Gurnee wins INFORMS Undergraduate Research Prize

Wes Gurnee '20 ORIE

Recent ORIE graduate Wes Gurnee ’20 has won the INFORMS Undergraduate Research Prize for a joint paper, Fairmandering: A Column Generation Heuristic for Fairness-Optimized Political Redistricting, written with David Shmoys--who is the Laibe/Acheson Professor of Business Management & Leadership Studies in Cornell's School of Operations Research and Information Engineering and Department of Computer Science.

The paper's abstract reads: The American winner-take-all congressional district system empowers politicians to engineer electoral outcomes by manipulating district boundaries. Existing computational solutions mostly focus on drawing unbiased maps by ignoring political and demographic input, and instead simply optimizing for compactness. We claim that this is a flawed approach because compactness and fairness are orthogonal qualities, and introduce a scalable two-stage method to explicitly optimize for arbitrary piecewise-linear definitions of fairness. In the largest ever ensemble study of congressional districts, we demonstrate the computational power of our approach across the full set of multi-district states to understand the range of possible expected outcomes, and the implications this range has on potential definitions of fairness.

This award is the top prize given to undergraduates at the INFORMS annual meeting. Ten finalists were chosen to present their work in a special session at the conference. Gurnee was the sole winner of the prize. You can watch Gurnee's INFORMS presentation at the following link: Wes Gurnee's Fairmandering talk at INFORMS.


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