While long lines repel some people, they intrigue MIT PhD student Kuang Xu: After all, maybe there’s a way to reduce such lengthy waits. A native of Suzhou, China, who enjoys rock climbing and ballroom dancing, Xu earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2009, and arrived at MIT in September of that year. Since coming to MIT, Xu has studied queuing networks that include stochastic, or random, dynamics with his advisor, John Tsitsiklis, the Clarence J. LeBel Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
In work beginning with his master’s thesis, Xu has shown that having even a little flexibility in resources drastically improves wait times. For example, Xu says, “In call centers, you just need to train your staff so that each person speaks a few languages or knows a few disciplines. If they are mixed and matched in a smart way, then together they are very powerful.” A few years ago, Xu saw himself becoming an engineer, but his interests have since shifted. “I started from engineering and slowly evolved into a more mathematical kind of blend,” Xu says. “I like the idea that math is a juncture between practical impact and elegant ideas. You see something that’s very conceptual, but if you know how to tweak it the right way, it will have very profound practical applications.” Continue reading at MIT NEWS. Photo by Allegra Boverman.