MIT Reports to the President 1995-96


The Operations Research Center (ORC), established in 1953 as a first-of-a-kind interdepartmental graduate degree program, completed its 43rd year of operation in 1995-96. The Center administers its own graduate programs and a varied research program of methodological and applied projects. This report summarizes the Center's 1995-96 activities and briefly reviews its educational, research and outreach programs.


Thomas L. Magnanti, George Eastman Professor of Management Science, continued as Codirector of the Center. Robert M. Freund, Professor of Operations Research at the Sloan School of Management, served as Acting Codirector of the Center.

This year the ORC had 32 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 1995-96, these programs enrolled 47 students -- 33 Ph.D candidates and 14 SM candidates. The Center conferred 11 master's degrees and 10 Ph.D's. Several other Ph.D theses were in the final stages of completion in the summer of 1996.


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 among application and methodological domains.

This past year, as part of MIT's new master's degree program in Systems Design and Management, ORC faculty offered two of MIT's first distance learning courses (in Engineering Risk Benefit Analysis and in Systems Optimization), taught to company employees at eight sites. The faculty taught these courses interactively using compressed video technology.

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 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, criminal justice, 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 1995-96, 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.

The Center maintains a reading room with a small library and as well as a contemporary computational environment of workstations and micro computers.

The Center's graduate students are diverse: they represent over 26 countries and, in keeping with the Center's tradition of seeking and attracting outstanding women, the number of female students has consistently averaged about 25%. The Center's primary support staff -- one administrative assistant and one administrative officer -- are both women, one is 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 one professional course during the 1995 summer session: "Airport Systems: Strategic Planning and Detailed Design."

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: J. Pang (John Hopkins); M. Cohen (Wharton School); J. Bartholdi, III (Georgia Inst. of Tech); P. Jackson (Cornell); E. Kaplan (Yale); W. Jordan (General Motors); M. Daskin (Northwestern); S. Meyn (U. of Il); M. Fisher (Wharton School); B. Schmeiser (Purdue); D. Kirschner (Texas A&M); M. Harrison (Stanford); R. Garfinkel (U. of CT); J. Renegar (Cornell), P. Diaconis (Harvard); W. Cunningham (U. of Waterloo).

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 S. Raghavan (U.S. West), Christopher Athaide (JP Morgan), and Rina Schneur (PTCG).


The ORC-affiliated faculty and students continue to assume positions of leadership and receive many awards within the Operations Research and Management Science Community. Professor Dimitris Bertsimas received the 1996 INFORMS Erlang Award for the outstanding probabilist under the age of 35. This is only the second time the Erlang Prize has been awarded, and the previous winner was Professor Lawrence Wein, also one of the Center's affiliated-faculty members. Professor Bertsimas and Michel Goemans were awarded the SIAM Activity Group on Optimization Prize, awarded to the author(s) of the most outstanding paper on a topic in optimization, published in a peer-reviewed journal in the calendar years 1992-1995. Thomas Magnanti received an honorary doctorate degree from Linköping University. Two ORC students (Georgia Mourtzinou and Chung-Piaw Teo) were among the five finalists in the INFORMS Nicholson student paper competition and an ORC graduate, S. Ragahvan, received the INFORMS Dantzig Award for best doctoral dissertation in the practice of operations research within the last three years.

Robert M. Freund
Thomas L. Magnanti

MIT Reports to the President 1995-96