Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Thrill of Discovery

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Thrill of Discovery

Article excerpt


Shona Morgan

Title: Assistant Professor, Operations Management, School of Business and Economics, North Carolina A&T State University

Education: Ph.D., Operations Research, North Carolina State University; M.S., Industrial Engineering/ Operations Research, North Carolina State University; B.A., Mathematics, Spelman College

Age: 32

Dr. Shona Morgan says it gets lonesome being the only Black woman at most of the national conferences she attends. "I do stick it out," she says, "but there needs to be a greater effort to recruit and retain minority women in the field." Operations research, or OR, is an interdisciplinary field involving elements of engineering, math, computer science and business, Morgan explains. The goal of OR professionals is to create analytical methods and tools that aid in decision-making. She says her undergraduate experiences at Spelman College gave her the foundation to excel. The college was exceptionally supportive and helped her transform her lifelong talent for mathematics into a satisfying career.

"I have always had a strong affinity for numbers," Morgan says. "For me it's all about the thrill of discovery, the sense of accomplishment. Solving math problems can give me the same kind of thrill as when one finds that one missing sock in the dryer."

As an Andrew Mellon scholar at Spelman, Morgan worked with a faculty member whose background was in operations research. That experience sparked an interest in the field for the young scholar.

"It is the perfect marriage--math skills and something applied," Morgan says about operations research. "I wanted to see how math could be used in the real world."

OR problems, Morgan explains, are the classical "traveling salesperson" problem, or the "mail person" problem.

"What is the best way for the salesperson to make sales calls or the mail person to deliver the mail and then return to their original locations?" she asks. OR attempts to create mathematical models and algorithms that take into consideration all the constraints and stipulations for each situation in a problem.

According to Morgan, the field was originally developed to address military logistical issues such as effective troop deployment and efficient supply lines. …

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