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Business problems solved through Maths expertise

Published: 11 April 2005

Five postgraduate students from the University of Southampton who used their mathematical skills to solve analytical problems in companies and organizations across the South have been honoured for their achievements.

The MSc Operational Research and Management Sciences students embarked on three-month placements as part of their course in the Schools of Mathematics and Management.

Winners were chosen by University course directors and received their awards at a special lunch at the nearby Chilworth Manor Hotel. Prizes were donated by the airline bmi and Dstl, the Defence Scientific and Technology Laboratory.

The winning postgraduates were:

Dan Stubbins: An investigation into pedestrian evacuation from buildings

"I drew up a mathematical model into the factors around the successful evacuation of people from buildings in emergencies. Variables included the effects of fire, smoke and building work on the procedures, also the day or the week and time of the day. But, of course, people behave in very unpredictable ways during emergencies and we had to build that in as well."

Fiona Bolton: Maximising the effectiveness of ticket kiosks at the South Bank Centre

"I was asked to look at how automated ticket machines work in practice at the Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall. The project involved a computer model using data on ticket collection and a survey of customers on their opinions. The Centre was very open to how analytical skills could help their business."

Honora Smith: Incorporating market information within optimal one-way pricing for the airline industry for the low cost airline bmi

"Using mathematical techniques, I explored ways of developing links between an airline's current fare, the competitor's fare and the revenue obtained for pricing decisions by bmi. The airline said it would take my ideas further."

Grit Straube: Simulation modelling of intake services for the care of older people

"I was very impressed at how open Hampshire Social Services was to using mathematical ideas to solve problems with administrative issues around providing care for older people. They said the simulations of how the service to provide assessment and care operates in practice, helped them make better, evidence based decisions."

The fifth award-winner, Tom Powell, who was not able to be at the ceremony, completed a project to analyse Heartland Store Performance with the fashion chain New Look. It examined the factors that contributed to differing profitability across store sizes.

Neil Stansfield, who presented the prizes on behalf of Dstl, commented: "All the student prizewinners were clearly enthusiastic for the work that they had conducted, and came across as a very good advertisement for the quality of their course."

Dr Ian Rowley, the University's Industrial Liaison Manager said: "These projects show how powerful the application of Operational Research and Management Science techniques can be in helping dig under the skin of important business problems. The Southampton MSc training is second to none and attracts some of the best students from around the world. We are especially proud of our strong links with business in the region; the summer projects are not only of great value to the students but also benefit the local economy and public services."

He is already looking for companies which would like to offer future placements for students. Projects can look for ways of increasing efficiency, reducing costs, developing strategy, managing demand or improving standards of service. In return the University requests a contribution from the hosts to support students during the placement.

Notes for editors

The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University has around 20,000 students and nearly 5,000 staff. Its annual turnover is in the region of £270 million.

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