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The Business School Faculty Spotlight Series: RENATA KONRAD

DEPARTMENT(S): 
July 29, 2021

Trafficking is a very real problem—and on many different levels: From human sex and labor to wildlife.

Unfortunately, though, most of us only hear about it on the news; we don’t witness it first-hand. Which is why it often goes unnoticed.

But Renata Konrad is working to change that.

The WPI associate professor is involved with several research projects to combat trafficking in its many pervasive forms.

“It happens everywhere, it’s in every industry, but people usually don’t see it,” says Konrad.

The targets: vulnerable groups including women, immigrants, orphans, and homeless people; those who are often seeking ways to better their lives.

One upcoming project Konrad will assist with will involve homeless youth in New York City. The goal of the National Science Foundation-funded project is to help determine how to better allocate services to get youth off the streets so that they are not trafficked. However, because many youth on the streets want to be independent, the endeavor will look at what services they want and need—job training or medical or substance abuse services, for example—and how those can best be deployed.

Konrad is also assisting with a project involving border crossings between India and Nepal—a notorious area when it comes to human trafficking. Although organizations on the border look for trafficking, data science and analytics can help improve their processes and practices and enable them to become more efficient and effective, Konrad explains.

Yet another endeavor? A National Science Foundation project looking at wildlife trafficking, which not only impacts animals, but vulnerable human populations. Many poachers are simply trying to make a living and the unfortunate result is the death of such animals as penguins, gorillas and sea cucumbers. There is a huge supply chain and black market for these creatures, Konrad explains. Her work with the project involves interviewing conservation biologists and speciologists to determine the best courses of action—whether they add more forest rangers in highly-poached areas? Focus on social development?

A natural-born advisor who focuses on project-based learning, Konrad notes: “The idea is to stop trafficking before it happens.”


Personal interests:

Mycology
 

Education:

Bachelor and Master of Science from the University of Toronto

PhD from Purdue University
 

Courses taught:

  • Simulation modeling and analysis
  • Stochastic models
  • Risk management and decision making
  • Management science
  • Data analysis for decision making

Learn more about Renata Konrad.

 


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