Ph.D. with a Major in Operations Research

OPERATIONS RESEARCH

Program Director: Halit Uster, Ph.D. 

DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY WITH A MAJOR IN OPERATIONS RESEARCH

Introduction

Operations Research (OR) is the professional discipline that deals with the application of information technology for informed decision-making. OR professionals aim to provide rational bases for decision making by seeking to understand and structure complex situations and to use this understanding to predict system behavior and improve system performance. Much of this work is done using analytical and numerical techniques to develop and manipulate mathematical and computer models of organizational systems composed of people, machines, and procedures.

Operations Research draws upon ideas from engineering, management, mathematics, and psychology to contribute to a wide variety of application domains; the field is closely related to several other fields in the “decision sciences” — applied mathematics, computer science, economics, industrial engineering, and systems engineering.

Operations Research is distinguished by its broad applicability and by the wide variety of career opportunities and work styles it embraces. Because the concepts and methods of OR are so pervasive, operations research offers highly flexible career paths.

The SMU Operations Research Ph.D. program prepares its graduates for a career in higher education, research, or industry. With its strong faculty and curriculum, the SMU OR program is ranked in the top 25 operations research programs in the United States.

Admission Requirements

In addition to meeting the Lyle School of Engineering admission requirements for a Ph.D. degree, applicants are required to satisfy the following additional requirements:

1.    Master’s degree in engineering, mathematics, computer science, economics or a related technical field from a U.S. college or university accredited by a regional accrediting association or completion of an international degree that is equivalent to a U.S. master’s degree from a college or university of recognized standing.

2.    Excellent academic performance in all completed coursework, with a minimum GPA of 3.400 on a 4.000 scale.

3.    Previous coursework that includes satisfactory completion of at least nine credit hours of calculus, three credit hours of linear algebra and three credit hours of computer programming in a high-level language. (Typically, a Bachelor of Business Administration does not provide sufficient background.)

4.    Submission of a complete application, including a statement of purpose, official transcripts for all previous undergraduate and graduate studies and payment of appropriate application fee.

5.    Official GRE graduate school admission test results with a minimum 80th-percentile quantitative score.

6.    Three letters of recommendation from individuals who can judge the applicant’s potential success as a doctoral student.

7.    Graduates from foreign countries are required to submit a notarized financial certification form. All international students whose native language is not English and who have not graduated from an American university must submit a minimum TOEFL English language proficiency score before being considered for admission as follows:

  • TOEFL: Minimum overall score of 80 out of 120
  • IELTS: Minimum overall score of 6.5 

Degree Requirements

(MS to) Ph.D in OR

In addition to the Lyle School of Engineering requirements for the Ph.D. degree, candidates are required to satisfy the following. (The Lyle School of Engineering requires for a Ph.D. degree a minimum academic credit of 54 credit hours earned in coursework beyond the baccalaureate degree or 24 credit hours earned in coursework beyond a master’s degree. In addition, a minimum of 24 research credit hours are required in dissertation work.)

 

  1. The successful completion of at least 8 graduate courses (at least 24 credit hours) beyond the master’s degree.
  2. In their first year of the doctoral study, the students are required to complete 18 credit hours of coursework (6 courses) including two core course requirements.

     

    I. Core courses are:

    EMIS 8370 Stochastic Models

    EMIS 8371 Linear Programming

     

    II. Other current courses towards completing total course credit requirement:

    EMIS 8381 Nonlinear Programming

    EMIS 8373 Integer Programming

    EMIS 8374 Network Flows

    EMIS 8383 Advanced Logistics Networks

    EMIS 7350 Algorithm Engineering

    EMIS 7331 Data Mining

    EMIS 7357 Analytics for Decision Support

    EMIS 8331 Advanced Data Mining

    EMIS 7361 Computer Simulation Techniques

    EMIS 7377 Statistical Design and Analysis of Experiments

    EMIS 7373 Supply Chain Operation and Control

    EMIS 8372 Queueing Theory

    EMIS 8378 Optimization Models for Decision Support

    MATH 6370 Parallel Scientific Computing

    Other EMIS 8000 level courses offered as Special Topics.

