Ahead of his presentation at AMSI Optimise 2019, Professor Epstein from Universidad de Chile shares where his passion for operations research has taken him and the real-world applications of his work.
Can you tell us about your work? What drives your interest in this field?
I have been working for more than 20 years in industries like forestry and mining, developing systems to optimise decisions at different levels. I have been highly motivated in doing cutting edge research while at the same time applying in the real world the techniques and methodologies that the Operations Research discipline provide us. My interests in forestry and mining come from the relevance of these two industries for Chile, which has granted me the opportunity to interact and work closely with world class companies.
What are the most interesting “big questions” or challenges facing researchers in your area?
From a disciplinary point of view, artificial intelligence and big data combined with real time decisions making have allowed us to move the limits of our capabilities. And although there are many, in my opinion the “big question” is what we can do to make sustainable economic activities related to natural resources.
What are some key industry applications of your work?
We have developed long term planning system for mining, which have been used by CODELCO, the biggest copper mine company in the world, for more than fifteen years. In forestry, we have developed a truck dispatching system used by Chilean and Latin-American companies for over 30 years. Also, in forestry we have developed a system based on GIS data that optimises road building and harvesting simultaneously, which is currently widely used.
What do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
I think my biggest achievement has been working in the area of science research and industrial application to improve the products and services for a better life of the population. I have been very consistent to create and transfer applied science to real world.
Why did you become a mathematician/statistician?
I have enjoyed mathematics and engineering since I was a kid. When I took my first Operations Research course I realised the potential of OR to do both: theoretical research as well as applied work. This combination peaked my interest and I am still very happy to have made the decision to work in this field.
Do you have any advice for future researchers?
Two things – first, work in a field where you are highly motivated, and second, work in teams with people you admire and respect.
Professor Epstein is an Industrial Engineer from Universidad de Chile, with a PhD in Operations Research awarded by MIT. His work has had an important impact in the improvement of the planning and the operations in the forest and the mining industries, as well as in important public tenders. He has published his work in the best journals in the area as well as in specialised books, for which he has received multiple awards and recognitions, such as the Franz Edelman Prize in 1998 given by the Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences (INFORMS) for his work in the forest industry, the OR for Development Prize in 2002 given by the International Federation of Operation Research Societies (IFORS) for his work in large-sized tender mechanisms, the ENRE Prize for the best natural resources paper in both mining and forestry, the Chilean Innovator of the Year in 2008, and the Best Work in Engineering Prize in 2011 given by the School of Engineering of Chile for his work in logistics optimisation for the shipping industry. In addition, he has taught and formed many academics and professionals in the field of Engineering.
Rafael will present on ‘Optimising Mine Planning and Operations‘ at AMSI Optimise 2019, which will be held at the Hyatt Regency Perth from 17-21 June