The University of Houston’s student chapter of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) has been awarded summa cum laude distinction for 2020, one of only five chapters internationally to earn it.
INFORMS is an international society for practitioners in the fields of operations research, management science and analytics. INFORMS promotes greater public awareness, interest and understanding about the benefits of these fields, and provides a variety of programs and services that support lifelong learning and networking. This includes publishing 16 peer-reviewed journals, hosting numerous conferences and meetings, providing continuing education courses and professional certification, and administering dozens of special-interest communities that help professionals network and collaborate with colleagues from around the world.
President Zahed Shahmoradi and Secretary Poria Dorali praised the work of their members and coordination with the faculty as reasons why their work was recognized.
“Our chapter has won other awards in the past but it was the first time from the day of its establishment to win an award in the level of summa cum laude,” Shahmoradi said. “This makes the award very special and makes the next teams believe that they can always be among top student chapters. We are all very thankful that our efforts and dedications have paid off and that our performance and achievement can lead to more recognitions in future. I believe winning more of such awards will earn our department more international renown and further boosts the chance of industrial engineering and operations research to be chosen as majors of study.”
Dorali added, “As an organization we recognize that we may not be the biggest, but we always strive to prioritize our members in order to facilitate a community environment for learning and growth. We took some risks with expanding our efforts in the previous year and we are humble and thankful to be recognized for what we were able to accomplish. This is definitely not the end but the beginning of continuing our success as an organization.”
The group has about 100 members at UH. Other officers include Treasurer Bilal Majeed, Vice President Saira Alam, Webmaster Saba Ebrahimi and Activity Coordinator Maryam Torabbeigi.
Shahmoradi said that the pandemic has unfortunately limited their ability to offer similar opportunities this year. However, the group is networking with other chapters across the country to determine what programs they can offer later this year.
“Our number one focus as an organization is to prioritize our members to maximize the benefits they have being part of our community,” Shahmoradi said. “While the pandemic has been especially difficult on our organization, as a lot of our members are international students, we are greatly looking forward to meeting in person soon and to continue to build on the community we have. There are a number of initiatives we are considering in the future. We feel that it's important for our community to have a balanced approach – to give back to the community that gives to them – and as such volunteer opportunities around Houston is at the top of our list. We are currently examining working with other INFORMs student chapters around the country to utilize the virtual phenomenon we're in as networking opportunities which otherwise would be unlikely. Finally, as we are annual attendees of the INFORMS conference, we will continue to foster an environment for academics and researchers to collaborate and to learn with one another through workshops, virtual coffee hours, and hopefully even some in-person events in the future.”
For the 2020 award, the UH student chapter was recognized for a variety of events they held or supported:
- Vallourec Field Visit and Internship Day (March 2019): Vallourec is a manufacturing company which specializes in hot rolled seamless steel tubes. The one-day plant tour was a networking opportunity for students, and two of them arranged future visits as part of their class project. The next day, the group was excited to hear that recruiters from Vallourec interviewed some of our students who had visited the plant, and two of them were offered internship positions.
- Student Leadership Conference (April 2019): Four of their officers attended the Student Leadership Conference held in Baltimore. This was a unique opportunity to learn from the experiences of the other student chapters, in order to set a formidable foundation to grow the INFORMS UH chapter.
- PROMES Event (July 2019): Program for Mastery in Engineering Studies (PROMES) is a service of the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering that provides engineering students with recruitment, academic advising, workshops, scholarships and professional and personal development opportunities, such as volunteer events in the local community. It places a specific emphasis on reaching out to minority groups in UH engineering and helps them develop a foundation for success in their future. The group’s secretary communicated with the PROMES staff and scheduled a three-hour activity for a group of high school students as part of their STEM summer camp.
- Tenaris Field Visit (October 2019): In a plant tour, the chapter went to Tenaris Bay City, one of the most prominent pipe manufacturers in North America at their most advanced plant. They had a complete plant tour of the 1.2 million square feet facility and were taught about their day to day operations, which coincided with a lot of the operations research and manufacturing learned in classes.
- Internship Experience Panel (November 2019): In this event, the group hosted five students who had internship experience in OR and Data Science positions in IBM, BNFS Railway, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Powell Electronics and Corning Incorporated. The guests shared their experience and tips and tricks for job search and interview. The event was followed by a Q&A and networking session for the audience and the guests.
- Ronald Reagan High School (November 2019): The IE Department at UH was offered an opportunity to attend a major career fair in San Antonio, Texas at the Ronald Reagan High School where more than 200 high school students could learn more about future opportunities past high school. A joint officer team composed of members from IISE and INFORMS went to Ronald Reagan high school and taught students about the nature of IE, including a special emphasis on operations research and provided them with information and prizes for attending their information booth. More than 250 students were introduced to what the IE degree had to offer and the many different ways operations research can be applied in industry and everyday life.
- INFORMS Game Night (December 2019): As a celebration of finishing the semester and exams, the chapter organized a game night and dinner party in the university’s game room. The attendees played bowling, billiards, table tennis and board games.