Letter To The Editor

Yeming Shen’s legacy in research at Rensselaer

By Thomas Sharkey February 19, 2020

On behalf of the faculty of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, I offer my deepest condolences to Yeming’s family and friends. He had a tremendous impact on our campus over the past three years and I know that the Industrial and Systems Engineering department became better from having Yeming as part of it. I hope that my thoughts in this article can help everyone understand his impact on RPI the ISE department, and the broader research community.

RPI’s slogan is “Why not change the world?” and it prides itself on being “The New Polytechnic.” Yeming was fully embracing these mantras in the pursuit of his research. He used his tremendous mathematical mind to help create new methods to disrupt the networks of transnational criminal organizations, a truly noble cause. His work garnered significant attention from government agencies to the point where it could be providing insights into shaping policy in the near future. Looking back, it took me like 15 years in the research community to be able to make anything close to the same claim. In addition, his methodological innovations have laid the groundwork to potentially help disrupt networks that are trafficking humans. Simply put, I believe that the legacy of his research is that it will make the world a better place.

A key idea behind “The New Polytechnic” is that there are no boundaries when it comes to solving today’s problems. Yeming was working with an international team of researchers affiliated with RPI–including students and faculty from Egypt, Turkey, China, India, Poland, and the United States–across multiple disciplines, like computer science, mathematical sciences, and industrial and systems engineering. Yeming himself was “The New Polytechnic”–he had taken courses from these three disciplines and co-authored research papers with faculty in computer science and industrial and systems engineering.

Yeming was a co-author on the paper titled “Integrative analytics for detecting and disrupting transnational interdependent criminal smuggling, money, and money-laundering networks” that received the best paper award in the track on Land/Maritime Borders and Critical Infrastructure at the 2018 IEEE HST Conference. He is lead author on the paper “Interdicting interdependent contraband smuggling, money and money laundering networks with inaccurate information.” He was closing in on finishing a third paper but his meticulous and independent nature had him continually refining his methods to improve their performance–which is exactly what you would want from a PhD student.

In closing, I was fortunate to be able to supervise an incredible student such as Yeming. We are fortunate to have had him as a member of our department and university.