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Operations researchers win major national recognition
Lehigh’s ISE and ESC researchers at the 2013 INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research in San Antonio, Texas: (l-r) Yan Xu ’07 Ph.D.; James Longstaffe ’13; David Gritz ’11; Terlaky; Randy Stashick, global vice president of engineering with UPS; Zimmers; Ruken Duzgun ’12 Ph.D., and Alper Uygur ’11 Ph.D. Xu is an analytical solutions manager at SAS, Longstaffe is a supply chain management major at Lehigh, Gritz is a marketing professional at Computer Aid, Duzgun is a senior programmer analyst with Marriott International, and Uygur is a senior operations research specialist at BNSF Railway.
For the second year in a row, the Enterprise Systems Center (ESC) and the department of industrial and systems engineering (ISE) have received one of the top honors in the field of operations research.

ESC and ISE were recently selected as one of three finalists for the UPS George D. Smith Prize awarded by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS). The other two finalists were MIT and the Naval Postgraduate School.

Operations researchers use sophisticated analytical techniques to help organizations solve increasingly complex problems. The ESC has completed more than 1,000 research projects with 400 industry partners since it was established as a research center in the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science almost four decades ago. More than 3,000 graduate and undergraduate students have participated in these projects, working in interdisciplinary teams with faculty and industry mentors to help companies solve real-world operations problems.

Tamás Terlaky, chair of the ISE department, said the recognition from INFORMS reflects the department’s emphases on providing students with a strong foundation in analytical techniques and on cultivating close ties with industry.

“All of our programs have a strong analytics core and are aligned along the need of our graduates and their employers,” said Terlaky, who is also the George N. and Soteria Kledaras ’87 Endowed Chair Professor.

“Our unique partnership with the ESC enables our students to build their expertise in real industry settings, while being mentored by experienced professionals.

“To stand in the spotlight of national prominence two years in a row confirms the exceptional qualities of the ISE department.”

The UPS George D. Smith Prize, offered for the first time last year, was established to strengthen ties between industry and the schools of higher education that graduate young practitioners of operations research.

INFORMS awards the prize to an academic department or program for preparing students in an effective and innovative manner to be good practitioners of operations research, management science, or analytics.

The UPS George D. Smith Prize is named for the late CEO of the United Parcel Service, who was a champion of operations research at a leading Fortune 500 corporation.

“I was pleased that the INFORMS program committee recognized the focus we place on developing consulting and leadership skills,” said Emory Zimmers, ESC director and professor of industrial and systems engineering. “This focus includes several courses we offer in leadership development as well as our optional leadership minor.

“It was also gratifying to see recognition given to the ESC Collaboratory which facilitates virtual teleconferencing with corporate sponsors, student teams, and ESC mentors.”

While the Naval Postgraduate School was chosen from among the three finalists to receive the Smith Prize, the Lehigh team received unique recognition for being the only program to be selected as a finalist two years in a row. Besides Lehigh, last year’s finalists were the University of Michigan and Cornell University.