Robert L. Smith

Brief Biography

Smith Speaker Portrait

Robert L. Smith is a Fellow of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) and has produced influential research in infinite horizon optimization, capacity expansion, dynamic programming, and the modeling of large-scale distribution and transportation systems. Smith studied Physics at Harvey Mudd College prior to obtaining three graduate degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. He earned his MBA in 1968 under the supervisor of Nobel Laureate Reinhard Selten. Smith spent two years as a graduate research assistant at the Operations Research Center, working on the Administrative Studies Project in Higher Education. His PhD dissertation advisor was Stuart Dreyfus. Smith lectured for one academic year at his alma mater prior to joining the Technical Staff at Bell Laboratories in 1972.

At Bell Labs, Smith was charged with facilities network planning. He took a leave of absence to visit the Department of Applied Mathematics at the Twente Institute of Technology in the Netherlands. Shortly after his return, Smith accepted a position with the Graduate School of Business and Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Pittsburgh. In 1980, he left Pittsburgh for the University of Michigan’s Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering.

At Michigan, Smith has advised twenty-eight PhD students in a wide array of operations research topics. He has received numerous faculty and teaching awards from the university and department. For twenty years, he directed the Dynamic Systems Optimization Laboratory. Smith has served on a number of university and department-wide academic and bureaucratic committees. He has served on the Executive Committee of the Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering on seven different occasions.

In the 1980s, Smith published articles on the conditions for the existence of planning horizon and efficient Monte Carlo procedures for generating points uniformly. Portions of his research during this period were funded by the Urban Mass Transit Administration, IBM, Bell Labs, and General Motors. Smith’s work has gone on to include topics in hit-and-run optimization, production planning, and inventory costs.

Smith has held a number of roles in the professional operations research community. From 2005 until 2012, he served as Associate Editor of Optimization for Operations Research. Since 1992, he has been a member of the INFORMS Speakers Program, giving lectures on introductory OR, dynamic programming and its applications, and intelligent transportation systems. Smith is a former Associate Editor for Management Science and an invited session chairman at numerous INFORMS Conferences. 

Other Biographies

INFORMS Connect with People. Speakers Program: Smith, Robert L. (University of Michigan). Accessed June 11, 2015. (link)

University of Michigan College of Engineering. Industrial & Operations Engineering Faculty: Robert L. Smith. Accessed June 28, 2018. (link)

University of Michigan Faculty History Project. Robert L. Smith Memoir. Accessed July 12, 2018. (link)

University of Michigan Personal Pages. Robert L. Smith. Accessed June 11, 2015. (link)


Harvey Mudd College, BS 1966

University of California, Berkeley, MBA 1968

University of California, Berkeley, MS & PhD 1971


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas

Memoirs and Autobiographies


University of Michigan Personal Pages. Robert L. Smith: Academic Resume. Accessed June 11, 2015. (link)

Awards and Honors

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2003

Selected Publications

Bean J. C. & Smith R. L. (1984) Conditions for the existence of planning horizons. Mathematics of Operations Research, 9(3): 391-401.

Smith R. L. (1984) Efficient Monte Carlo procedures for generating points uniformly distributed over bounded regions. Operations Research, 32(6): 1296-1308.

Bean J. C., Higle J. L., & Smith R. L. (1992) Capacity expansion under stochastic demands. Operations Research, 40(3): S210-S216.

Smith R. L. & Zabinsky Z. B. (1992) Pure adaptive search in global optimization. Mathematical Programming, 53(1-3): 323-328.

Kaufman D. E., McDonald J. F., Romeijn H. E., Smith R. L., & Zabinsky Z. B. (1993) Improving hit-and-run optimization. Journal of Global Optimization, 3(2): 171-192.

Smith R. L. & Zhang R. Q. (1998) Infinite horizon production planning in time-varying systems with convex production and inventory costs. Management Science, 44(9): 1313-1320.