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The University of Southampton
CORMSIS Centre for Operational Research, Management Sciences and Information Systems

Lifeboat travel efficiency dissertation wins award

Published: 13 November 2015Origin: Mathematical Sciences
Operational Research award winner

A dissertation exploring how to make maintenance more efficient by minimising travel to different lifeboat stations has won a prestigious award.

Rachel Purkess, University of Southampton graduate of 2015 in MSc Operational Research, has been announced as runner up for the national May Hicks Award. The national competition, run by the UK Operational Research Society, is for the best MSc dissertation in Operational Research by a student studying at a UK university. Approximately 300 students across the UK are eligible to qualify for the award.

Supervised by Professor Chris Potts, an expert in combinatorial optimization who teaches optimization modules within Mathematical Sciences, Rachel’s dissertation was sponsored by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

During her project, Rachel travelled to the Dorset coast to talk to RNLI technicians and also spent time at the RNLI headquarters in Poole. She said: “I used data from the West region (Wales) in my algorithm to compare scenarios to quantify the benefits of basing technicians in three different locations, rather than a single location (St Asaph in Pembrokeshire). In particular, the first scenario showed a 49% reduction in travel time and 78% reduction in overnight stays. The tool can be easily adapted for use in different divisions so that similar scenario comparisons can be conducted across the country.”

Since graduating, Rachel has been working as a graduate consultant to analyse work for defence customers. Rachel adds, “I really enjoyed the dissertation project over the summer, because it gave me the opportunity to work in a company environment and apply the skills I had learned to a real problem. The course taught me the basis of a wide range of operational research techniques, which helps me in my job day to day. Particularly, some of the software and coding skills that I learnt on my course are really useful, as well as the writing skills.”



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