What's Your StORy?

Rahul Swamy

Rahul Swamy

April 2017 What's Your StORy?
PhD Candidate, Department of Industrial & Enterprise Systems Engineering, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

More questions for Rahul Swamy?
Check out the Open Forum on INFORMS Connect!


What prompted you to enter this field? Why?
During my undergraduate program in Engineering Physics at IIT Madras, I was exploring ways in which I can apply my math skills to a real-world setting (and get far away from quantum physics). I took a basic course on operations research and that's when I stumbled upon this unique area of mathematics that has a high theoretical as well as applied nature to it. Since then, I've loved the challenge presented by every new O.R. problem that I have come across so far, and there is no turning back!


Tell us about your experience as a contributor to the Annual Meeting eNews Daily. How has it impacted you?
I've been a student writer for the eNews Daily for the past two INFORMS Annual Meetings. The main part of my role was to summarize events (plenaries, tutorials, sessions, etc.) during the conference. Since the Annual Meetings typically have several parallel events occurring at the same time, the eNews Dailycertainly helps cover some of the key events that one might have missed out. Contributing to the eNews Daily also helped me brush up on my journalistic intuition, which is a rare opportunity while in a STEM graduate program. I would highly recommend students attending the Annual Meeting to give this a shot (the pay is pretty good too!).


How has being a member of several INFORMS communities affected your life/career?
Being part of an INFORMS Student Chapter has been the best part of my graduate school. As the president of UIUC's Student Chapter, my role in fostering camaraderie in the student community through organized events and bringing together like-minded people has been very fulfilling. I recently attended the INFORMS Student Leadership Conference (April 21-22) in Baltimore, which had Student Chapter officers from around the world. I thoroughly enjoyed the diversity of ideas shared across the Chapters and hopefully we'll be able to use some of those in our own.


How would you apply analytics to grad school life?
Ideally, I want to measure my sleep patterns and find out ways in which I can reduce irregularities ­ both in terms of number of hours of sleep I get as well as the time I go to bed. I've been recommended to try using a Fitbit, and perhaps one day I will be able to organize my sleep schedule better with real data.


If you had to work on only one project for the next year, what would it be?
The problem of political districting has been well studied as a special type of the NP-complete graph partitioning problem. Political districting has also been recently (if not always) of public interest because of recent cases of gerrymandering. This problem is multiobjective with considerations to compactness, contiguity, population balance, political affiliation balance, similarity with current districting, amongst others. Over the next year, I will be focusing on how search methods can be used to obtain good solutions while continuing recent progress in efficient methods to assess the feasibility of solutions. I'm excited by the theoretical and computational challenges posed by the problem.


When I graduate, my perfect job would be… 
My dream job would be one that allows me to pursue research in applying O.R. to problems of social value. I also happen to cherish all the teaching opportunities that I've taken upon in my grad school, and I would absolutely love to tie teaching and mentorship to my research activities.


If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor?
My current advisor, Sheldon Jacobson, has been a wonderful source of inspiration every step along the way. I've also been fortunate to have had some great mentors in my past. I owe it to my undergraduate advisor C Rajendran for getting me thinking about grad school in O.R., and my master's advisors Rajan Batta and Jamie Kang for shaping my inclination to stay in academia. I've also had the privilege to collaborate with Alex Nikolaev and Jose Walteros, who have inspired me with their energy and dedication.


Which Seinfeld character do you relate to?
Kramer - he has no cooking skills.