M.Eng. students, project teams garner prizes at graduation ceremony
More than eighty Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) degree candidates were recognized at a ceremony in Rockefeller Hall’s Schwartz Auditorium on Commencement weekend. The ceremony, which also included the hooding of new Ph.D. recipients, featured the awarding of prizes to the top M. Eng. graduates and project teams.
Dr. Kathryn Caggiano, who has directed the M.Eng. program since 2007, asked the students to think of three things that characterized this year for them --but “they are not allowed to be ‘Work, Work, Work,’” she said. From her perspective, Caggiano saw in them Perseverance, Accomplishment, and Professional Growth.
Andrew Weirman, chair of the M.Eng. Student Leadership Committee, made a special presentation (left) to Caggiano, noting her enthusiasm and her extraordinary efforts to support students. He reported that OR alums advise students to "make friends with your professors, but especially you need to know Dr. Caggiano. We sometimes referred to her as the 'OR mom'," he said, "because she cares so much about her students and is always there when you need her."
Andrew Schultz, Jr. Awards
Dr. Caggiano presented Sara Burbine, Stéphane Maarek and Daniel Southern (at right) with the Andrew Schultz, Jr. Award, named for the late professor who established and led ORIE's predescessor department and was Dean of the College of Engineering from 1963 to 1972.
Burbine, who completed a BA in mathematics with a minor in computer science at Colby College in Maine, is now employed by ZS Associates, a sales and marketing consulting company that operates in the healthcare field. Prior to coming to Cornell for her M.Eng., Burbine worked as a project coordinator at the Orthopaedics and Arthritis Center for Outcomes Research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA. There, she played an influential role in the development of a computer simulation model used to address health policy questions related to knee osteoarthritis. She held the Jeffrey F. Berg and Debra H. Paget Master of Engineering Fellowship at Cornell, concentrated in Applied Operations Research, and was a member of the Endoscopy team (see below).
"The program really opened my eyes to the extensive application of Operations Research methodology, from health care to finance to manufacturing," Burbine said.
Maarek, a graduate of French engineering school École Centrale Paris, pursued the Strategic Operations concentration in his M.Eng. program, in order to develop practical business and strategic skills. Following travel in Asia this summer, he will join the New York office of consulting company Ernst & Young. “I have been so impressed with the diversity of the students, quality of the program, investment of the professors, and the professional opportunities I have been given,” he said of his M.Eng. experience. Maarek also practices Improvisation Theater, which has given him the chance to speak in front of large audiences and to react quickly to dynamic situations. He held the Master of Engineering Fellowship at Cornell and concentrated in Strategic Operations.
As an undergraduate, Southern, whose family is in the Cayman Islands, came to Cornell from high school in Florida and earned his BS from ORIE. He has joined enterprise software company Oracle in California. After earning his BS degree, he helped design fire alarm, sprinkler, mechanical and life safety systems for a 700 unit apartment complex and an 11 floor school and residential building as a consultant with M.G. Engineering in New York City. While an undergraduate, he worked to improve the accuracy and resolution time of help desk cases as a team supervisor for the Cornell Information Technologies help desk.
In the M.Eng. program, Southern concentrated in Applied Operations Research with a minor in Systems Engineering, and was a member of the Endoscopy team. He is certified as both a scuba diver and sky diver, and has formal and informal training as a chef, provider of wilderness first aid, and in martial arts, where he earned a Tang Soo Do black belt.
Silent Hoist and Crane Awards
The annual Silent Hoist and Crane Awards went to four projects, with first, second, and third prizes as well as an honorable mention awarded. This endowed prize, open to the entire College of Engineering, recognizes project work that advances materials handling technology in both the traditional and the more modern sense, including handling of information.
The top prize M.Eng. project team, made up of ORIE students Katrina Mehringer, Jun Chua, and Michael Ingersoll (at left with Professor Shane Henderson and Dr. Caggiano), worked on allocation and scheduling of emergency aircraft for Ornge, an organization that provides air ambulance services across Ontario Province, Canada. Ornge asked the team to determine where, among all of the airports in Ontario, Ornge aircraft of different types should be stationed in order to minimize a combination (see below, right) of average response time and fuel cost. The project is an extension, to multiple aircraft types and the whole province, of a project in 2008 that looked at optimal base locations for Ornge helicopters in southern Ontario.
