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April 23, 1999
Trustees Vote to Split Civil Engineering and Operations Research
PRINCETON, N.J. -- The Board of Trustees voted April 9 to form two departments to replace the current Department of Civil Engineering and Operations Research. One will be called Civil and Environmental Engineering; the other will be Operations Research and Financial Engineering.
Operations research is a discipline that uses the mathematical techniques of engineering to solve problems in business and industry. The independent designation should make the program more attractive to graduate and undergraduate students and allow it to recruit more specialized faculty, according to Erhan Cinlar, chair of the current department.
Civil Engineering also will have greater opportunity to pursue its own interests. Its new title emphasizes its increasing interest in environmental issues.
The new department is the first of its kind to have "financial engineering" as part of its title, Cinlar said. The field of operations research traditionally focuses on using mathematical tools to solve complex problems in industry, such as scheduling a production line. The Princeton program takes special interest in the problems of financial and insurance industries. It uses probability theory, statistics, and optimization theory to assess the risk involved in various activities and to create financial instruments to deal with them.
The faculty and students alike are happy with the re-organization, according to Erhan Cinlar. The current department lacked cohesion because the different groups in it had disjoint interests, published in different journals, and attended different conferences.
"We were really like two college roommates with different majors," Cinlar said. "Eventually you begin to see opportunities for yourselves in different towns and move on."