Operations Research Center
The Operations Research Center (ORC), established in 1953 as a first-of-a-kind interdepartmental graduate degree program, completed its 48th year of operation in 2000-2001. The center administers its own graduate programs and a varied research program of methodological and applied projects. It maintains a reading room with a small library, as well as state-of-the art computational workstations.
This report summarizes the center's 2000-2001 activities and briefly reviews its educational, research and outreach programs.
Professor James B. Orlin, Edward Pennell Brooks Professor of Operations Research and Cynthia Barnhart, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering served as codirectors during 2000-2001.
This year the ORC had 44 affiliated faculty and senior staff, with faculty drawn from the School of Management and the Departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Ocean Engineering, Mathematics, Aeronautics and Astronautics, Mechanical Engineering, Nuclear Engineering, and Urban Studies and Planning.
The Operations Research Center offers two interdepartmental graduate degree programs, a Ph.D. and a master's degree. During 2000-2001, these programs enrolled 49 students—36 Ph.D. candidates, 11 S.M. candidates and two special students. In addition, this year we hosted three visiting students. The center conferred 11 master's degrees and three Ph.D.s. Several other Ph.D. theses were in the final stages of completion in the summer of 2001.
The ORC's academic programs continue to be recognized as ranking among the very best nationally and internationally. The program, moreover, is repeatedly cited as achieving an excellent balance between application and methodological domains.
Research activities spanned a wide spectrum of methodological topics and applications, ranging from small, unsponsored projects involving a single faculty supervising a student's thesis, to much larger sponsored programs involving several faculty/staff and students.
Methodological research includes such topics as linear, nonlinear, and combinatorial optimization, solution methods for integer programming, interior point methods for linear and nonlinear programming; cluster analysis; parallel and distributed computation and algorithms; network flow algorithms; network design; probabilistic combinatorial optimization; deterministic and stochastic facility location; queueing theory, including queueing networks; risk analysis, stochastic processes; classical and Bayesian statistics; and decision analysis and statistical decision theory.
ORC faculty are also currently contributing to application domains as wide ranging as manufacturing, communications, transportation, public services, logistics, marketing, financial services, health care, and nuclear engineering. Current projects are addressing such topics as air traffic control, epidemiology, AIDS testing, life-cycle modeling of municipal solid waste, safety and risk analysis in air transportation, telecommunication network design, supply chain management, production scheduling, and transportation logistics.
Several organizations sponsored research projects at the ORC during 2000-2001, for example: the National Science Foundation; C.S. Draper Laboratory (several projects and Draper Fellowships); CSX Transportation Inc.; General Motors; Federal Aviation Administration's Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research; Logistics Management Institute; Office of Naval Research; Singapore/MIT Alliance Program; and United Airlines.
In its effort to serve the professional community at large, the ORC regularly undertakes a number of outreach activities.
Professor Amedeo R. Odoni and Richard de Neufville offered a professional course in October of 2000: "Airport Systems: Strategic Planning and Detailed Design."
The Engineering Systems Division and the Operations Research Center, in conjunction with IBM and General Motors, organized the "First East-Coast Round Table in Operations Research." The conference brought together students, faculty and researchers from nearby leading institutes for a day of presentations and discussions on work in a common research area. This year the focus was on Operations Research Models in E-Commerce. Professor David Simchi-Levi served as the Faculty Coordinator and Amy Cohn, Sanne de Boer and Damian Beil (OR doctoral students) served as the Student Coordinators.
The ORC Seminar Series was privileged to have many distinguished speakers from industry and academia this year. Among the many operations research professionals who made presentations were: Christos Papadimitriou (Univ of CA/Berkeley); Markos Papageorgiou (Tech Univ of Crete); L.D. Servi (GTE Labs); Steve Wright (Argonne Natl Lab); M. Elisabeth Pate-Cornell (Stanford); Anton Kleywegt (GA Inst of Tech); Lisa Fleischer (Carnegie-Mellon); Daniel Bienstock (Columbia); Madhu Sudan (MIT); Michael Todd (Cornell); Stefanos Zenios (Stanford); Richard Sutton (AT&T Bell Labs); Rakesh Vohra (Northwestern); and Donald Hearn (Univ of FL).
