Student Chapter Spotlight Interview – INFORMS Georgia Tech Student Chapter Board

The INFORMS Georgia Tech (GaTech) Student Chapter is an integral part of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) community within the Georgia Institute of Technology. In the 2023-2024 academic year, the chapter’s board is advised by Dr. Lauren Steimle and consisted of six members: Zihan Zhang (President), Anjolaoluwa Popoola (Vice President), Lingchao Mao (Treasurer), Zheng Dong (Secretary), and Xinyu Liu and Sourabh Choudhary (Alias Members). This Chapter is dedicated to creating a network among students, faculty, and industry professionals who are passionate about operations research and related disciplines. It upholds INFORMS’ mission to enhance and disseminate the art and science of decision-making to address critical issues, from saving lives and conserving resources to solving complex problems.

Can you tell us about the INFORMS GaTech Student Chapter?

The INFORMS GaTech Student Chapter was founded by students from H. Milton Stewart School of ISyE, one of the nation’s largest and most prominent Industrial Engineering departments. The INFORMS GaTech Student Chapter boasts a diverse membership. It includes students specializing in Operations Research, Analytics & Data Science, Economic & Financial Systems, Statistics, Supply Chain Engineering, Industrial Engineering, and Machine Learning. The chapter actively collaborates with the ISyE department, fostering a supportive community for both graduate and undergraduate students pursuing interests in these areas. Beyond serving the large student body from the ISyE department, we have members and serve students across a variety of other programs at Georgia Tech, encompassing fields such as engineering, business, mathematics, and statistics.

The chapter’s primary goals include:

  • Building a supportive community for students interested in operations research, management science, analytics, and data science.
  • Encouraging a cohesive culture that bridges theoretical research with practical applications in these fields.
  • Offering mentorship and career development op- portunities to aid student growth and professional advancement.
  • Creating platforms for knowledge exchange to highlight and explore emerging topics within operations research and management science.

In essence, the INFORMS GaTech Student Chapter is committed to building a community where future leaders in operations research and related fields can thrive, collaborate, and contribute to the advancement of decision science.

What are the goals of this Chapter, and what motivates the members most?

The primary objectives of the Chapter are centered around enhancing academic growth, broadening networking opportunities, and encouraging the practical application of operations research principles. The driving force behind the members’ engagement is their deep-seated interest in leveraging quantitative approaches to address complex challenges, coupled with the opportunity to network with eminent professionals in the field. The Chapter is dedicated to fostering a sense of collaboration among the student community and faculty both within and beyond Georgia Tech. Through the INFORMS platform, it aims to bolster the academic and career development of its members and the broader INFORMS community by facilitating interdisciplinary research and networking avenues.

Additionally, the Chapter is committed to supporting and advancing careers in Engineering, Management Science, Analytics, and Data Science for both graduate and undergraduate students at Georgia Tech. It seeks to bridge the gap between theoretical research and practical applications in the industry, offer mentoring and career growth opportunities, and spotlight new and emerging topics within the operations research and management science (OR/MS) fields. The Chapter’s inclusive approach to organizing events caters to a wide array of student interests, spanning academic and professional career paths, as well as catering to both undergraduate and graduate levels. This inclusive strategy not only attracts a diverse student body but also nurtures relationships among students from varied backgrounds and experiences, enriching the Chapter’s community and its initiatives.

How are the previous Chapter members doing in their academic careers, and how did the Chapter contribute to that?

Many of our alumni have achieved notable success in their professional and academic careers, a testament to the positive impact of our Chapter. For instance, Amanda Chu, a former President, has advanced to become the lead Data Scientist at UPS, demonstrating the Chapter’s influence on careers in industry. Similarly, Xiaowei Yue, who served as a former Vice President, has transitioned into academia as a tenure-track assistant professor in the Industrial Engineering department at Virginia Tech after graduation. Yue’s active contributions to the INFORM conference, specifically within the DM and QSR divisions, highlight the academic achievements of our members.

The Chapter’s offerings, including networking events, work- shops, and mentorship opportunities, have been instrumental in developing the skills and expanding the horizons of its members. Serving on the Chapter board provided unparalleled opportunities to develop leadership abilities, expand professional networks, and foster a sense of service and connection within a broader community.

What are the expectations of the members for the future of this Chapter?

The members of our chapter have high hopes and ambitions for its future, aiming to establish it as a premier platform for operations research enthusiasts not only at Georgia Tech but across the nation. They are keen on expanding our collaborations with industry leaders to enhance our impact, particularly in the areas of community service and outreach.

We are thankful for the strong membership base that has shown a keen interest in our events. Our members are encouraged to make the most of these in-person opportunities to forge meaningful relationships with their peers, seek out mentors, and network with potential recruiters. We look forward to their active participation in future events and are open to their feedback. We invite them to share their ideas for potential event topics that would be of interest, as well as offer constructive criticism on how we can improve our offerings.

What are the key activities that the Chapter conducts throughout the year?

The Chapter engages in a broad array of activities throughout the year, aiming to foster a vibrant community among its members and to support the academic and professional development of students. These activities include:

Ph.D. Student Seminar Series: In collaboration with the ISyE department at Georgia Tech, the Chapter hosts weekly seminars where Ph.D. students have the opportunity to present their research findings. These seminars cover a wide range of topics within Operations Research, Machine Learning, Statistics, and other related fields. They serve as a platform for Ph.D. students to share their work with undergraduates, other graduate students, and faculty members, promoting an environment of learning and knowledge exchange.

Workshops on Emerging Technologies: Recognizing the importance of staying abreast of technological advancements, the Chapter organizes workshops focused on emerging technologies. These workshops are designed to equip students with the latest tools and knowledge in their field, preparing them for both academic and professional challenges.

