Companion of OR

The Companionship of Operational Research is awarded for sustained support and encouragement for the development of operational research or for those in influential positions who are in broad sympathy with the subject area. Such contributions might be through public or private activities.

The deadline for receipt of submissions is 30 April 2023.

Citation for Companion of OR 2022

Dr Janet WIlliams

Janet Williams is nationally recognised for her sustained work and support in raising the profile, advancing the development and improving the learning and teaching of Operational Research (OR) across the UK.

Throughout her distinguished career spanning over 40 years, Janet has been instrumental in bridging the gap between academic theory and practice with an enthusiasm that can only be described as ‘infectious’. After retiring from Cardiff School of Mathematics as a Senior Lecturer in 2013, Janet took on the more arduous role as Treasurer of the OR Society. She remains extremely dedicated to increasing the reach of the Society, inspiring the next generation to take forward its aims and impressively still keeps in touch with hundreds of students she has previously inspired over the many years to assume their own careers in OR.

Janet launched her career in OR in 1979, working as a Research Assistant at Cardiff University on a contract secured with the Department of Transport. The content of this work concerned the queueing of vehicles at flared road junctions. This later formed the basis of her PhD thesis, which she completed in 1983 under the supervision of Professor Jeff Griffiths at Cardiff University. Upon graduation, Janet moved on to work as a Teaching Assistant at the School of Mathematics, before progressing to become a Lecturer, and later Senior Lecturer in OR in 2001.  With this position of added responsibility, she embarked on the challenge of organising and managing Professional Training placements for undergraduate mathematics students.  She made huge efforts to promote this scheme and her enthusiasm and tireless efforts were rewarded by an increase in the take-up of the option - numbers of students opting to take the placement increased from about a dozen to over forty.  As a consequence, employers throughout UK soon became aware that students could be supplied at undergraduate level (and also on graduation) who could make a significant impact in their organisation. In many cases, the firms had little previous exposure to OR but Janet's attention to a company's needs provided inroads which might otherwise have remained dormant.

Janet's enthusiasm for all aspects of OR has also showed itself in consultancy negotiations with a large number of organisations - again evidence of sustained encouragement for the development of OR. For example, the original contracts (circa 2000) Cardiff University secured with the University Hospital of Wales were the first applications of OR in that organisation.  Janet’s work with NHS Wales continued where she was instrumental in setting up the Modelling Unit within Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, the first of its kind, with embedded Operational Researchers having a direct impact on patient care. Modelling in NHS Wales has since grown from strength to strength.

Janet has also been instrumental in sustaining the introduction of OR in many other organisations - Lloyd's Bank, EY, PA Consultants, NHS, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, MoD, etc. to name just a few and she continues to nourish these relationships today.

Janet's biggest contribution to OR is however the enthusiasm she has passed on to thousands of students - many of which she still supports in their careers today, always being on hand for advice and support and always on the lookout for exciting opportunities and careers development that she can share. Despite her busy working schedule, she was well known as a reliable, constantly encouraging and trustworthy lecturer whose office door was always open to students who were welcomed in with a smile. She travelled alongside hundreds of students though their sometimes bumpy journeys through University and constantly encouraged them to reach their full potential with sound advice and a “can do” approach.

Janet’s commitment to the OR Society is second to none. In addition to assuming several committee roles over the years, she notably organised the Society's Annual Conference in Edinburgh in 2001 and also was the Scheduler for the Chester Conference in 2005. Janet never stops thinking about what is possible for students and then wants to always go beyond.

Most recently, Janet took on the significant role of Treasurer of the OR Society for six years from 2016 to 2021, bringing herself rapidly up to speed with the heavy demands of the role. She chaired the Board's Finance and Investment sub-committees through a period of increasing turnover and, for the last two years, hugely increased uncertainty resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring good governance, effective use of funds to meet the ORS's charitable and strategic objectives, and long-term financial sustainability. As an ORS Board member, she was the driving force behind the introduction of MSc scholarships, which have so far enabled around 10 students, who might otherwise have been unable to afford it, to undertake a Masters degree in OR or related subjects and work as future ambassadors for the Society.

In summary, Janet Williams has inspired, mentored and educated generations of successful OR academics and practitioners. The sustained support she offers to develop OR, the OR Society and the next generation of students is second to none. It is hard to imagine a more creditable candidate for Companionship of the OR Society.

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Janet Williams

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