The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday June 10th

New Program Fuses Math, Decision-Making

The new Mathematical Decision Sciences program will teach students quantitative methods to making difficult choices involving calculus, probability, operations research, statistics and the accompanying sophisticated computer software.

While a similar degree has existed at UNC for more than two decades, the MDS program offers a new form of the discipline. The MDS program replaced the former mathematical sciences curriculum after the creation of an undergraduate computer science program.

Program Director Jon Tolle said the computer science and applied mathematics options of the original curriculum will be removed from the program due to replacements in the computer science and applied mathematics departments.

The program also will no longer offer individual tracks in actuarial science, operations research and statistics -- instead, students will now receive a collective MDS degree.

Beginning in fall 2001, the program will incorporate primarily sophomores and some juniors that will transfer from the previous curriculum. The departments of operations research and statistics will provide joint administration of the program, which is to remain in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Tolle said the program offers an alternative option to students interested in planning and policy-making applications of math and science rather than traditional theoretical and abstract forms. "It's one of the few programs in this part of the country for undergraduate majors," Tolle said.

He also emphasized the wide variety of options available to graduates of this program. He said past students have followed the degree with studies in business school, graduate work in operations research and statistics and direct entrance into the work force in professions such as actuarial science.

Anders Fjellstedt, a sophomore business major, said he hopes to complete a five-year option that the program offers to simultaneously gain a bachelor of science and masters degree.

Fjellstedt said he anticipates that his degree will prove advantageous as he prepares to enter the work force.

"I'd love to be involved in the automotive industry," Fjellstedt said.

"Making smart decisions with large industry is basically what this major is geared to helping you do."

Edward Carlstein, statistics professor and adviser in the program, further stressed the demand for the MDS program at UNC and in the surrounding work force. "There are students whose abilities and interests are in the decision sciences and there are people in the job market with the need for people with this sort of training," Carlstein said.

"It's really a niche that needs to be satisfied."

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