Getting Freshmen Excited About OR

The vice dean for undergraduate programs at the school of business asked me to make a presentation to a group of freshmen. My job is to tell them about the field of Management Science and the research that goes on in my department. The main goal is to get these students excited about research early on. Hopefully, they’ll get involved in undergraduate research projects and even consider joining our PhD program further down the road. My understanding is that every department in the school will make a similar presentation, but I’ll tell the students that OR is by far “the coolest topic” (sorry “other departments”, but I think it is!).

I think this is a great idea, especially because Management Science (or OR) is not a required class for all business majors and I believe that every business school graduate should at least know what OR is and what it can do for you (fortunately, OR is a required class for all MBA students in our school).

I’m putting together a presentation with the following outline:

  1. Introduction (who I am, my background, etc.)
  2. What is Management Science? (that’s where I tell them to use the name OR instead :-)
  3. Real-life applications of OR
  4. Research interests of the Management Science department (with a focus on my interests, at the request of the vice dean)
  5. Research opportunities for undergraduate students

The room is booked for 1 hour and 45 minutes, and I was told I can use as much time as I want. Boy, that’s a lot! For item number 3, I’ll pick a diverse collection of applications covering a wide range of topics. For item 4, I’ll tell them about things my colleagues have worked on, things I’ve done, and things I’m currently doing. Then I’ll move on to item 5 and close the presentation with problems on which I’d like to work with an undergraduate student (nothing that requires advanced OR knowledge, of course). One caveat is that I must tell them that my projects require some knowledge of computer programming and basic understanding of linear and integer programming (which they could get by taking one of our classes or by reading on their own).

I’ve also put together a Google document entitled A Hyperlinked Introduction to the World of Operations Research and Management Science, which I’m going to hand out at the end of the talk.

The purpose of this document is to function as an organized list of links to OR resources and interesting applications that the students can easily navigate to. It contains a superset of the real-world applications I’m going to tell them about, and it’s supposed to complement my talk. I hope this turns out to be useful to other people as well. Feel free to use it and let me know if you have any suggestions for improvement. I’m sure there are many interesting links that I forgot to include there.



Filed under Motivation, Promoting OR, Research

6 responses to “Getting Freshmen Excited About OR

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Getting Freshmen Excited About OR « O.R. by the Beach --

  2. Bo Jensen

    I saw your list of applications, nice, shows how widespread the applications of OR can be. One of my favorite newbie applications is a mix of statistic, OR and macro economics, known as Statistical Matching. You have to find best “artificial merge” of different data set from consumer samples. The data set contains different informations on consumers, they are merged because information across samples is needed to determine the effects of different tax regulations on consumer behavior. Most people can relate to tax regulations…

  3. Impressive list of applications. If you have time (and inclination) to track down more, you might consider: emergency response models (there was a paper at at the DSI national meeting a couple of years or so ago about where to “hover” ambulances between calls, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen other emergency response models recently); search models (both “find the lost hiker” types and “find the enemy submarine” types); models of terrorist activity (a paper at a recent INFORMS meeting did an agent-based simulation of a mad bomber on a subway platform); and building evacuation/escape models.

  4. orbythebeach

    Paul, thank you for the comments and suggestions. Indeed I was hoping to get suggestions for other applications. I’ll look into the ones you mentioned and add them to the doc in the next few days.

  5. orbythebeach

    Bo, thank you for the comment. I’ll look into Statistical Matching. I had never heard of it before.

  6. Pingback: Ten Freshmen + 46 Slides = 1 Hour of OR Fun « O.R. by the Beach

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