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Mathematics Department
Mathematics student

Operations Research Major

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Operations research is the discipline of applying mathematical methods to study and analyze complex decision-making problems. Such decision-making problems come from all parts of everyday life, including business, healthcare, and the military. For example, delivery companies like FedEx and UPS use operations research to optimize their pickup and delivery processes, not only reducing their financial costs, but their carbon footprint as well. Hospitals such as the Mayo Clinic use operations research to schedule their operating rooms so that the surgeries for a given day can be completed without much overtime, therefore reducing medical staff fatigue and increasing patient safety. The Navy and Marine Corps use operations research to help make decisions about a wide range of issues related to force development and warfighting.

Operations research majors are required to take courses in optimization, probability, statistics, and simulation – these are the pillars of the discipline. In preparation for these courses, students in the major take foundational courses in mathematics and computer programming. The major also involves several electives: some provide depth by focusing on advanced topics or applications; others provide breadth by covering related disciplines, such as economics, computer science, and other areas of mathematics. Students in the major must also take a capstone course, in which students typically work in teams on a semester-long project that involves the application of operations research methods to a real-world decision-making problem.

Operations Research Major Matrices

Learning Outcomes

SMO majors will be able to:

  • Call on the tools of operations research. These tools include optimization, probability, statistics, stochastic processes, and simulation. (“Preparation”)
  • Formulate operations research problems and identify methodologies. (“Formulation”)
  • Conduct an appropriate analysis of a problem by constructing and processing a mathematical model or by collecting and statistically analyzing data. (“Analysis”)
  • Evaluate the choice of operations research methods and the quality of decisions made by others. (“Evaluation”)
  • Communicate effectively in plain English and with technical precision, in both written and oral presentations. (“Communication”)
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