Jiri Herrmann

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?
I am working as an undergraduate researcher under the guidance of Dr. Amelia Regan and her Logistics and Operations Research Group. This is a multidisciplinary group mixing Graduate students and Postdoctoral researchers with backgrounds in Mathematics, Economics, Engineering and Operations Research and Logistics. I am working on projects that fall in the Operations Research and Logistics area. This includes simulation modeling and algorithm development for Dynamic and Stochastic Fleet Management. I will also be working on the development of a simulation for a shipper/ carrier bidding and auctioning system designed to study bidding strategies for the use of individual trucking companies.
2. When and how did you first get involved in research?

I first started doing research with Dr. Pardoen at the structural engineering test hall three years ago. Towards the end of my freshmen year I had an appointment in the late afternoon with my academic counselor to go over my classes for the following year. Because I had some time to burn, I decided I take a look at the structural engineering test hall. Bob Kazanjy, the staff member in charge of the lab, gave me a generous tour of the lab. During the course of this tour we talked about the role undergraduates play in the construction and research. After talking for about an hour he offered me a job.

I worked and did research at the structural engineering test hall for about two and a half years. I stopped working at the lab this summer so that I could take the position with Dr. Regan and her team. Once I had started doing research I was hooked. I have enjoyed the challenging work and the excitement of seeing projects go from concept to reality.

3. How has research enhanced you education?

The research I have done has enhanced my education in two distinct ways. First, what I have learned working in the lab gave me a greater prospective of engineering. This has helped me to place the information and equations I am learning in my engineering classes in context. My research experience gives me a much clearer understanding of the applications for the math and skills I am learning in my courses.

The second way that research has enhanced my education is by challenging me. The Research I am doing with Dr. Regan has forced me to solve problems without clear solution paths and certainly without answers to check my work against. Dr. Regan has encouraged me to use my "intuition" to judge the accuracy of some of my work. When an answer does not seem to have an intuitive explanation then we must make hypotheses about what is happening in the system. This research has greatly improved my self-confidence about my intuition and thought processes.

4. What has been you favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?
Every week Dr Regan's research team meets to discuss the progress and difficulties encountered in each of the projects. This has certainly been a wonderful learning experience for me as I get to hear about each of the projects as they unfold. When I present the work I am doing, the rest of the team chimes in to give advice and criticism about what I have done and how I should proceed. When the other people are presenting their projects I participate in the discussions and am able to give my advice as well. Being an active member on this team is one of my favorite parts of the research.
5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?

My future plans lie in two directions. One direction would be to finish my BS degree and go onto a master's degree in either Computer Science or Operations Research and Logistics. At that point I would make a decision to continue on with my education to get a Ph.D. or to get a job and work in industry. The research I am doing will help me get the MS degree and help me with my Ph.D. work because of my experience that I will have with research. The other direction that my future may hold is to finish my BS and start working. I am confident that the work I have done will prepare me to solve many sorts of problems that I may be faced with.

6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?

If I were thinking about doing research for the first time, there are several things that I would do. First I would try to talk to all the faculty members doing research in areas that I was interested in. I think that this accomplishes several goals. This would present an opportunity to get to know the faculty I would be working with and their research. I would be able to discuss what I might contribute to the project. From my experience, professors at UCI love to discuss their research with undergraduates and are very impressed by students who want to get involved with their work.

All the research positions I've held have also have paid me like a regular job - an excellent benefit. Finally some of the other students I have worked with have not liked working in the labs I worked in. The good news is that most of them were able to find other labs and professors they did like working for. Research is a personal thing and therefore each person will need to find the opportunity that best fits him or her. Keep looking until you find it - research can and should be a lot of fun!

Past Researchers of the Month

Dec. '02 Ping Chen
Nov. '02 Sanjay Naran
Oct. '02 Alana Shilling
Sep. '02 Michael Vongphoe
Aug. '02 Ryan Wright
Jul. '02 Adrian Fernandez
Jun. '02 Allen Andres
May '02 Elizabeth Tsai
Apr. '02 David Bear
Mar. '02 Lorrel Brown
Feb. '02 Jiri Herrmann
Jan. '02 Kathi Hamor
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