May Hicks Award

The OR Society funds its annual awards for student projects from a generous bequest from the estate of Mrs May Hicks, wife of Donald Hicks OBE, a major contributor to operational research and the first treasurer of The OR Society. Projects entered are OR projects carried out for a client organisation rather than within the university.

Citation for the May Hicks Awards 2019

The OR Society is delighted to announce the winners of the 2019 May Hicks prize for Best Post-graduate Project. The winner, Caitlan Purbrick from University of Southampton, received £1000. The runners up were Emma McCarthy (Cardiff University), Natasha Page (Imperial College London) and Sara Kilmesova (University of Warwick), each of whom received £250 each.


Caitlan Purbrick (University of Southampton) 

An Application of Optimisation to Aircraft Deployment at Virgin Atlantic Airways

The OR Society is delighted to award the May Hicks Prize to Caitlan Purbrick. This is given, in the view of the Awards Panel, for the best university nominated UK MSc project in OR. Caitlin’s solution incorporated a complex range of operational and practical constraints to ensure the most profitable deployment of Virgin’s aircraft fleet. The problem required resolution of many aspects not contained within existing literature and could realise considerable benefits for the client. Each year the panel are amazed by the complexity of the challenges presented to our MSc students and the quality of work that this brings forth in response. The future of OR cannot be in doubt. Well done indeed.


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Emma McCarthy (Cardiff University)
Forecasting the cost of bodily injury claims using household data: an application of XGBoost machine learning algorithms

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Emma McCarthy developed a model to predict how socio-economic and demographic data affected the number and incurred cost of bodily injury claims in road traffic accidents. The excellent research that was carried out creates a new way for the company to price their premiums, introducing alternative rating factors to predict risk. Overall, the model created valuable insights into how rating factors change how a premium is priced and how the risk obtained from analysing rating factors can significantly alter the frequency and incurred cost of a claim.

Natasha Page (Imperial College London)
Vehicle optimisation in Royal Mail delivery offices: summary of the project and its effects on Royal Mail

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Tasha Page is a worthy runner up this year. Her project was extremely challenging, demonstrating a relatively mature optimisation approach in a professional manner to provide a potentially extremely valuable and robust solution for Royal Mail. Practical optimisation solutions to scheduling problems are always challenging due to the huge decision space and constraints faced in most real-world problems. She handled the balance between technicalities and business realities in an excellent manner remarked upon by the customer. The fact that difficulties arose in the project and were overcome within the timescales does warrant further merit.

Sara Kilmesova (University of Warwick)
Markdown optimisation: a flexible and generalisable model for online retail

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The quality of work seen this year was extremely high and picking winners is a challenge in itself. So The OR Society is delighted to present a runner-up prize for the May Hicks Prize to Sara Kilmesova for her MSc project, which addresses the problem of price optimisation in on-line retail. Her work was highly commended by her examiners and will be deployed in a new product for her client. It reflects both the extremely high level of academic achievement as well as the practical process of building and running new working OR models. As for all our winners, we see that OR goes from strength to strength. Congratulations.

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