Operations research (OR) is the application of quantitative techniques to managerial decision-making. To gain an appreciation for the field, it is necessary to look at the origins of operations research.
Operations research, as a discipline, arose 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 to perform studies that would provide quantitative input for commanders. The results of their efforts were impressive, and soon thereafter, the commercial sector realized the power of these new planning techniques.
Using mathematics to model real world systems was nothing new; physicists and economists had been doing it for years. What defined this new field called OR was its focus on the operations of organizations. Not only were traditional mathematical modeling methods used, such as statistics and probability, but new modeling methods, such as mathematical programming and queuing theory were created.
Operations research, therefore, entails the development and application of new quantitative modeling methods to real management and economics problems. This is an exciting field—one that attracts curious problem-solvers who are strong in mathematics and computer science and are eager to solve real world problems.
The description of OR provided above highlights its interdisciplinary nature. The Academy has captured the essence of the field by establishing a truly interdisciplinary major. The OR program is jointly administered by the Departments of Computer Science, Economics and Geosciences, Management and Mathematical Sciences. In addition to the basic set of OR courses, the required major’s courses will include courses from each of the four departments.
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