Industry Panels and Networking Events: To bridge the gap between academia and industry, the Chapter arranges panels and networking events featuring representatives from leading companies, such as American Airlines. These events are typically held during the recruiting season each semester and offer students insights into company cultures, as well as internship and full-time job opportunities. They provide a valuable forum for students to connect with potential employers and learn about career paths in their fields of interest.


Board Members (Anjolaoluwa Popoola, Zihan Zhang, Lingchao Mao, Zheng Dong)

Senior Student Panels and FOCUS groups: The chapter also or- ganizes panel discussions in which senior students impart their knowledge, strategies, and advice to junior counterparts. These sessions are designed to assist younger students in navigating both their academic and professional paths by drawing on the insights and experiences of their peers. Acknowledging the recur- ring nature of academic and professional milestones, we have arranged events such as panel discussions where senior Ph.D. candidates discuss strategies for Ph.D .success, maintaining work-life balance, and more. Additionally, we held a FOCUS event during the Spring semester, where senior Ph.D. students served as peer mentors, offering guidance on the job search process within both industry and academia. This event was carefully scheduled to aid students in preparing their job applications and materials for the academic job market, providing crucial advice and addressing important questions.

Outreach Programs for High School Students: Our outreach efforts aim to demystify the field for younger students. By inviting high school students to our campus, we provided and introduced a glimpse into college life and introduce them to the diverse career paths in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering. This initiative, spearheaded by our Vice President, Anjolaoluwa Popoola, in collaboration with the Center for Academics, Success, and Equity at Georgia Tech, emphasizes inclusivity and the importance of early exposure to higher education and potential career fields.

Social Events: Recognizing the importance of building a strong community, the Chapter organizes social events to foster camaraderie among members. These events provide a relaxed setting for students from different backgrounds and with varied interests to connect, share experiences, and support one another. Our social events involve fun trivia contests, icebreakers, music, and food.

K-12 Engagement: We are organizing an outreach event specifically targeting K-12 students, with a focus on bridging the gap between high schoolers and college students. This event is part of our effort to extend the reach of our discipline to younger audiences, making them aware of the opportunities in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering and providing a realis- tic view of college life. This program has two stages. In the first stage, we visited local high schools to talk about Industrial Engineering and college experience. In the second stage, those high school students with strong interest are invited to a campus visit where they shadow undergraduate and graduate Industrial Engineering students, getting a first-hand experience of student life. Overall, the Chapter’s activities are designed to support the diverse interests and needs of its members, promoting a rich academic and professional environment.

How do you recruit new members and the leadership board? What key personality traits do you see in students when recruit- ing?

To effectively recruit new members and identify potential leaders for our INFORMS chapter, we employ a multi-faceted approach that emphasizes inclusivity, engagement, and leadership potential.

Recruiting New Members: We host informative sessions designed to introduce both INFORMS and our chapter’s activities. These sessions serve as a platform for students to learn about the field of OR/MS and how they can get involved with our com- munity. Our recruitment strategy is inclusive; any student with an interest in our events or in the broader OR/MS field is welcome to become a member of our chapter. This openness ensures a diverse and vibrant community of members passionate about the field.

Selecting Leadership Board Members: When it comes to filling leadership roles within the chapter, we look for students who have demonstrated a strong commitment to our chapter’s goals, are proactive in their engagement with our activities, and possess a spirit of collaboration. These traits are vital for the effective leadership and management of our chapter.

The process for selecting the leadership board for each academic year is as follows:


  1. Current Leadership Consideration: Initially, we evaluate the interest and willingness of current leadership board members to continue their roles into the next academic year. This consideration helps ensure continuity and the retention of experienced leaders.
  2. Open Application Process: We then broaden our search for new leaders by distributing an application form to all chapter members and students within the Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) department. This open call encourages a wide range of students to express their interest in leadership positions.
  3. Evaluation Criteria: Candidates are primarily assessed based on their previous experience relevant to the leadership role they are applying for, their expressed interest in pursuing a career in OR/MS, and their overall enthusiasm for contributing to the chapter. Key factors in our final decision include each candidate’s availability, motivation, and demonstrated leadership potential.

By adhering to this structured recruitment and selection process, we aim to foster a dynamic and effective leadership board that can guide our chapter in achieving its objectives and enriching the academic and professional lives of its members.

How is the chapter bouncing back from the COVID-era?

The Chapter has been resilient post-COVID. We’ve introduced hybrid events catering to both online and offline audiences, enhanced our digital presence, and launched wellness initiatives and events to support members’ mental health.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us that has not been covered by the previous questions?

Our chapter thrives on a remarkable sense of community, where collaboration and mentorship are at the forefront. It’s particularly inspiring to observe senior students guiding juniors and alumni actively participating, collectively nurturing the chapter’s enduring legacy.

A key moment that underscores our community’s engagement occurred during our promotion of the INFORMS annual conference at the semester’s first large body meeting. The event sparked significant interest among both undergraduate and master’s students, many of whom were being introduced to the concept of academic conferences for the first time. This opportunity not only educated them about the latest advancements in the field of OR/MS but also opened doors to invaluable networking opportunities with both academic and professional peers.

Moreover, while our department excels in providing a comprehensive academic experience, we recognize and appreciate the integral role that the INFORMS organization plays in facilitating inter-institutional relationships, networks, and publications. The resources and opportunities provided by INFORMS have been instrumental in our growth and learning, and we are deeply thankful for them. We are committed to continuing our support for INFORMS’ mission and further contributing to our chapter’s success.

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Harsh Anand for taking time to review this article. Thanks to INFORMS GaTech Student Chapter for providing us with the photos.


Industry Networking Session (American Airlines)


INFORMS Introduction Session