For more than two decades, Sandjai Bhulai and Rob van der Mei have been collaborating on mathematical solutions for a range of societal problems. For example, ambulances are supposed to arrive to deal with urgent situations within 15 minutes, but this is not always possible. Bhulai and Van der Mei developed a new method for scheduling ambulances that successfully reduced late arrivals by 25-30 percent. Now in use across several safety regions, their method can also be deployed for the fire service and police.
Other areas they are working on include reducing the waiting times for elderly care, suicide prevention, combating cybercrime and the rapid recognition of news on social media. The latter method is already being used by the nu.nl news website and the ANP press agency.
Excerpt from the judging panel’s report
The judging panel about the project: "The mathematical solutions offered are efficient and elegant. What is truly exceptional in this field is the extent to which Bhulai and Van der Mei are determined to ensure that their work can be applied in practical applications. For example, in the pilot for the new ambulance-scheduling system, careful attention was paid to feedback from paramedics in order to ensure that the system also works for them." The judging panel was impressed by Bhulai and Van der Mei's teamwork and their exceptional working relationships with other players in society. This is streetwise mathematics.
The Huibregtsen Prize is intended for a scientifically innovative research project that shows convincing potential for societal application. Any public scientific research organization in the Netherlands can put forward nominations. The judging panel, led by the President of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences Ineke Sluiter, shortlisted six research projects from the 31 nominations. A video about these projects is being made and will be shown during the Evening of Science & Society (October 4, 2021). Amsterdam UMC’s professor of Neurology Wiesje van Flier has also been nominated for this prize. More information about the other nominees (in Dutch).