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Academy’s Operations Research Program recognized for reach, excellence


By John Van Winkle/April 11, 2017

U.S. Air Force Academy. Colo. — The Air Force Academy won a high-level award April 4 for its work to advance operations research and prepare graduates to be research practitioners, as Air Force analysts.

The 2017 UPS George D. Smith Prize was presented to the Academy at the 2017 INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The annual event draws more than 1,000 leading and international analytics and operations professionals.

“By teaming with a variety of organizations to provide its students access to ‘real world’ data and problem solving opportunities, the Air Force Academy stands out among other academic institutions in its dedication to preparing graduates for success,” said Melissa Moore, executive director of INFORMS.

The Academy’s Operations Research program exposes more than half its student body to at least one operations research course, and gives them the opportunity to pursue a bachelor’s of science in operations research.

A yearlong applied senior capstone is the apex of the program, allowing cadets to address modern problems by consulting for military, corporate and local government, and nonprofit organizations.

Cadets have teamed with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Missile Defense Agency, Lockheed Martin, Walmart and the Healing Warriors Program on previous research projects.

The Academy’s Operations Research program is interdisciplinary and supported by four academic departments: computer science, economics and geosciences, management and mathematical sciences.

The effort to earn this recognition from INFORMS was an interdisciplinary effort led by Maj. Kiel Martin of the Computer Science Department; Lt. Col. Jesse Pietz of the Management Department; Cadet 1st Class Brady Gartman, an operations research major, and professor emeritus Jim Lowe.

“As the demand for operations research and analytics professionals continues to rise, it is more important than ever for young professionals to stand out as the top talent,” Moore said. “The Air Force Academy’s program makes sure they do.”

Operations Research

Operations Research is the application of quantitative techniques to managerial decision-making. As a discipline, it rose from the need to determine optimal resource allocation and assist decision makers during World War II.

Groups of mathematicians, physical scientists and economists, were assembled during the war to perform studies that would provide quantitative input for commanders. Their efforts were effective and led the commercial sector to adopt the practice of operations research.

Editor’s note: Past recipients of the award include H. John Heinz III College of Information Systems and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University; Centre for Operations Excellence – Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia; MIT Leaders for Global Operations; Naval Postgraduate School; and Tauber Institute for Global Operations at University of Michigan.