INFORMS News: Lucas earns INFORMS Prize for Teaching of OR/MS Practice

Committee Chair Alexandra Newman (l) and INFORMS President Robin Keller (r) flank Thomas W. Lucas, winner of the INFORMS Prize for the Teaching of OR/MS Practice.

Committee Chair Alexandra Newman (l) and INFORMS President Robin Keller (r) flank Thomas W. Lucas, winner of the INFORMS Prize for the Teaching of OR/MS Practice.

The 2015 INFORMS Prize for the Teaching of OR/MS Practice was presented to Thomas W. Lucas, a professor of operations research at the Naval Postgraduate School, for his “his professionalism and contributions to the teaching of practice in operations research and the management sciences.” Committee Chair Alexandra Newman presented the award at the INFORMS Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

The award citation read in part:

Professor Thomas W. Lucas is a dedicated teacher and mentor both inside and outside the classroom. Most students at the Naval Postgraduate School have a job waiting for them when they graduate – typically in a defense organization that places a high value on strong analytic capabilities. These organizations must inform senior leaders on how our armed forces should be equipped, organized and potentially used. Choices are routinely made that involve billions of dollars and can potentially save many lives.

An effective O.R. analyst in this environment must be able to properly frame questions, handle messy data, build models, find robust solutions and effectively communicate results to a variety of audiences. Professor Lucas truly excels in developing these skill sets as he mentors students.

In his combat modeling classes, Lucas supplements the conceptual material by bringing in guest lecturers with expertise in developing and using these models. Via the NPS Simulation, Experiments and Efficient Design (SEED) Center, he sponsored more than a dozen workshops that allowed students to work with military officers, software modelers and defense analysts from around the world on quick-turn simulation and analysis of current problems in defense and national security.

The vast majority of Lucas’ thesis students have addressed near-term, practical problems; his students are successful O.R. practitioners by the time they graduate. The caliber of their work is reflected in the numerous awards they have received and in the response of high-ranking officials. This has led to a growing awareness and recognition within the defense community of the value of using large-scale simulation experiments to inform decision-makers.

As one former student states, Professor Lucas’ “influence on the practice of operations research extends beyond his hundreds of students to their thousands of students and subordinates. [He] is a consummate professional who not only possesses a wide breadth of knowledge and experience, but has the gift of being able to impart that knowledge, and what it really means to be an analyst, to his students.”