PhD Defence: Harwin de Vries


In his dissertation ‘Evidence-Based Optimization in Humanitarian Logistics’ Harwin de Vries discusses how advanced analytical methods can guide policy and decision making in the humanitarian sector.

Harwin defended his dissertation in the Senate Hall at Erasmus University Rotterdam on Friday, 10 November 2017 at 9:30. His supervisors were Prof. Albert Wagelmans and Prof. Joris van de Klundert. Other members of the Doctoral Committee are Prof. Margaret Brandeau (Stanford), Prof. Dennis Huisman (EUR), and Prof. Luk Van Wassenhove (Insead).

About Harwin de Vries

As an academic researcher, Harwin de Vries focuses on the logistics behind humanitarian aid delivery. Based on close cooperation with humanitarian organizations, Harwin analyzes how humanitarian logistics systems impact beneficiaries and how they could be improved. One major branch of his research considers the cost-effectiveness of decision support tools in this sector. A second branch considers the design of such tools themselves. Harwin won several prizes with his research, including the INFORMS Healthcare Best Student Paper Award 2015, and published several academic papers in scientific journals, including Omega, PLoS Computational Biology, and European Journal of Operational Research.

Harwin holds an MSc degree, cum laude, in Operations Research & Quantitative Logistics from the Erasmus University Rotterdam. In 2013, he started his PhD candidacy at the Erasmus Research Institute of Management at Erasmus University Rotterdam. His teaching experience includes combinatorial optimization, linear programming, simulation, numerical methods, and statistics. Harwin presently works as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the INSEAD Social Innovation Centre, specifically with the Humanitarian Research Group.

Thesis Abstract

Humanitarian crises like the Syrian war, Ebola, the earthquake in Haiti, the Indian Ocean tsunami, and the ongoing HIV epidemic prompt substantial demands for humanitarian aid. Logistics plays a key role in aid delivery and represents a major cost category for humanitarian organizations. Cost-effectiveness of humanitarian aid is therefore strongly affected by the way logistics resources are utilized.

Optimizing logistics has long been at the core of operations research: the discipline that explores the use of advanced analytical methods to improve decision making. This thesis discusses how such methods can guide policy and decision making in the humanitarian sector. Next to a discussion on their potential role in supporting humanitarian logistics in general, the thesis presents advanced models and methods to analyse three specific questions: How should humanitarian organizations plan their field operations? How to design a network of clinics that provide healthcare services to African truck drivers? How to deploy mobile teams that screen for infectious disease outbreaks? We specifically explore how best available evidence can be used to link such decisions to impact on beneficiaries, i.e., how to enable evidence-based optimization in humanitarian logistics. 

Photos: Chris Gorzeman / Capital Images