History of Operations Research at NC State

Operations Research activities have existed at NC State since 1963, first in the form of a couple of courses (an Introductory course and a course on Linear Programming), then as a “minor” field of graduate study with a few more courses (in Nonlinear Programming, Dynamic Programming, Econometrics, and Special Topics). These activities were spearheaded by the Statistics and Electrical Engineering departments, with support from Economics and Industrial Engineering. Between 1963 and 1970, graduate theses that may legitimately be labeled “OR” were written under the auspices of the sponsoring department, notably Statistics (for Ph.D. dissertations) and Electrical Engineering and Industrial Engineering (for the MSc theses).

The Program as we know it came “officially” into being on January 16, 1970, by a decree of the (now defunct) N.C. Board of Higher Education. That decree established two sister programs: one here at NCSU and the other at UNC at Chapel Hill and authorized both to grant the master’s and doctorate’s degrees in OR. Since that date, OR has stood as a separate degree-granting graduate program, admitting its students, establishing its academic requirements, and awarding its degrees under the auspices of the Graduate School.

Salah Elmaghraby

Salah Elmaghraby was the founding director of the OR program at NC State. Elmaghraby was a force – exceptionally well known in the field. He stepped down as director after 20 years. Shu-Cherng Fang then took over the program in 1990 and handed over the program to W.J. (Bill) Stewart of Computer Science in 1995. In 2000, Fang was asked by the COE, PAMS, and Graduate School deans to assume interim directorship to create a co-directorship with one co-director from COE and one from PAMS (now COS). Elmor L. Peterson of Mathematics and Xiuli Chao of Industrial Engineering were appointed as the first co-directors in 2001. In 2003, Yahya Fathi of Industrial Engineering and Ralph Smith of Mathematics became co-directors, followed in 2004 by Hien Tran of Mathematics. Negash Medhin of Mathematics was co-director from 2005 to 2017. From Industrial Engineering, Thom Hodgson and Michael Kay were co-directors from 2010 to 2013 and 2013 to 2017, respectively. Starting in 2017, the program reverted to a single directorship, with Michael Kay acting as interim director.