INFORMS News: Chelst receives President’s Award

Ken Chelst accepts the INFORMS President’s Award from Rina Schneur.

Ken Chelst accepts the INFORMS President’s Award from Rina Schneur.

Kenneth R. Chelst, chairman of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Wayne State University, received the 2011 INFORMS President’s Award for his “pioneering work in developing a unique educational curriculum that introduces young Americans to operations research and for his essential public safety policy and operational analysis, which has guided city leaders and police, firefighter and emergency service executives through difficult challenges they face in towns and cities across the United States.”

INFORMS President Rina Schneur presented the award at the 2011 INFORMS Annual Meeting in Charlotte, N.C. The award recognizes, and thereby encourages, contributions to the welfare of society by members of the O.R. profession at the local, national or global level.

Following are excerpts from the award citation:

Kenneth Chelst was one of a handful of operations researchers who early realized that the study of applied mathematics should not be confined to the academy but should be made widely accessible, even playful for high school students interested in exploring less theoretical and more accessible aspects of math that apply to our everyday lives. Over the course of more than 15 years he collaborated with colleagues in writing individual lesson plans and entire courses for high school teachers that fascinated teachers and students alike with mathematical methods unique to operations research. These allow math students with just a basic background in high school algebra to imagine themselves using mathematics to make decisions the way business executives and city officials would, as well as provide them with analytic skills to plan the operation of their workplace, handle their finances, choose a college and make better decisions in every aspect of their lives.

His work, together with that of educators in North Carolina and Michigan, convinced the National Science Foundation to underwrite Project Mindset, a program for introducing applied math and operations research to high school mathematics departments around the country.

At these most pressing times as communities face unprecedented budgetary crises, everyone who lives in a village, town, city or county is concerned about the funding and maintenance of public safety services that are essential to the quality of life. Over more than 35 years, Professor Chelst has used operations research to analyze the way that governments can better and more cost effectively handle emergencies. By examining ways to shorten response times, deploy forces, sharpen budgets, and combine services, Professor Chelst has taught government officials how to do more with less even under the combined strains of life-and-death crises and financial cutbacks to essential services.

Kenneth Chelst’s work on the local and national level on behalf of teenagers developing a love of applied mathematics and those who work tirelessly to provide police, fire and emergency services has improved lives across the country.