MIT Reports to the President 1994-95

Operations Research Center

The Operations Research Center (ORC), established in 1953 as a first-of-a-kind interdepartmental graduate degree program, completed its 42nd year of operation in 1994-95. The Center administers its own graduate programs and a varied research program of methodological and applied projects. This report summarizes the Center's 1994-95 activities and briefly reviews its educational, research and outreach programs.


Thomas L. Magnanti, George Eastman Professor of Management Science and Richard C. Larson, Professor of Electrical Engineering, continued as Codirectors of the Center. Professor Larson was on sabbatical leave for 1994-95 and Professor Robert Freund, Nanyang Technological University Senior Professor of Management Science, served as Acting Codirector.

This year the ORC had 33 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, and Urban Studies and Planning.

The Operations Research Center offers two interdepartmental graduate degree programs, a PhD degree in Operations Research and a master's degree. During 1994-95 , these programs enrolled 65 students -- 44 PhD candidates and 21 SM candidates. The center conferred 13 master's degrees and 12 PhD's. Several other PhD theses were in the final stages of completion in the summer of 1995.


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 applications and methodology.

By design this year, the Center admitted fewer students since the Center's faculty collectively felt that the student population had grown too large in comparison to current funding capabilities and space commitments.


The volume of research in the ORC represents but a small fraction of OR-related research carried out throughout the Institute by ORC-affiliated faculty, students and staff. 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 mathematical programming and combinatorial optimization, solution methods for integer programming, interior point methods for linear programming; cluster analysis; parallel and distributed computation and algorithms; network flow algorithms; network design; probabilistic combinatorial optimization; deterministic and stochastic facility location; queueing theory under both static and dynamic conditions; equitability in queueing systems; analysis of queueing networks; risk analysis, stochastic processes; classical and Bayesian statistics; and decision analysis and statistical decision theory.

ORC faculty are also currently contributing to a wide range of application domains: flexible manufacturing systems; financial services; marketing; transportation systems; life-cycle modeling of municipal solid waste; air traffic control; public services, such as urban emergency systems; criminal justice; safety and risk analysis in air transportation, communication systems, nuclear engineering and epidemiology; AIDS Testing; the human genome project, supply chain management, and industrial production and transportation logistics.

Several organizations sponsored research projects at the ORC during 1994-95, for example: the National Science Foundation; C.S. Draper Laboratory (several projects and Draper Fellowships); Department of Transportation (several projects); Federal Aviation Administration; Air Force Office of Scientific Research; MCI; MITRE Corporation; Office of Naval Research; United Parcel Service Foundation; and the Whitehead Institute.


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 (including equal opportunity).

The Center's graduate students are diverse: they represent over 21 countries and, in keeping with the Center's tradition of seeking and attracting outstanding women, the number of female students has consistently averaged about 30%. The Center's primary support staff -- two administrative assistants and one administrative officer -- are all women, and two are African-American. This year the ORC's active affiliated faculty members included two women.


In its effort to serve the professional community at large, the OR Center regularly undertakes a number of outreach activities.

The ORC faculty offered two professional courses during the 1994 summer session: "Airport Systems: Strategic Planning and Detailed Design," and "Optimizing the Supply Chain."

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: E. Blair (MITRE); F. Margot (Carnegie-Mellon); D. Goldfarb (Columbia); J. Dai (Georgia Inst. of Tech.); S. Ceria (Columbia); K. Donahue (Univ. of PA); A. Sharifnia (Boston University); H. Chernoff (Harvard); M. Todd (Cornell); M. Weinstein (Harvard); W. Whitt (AT&T); F. Alizadeh (RUTCOR); G. van Ryzin (Columbia); T. Miller (Mercer Consulting); P. Mirchandani (Univ. of Pittsburgh); A. LoFaso (UBS Securities), R. William (Univ. of CA); V. Anantharam (Univ. of CA); and D. Heath (Cornell).


The ORC-affiliated faculty continue to assume positions of leadership and receive many awards within the Operations Research and Management Science Community. This past year, the two major professional societies ORSA and TIMS merged to become INFORMS, and Professor Little was elected and became the first President of INFORMS. Professors Magnanti and Orlin (with Ravindra Ahuja) received the ORSA Lanchester Prize for best publication in 1993 and Magnanti also received the Kimball medal for distinguished service to the profession. Professors Barnett and Freund received awards for teaching excellence and Professor Nguyen was appointed the Robert Noyce Career Development Professor.

Robert M. Freund
Thomas L. Magnanti

MIT Reports to the President 1994-95