My research interests are in the area of humanitarian logistics. In particular, I optimize approaches for storing and distributing fuel on islands after a disaster and identify the best roads and bridges to upgrade to enable quick travel through cities after a flood event and mitigate consequences. You can download my research statement by clicking the link below.

Below are highlights of ongoing projects.

Fuel Distribution Planning for Disasters on Islands
After a disaster on an island, there is often an increased demand for fuel because islands often do not have refineries, and it could take several weeks for ships to arrive with more fuel. Through this research, I conducted several interviews with FEMA employees who worked in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria to understand how to better prepare for future disasters on islands. This study proposes a two-tier optimization approach to, first, determine how to allocate and preposition fuel to the different regions (Tier 1). Second, it considers how to strategically use ships to supplement the fuel after a disaster (Tier 2). Tier 1 focuses on the first few days after a disaster when there is no fuel available to the island other than what existed prior to the disaster, and no replenishment from outside sources has occurred yet. However, Tier 2 evaluates the strategic use of ships to reduce the arrival time of the shipments from outside sources. While most disaster-related studies focus on the mainland, this research fills this gap by providing distribution models appropriate for islands.

Three Minute Thesis Presentation Competition

Road Network Flood Mitigation
When a flood occurs, providing access to healthcare facilities (HFCs) is a top priority. However, floods can deteriorate and block transport systems, leading to loss of access to HFCs. To mitigate the consequences, it is crucial to determine how changes to transportation infrastructure, such as road improvements, can improve access to emergency service facilities. In an ideal scenario, all roads with the risk of potential flooding would be upgraded. However, due to budget restrictions, not all of them can be upgraded at once. Like the Department of Transportation (DOT), agencies struggle to select the best set of roads to upgrade. This research addresses a pre-disaster planning problem to strengthen a road network to maximize the residents’ accessibility to HCFs and minimize their travel times subject to budget and capacity restrictions. Furthermore, it develops resourceful data, tools, and models for carrying out mitigation plans and helps the federal and state authorities respond to disasters efficiently. I conducted a case study in the City of Coralville, in the State of Iowa.

Robotic Cell Scheduling
In some manufacturing industries, robots occupy around 38% of the total energy consumption. In order to get the maximum benefit from this high-cost investment, where robots are used to produce identical/different parts, some complex operational problems must be solved. This study is the first in the literature of robotic cell scheduling problems that simultaneously consider the energy consumption and throughput rate. I use Lagrangian multipliers and Karush-Kuhn-Tucker optimality conditions to determine the optimal robot move speeds analytically. Employing the proposed approach, we can get not only an economic return but also an environmental benefit through reducing carbon emissions by decreasing the need for electric power across the manufacturing sector. For the case in which energy consumption is not a concern, this research proposes mixed-integer programming formulations. I developed hybrid metaheuristic algorithms that combine genetic algorithms with tabu search to solve these strongly NP-Hard problems.

Selected Publications
  • Akhlaghi, V. E., Campbell, A. M. (2022). The Two-Echelon Island Fuel Distribution Problem. European Journal of Operations Research (EJOR),
  • Akhlaghi, V. E., Campbell, A. M., & de Matta, R. E. (2021). Fuel distribution planning for disasters: Models and case study for Puerto Rico. Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review152, 102403,
  • Gürel, S., Gultekin, H., & Akhlaghi, V. E. (2019). Energy conscious scheduling of a material handling robot in a manufacturing cell. Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing58, 97-108,
  • Gultekin, H., Coban, B., & Akhlaghi, V. E. (2018). Cyclic scheduling of parts and robot moves in m-machine robotic cells. Computers & Operations Research90, 161-172,
  • Masehian, E., Akhlaghi, V. E., Akbaripour, H., & Sedighizadeh, D. (2015). An Expert System for Intelligent Selection of Proper Particle Swarm Optimization Variants. International Journal of Supply and Operations Management2(1), 569-594, 10.22034/2015.1.03