Once again, Georgia Tech’s ISyE students have shown themselves to be exemplary. In this case, Matias Siebert Sandoval, an ISyE Ph.D. student earning his doctorate in operations research (2019), is part of a team selected as a finalist for the prestigious INFORMS Franz Edelman Award. The Edelman Award recognizes and rewards outstanding examples of operations research, management science, and advanced analytics in practice in the world.
As Siebert describes it, his team’s project uses optimization to schedule the Chilean Soccer Leagues, which has both a youth league and a professional league with three divisions, and the South American World Cup qualifying tournament.
This is an ongoing project of some years in duration, so many people have been part of the team. Siebert’s involvement began after he took a 2010 undergraduate course in modeling and optimization at the University of Chile, where he earned his undergraduate degree in industrial engineering and his master’s degree in operations management. Homework for this particular course involved scheduling a simpler tournament with fewer teams. Because Siebert did well and demonstrated interest in the problem, his professors, Rodrigo Wolf, Guillermo Durán, and Andrés Weintraub, invited him to join the project full-on. Siebert describes himself as “a huge soccer fan” and says that the project combined his love of soccer and his appreciation for OR.
Siebert explains how the scheduling process developed: “At first, we started working on an optimization model for scheduling the first-division tournament. Given the success of the first year’s scheduling processes, we then extended the project to the other divisions of the professional soccer league and to the youth soccer league. And finally, in 2015, we used our knowledge of the soccer scheduling process to propose the procedure for the South American World Cup qualifiers. The process of scheduling each of the Chilean soccer leagues is very similar.”
The project, which is primarily led by Professor Andrés Weintraub from the University of Chile and Professor Guillermo Durán, from the University of Chile and University of Buenos Aires, has provided many benefits – not only for the Chilean soccer teams themselves, which have seen increased ticket sales and cost reductions due to better travel schedules, but also for the Professional Chilean Soccer Association (ANFP) and for the TV broadcasters. In addition, Siebert says, the optimized scheduling has brought increased “transparency to the scheduling process, improvements to the tournament’s attractiveness [by making the match-ups more competitive and interesting], and fairness for the less dominant teams.”
When asked how it feels to be a finalist for the Edelman award, Siebert describes it as “a dream come true.” He elaborates, “It is the most important award in applied OR, so being a finalist – at this young age – is huge for my career. Additionally, because this is the third time that the OR group from my university in Chile has attained the finals for this award, it is very important for the group, but especially for my country. This shows that we have world-class researchers in this field of study.”
Siebert is proud to be a student at Georgia Tech as well, having selected it for its preeminence in operations research. His professors in Chile encouraged him to apply for admission based on the high-quality teaching and research being done at ISyE. He says, “Being here for just one semester has shown me that it was the right decision to choose the OR program in ISyE.”
Siebert and his team will travel to Orlando in April to present this project in the Edelman’s finalists gala at the INFORMS Business Analytics and Operations Research Conference. The winning team will be selected at this conference.