UF ISE Seminar Series: Tom Sharkey, Ph.D.

Date(s) - January 14, 2022
11:45 am - 12:35 pm

406 Weil Hall


Tom Sharkey, Ph.D.
Clemson University

Abstract Title: Modeling the Operations of Domestic Sex Trafficking Networks: Transdisciplinary Research Meets Network Interdiction

Human trafficking is a documented problem within the United States.  It uses highly exploitative and often violent means to control victims.  It is a complex and agile criminal enterprise where victims may be forced to perform other criminal activities, such as committing theft or selling illegal drugs.  Although mathematical models cannot possibly capture the complexities of the lived experiences of sex trafficking victims and survivors, they may provide insights into effective strategies for disrupting these networks.  This talk will highlight the approaches of our transdisciplinary team, composed of social scientists, industrial engineers, law enforcement task force investigators, and a survivor-centered advisory group, to begin building operational models of sex trafficking networks and obtain data to populate them.

In addition, we will examine a new class of network interdiction models that capture some of the complexities of disrupting illicit trafficking networks.  Classic network interdiction problems focus on an attacker that will disrupt the network and then a defender that will operate over the disrupted network.  Our new class of problems allows the defender to also restructure the network before operating it, based on the attacker’s disruptions.  From an application perspective, theoretical analysis demonstrates that resources should be invested to disrupt the ability of traffickers to recruit at the same time as removing victims from their trafficking environments.  We discuss a column and constraint generation (C&CG) approach to solve this problem that relies on using partial information from previous restructuring plans.  This approach is orders of magnitude faster than existing C&CG methods.  Preliminary analysis of applying this model to sex trafficking network data will be discussed.

About Tom Sharkey, Ph.D.

Dr. Thomas Sharkey is part of a transdisciplinary research team looking at how to model effective disruptions for human trafficking networks.  The team currently includes Dr. Lauren Martin (University of Minnesota), Dr. Kayse Maass (Northeastern), Dr. Kelle Barrick (Research Triangle Institute), Dr. Amy Farrell (Northeastern) and Dr. Yongjia Song (Clemson), along with a team of eleven research staff and students.  The work of this team has been funded through grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institute of Justice (NIJ).   The research discussed in this seminar has been done in collaboration with Dan Kosmas, a PhD student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Dr. Sharkey is a Professor of Industrial Engineering at Clemson University.  Prior to joining Clemson in August 2020, he served as a faculty member at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for twelve years. He obtained his PhD in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the University of Florida in 2008. His current research interests are in the area of network optimization and its applications to societal applications including infrastructure and supply chain resilience as well as interdicting illegal supply chains.   His research has been funded by several NSF grants, including a CAREER award, and other sponsors including the NIJ and the Department of Homeland Security.  He has received multiple teaching awards for his work on creating blended learning environments for undergraduate OR courses, including the IISE OR Division annual teaching award.

To attend this seminar virtually:

Meeting ID: 975 8764 4164
Password: 671640