Last week was crazy busy: lots of assignments, a couple midterms, and helping out with ExploreSC. The promise of spring break this week was a consolation that also made the days go by extremely slowly. All things considered, it turned out to be a really good week!
My midterms last week were in both of my ISE classes: Probability Concepts in Engineering and Operations Research (Deterministic Models), so I thought it’d be a good idea to talk about what these classes consist of, and some info on what I’ve done and didn’t do that might help out if you take these courses in the future!
These classes are around 1.5 hours each, and they happen twice a week: on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I really like these courses because the class sizes are small. My professors know everyone’s name and are accessible in office hours weekly. I usually have questions about homework or a concept from lecture, so I will either stop by during scheduled office hours or email the professor and make an appointment to meet with them. Office hours save me a ton of time and really help me understand any concepts I may have missed during lecture.
The probability class is ISE 220 taught by Professor Ali Abbas. There are about 30 students in the class, and although it deals with probability concepts, I enjoy it a lot because it’s basically a decision-making class, that has a ton of real-world applications, such as predicting the weather, sports strategies, insurance options, or casino games such as craps. Professor Abbas is also the Director of the USC Center for Interdisciplinary Decisions and Ethics (DECIDE), and previously directed the USC Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE). This means there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in these programs once you take the class. On top of it all, Professor Abbas is someone who values his students learning above all and will give you plenty of opportunities to get a good grade if you’re willing to put in the work.
Operations Research is taught by Professor Phebe Vayanos. This is by far the most interactive class I have taken at USC. With only 15 students, Professor Vayanos makes sure that students are actively involved in the lecture (which is really more of a Lecture/discussion). She will call you out by name and ensure that you understand the concept before moving on. This can be tedious in a bigger classroom setting, but with our class size, it’s perfect. The content of the class has to do a lot with what you learn in Linear Algebra: using systems of linear equations and matrices to optimize systems. Currently, we’re starting a group project that consists of identifying an optimization problem on campus and automating that system so as to eliminate potential human error and improve efficiency. A sample project can be coordinating the ISE Department PhD open house, where the objective is to try to get as many students and professors to meet in a given amount of time given constraints. Our group is going to pick our own project to tackle on campus, and I’ll be sure to post about it later this month.
If you have any other questions about ISE classes in particular or any other classes at USC, be sure to reach out and I’d be happy to answer any questions!