When students first come to me, they see statistics as abstract and mechanical. Then, when they see the real-world applications, it’s an eye-opening experience.

Mihai Banciu

What do emergency rooms, UPS delivery routes and your vacation plans have in common? They can all be optimized using mathematics and statistics: You're just one algorithm away from efficiency.

"When students first come to me, they see statistics as abstract and mechanical," says Professor Mihai Banciu, management. "Then, when they see the real-world applications, it's an eye-opening experience. I'm showing them how to make sound decisions based on facts. They can then apply these principles to business and to life."

Banciu's specialty is operations and decision sciences. He is currently working with a senior accounting & financial management major to optimize the emergency department at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. "We've outfitted doctors, nurses, patients and equipment with RFID chips," he explains. "This lets us monitor activity in real time. Our goal is to determine if resources are being utilized efficiently, and if they aren't, to develop a solution that improves the flow."

Developing solutions to problems like this one involves creating new algorithms and, ideally, writing programs. Banciu believes computer literacy should be a requirement for students and is partnering with the College of Arts & Sciences to develop a minor in analytics that will include programming. "Students need to know what questions to ask and how to parse the reports that are generated," he says.

Banciu's work has diverse applications, as evidenced by the courses he teaches for each of the four majors in the Kenneth W. Freeman College of Management. For the accounting & financial management majors, he teaches Business Analytics & Financial Modeling, where students learn to optimize complex business problems and make decisions that involve risk.

He teaches Understanding Consumers for the markets, innovation & design majors. "We use data-mining to make predictions," Banciu says. "We also examine how consumers can be clustered together into well-defined segments and how to create recommendation systems the way Amazon and Netflix do when they make suggestions based on your previous interactions."

In his Global Supply Chain Management course, he engages global management majors in topics including supply chain design, sourcing and coordination for a global distribution network.

And for the managing for sustainability majors? "Every class I teach is about efficiency, waste reduction and economy of effort," says Banciu. "We, the folks working in operations research, are the hipsters of sustainability — we were doing this before it was cool."

Posted Sept. 30, 2015