Student teams conquer complex real-world challenges in the INFORMS Student Team Competition


Ashley Smith
Public Affairs Coordinator

Student teams conquer complex real-world challenges in the INFORMS Student Team Competition

CATONSVILLE, MD, March 26, 2018 - Eight student teams from around the world have been selected as finalists in the 2018 INFORMS O.R. & Analytics Student Team Competition. The competition, which was introduced last year, highlights impressive young talent and provides O.R. and analytics students the opportunity to solve the kinds of real-world workplace challenges they will face during their careers. 

The 2018 finalists are (in alphabetical order):

  • Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Republic of Korea
  • The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
  • Özyeğin University, Turkey
  • Queen’s University, Canada
  • Universidad de los Andes, Colombia
  • University of Belgrade, Serbia
  • University of Bern, Switzerland
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, U.S. 

Each student team was challenged to use an O.R. and analytics approach to solve a complex business problem, using identical data sets and a choice between 11 complementary software options. A panel of judges comprised of industry experts and academic leaders reviewed each teams’ written submission, evaluating their analytics process, including problem framing, methodology selection, data use, model building and quantitative analysis. 

The 2018 challenge asked the teams to develop an equity portfolio optimization framework that improves the balance between risk and return on investment. In addition, the students were required to maintain a diverse portfolio that was fully invested at all times. The problem and funding for the 2018 competition was provided by Principal® a leading international retirement savings and asset management company with millions of customers in more than 80 countries around the world. 

“Data is the driving force behind addressing many of the complicated problems faced in nearly every complex industry, such as financial investing and management,” said Joseph Byrum, Chief Data Scientist, Principal® Financial Group. “This year’s talented finalist teams serve as an incredible example of the limitless possibilities towards which this next generation of O.R. and analytics professionals will propel us.”

The problem for last year’s inaugural competition was provided by Syngenta, challenging the students to re-evaluate data on soybean varieties to ascertain why certain strains were underperforming, and make different plant selections based on this same data for better outcomes. Syngenta provided additional funding to the 2018 competition.

In addition to the written submission, the finalist teams will present their solutions to a judging panel at the INFORMS Business Analytics Conference in Baltimore, MD, on April 15-17, at which time the winning team will be chosen. 

For more information on the INFORMS O.R. & Analytics Student Team Competition, visit



With 12,500 members from nearly 90 countries, INFORMS is the largest international association of operations research (O.R.) and analytics professionals and students. INFORMS provides unique networking and learning opportunities for individual professionals, and organizations of all types and sizes, to better understand and use O.R. and analytics tools and methods to transform strategic visions and achieve better outcomes.

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