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CAM Featured Alumnus: Robert J. Vanderbei

Class of 1979 (Advisor: Eugene B. Dynkin)
Professor, Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering, Princeton University


  • Fellow of the American Mathematical Society (AMS)
  • Fellow of the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM)
  • Fellow of the Institue for Operations Research and Management Science (INFORMS)

I was a Ph.D. student in CAM from 1976 to 1981. Let me say right from the start that those were some of the best years of my life. I loved being a student in CAM and I loved living in Ithaca.

Eugene Dynkin was a fabulous thesis advisor. He met with his students regularly, suggested cool problems to work on, and taught us a little bit about picking wild mushrooms. Early on, he challenged me to solve what I later learned is called the "secretary problem". He didn't tell me that there was a literature on this subject. He just described the problem. A few months later I figured out the solution to the problem. I showed it to Professor Dynkin (that's how I addressed him back then) and he was very pleased that I was able to solve it. He then suggested an unsolved extension to the original problem. Another few months later, I figured out the solution to that problem and it became my first published paper.

From probability, to analysis, to operations research, to fellow students with similar interests, to faculty who are approachable and eager to help, to Frisbee, to gliding, to skiing, Cornell has it all.

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