Converging Pathways of Operations Research, Data Science, and Sustainable Futures

Dr. Aineth Torres-Ruiz - O.R. and Data Science (PhD) M.S. Student Purdue University

Navigating the intricate web of business variables, ensuring the alignment of outcomes with KPIs, and championing sustainable, practical strategies are the hallmarks of an Operations Research Scientist. Dr. Aineth Torres-Ruiz, a data scientist at Fractal, delves into the nuances of her role, discusses the importance of sustainability, addresses the challenges and opportunities for women in STEM, and explores the expansive horizons of these domains.

The Life of an Operations Research and Data Scientist

At Fractal, Dr. Aineth Torres-Ruiz’s third consulting engagement, the focus is on enhancing human decision-making in businesses through advanced analytics. Their strategic approach spans across Finance, Supply Chain, and Behavioral Sciences, integrating data-driven insights to drive actionable outcomes. Dr. Torres-Ruiz emphasizes her involvement in specialized optimization tasks, complemented by roles in exploratory data analysis and data science. "Tools like Azure, Python, SQL, and Pyspark are foundational in this industry. To truly harness the power of optimization, it’s imperative to grasp the fundamentals of these technologies," she says. Her prowess in these areas is evident in projects enhancing product supply, streamlining inventory and truck management, and optimizing staff scheduling processes.

Inquiring about the essence of operations research, Dr. Torres-Ruiz highlighted its multifaceted nature. It encompasses techniques, methodologies, and decision-centric projects, underpinned by quantitative methods. Mathematical programming tools, like Gurobi and CPlex, play a pivotal role, as do systems such as queuing, inventory management, and simulations. These components synergistically contribute to enhancing a business’s operational efficiency.

Dr. Torres-Ruiz also expressed concerns about many companies’ inability to fully capitalize on these advanced technologies. "Some firms either lack the infrastructure or have an untrained workforce, missing out on tools like Arena, Semio, or Anylogic," she notes. However, the solution may lie in online platforms like Udemy and Coursera, which offer accessible training. Despite the diversity of tools, the core principles remain consistent and rooted in optimization.

“A dual expertise in mathematics and coding paves the way for addressing business challenges quantitatively.”

Figure 6: The key points in Operations Research. Data source

Embracing Sustainability: Preparing For The Days Ahead

The importance of sustainability for Dr. Aineth lies primarily in two regions.

1) Personal reasons: In her experience, she has seen the effect that sustainability has on her personal life. By extrapolating these ideas within any company, she believes that she can replicate traits that will allow the well-oiled machine of a corporation to function toward a greener world.

2) Professional reasons: The government can impose regulations that the companies have to comply with. This involves developing decision frameworks to identify criteria for sustainable production systems while keeping in mind costs and the qualities of products and services. Her role as a professional comes into play when she is called to solve these issues.

Having worked with several companies in procurement, identification of criteria, and handling demand and supply, she still finds the incorporation of sustainability a mammoth task. With large amounts of data accessible at Fractal, she tries identifying metrics that can be tweaked to provide a rippling effect in the direction of a positive environmental change. However, the challenges lie in the complexity of such tasks and the general workforce’s lack of experience in related fields. Understanding engineering, carbon measurement, and how processes have effects on the environment will allow these corporations to make a tangible difference in changing the world.

Pioneering Women in Operations Research and Management Sciences

The ongoing challenges faced by women in the workforce, particularly in STEM fields, are critical yet unresolved issues. Dr. Aineth sheds light on traditional biases and the hurdles women encounter when asserting themselves compared to men. There’s a notable decline in women staying in STEM fields and a lack of representation in managerial roles.

Women often seek a balance between personal and professional responsibilities, but the work environment doesn’t always support this. For instance, some companies overlook the skills of women, especially those with parental responsibilities, preferring men for similar roles.

Women in OR/MS is an organization addressing these disparities by organizing activities like webinars, mentorship sessions, and scholarship programs. They also hold events at the INFORMS business analytics conference to foster awareness and productive discussions.

A noteworthy initiative is the Scholarship Family Care Award (INFORMS, 2023), which helps cover costs for working women and caregivers wishing to attend the INFORMS annual conference.

Recent data reveals that women comprise 35% of the STEM workforce, despite earning about half of the science and engineering bachelor’s degrees (Foundation, 2023). The representation is even lower in sub-fields like engineering, with women making up only 15% of the workforce (DeVille, 2023).

Leadership plays a crucial role in addressing these imbalances, with a call to empower women into STEM leadership roles, inspire change agents, and prioritize mentorship and support within workplaces (Pappas, 2022). These steps are essential for fostering an inclusive and supportive work environment, which is vital for collective advancement in STEM fields.

Gazing into Tomorrow: Predictions and Possibilities

In real-world work settings, challenges often arise without clear solutions, and addressing these can take companies a long time. This highlights the importance of problem-solving skills, which come into play daily both personally and professionally. Each problem resolved enhances the ability to tackle future issues more effectively.

Drawing from her experience, Dr. Aineth advises those interested in operations research and data science to actively

engage in real-world projects. Her freelancing journey exposed her to a wide range of problems—an experience she finds may be limited in larger, more structured corporations. She encourages building a portfolio on platforms like GitHub, personal websites, or Google Drive to showcase practical experience, as it often speaks louder than just credentials on a resume.

Roles in optimization and analytics require skills in cloud technologies, data handling, solution creation, and deep learning. Demonstrating proficiency in these areas, during interviews or discussions, can significantly bolster one’s position in this field. Dr. Aineth mentions the vast potential this field holds for companies, a potential that remains largely untapped.

She further notes that as we interact more with complex systems, the limitations of solely relying on Artificial Intelligence (AI) become evident. Despite AI’s ability to process vast amounts of data, its limitations highlight the growing importance of Operations Research (OR) for optimization and simulation tasks. Collaborating with experienced companies or investing in training for skilled professionals are suggested ways to harness the full potential of OR, aiding advanced problem-solving and decision-making.



DeVille, K., 2023. Stem education statistics. URL: 20women%20have%2048,Men%20in%20the%20Same%20Field.

Foundation, N.S., 2023. Diversity trends in the stem workforce. URL:

INFORMS, 2023. Scholarship family care award. URL:,October%2015%2D18%2C%202023.

Pappas, B., 2022. Three actions leaders can take to address the urgent need for gender equity in stem. URL:


Acknowledgments: We would like to thank Amir Moadab for taking the time to review this article. Photo credit to Javier Allegue Barros for the header and Gerald Altman for the footer photos