Areas of Focus
Georgia Tech’s H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) announced that Professor Natashia Boland has been appointed to the Fouts Family Professorship.
Endowed by ISyE alumnus J. Louis Fouts (BIE 90), the Fouts Family Faculty Fund is designed to enhance the ability of ISyE to attract and retain eminent teacher-scholars.
“Natashia has made significant contributions to ISyE and to the fields of integer linear programming and discrete optimization and their applications to address complex problems in government and industry,” said H. Milton and Carolyn J. Stewart School Chair Edwin Romeijn. “Her appointment to the Fouts Family Professorship is well-deserved, and through it, Natashia will be able to explore a new research direction – using optimization and operations research tools to improve human happiness.”
Boland’s contributions to her field have spanned theory, algorithms, modeling, and applications in mining, defense, renewable energy, airline planning, freight transport, port logistics, and water management.
She aided in the initial design of integer linear programming decision support tools for open-pit mine production scheduling and explored approaches that better incorporated blending of mineral products and uncertainty in the mine geology. She then went on to tackle supply chain logistics problems in coal export, developing decision support tools for integrated planning of maintenance in the rail/port stockyard system and for both strategic and tactical planning of the movement of material through the system.
More recently, Boland has turned her attention to projects that, in her words, “optimize happiness.”
“My goal is to seed a new direction for the field of optimization, and more broadly, for operations research (OR),” she said. “The Fouts Family Professorship will aid in the development of this aim. OR has historically addressed questions of efficiency and sought to optimize objectives such as maximizing profit or minimizing costs. More recently, OR for social good has emerged, leading to such objectives as minimizing environmental impact and maximizing social welfare.
“Although human happiness is impacted by all of these factors, to date, no major OR theme has emerged that seeks to directly optimize human happiness. Yet there are strong indications that such a direction is needed, and is timely,” Boland explained. “In many countries, including the U.S., depression and addiction are reaching epidemic proportions. Aging populations and their mental health also present increasing challenges to our society. To date, very little optimization or OR research has been included in these initiatives, which represent a great untapped potential for the field.”
Through the Fouts Family Professorship, Boland plans to develop relationships with leading psychology and behavioral science researchers and interested OR researchers, particularly including other ISyE faculty members.
Prior to joining ISyE, Boland held the position of professor of applied mathematics at the University of Newcastle, Australia from 2008 to 2014. After completing her Ph.D. at the University of Western Australia in 1992, she spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher at Canada’s University of Waterloo and Georgia Tech. She also spent 13 years with the University of Melbourne.
Boland’s research has been supported by UPS, NSF, ARC (Australian Research Council), the HVCCC (Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator) and BHP-Billiton.