The Doctoral Award

The award, for the 'Most Distinguished Body of Research leading to the Award of a Doctorate in the field of OR', is an annual award, with the award being made at The OR Society’s Blackett Lecture in November.

The qualifying period is the calendar year in which the PhD or DPhil is defended or approved. For the full timetable, see the Guidelines tab. The thesis being submitted for consideration must have been examined at a UK University within the relevant time period.

With a prize fund of up to £2500 plus conference places available for the winner and runners-up, this represents an exciting development for PhD students. Initial nominations are normally from the external examiner who has identified the body of research as of exceptional quality.

The winner of the award wins a cash prize of £1500. Up to two runners-up each receive £500. The winner has their name engraved on the George Paterson shield as a permanent record of their achievement. The successful candidates are expected to present their work at the annual conference of The OR Society. A significant contribution towards to cost of the conference is available to all prize winners.

The deadline for receipt of submissions is 31 March. All submissions should be to Carol McLaughlin, The OR Society Research and Publications Officer [email protected].

The winner and runners-up for this award are announced in October.

The George Patterson Memorial Shield of The OR Society

The George Paterson Memorial Shield

2020 Doctoral Award Winners

The quality of the theses this year was very high, and they were all worthy. The panel made the decision that this year there would be joint winners.

Márton Benedek: Computing the Nucleolus of Cooperative Games

Márton Benedek’s thesis on cooperative game theory addresses the issue of how decision makers collaborate by forming coalitions and how the players within a coalition share the benefit in a fair and stable way. A key problem in this area is to compute the nucleolus, which is designed to minimize the dissatisfactions that coalitions could experience under the sharing scheme that is used. However, computing the nucleolus is notoriously difficult because of the large number of potential coalitions that could be formed.

The thesis contains the development of a novel algorithm for computing the nucleolus. It exploits the relationships between primal and dual representations of the problem. Computational tests show that it can handle problems involving over 30 players, whereas previously proposed algorithms are limited to 15 players. Open-source code for different algorithm implementations has been made available. A recent publication has applied the algorithms to model a European gas network with a view to using the nucleolus to assess the bargaining strengths of the different countries in the coalition. 

The external examiner commented that: “Márton produced a truly remarkable PhD thesis in Operational Research. 

It has all the features of a fine piece of work in this discipline”. Further comments are “the theoretical and algorithmical achievements are significant and influential to the field” and “the descent-based algorithm should be the current benchmark for computing the nucleolus of a general-structure cooperative game”.

Lucy Morgan: Quantifying and Reducing Input Modelling Error in Simulation

The focus of Lucy Morgan’s thesis is input modelling for simulation and quantifying its effects on the simulation output. There are three significant contributions:

  • a method for quantifying input uncertainty for simulation models having a piecewise-constant inhomogeneous Poisson arrival process.
  • an approach for quantifying bias caused by input modelling, which can occur in complex systems when simulation outputs are non-linear functions of its inputs.
  • a spline-based method for modelling and generating arrivals from an inhomogeneous Poisson process.

A paper describing the spline-based method was a Finalist for the Best Theoretical Paper Award at the 2019 Winter Simulation Conference.

In addition to the strong theoretical contributions provided within the thesis, the practical relevance of the bias quantification was demonstrated in a case study for an NHS call centre. Also, the spline-based method has been implemented as an R package, which is available for download. This will help with the future use of the method both in academia and by OR practitioners.

The external examiner commented that “the thesis is one of the best that I have ever read”. A further remark from the examiner mentions the “significant new methodology in simulation input analysis”, which will “help ensure that simulation analysts are able to report more accurately on the true level of uncertainty in their inputs”.

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