MIT Reports to the President 1997-98


The Operations Research Center (ORC), established in 1953 as a first-of-a-kind interdepartmental graduate degree program, completed its 45th year of operation in 1997-98. 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 1997-98 activities and briefly reviews its educational, research and outreach programs.


Robert M. Freund, Seley Professor of Operations Research and Thomas L. Magnanti, Institute Professor, continued as Codirectors of the ORC. Professor Magnanti was on sabbatical leave for 1997-98. 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 Ph.D. and a master's degree. During 1997-98, these programs enrolled 44 students -- 36 Ph.D. candidates and 8 SM candidates. The Center conferred 12 master's degrees and 11 Ph.D.'s. Several other Ph.D. theses were in the final stages of completion in the summer of 1998.


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. Professors Thomas L. Magnanti, Amedeo R. Odoni, and James B. Orlin taught in MIT's first distance-learning program, System Design and Management (SDM). Professor Orlin continued to undertake significant changes in the Sloan undergraduate subject offerings in operations research. Professors Dimitris J. Bertsimas, Robert M. Freund, and Thomas L. Magnanti are part of the proposal team for a thrust program in High-Performance Computation for Engineered Systems as part of MIT's proposed collaboration with Singapore in graduate education and research in engineering.


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; queuing theory, including queuing 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 1997-98, for example: the National Science Foundation; C.S. Draper Laboratory (several projects and Draper Fellowships); Federal Aviation Administration's Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research; Logistics Management Institute; Massport Authority; 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.

Professor Amedeo R. Odoni offered a professional course during the 1997 summer session: "Airport Systems: Strategic Planning and Detailed Design." Professors Richard C. Larson and Thomas L. Magnanti offered a Public Broadcasting Corporation short course entitled, "Data Informed Management Decisions."

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: Levent Tuncel (Univ. of Waterloo); Sridhar Tayur (Carnegie-Mellon); Maurice Queyranne (Univ. of British Columbia); Nick Bambos (Stanford); Sanje Arora (Princeton); S. Stidham, Jr. (Univ. of NC at Chapel Hill); Yinyu Ye (Univ. of Iowa); David Tse (Univ. of CA/Berkeley); Debasis Mitra (Bell Labs); Ravindra Ahuja (Inst. of Tech/India); Tom Leighton (MIT); Hershel Safer (Genome); William Pulleyblank (IBM); Leslie Servi (GTE Labs); Mitchell Burman (Analytics Inc.); Murray Campbell (IBM); Gerard Cornuejols (Carnegie-Mellon); Guillermo Gallego (Columbia); Ross Darrow (SABRE); David Yao (Columbia); Masakazu Kojima (Tokyo Inst. of Tech); and Stephen Ross (MIT).

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 Robert Ferstenberg (ITG); Leslie D. Servi (GTE Labs); Susan O'Dell (PTCG); David Gamarnik (IBM); Mike Ricard (Draper Laboratories) and Sergiu Luchian (Massachusetts Highway Dept. and the Central Artery/Third Tunnel Project).


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 one woman, but no under-represented minorities. However, the Sloan School recruited a woman faculty member, Dr. Georgia Perakis, who will join the faculty in July 1998. We anticipate that Dr. Perakis will become an active affiliated faculty member at the ORC.

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, Kermit Threatte, to accept our offer of admission in the ORC doctoral program in September.

In keeping with the Center's tradition of seeking and attracting outstanding women, the number of female students has consistently averaged about 30%.

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 make 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 Cynthia Barnhart was chosen as Director at Large for INFORMS. Professor Dimitris Bertsimas received the Bodosaki Prize, given to an outstanding Greek scientist under the age of 40. Also, Professor Bertsimas was one of the finalists for the INFORMS 1998 Franz Edelman Award. Professor Ismail Chabini was the recipient of a 1998 NSF Career Award. Dr. Stanley Gershwin became a Fellow of the IEEE. Professor Richard C. Larson was awarded an honorary membership in the National Omega Rho Honorary Society and presented the Omega Rho Distinguished Lecture at the INFORMS semi-annual meeting in Montreal. In addition, Professor Larson was awarded the Philip McCord Morse Lectureship Award. This award is given to an outstanding operations researcher who is chosen to represent the profession in a series of speaking engagements. Professor John D. C. Little received an Honorary Doctorate in Management Science from the Catholic University of Mons in Belgium. Professor Andrew Lo was the co-winner of the TIAA-CREF 1997 Paul A. Samuelson Award for Outstanding Scholarly Writing on Lifelong Financial Security for his book, The Econometrics of Financial Markets (co-authored with John Campbell and A. Craig MacKinlay). Professor Thomas L. Magnanti was elected President-Elect for INFORMS. In addition, Professor Magnanti received an Honorary Doctorate from the Catholique University de Louvain in Belgium. Professor Yossi Sheffi received the Distinguished Service Award of the Council of Logistics Management (CLM). This award is presented each year to individuals who have made a significant contribution to the art and science of logistics management, and is the highest honor for achievements in logistics. Amy Cohn, an ORC graduate student, was awarded a three-year fellowship for graduate studies from the National Science Foundation. Jay Sethuraman , an ORC graduate student, was awarded an IBM Cooperative Fellowship for graduate studies. In addition, Jay received second place in the Writing and Humanistic Studies for Scientific and Engineering Writing for his essay entitled, ''Linear Programming Brings Marital Bliss." Rafael Epstein, an ORC alumnus, was a member of the winning team of the INFORMS 1998 Franz Edelman Award which is the most prestigious award for management science practice. Kermit Threatte, an incoming graduate student for the fall term was awarded a fellowship from the MIT Graduate Education Office.

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 1997-98