The center also offered a program of activities during the January independent activities period, including a series of presentations on the practice of operations research and management science presented by Michael Clarke (Sabre); Rina Schneur (Verizon Laboratories); Jeremie Gallien (Neoptis, Inc); and Sebastian Ceria (Axioma).
During 1999-2000, the Operations Research conducted both an Internal and External Strategic Review of the OR programs. Based on the feedback received from the reviews, during the academic year 2000-2001 we focused on the evaluation and the implementation of some of these recommendations.
- M.Eng. in OR—The OR Center is exploring a program in computational design and optimization.
- Student Quality of Life—We worked to improve the "quality of life" for OR students by modifying the existing exam format for the qualifying exam; modifying current procedures and guidelines for the thesis proposal/defense; starting monthly meetings with co-directors and students to talk about issues at the OR Center; and by installing a wireless network; purchasing numerous computational workstations; upgrading software and purchasing new software.
- Probability/Statistics Classes—A few OR-affiliated faculty members served on a statistics review committee. The end result was a report to ESD which will likely guide the hiring of statistics faculty in Engineering over the next few years.
- OR web site Redesign—enhancements made to the website include redesign of homepage; ORC Open House; and interviews with a few current graduate students. During the upcoming year, the OR Center intends to expand the web site. Some future endeavors will be: addition of faculty publications/research papers; expansion of student and faculty homepages; and addition of a page for perspective students in OR.
The ORC has always attempted to provide an environment that is responsive to the varied professional and personal needs of the OR community at MIT, and that builds upon diversity.
The ORC makes no faculty appointments. The staff of the ORC is composed of two support staff members and one administrative officer. Of these three staff, all are women, and two are African-American.
During the past year, the Operations Research Center continued to strive to increase the diversity of its graduate student population. A promotional email about the OR Center and its programs was sent to a selected number of math departments at historically black colleges and universities. Similar email messages were sent to all of our alumni who currently hold academic positions throughout the country, and to selected Ivy League universities in an attempt to attract women and minorities to the OR program at MIT. We are happy to report that we were extremely successful in our recruitment efforts as evidenced by an increase of 50 percent in applications received from female candidates. For the upcoming academic year, we expect a 67 percent increase in the female population of the OR programs.
Arnie Barnett was selected by the Operational Research Society of the UK to give the year 2000 Blackett Memorial Lecture (in honor of Lord Blackett, the advisor to Churchill who made "the slide rule more potent than the torpedo" during World War II). The event took place in November 2000 at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London. Richard de Neufville was named a Class of 1960 Fellow. In addition, Richard was the Distinguished Visitor at the University of Calgary, Canada. Robert Freund received an Award for Excellence in Teaching at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Jeremie Gallien, an OR alumni, won the INFORMS MSOM Society student paper award. Soulaymane Kachani, an OR doctoral student, was the recipient of the Karl Taylor Compton Prize. This award is presented to students in recognition of their outstanding contributions in promoting high standards of achievement and good citizenship within the MIT community. John Little was the Omega Rho Distinguished Lecturer for 2000. He delivered the plenary address at the INFORMS Conference in San Antonio. Also, John was presented the INFORMS Expository Writing Award. Thomas Magnanti was awarded the Irwin Sizer Award for the most significant improvement in MIT Education. This award is presented to any member or group in the Institute community to honor significant innovations and improvements in MIT education. Georgia Perakis was awarded the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) at the White House. Also, Georgia received the Charles Reed Faculty Initiative Award from MIT. This award is given to faculty for developing innovative research. In addition, Georgia received the University Transportation Research Award. David Simchi-Levi was awarded the Outstanding IEE Publication Prize and the IEE Joint Publishers Book-of-the-Year Prize by the Institute of Industrial Engineers for his book "Designing and Managing Supply Chain: Concepts, Strategies and Case Studies," coauthored with P. Kaminsky and E. Simchi-Levi. In addition, David was awarded the Outstanding First Edition of the Year Prize by McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
More information about the Operations Research Center can be found online at http://web.mit.edu/orc/www/.