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September 20, 2013
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab

SRU computer science team joins INFORMS International Conference

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Sam Thangiah, Slippery Rock University professor of computer science, will chair a session, and James Mullen, a May SRU computer science graduate, and Daniel Arnett, an SRU computer science major, will present their research when the five-day INFORMS International Conference on Operations Research gets under way in Minneapolis.

"It is a great opportunity for our students to be able to present their research and mix with others, many from doctorate programs, as part of the conference," Thangiah said.

Thangiah will chair a session on vehicle routing as part of the Oct 5-9 conference. His expertise is in examining how school districts and delivery companies can best arrange pick-up and delivery, including costs, timeliness and efficiency.

Arnett will present his research paper detailing how drones might someday be used in a kind of "dial-a-ride" system that would involve package pick-up and delivery.

Thangiah jokes that the idea came from the students as they were trying to figure out how to quickly get delivery of pizza and soft drinks.

"Initially drones did not have a GPS [geo-positioning system], but when the students were able to install one and a compass, and get them working, they found the drones could fly with some 'intelligence," so they could be programmed to fly from exact place to exact place. Thus, they could one-day deliver packages or mail," Thangiah said.

Mullen's research paper follows up on Thangiah's school bus routing theories, but does so without actually having to obtain the routing information and data from a school district.

"It is based on population clustering," Thangiah said. "It would be used to help a district quickly see if it needed to make use of the full routing scheduling options by providing preliminary information based on the district's number of schools, number of students and overall area serviced."

"Mullen's project would allow a district to see if their routing system needed improvement, before undertaking the full costs," he said.

The INFORM Annual Meeting makes use of the organization's diversity by bringing together experts from industry, academia and government for discussions.

The sessions covers topics ranging from business analytics to workforce management.

Thangiah said the students got invited through the conference's session chairs after submitting abstracts of their work. The conference chair's put together a portion of the conference by selecting topics and specific areas of discussion.

"This is truly an exciting experience for undergraduates, and I know they will do well," he said. "It will give them exposure to graduate school and research in areas they are interested in."

The students presented highlights of their research at a recent SRU Council of Trustees session.

Mullen is now employed at Ansaldo STS, a multinational technology company headquartered in Genoa, Italy, which produces signaling and automatic systems for use by rain and rapid transit operators.

Keynote speakers at the conference will include Pavel Kabat, director and chief executive officer of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and professor of earth system science at Wageningen University in the Netherlands; Anne Robinson, director, supply chain strategy and analytics for Verizon Wireless Analytics; Lawrence Wein, the Jeffrey S. Skoll Professor of Management Science professor at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University; Mark von Oven, director of merchandising analytics, reporting and research and development at Target Corp.; and Dimitris Bertsimas, Boeing Professor of Operations Research, co-director of the Operations Research Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among others.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.