What he does:
- Brendan Hogan is a Senior Simulation Modeling Engineer at The MITRE Corporation in McLean, Virginia. He works as an analyst in the Center for Advanced Aviation System Development (CAASD), a Federally Funded Research and Development Center of about 300 people doing research for the Federal Aviation Administration. Brendan has been at this position for two and a half years and has been working in the areas of air traffic flow management and analyzing the structure of the National Airspace System (NAS). Before joining MITRE he gained experience in traffic modeling through an independent project in graduate school and as a research assistant at the Virginia Transportation Research Council.
Math on the job:
- Brendan’s work focuses on the system-level impacts of changes in the NAS. It is often of interest to ask questions like: “If a runway at a major airport is closed, how are flights across the country affected and what is the best policy for dealing with the resulting drop in airport capacity?” The answer depends on a number of variables such as the weather, the size of the airport, and the number and type of flights scheduled to take place that day. Computer simulation is a powerful tool for investigating complicated problems such this one that cannot be solved analytically. For example, a simulation could be used to experiment with multiple strategies for thinning out flights to an airport to match demand with its capacity, and compare the amount of delay created in each case to find the best solution.
- In addition to these types of simulation studies, Brendan has had the chance to work two days a week doing quick-turnaround analyses at the Air Traffic Control System Command Center. “Working at the Command Center has been a great opportunity to interact with controllers and other FAA personnel responsible for the day-to-day NAS operations,” he explains. Probability and statistics are the most important areas of math for this work as Brendan and his coworkers are regularly asked to analyze data for the cause of specific flights’ delays or unusual routings, and its effect on other parts of the system.
- Brendan majored in mathematics and physics in college, receiving his B.S. degree in 2000 from St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. From there he went on to study operations research at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA and received his M.S. in computer science with a specialization in computational operations research in 2002. “The simulation courses I took for my operations research degree have been the most relevant for my work at MITRE, as well as a solid understanding of probability and statistics,” he says. “I have also applied some more traditional O.R. skills, such as designing an optimization heuristic to schedule flight times in a forecasted future timetable.” Besides math ability, Brendan stresses the importance of computer programming and written and oral communication skills in any applied math career. This particular position was attractive when he was job searching because of his interest in transportation efficiency questions, and the role of MITRE working in the public interest.
Advice for students:
- For interested students, Brendan would recommend speaking to professors about the job options they have come across, as well as being proactive searching for shadowing opportunities or internships as a way to see what is out there in the diverse world of math-related careers. “One of the most valuable things I did was a summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program in Industrial Mathematics,” Brendan says. “This gave me the chance to work on a project for a company sponsor like a career mathematician would, and more importantly gain exposure through field trips and fellow participants’ projects to interesting and challenging math in several industries.