MIT Reports to the President 1998-99


The Operations Research Center (ORC), established in 1953 as a first-of-a-kind interdepartmental graduate degree program, completed its 46th year of operation in 1998—99. 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 microcomputers.

This report summarizes the Center's 1998—99 activities and briefly reviews its educational, research and outreach programs.

Professors Robert M. Freund, Seley Professor of Operations Research and Thomas L. Magnanti, Institute Professor, stepped down as Codirectors of the Operations Research. Professor James B. Orlin, Edward Pennell Brooks Professor of Management Science and Cynthia Barnhart, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering were appointed as new Codirectors. Professor Orlin served as Director during 1998—99 while Professor Barnhart was on sabbatical leave.

This year the ORC had 40 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 1998—99 these programs enrolled 46 students–31 Ph.D. candidates and 15 S.M. candidates. The Center conferred 6 master's degrees and 5 Ph.D.s. Several other Ph.D. theses were in the final stages of completion in the summer of 1999.


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 Larson heads up CAES. Professors Thomas L. Magnanti and Amedeo R. Odoni taught in MIT's first distance-learning program, System Design and Management (SDM). Professors Dimitris J. Bertsimas and Robert M. Freund are collaborating in the curriculum development of the graduate program with Singapore in High-Performance Computation for Engineered Systems. This program will offer its first subjects in fall of 1999.


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 1998—99, for example: the National Science Foundation; C.S. Draper Laboratory (several projects and Draper Fellowships); Computer Sciences Corporation; Federal Aviation Administration's Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research; Logistics Management Institute; Office of Naval Research; and the 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 offered a professional course during the 1998 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: Eva Tardos (Cornell); Karl Sigman (Columbia); Robert Dial (Volpe National Transportation System Center); Robert Fourer (Northwestern); Gerard Cachon (Duke); Dimitri Vayanos (MIT); Donald Smith (Lucent Technology); Michael Florian (Univ. of Montreal); Tom McCormick (Univ. of BC); Yannis Paschalidis (Boston Univ.); Eitan Zemel (New York Univ.); Richard Rosenthal (Naval Postgrad School); Garrett Van Ryzin (Columbia): Marty Lariviere (Duke); and David Heath (Carnegie-Mellon).

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 Timothy Kniker (Analytics, Inc.); Lawrence Berk (the SABRE Group); Rita Vachani (GTE Labs); and Mauricio Karchmer (ITG, Inc.)


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. During 1998—99, Dr. Georgia Perakis, become an active affiliated faculty member at the ORC. The ORC has two woman affiliated faculty members, 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 one is African-American.

The Center's graduate students are diverse, representing over 17 countries. This past spring, we successfully recruited an African-American student, Lincoln Chandler, to accept our offer of admission in the ORC doctoral program in September. (Lincoln chose to defer the offer of admission for one/two years).

In keeping with the Center's tradition of seeking and attracting outstanding women, the number of female students has historically averaged about 30 percent. Currently, the percentage of women is below our historical average. One of the current priorities of the OR Center is to recruit more outstanding women graduate students.

In order to enhance the enrollment of under-represented minorities, we have begun a number of outreach activities. We have set up a working group that will develop web-based, print-based, and multi-media material to promote operations research and the MIT OR Center to undergraduate students, with a particular emphasis on minority students. We have assigned volunteers to work with minority databases to identify highly qualified minority students in the US who might be interested in pursuing graduate study in OR. We have written letters to targeted minority students inviting them to apply to the OR program. And most recently, we have established a working group to target specific schools in the US and to try to arrange for faculty and/or student visits to these schools and makes informal presentations.


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 Arnold Barnett received an Excellence in Teaching Award from the Sloan School of Management. This is the sixth time in the last nine years that Professor Barnett has received this award. Also, Professor Barnett gave the Eighth Arnoff Memorial Lecture cosponsored by INFORMS and Omega Rho. Professors Cynthia Barnhart and James Orlin were named Codirectors of the ORC. Professor Dimitris Bertsimas was awarded the Samuel M. Seegal Prize. This prize is given to a faculty member from either the Management or Engineering School (on an alternating basis) who excels in inspiring students to pursue and achieve excellence. Professor Eric Feron was the recipient of the ONR Young Investigator Award. Dr. Michel Goemans was the recipient of the SIAM Optimization Prize (together with David Williamson) for the best paper in optimization in the last three years. This is the second time that this prize has been awarded, and Michel has been a recipient both times. Professor John Hauser, Duncan Simester, and Birger Wernerfelt were finalists for the John D.C. Little Award for best paper in the Marketing Sciences. Professor Thomas L. Magnanti was named Dean of Engineering. Professor John Tsitsiklis was elected a Fellow of the IEEE. Our graduate students received many awards during the past year: Elaine Chew was awarded the Josephine de Karman Dissertation Fellowship. Ozlem Ergun was awarded a fellowship for graduate studies from MIT's Center for Transportation Science. Jeremie Gallien was awarded second prize in the 1998 Student Paper Competition organized by the INFORMS Manufacturing and Service Operations Management (MSOM) section. John Hollywood received honorable mention in the 1998 Student Paper Competition organized by the INFORMS Manufacturing and Service Operations Management (MSOM) section.

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

Cynthia Barnhart, James Orlin

MIT Reports to the President 1998-99