In the Tepper MBA program, we use versions of Excel’s Solver (actually a souped up version from Frontline Systems) for most of our basic optimization courses. Students like this since they feel comfortable with the Excel interface and they know that they can use something like this in their summer internships and first jobs, albeit they are likely to the more crippled version standard with Excel. For those who are particularly keen, we point them to an open source optimization system that can allow them to stay within the Excel structure.
In our most advanced course, we use AIMMS with Gurobi as the underlying solver. Students generally love the power of the system, but worry that they will not be able to translate what they learn into their jobs. This wouldn’t be an issue if companies had analytics and optimization as a core strength, and routinely had some of the commercial software, but that is not the case. So the issue of transfer comes up often.
I am really happy to see that Gurobi has a deal in place to allow students to continue using their software, even after they graduate. This gives new graduates some time to wow their new employers with their skills, and to make the argument for further investment in operations research capabilities.
Here is an excerpt from an email I received from Gurobi:
Academic Site License
Our FREE academic site license allows students, faculty, and staff at a degree-granting academic institution to use Gurobi from any machine on a university local-area network. This program makes it easy for everyone at the university to have access to the latest version of Gurobi, without having to obtain their own license. You can learn more on our Academic Licensing page, and your network administrator can request a license by emailing email@example.com.
Take Gurobi With You Program Update
This program allows qualified recent graduates to obtain a FREE one-year license of Gurobi for use at their new employer.
Qualified recent graduates can complete a short approval process and then receive the license including maintenance and support at no cost to themselves or their employers. This reflects our continuing support of students, even after they graduate. You can learn more on our Take Gurobi With You page.
I think this sort of program can have a great effect on the use of optimization in practice. And we need to rethink what we teach in the classrooms now that we know the “can’t take it with you” effect is lessened.