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Neil Martin MSc Operational Research

Head of Operations Research at Ferrari Formula One

Neil Martin's Photo

Hi, I'm Neil Martin and I studied MSc Operational Research within Mathematical Sciences at the University of Southampton.

I was very comfortable with Southampton having undertaken my undergraduate degree there and the reputation for Operational Research at Southampton was again excellent. The course covered a variety of topics and benefited from good industrial links, making the studies relevant.

Neil Martin an alumni from our Masters Course in Operational Research was appointed by the Ferrari Formula One racing team as a key player in their 2011 season plan. He and his team will be supporting the drivers by analysing all the data from the cars and feeding the results to Ferrari's chief strategist Pat Fry.

Q: Please summarise your early studies, where did you take your first degree and why?

I've always had a flair for mathematics and the sciences. Ever since I was about seven and my parents bought me a computer, I have been fascinated by numbers and their use.

I studied A Levels (Pure Maths, Applied Maths, Computer Science and Physics) at the Mid-Cornwall College for Further Education.

My first degree was in Mathematics with Computer Science as I'd really enjoyed the Computer Science A level. At the time of choosing my degree, not all Universities offered this as a subject but the University of Southampton had one of the best reputations in the field and was therefore a natural choice for me.

Q: Why did you choose to take MSc in Operational Research? Did you know much about the subject beforehand? Why Southampton?

I had become aware of OR through my undergraduate Mathematics courses; the decision to read OR meant that I could build on this earlier learning and apply it to real world problems. I felt that the combination of this and an ability to write solid applications through my undergraduate Computer Science courses, would give me useful toolset to take into the workplace.

I was very comfortable with Southampton having undertaken my undergraduate degree there and the reputation for OR at Southampton was, again, excellent. The course covered a variety of topics and benefited from good industrial links, making the studies relevant.

Q: After graduating, what was your first job?

I continued an informal relationship with McLaren alongside my first proper job, for the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Health Authority, which was also project based. I was a member of the team which developed a formula that recommended the allocation of 25 per cent of the total funds for the NHS non-acute services for 1997.

Q: How did you get to work in Formula One? How did you get the job at Ferrari?

The success of my MSc project led to McLaren inviting me to join them full time after I had finished the NHS study. After 10 years at McLaren, forming and growing an Operational Research Group, I was excited by an opportunity to work for a newly formed independent team with high aspirations and signed for Red Bull Racing in 2006.

At the beginning of 2011, I accepted a new challenge at Scuderia Ferrari, to lead the newly created Operations Research department. The lure of working for the most historic and successful of all Formula 1 Teams, experiencing a new culture and learning a new language made it a very easy decision for me.

Q: How do you use OR in your job?

Formula 1 is a true meritocracy: whoever does the best job usually wins! The science of Operational Research fits well in this system. At a high-level, OR allows us to understand the systems and processes at play and to identify and assess the risks involved in the decisions we make, be they on Race Day or within the organisation or business.

Q: Would you recommend studying OR at Southampton to others?

Southampton was very good to me during the four years that I was there. I still keep in contact with my lecturers from both OR and Computer Science. Since graduating, I've also been fortunate enough to undertake projects with Southampton University, and have even employed two graduates from the very OR MSc that I took myself!

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