M. Eng. Project Leads to Journal Publication
|Francis Vanek (team advisor), Wenshan Xu, Abha Dubey, Jonathan Helm and Nirav Shah at the client offices in Ithaca.|
Team-based projects for real clients are a central feature of the Master of Engineering program in ORIE, but unlike Ph.D. research they are not directed towards scholarly publication and it is rare that they result in publication. The 2003-4 project team of Wenshan Xu, Abha Dubey, Jonathan Helm and Nirav Shah, has just published a paper in the International Journal of Service Learning. The paper is co-authored by Cornell advisor Francis Vanek and by Rod Ghearing and Dwight Mengel, who were managers at the client organization, Tompkins County Area Transit (TCAT).
The M. Eng. project facilitated the analysis of proposed changes in the schedule for a major bus route that crosses the Cornell campus. The team built a simulation model that enabled TCAT managers to better understand what would happen to peak loads if the schedule were changed. The paper points out that "use of average ridership numbers based on aggregate passenger data....overlooks the impact of variability."
In addition to assisting management understand a specific change, the project team provided management with a prototype model that could be used to address other questions and helped them develop an understanding of the potential of simulation models using standard industrial software, as well as the capabilities of operations research as applied to transit bus operations. The students learned how to explain their work in layman's terms and developed an understanding of the effort necessary to build a realistic simulation model and to prepare input data collected in the field, both by direct observation and in this case obtained from the global positioning system on the buses.
Since graduation, Wenshan Xu has been working in a policy role for the Ministry of Manpower in Singapore. After 2 years working for General Electric Healthcare in the GE Operations Management Leadership Program, Jonathan Helm has returned to academia as a Ph.D. student in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at the University of Michigan. Nirav Shah has been working for ARAMARK as a manager in charge of financial operations for the Education K-12 business, and has nearly completed a part-time MBA program at NYU's Stern School of Business. Abha Dubey is a Senior Developer at Lehman Brothers in New York.
An earlier M. Eng. project for TCAT lead to the formation in 2002 of a company, NextInsight Transportation Software LLC, by two of the project team members. Their project developed a prototype trip planning capability that TCAT riders could use to figure out which buses get them to their destinations the quickest, taking into account the waiting time between any necessary transfers. After forming the company, the two team members, Lauren Isaac and Matt Kaufman, developed a commercial version of the software that is still in use by TCAT as well as other transit systems.
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