Rob van der Mei (CWI) and Sandjai Bhulai (VU) receive 2021 Huibregtsen Award

Professor of applied mathematics, Rob van der Mei (CWI/VU), and professor of business analytics, Sandjai Bhulai (VU), have been named the joint winners of the 2021 Huibregtsen Award for their research project on ‘Mathematics for a safer and healthier Netherlands’.

The award comes in recognition of their work, which unites scientific excellence and innovation with outstanding value to society. ‘One of our developments involves methods and models to ensure more ambulances arrive on time. We’re not only out to publish in respected academic journals. Above all, this is about how science can help to save lives’, Rob van der Mei explained. The jury report can be found here (in Dutch).

Smart ambulance scheduling

Sandjai Bhulai and Rob van der Mei have been working together for more than twenty years to devise mathematical solutions to a wide array of societal challenges. A case in point is ambulances, which are supposed to arrive at the site of an emergency in fifteen minutes or less, but don’t always manage to do so. Bhulai and Van der Mei came up with a new scheduling method that reduces late arrivals by 25 to 30 per cent. Their method has been implemented in a number of the country’s ‘safety regions’ already, and also lends itself to fire, police, roadside assistance and maintenance services.

The two researchers are also working on cutting waiting times in geriatric care, suicide prevention, cybercrime prevention and rapid news identification on social media. The latter method is currently used by the Dutch news agencies nu.nl and ANP. For Covid-19 vaccinations, the two worked with a team of VU students to develop models and a scheduling tool to optimize vaccine allocations across vaccination centres nationwide, so as many people as possible could be inoculated.

Read more about the award.

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