The team found that service could be improved, cost reduced, and more calls serviced if certain changes were made in aircraft location. They derived the recommended changes from a two-step process. First they used an optimization model (integer programming) to generate a set of candidate location configurations. They then tested these configurations in a simulator that was able to match Ornge practices for the current configurations. Unlike the optimization model, the simulator modeled the evolution of each day’s schedule over time, including calls that queued up during the busiest parts of the day. They also used the simulator to investigate other possible changes in Ornge’s practices. The project was advised by Professors Shane Henderson and David Shmoys.
The team made its final presentation to Ornge senior management, and the results are already in use in the preparation of significant business proposals, according to Dr. Russell D. MacDonald, Ornge Medical Director. “Our organization has benefited greatly from this collaboration,” he said, “and we have every intention to continue with similar projects in the future.”
A project for the Department of Endoscopy at New York Presbyterian / Weill Cornell Medical College identified opportunities to improve use of resources in the six operating rooms used to perform about 10,000 procedures a year. These procedures diagnose and, in some cases, treat diseases of the digestive system, including cancer. Joshua Nelson, Daniel Southern, Sara Burbine (at right with Professor Muckstadt and Dr. Caggiano) and Chelsea Feldman (not present) observed processes, interviewed staff, and analyzed data to identify opportunities for changes that could reduce delays, increase patient satisfaction, and free up resources to increase capacity, with the potential of yielding millions in additional annual revenue. Their project report is titled “Hurry Up and Wait: Improving Efficiency in the Endoscopy Suite.” The team, advised by Professor Jack Muckstadt, placed second in the prize competition.
“The students proved to be professional, accountable and dedicated,” said Beryl Muniz, Vice President for Perioperative Services at the hospital. “The collaborative effort resulted in significant information sharing, much of which will be used in a meaningful way,” she said. Patient Care Director Mary Cassai said that the project “spoke to several powerful efficiency opportunities and the analyses performed were meaningful. The recommendations and scheduling tool…will prove to be incredibly useful.”
Walmart.com ships a huge number of products each day, but not all can be handled on standard conveyor belts. Using available data to distinguish which products are and which are not “conveyable” was the subject of a project carried out by ORIE M.Eng. students Hanna Feldman, Heejoon Jung, Patric Leung and Yuexing Li, under the guidance of Professor Dawn Woodard. With a statistical technique called logistic regression, the team figured out how the recorded attributes of a product can be used to predict whether or not it is conveyable. They also devised an approach to handle attributes that logistic regression doesn’t handle well. Making the right call on conveyability can save considerable cost, since non-conveyable products must be handled at special distribution centers and an estimated 30% of items sent to these centers don’t need to be. The project placed third in the Silent Hoist and Crane competition.
Based on their statistical analysis, the team developed an Excel tool, programmed in Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), that can be used at Walmart.com to automatically carry out the prediction process. The tool developed by the team can serve to automatically adapt the prediction process as new data become available. It also presents the user with alternative actions that can be taken when errors in the recorded product dimensions are detected. According to Walmart.com Operations Director David Win, “the product they delivered is a quality work and the VBA tool can be something that can be used as a basis for….software that the company may build later.”
The Honorable Mention project team included five Systems Engineering M.Eng. students and Basyirah Mohd Khairi, an ORIE M.Eng. student. For Canadian National Railway (CN Rail), the team addressed two questions: “Is there a more intuitive way to understand the evolution of demand and supply of rail crew members over a period of time?” and “what are the ripple effects on other assignments when crew dispatchers alter an assignment and/or reallocate an employee?”
To answer these questions, the team enhanced software, some of which was developed by prior ORIE M.Eng. teams, that CN Rail uses to forecast crew assignments over the next eight to twelve hours. They added the ability to visualize the evolution of demand and supply, as well as a ‘what-if’ analysis capability to test the impact of assignment changes. The project was advised by Professor Peter Jackson.
Clients for all four of this year’s prize winners have previously sponsored prize-winning projects.