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Wayne State University professor receives INFORMS® President’s Award; Pioneering work helps high school students embrace math skills in daily life; advises government officials with financial constraints

December 22, 2011

DETROIT — The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®) has awarded Kenneth R. Chelst, Ph.D., professor of industrial and systems engineering in the College of Engineering at Wayne State University and resident of Southfield, Mich., the INFORMS® President’s Award. This annual award is made for contributions that benefit the welfare of society.

Chelst was selected for his pioneering work in developing a unique educational curriculum that introduces young Americans to operations research, and for his public safety policy and operational analysis that has guided city leaders and police, firefighter and emergency service executives through challenges they face in towns and cities across the United States.

Chelst is one of a handful of operations researchers who has realized that the study of applied mathematics should be made widely accessible and enjoyable for high school students interested in exploring less theoretical aspects of math that apply to their everyday lives. Over the course of more than 15 years, he has collaborated with colleagues to write individual lesson plans and entire courses that have intrigued high school teachers and students alike with mathematical methods unique to operations research.

“Through Dr. Chelst’s efforts, students with a very basic background in high school algebra are encouraged to imagine themselves using mathematics to make decisions the way business executives and city officials would,” said Farshad Fotouhi, dean of the College of Engineering at Wayne State University. “He has provided them with analytic skills to plan the operation of a workplace, handle finances, choose a college and make better decisions in every aspect of their lives.”

Chelst and his collaborators in North Carolina and Michigan have received $3 million in funding from the National Science Foundation for Mathematics Instruction using Decision Science and Engineering Tools (MINDSET), a new, innovative program that introduces applied math and operations research to high school mathematics departments around the country. MINDSET is designed to improve high school students' aptitude and attitudes toward math using the decision-making tools of industrial engineering and operations research to enhance students' multistep math problem-solving skills. MINDSET aims to increase student success in transitioning into college math and engineering classes or entry-level employment. It also aims to make math more appealing to women and minorities.

“Fifteen high schools in Michigan will be teaching the MINDSET curriculum to more than 600 students during the course of this academic year,” said Chelst. “Seven of those schools are in Southeast Michigan, including the Academy of Public Learning in Detroit. Other clusters are in the Kalamazoo and Lansing areas, and South Lake High School in St. Clair Shores is the pioneer of the program having offered a full curriculum since 2010. In addition, the Frankel Jewish Academy has made the program a cornerstone of its new entrepreneurship program for high school students.”

“Dr. Chelst’s research addresses a critical area of educational preparedness that is lacking in many of our nation’s children today,” said Hilary Ratner, Ph.D., vice president for research at Wayne State University. “He has worked tirelessly to help teenagers develop an interest in applied mathematics, and to provide police, fire and emergency services with critical tools to help them with the difficult challenges they face in these tough economic times. He is a leader in his field and provides another example of the high impact research Wayne State University faculty are engaged in.”

In addition to developing student programs, Chelst has used operations research for the past 35 years to analyze the way that governments can better and more cost effectively handle emergencies. By examining ways to shorten response times, deploy forces, sharpen budgets and combine services, he has taught government officials how to do more with less, particularly during the financial crises that many areas face today.

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About Wayne State University
Wayne State University is one of the nation’s preeminent public research institutions in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit http://www.research.wayne.edu.

About INFORMS
INFORMS® is an international scientific society with 10,000 members, including Nobel Prize laureates, dedicated to applying scientific methods to help improve decision making, management and operations. Members of INFORMS® work in business, government and academia. They are represented in fields as diverse as airlines, health care, law enforcement, the military, financial engineering and telecommunications. INFORMS® serves the scientific and professional needs of operations research analysts, experts in analytics, consultants, scientists, students, educators and managers, as well as their institutions, by publishing a variety of journals that describe the latest research in operations research, organizing academic and professional conferences, and providing a range of other services.