FAQ for studying Operations Research                                           Chinese Version

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Q: What is Operations Research?

A: Operations Research (OR) is the discipline of applying mathematical and analytical methods to help people make better decisions.


Q: What is Industrial Engineering then?

A: Industrial Engineering is another name for OR.


Q: How can I tell whether OR is suitable for me?

A: If you like mathematics and enjoy solving problems, then OR might be very suitable for you.


Q: What problems do OR people solve?

A: Problems from many areas including engineering, finance, business, healthcare, to name a few.


Q: Why this the best time to study OR (and OR is your best choice for this time)?

A: We are in the era of analytics. In the foreseeable future, the world is transforming its way to make decisions. With increasing data and computational power, we want to make more informed decisions. To achieve that, OR is the most relevant tool. All industries will go through this transformation and therefore people with OR skill will be in high demand for the next few decades.


Q: What are the main methodologies in OR?

A: The main methodologies used in OR are optimization and stochastic modeling.


Q: What are the main mathematical skills used?

A: We mainly use calculus, algebra and probability. Sometimes we also use ad hoc techniques such as real analysis, geometry, differential equations, combinatorics, etc.


Q: What is the difference between OR and Applied Mathematics?

A: 1) The problem solved in OR is wider and often originated from problems that related to your life; 2) Problems in OR doesn't have to involve a lot of computations, while most applied mathematics problems do.


Q: How would you compare OR and statistics?

A: 1) The problem solved in OR is more versatile, it doesn't have to relate to data; 2) OR focuses on making decisions, while statistics focus on making inferences and predictions. In other words, statistics is more descriptive and predictive while OR is more prescriptive.


Q: What can I do after getting an OR degree?

A: Many things. First, you can stay in academia and become a researcher. OR people are often found in engineering schools (IE/OR department), business schools (OM department), or in math department. If you go to industry, there are many places that look for candidates with OR background. Such places include IT companies (such as Google, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft), finance companies (bank, hedge fund, trading firms), service companies (retail, logistics, transportation), and manufacturing companies (car, oil, etc).


Q: What makes a good candidate for OR program?

A: Solid mathematics background, interest in solving problems and good communication skill.