 2018 issue of the American Society of Civil Engineers Journal of Infrastructure Systems as the author of an article on the impacts of changing regulations and professional norms on bridge management and challenges in updating large-scale infrastructure.
Armanios had high praise for Desai's achievements and the value of collaboration between the Army and academic institutions.
"Jaison's achievements reflect not just his doctoral training with me at CMU, but also the principles of intellect and leadership that the U.S. Army has instilled in him," Armanios said. "His recent awards highlight the benefits of continued collaboration between the Army and academia and reinforce the shared learning and growth faculty like myself and Army officers like Jaison can gain through such programs. I am tremendously excited by what Jaison has accomplished, which is only the beginning to what I see as his boundless potential."
A Yorktown Heights, N.Y., native, Desai was commissioned as an Armor officer in 2006 and transitioned to Functional Area 49 (Operations Research & Systems Analysis) in 2015.
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