Operations research (OR) is the quantitative investigation of how humans make decisions, with a particular focus on how analytical methodology can be applied to making better choices. Tangentially, operations management (OM) is a field of research that utilizes the same study of OR and applies it to the managerial strategies of running an institution. Finally, decision science (DS) is the study of how humans make choices, utilizing similar quantitative techniques to advise upon good choices. You’re probably wondering why I’m listing these definitions off to you- I promise there’s a good reason why! These three fields, while similar, are inherently different, and are academically studied in different ways globally. However, for clarity’s sake, I will be referring to them communally under the moniker of “operations” on this blog. Sure, we’ll do some deep dives on each topic. But for now, operations refers to this collection of disciplines! These fields of study are relatively new on a grand scheme. Many American scholars attribute the rise of operations to have come from the use of game theory during the Cold War. However, detailed analysis of decisions have existed for centuries, particularly in the world of defense. In only a few examples, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and the Napoleon’s1 usage of triage both isolate human choice in such a near-quantitative manner that it seems too impractical to simply assume the field began without deeply historical roots (plus, we wouldn’t want to erase the foundations of what brought these disciplines into existence!). The study of operations has allowed scientists and mathematicians alike to cultivate better decisions in a vast variety of fields for many years.
At Duke, I had the opportunity to create my own major through the University’s Program II department. Through my major, Mathematically Applied Strategy, I study the world of operations and game theory from a mathematical standpoint. And I’m hoping to get a PhD in the subject as well (stay tuned for updates on that)! I’ve also had some incredible opportunities to apply what I’ve learned to the worlds of political science, psychology, and evolutionary anthropology. I’m very grateful for this unique opportunity to study the niche area of applied mathematics I’ve come to love so much over the years. But I’m constantly shocked at how few people know that these disciplines exist, or the true benefit they can bring to institutions all over the world! As such, I’m hoping to use this page of my website to more publicly spread the world about all subjects operations. I’ve had the opportunity to conduct strategic quantitative research for Duke, The National Weather Service, The Center for Strategic and International Studies, and my university’s Lemur Lab, and have presented work at NOAA NWS, The Pentagon, and NASA over the years. I want to share with you what I’ve learned in hopes that new diverse and curious folx can join the world of operations, as there’s so much yet to be discovered! Going forward, I’m going to create continuing blog posts on particularly interesting aspects of operations that I think everyone can benefit from. These posts will be easy to read, and I hope to walk individuals without a mathematics background through the science we’re working with. But if you’re more interested in diving deeper into the more technical side of the field, stay tuned for paper recommendations and links to prominent operation studies going on around the world! Should you want to learn more about my work and research, feel free to head over to the portfolio section of my website. And as always, feel free to contact me or comment with any questions!
(1) Triage was more distinctly coined as a strategy (and a term) by Napoleon’s surgeon Dominique Jean Larrey. It comes from the verb trier, which translates to separating, categorizing, or selecting!
Let’s Learn About Operations!
POSTS FROM MY BLOG:
- [NEW] A Game Theory Model for Behavioral Revolutions in Varecia rubra (Gagne 2021)
- AGS 2020 Summer Fellows Blog: NOAA/NWS
- AGS 2019 Summer Fellows Blog: Lemur Center & CSIS
- AGS 2018 Summer Fellows Blog: CSIS
- Check out these amazing ladies in Science and the Arts! STEM & ‘Script Success Stories
- Stay tuned for more!