     

    III. Recommended courses:

    MATH 3304 Linear Algebra

    MATH 4338 Analysis

    STAT 6312 Mathematical Statistics II (or STAT 6327/6328 Mathematical Statistics)

    PHIL 1300 Introduction to Critical Thinking

     

    In the first two semesters (typically, fall and spring), the student is required to complete two core requirement courses with a 3.500 or better average. The other four courses can be selected from the second group or the third group above. The student must consult with his/her academic advisor while determining the course selection. The courses in the third group and the prerequisites of any course not on the above lists do not typically count towards satisfying minimum 24 hours credit requirement. Doctoral students must maintain at least a 3.000 GPA every term and at least a 3.400 overall (cumulative) GPA during their course of study.

  3. At the end of the spring semester of the first year, the student is required to take the Preliminary Counseling Exam (PCE) to demonstrate competence in operations research fundamentals. This exam has two parts.
    1. The first part is composed of two written exams on the topics of EMIS 8370 and EMIS 8371 (i.e., the core requirement courses). If a student already secured at least an A grade in both of the core requirement courses, this part can be waived completely. However, if the student received an A- or less in at least one of the two core courses, this part is required in its totality. The exam is graded based on Pass/Fail grading scheme.
    2. The second part is composed of two research paper presentations and cannot be waived. From a list of papers provided by the faculty, the student chooses two papers. Once the choices are confirmed, the student reads them following a guide provided and prepares a 45-minute presentation on each paper (given at separate times) for an oral exam on the in-depth understanding of the subject. The student also prepares written reports on the papers and submits them before the oral exams. An examination committee, formed by the PhD program director, will conduct the exam. This part of the exam can also include a computational study based on one of the papers chosen.

       

    Written exams and/or performance in the first year courses and paper reports, presentations, and, the student’s responses to the examination committee’s questions will be used to grade the overall performance as well as the future success potential of the student in the doctoral program. Each part of the exam can be retaken at most once in a way that a decision on the status of the student in the PhD program can be made by the end of the summer semester of the first year. The student is responsible to submit the Preliminary Exam Initiation form to the department within a week after the detailed information on the second part of the exam is announced.

     

  4. If the student has a suitable background in a core course, that course can be waived. In this case, the student must take the PCE exam at the time that it is offered, without any exception regardless of his/her previous grade on the waived core requirement course. If the exam is passed successfully, then the course credit can be honored towards total minimum credit requirement (24 hours). In this specific situation, the student is still required to complete 18 credits of coursework (6 courses without including independent study or research credit related courses) in the first two semesters in the program.

     

  5. The student, although not required if no funding is available, can choose to spend the summer semester of the first year by
    1. engaging in independent research study with faculty (in which case the summer funding would be provided by the faculty),
    2. taking background enhancement courses (e.g., from the third group above) or skill set courses (e.g., programming, writing, presenting, GIS, etc.) in consultation with the OR program director (can also be in addition to independent study),
    3. taking an internship approved by the OR program director (summer funding provided by the company), or
    4. enrolling in research credit course if already funded by a faculty member out of a grant.

     

  6. Having passed the PCE and completed at least 6 courses (18 credit hours) in the program, in the second year, the student will complete at least two additional courses (to fulfill minimum 24 credit hours requirement) from the second group above and one independent research study course (if not completed in the preceding summer). Depending on how this requirement is planned to be satisfied and on the student’s commitment to a research project with an academic advisor, additional credit requirements to ensure full-time student requirements (9 credit hours per semester) can be fulfilled in alternative ways. In coursework selection, care must be taken to ensure that the student accumulates both breadth of knowledge in OR and depth of knowledge in the specific area of interest. If the student is not yet committed to work with an advisor by the end of the fall semester, he/she needs to consult with the OR program director and the faculty who offered the independent research study to decide on additional complementing courses to take in the spring.

     

  7. Regardless of what path was taken in the second year of study, the student must form his/her Dissertation Supervisory Committee (total of five members including the chair) by the end of the spring semester of the second year latest. However, this is preferred to happen earlier, by the end of the fall semester, as the committee can also make suggestions for the additional coursework to be completed in the spring semester of the second year. This completes the degree plan formation and the student concentrates on the research in the summer semester of the second year and the following fall semester. It may also be possible to spend the same summer at an internship, preferably related to the area of research, by the approval of the student’s supervisory committee.

    At this point, completion of the forms Recommendation and Certification of Appointment of Supervisory Committee and Doctoral Degree Plan need to be submitted to the graduate office.

