MIT Reports to the President 1996-97


The Operations Research Center (ORC), established in 1953 as a first-of-a-kind interdepartmental graduate degree program, completed its 44th year of operation in 1996-97. 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 a contemporary computational environment of workstations and micro computers.

This report summarizes the Center's 1996-97 activities and briefly reviews its educational, research and outreach programs.


Thomas L. Magnanti, George Eastman Professor of Management Science and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Robert M. Freund, Seley Professor of Operations Research at the Sloan School of Management, continued as Codirectors of the Center.

This year the ORC had 34 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 PhD and a master's degree. During 1996-97, these programs enrolled 41 students -- 31 PhD candidates and 10 SM candidates. The Center conferred 7 master's degrees and 4 PhD's. Several other PhD theses were in the final stages of completion in the summer of 1997.


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.

Several affiliated faculty were active in significant educational development projects at MIT. Professor John Tsitsiklis (together with Professor Dimitri Bertsekas) have taken over the teaching of 6.041/6.431 and are revising the curriculum of this large MIT subject. Professors Amedeo Odoni, Thomas Magnanti, Lawrence Wein, and Senior Lecturer Donald Rosenfield taught in MIT's first degree-granting distance learning program, System Design and Management (SDM). Professor James Orlin is undertaking significant changes in the Sloan undergraduate subject offerings in operations research.


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 1996-97, for example: the National Science Foundation; C.S. Draper Laboratory (several projects and Draper Fellowships); Federal Aviation Administration; Logistics Management Institute; MITRE Corporation; Office of Naval Research; and the United Parcel Service Foundation.


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

The ORC faculty offered one professional course during the 1996 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: Michael Trick (Carnegie Mellon); Moshe Rosenwein (AT&T); Patrick Jaillet (U. of TX); Karla Hoffman (George Mason); Richard Cottle (Stanford Univ.); Warren Powell (Princeton); Patrick Harker (Univ. of PA); Rekha Thomas (Texas A&M); Michael Ball (U. of MD); Mark Spearman (GA Inst. of Tech); Irv Lustig (CPLEX Optimization); Paul Glasserman (Columbia); Iraj Saniee (Bellcore); Carol Redfield (DFI); Murad Taqqu (Boston Univ.); Ann Gray (Harvard); Michael Overton (NYU); Collette Coullard (Northwestern); Nabil Kahale (AT&T); and Laszlo Lovasz (Yale).

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 Charles Marge (CSC Consulting); Richard Staats (Logistics Management Institute); and Theodore Theodosopoulos (BayBank Systems).


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. This year the ORC's active affiliated faculty members included two women, but no under-represented minorities. 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.

The Center's graduate students are diverse, representing over 19 countries. In keeping with the Center's tradition of seeking and attracting outstanding women, the number of female students has consistently averaged about 30%.

While the ORC enjoys significant international and gender diversity, it has attracted very few under-represented minorities as students. In order to enhance the enrollment of under-represented minorities, we have begun a number of outreach activities. A working group of faculty, students, and staff has been convened to formulate a plan of action. Among steps already undertaken, we have engaged three faculty in the MIT Minority Summer Research Program, we are designing literature to promote the MIT ORC to minority undergraduates, and we are planning to send students and faculty to targeted campuses in the US in order to enhance the applicant pool of under-represented minorities.


The ORC-affiliated faculty and students continue to assume positions of leadership and receive many awards within the Operations Research and Management Science community. During 1996-97, several ORC-affiliated faculty became Chaired Professors: Amedeo R. Odoni was awarded the T. Wilson Boeing Chair of Aeronautical Engineering; James B. Orlin was awarded the Edward Pennell Brooks Professor of Management Chair; Dimitris Bertsimas and Lawrence Wein were awarded Leaders for Manufacturing Professorship Chairs; and Robert Freund was awarded the Seley Professor of Management Chair. Professor Arnold Barnett received an Award for Excellence in Management Education and Robert Freund was awarded the 1997 Teacher of the Year Award, both from the Sloan School of Management. ORC faculty, students, and alumni received numerous other awards: Arnold Barnett was the recipient of the first INFORMS President's Award. (The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the betterment of society.) Jiang Wang was awarded the Leo Melamed Prize by the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business. (This prize is awarded every two years for significant scholarly achievement in financial economics.) Keely Croxton, a current ORC graduate student, was the recipient of the Dwight David Eisenhower Graduate Fellowship Award from the US Department of Transportation. Stefanos Andrea-Zenios, an ORC alumnus, won first place in the 1997 INFORMS Nicholson Student Paper Competition. Sarah Stock Patterson, a recent graduate of the ORC, was a finalist in that competition. John Tsitsiklis and Dimitri Bertsekas were awarded the 1997 INFORMS/CSTS Award for their book, Neuro-Dynamic Programming. (This award is given by the computer science technical session of INFORMS for research excellence in the interface between operations research and computer science.) Josephine Kintanar, an ORC alumna, was one of the four winners of the 1997 Franz Edelman Award. Mitchell Burman, an ORC alumnus, and Stanley Gershwin received honorable mention for the 1997 Franz Edelman Award. Thomas L. Magnanti received an honorary doctorate from the University of Montreal and also received the honor of becoming an Institute Professor at MIT.

More information about the Operations Research Center can be found on the World Wide Web at the following URL:

Robert M. Freund, Thomas L. Magnanti

MIT Reports to the President 1996-97