The SFU Science Undergraduate Blog

Optimization in the real world

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By Cherlene Chang

     Cherlene_Pic1How does classroom learning translate to real-life applications? Well, the STEM Spotlight Awards offered my team (Cherlene Chang, BSc Kinesiology Major; Matthew Reyers, BSc Operations Research – Mathematics Major) the opportunity to pose a solution to a real-world question from Peace River Hydros Partners. Our challenge was to optimize the existing charter flight system in terms of minimizing cost and commute times of workers, which provides service to six flight hubs in Western Canada including Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Kelowna, Kamloops, and Prince George.

Fundamental to the formation of this team was the ideology of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and Simon Fraser University. This vision is to engage students, research, and the community across an interdisciplinary setting to realize our vibrant potential. Through drawing knowledge from previous experiences and forming synergistic collaborations, we delved deeper to facilitate a more positive experience for skilled trade workers. Reyers’ internship in the Enterprise Intelligence sector of Vancity, along with his advanced Operations Research coursework, provided his expertise in mathematical modeling where he designed an algorithm to optimize the charter flight system. My former research experience with the Injury Prevention and Mobility Laboratory offered me with insight regarding data visualization using a geographical information systems approach, while AGEWELL’s Innovation Workshop, Transdisciplinary Approach to “Thinking Commercially” , equipped me with the knowledge to design a business canvas model for the project. In addition, thanks to Burnaby Mountain Toastmasters, both of us possessed an excellent strategic communications skillset, which served as an asset as we fostered mutually beneficial relationships with community partners. With the fine balance of mathematical rigor and innovation, a professional partnership was formed.

As an independent project bridging the gap between academia and engagement with industry partners, this was truly a rewarding experience. Our proposed solution minimizes the cost and commute times of workers. This solution involves the simplex method based on linear algebra and the flight map based on geographical information systems.


Cherlene_Pic2Cherlene Chang is an NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award recipient in the Molecular Cardiac Physiology Group investigating the effects of acidosis on cardiac arrhythmia. She is skilled in computer programming, a leader in student organizations and transdisciplinary projects, and is committed to lifelong learning. She aims to pursue a career in bioinformatics and clinical research.

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