     

  8. The student is expected to complete the Qualifying Examination administered by his/her supervisory committee in the spring or summer semester of the third year in the program. The exam will typically include a series of take-home exams individually given by the supervisory committee members and completion of a dissertation research proposal that includes some preliminary results and a clear articulation and plan of the research proposed. This will be followed by a meeting with the committee where the student will present his/her research proposal, lead a discussion to receive feedback from the committee, and address any other questions regarding the take-home exams and related advanced topics. Upon passing this exam, the student will be admitted to candidacy.

    At this point, the student should complete and submit the Admission to Candidacy form to the graduate office.

     

  9. The student will complete his/her research and the Dissertation. The Dissertation Defense is expected to take place by the end of the fourth year in the program. At the completion of the exam, the form Report on Thesis or Dissertation and/or Final Examination is submitted to the graduate office.

     

  10. During their PhD program, students are required to give at least one departmental seminar on their research and attend to all research seminars announced in the EMIS Department.

     

  11. Starting in the second year, students are required to submit annual reviews following the template provided at the end of the spring semester.

In addition to the five steps below, process details and other requirements for the Ph.D. degree may be found elsewhere in the SMU Lyle School of Engineering Graduate Catalog. The steps for completion of the doctoral program are:

1.    Basic Coursework: Upon entry into the Ph.D. program, a student is assigned an academic adviser. The adviser will examine the student’s prior background and current state of knowledge and then recommend courses to be taken in preparation for Step 2.

2.    Preliminary Counseling Exam and Program of Study: To be eligible for advanced study, a student must demonstrate competence in operations research fundamentals by passing the preliminary counseling examination. This exam is oral and is administered by three faculty members. Particular emphasis will be given to the material covered in the following courses: EMIS 7362, 7370, 8360 and 8361.

3.    Appointment of Supervisory Committee and Advanced Coursework: Upon completion of the preliminary counseling exam, the student develops a proposed program of study that meets the degree requirements in Section II and includes the planned advanced coursework. Based upon the proposed program of study, a supervisory committee is formed. The supervisory committee makes any needed adjustments to the program of study. Changes in the program of study are subject to approval by the supervisory committee. Step 3 requires completion of the forms Recommendation and Certification of Appointment of Supervisory Committee and Doctoral Degree Plan.

4.    Qualifying Examination: At or near the completion of the coursework, the supervisory committee conducts the qualifying examination. This exam ordi­narily involves a series of take-home exams, but the format is left to the discretion of the supervisory committee. The qualifying examination is con­cluded by an oral exam at which time the student is expected to present a proposal for the dissertation. A written proposal must be given to the supervisory committee prior to the oral exam. Upon passing this exam, the student is admitted to doctoral candidacy. Step 4 requires completion of the form Admission to Candidacy.

5.    Appointment of Supervisory Committee and Advanced Coursework: Upon completion of the preliminary counseling exam, the student develops a proposed program of study that meets the degree requirements in Section II and includes the planned advanced coursework. Based upon the proposed program of study, a supervisory committee is formed. The supervisory committee makes any needed adjustments to the program of study. Changes in the program of study are subject to approval by the supervisory committee. Step 3 requires completion of the forms Recommendation and Certification of Appointment of Supervisory Committee and Doctoral Degree Plan.

4.    Qualifying Examination: At or near the completion of the coursework, the supervisory committee conducts the qualifying examination. This exam ordinarily involves a series of take-home exams, but the format is left to the discretion of the supervisory committee. The qualifying examination is concluded by an oral exam at which time the student is expected to present a proposal for the dissertation. A written proposal must be given to the supervisory committee prior to the oral exam. Upon passing this exam, the student is admitted to doctoral candidacy. Step 4 requires completion of the form Admission to Candidacy.

5.    Dissertation Defense: The most distinguishing characteristic of a program leading to the Ph.D. degree is the requirement that the candidate write a dissertation embodying the results of a significant and original investigation. The dissertation must make a significant contribution to the operations research discipline, and it is expected to be a mature and competent piece of writing. The defense, which is conducted orally, must enable the supervisory committee to satisfy itself that the dissertation is an original piece of research work, that it has been carried out in keeping with the highest standards of investigation and reporting and that it makes a contribution to knowledge that is of value to the scientific community. Satisfactory performance on this defense constitutes the last academic requirement to be met for the Ph.D. degree. Step 5 requires completion of the form Report on Thesis or Dissertation and/or Final Examination.

Recommended Degree Plan

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