Planning schedules for a nationwide emergency medical helicopter transportation company takes a little bit more than putting together a spread sheet.
Just ask math major Shefali Ramakrishna ’22, who is spending the summer interning at Air Methods Corporation in Denver, Colo.
“I’m using mixed-integer programming in Python to create four-week schedules for nurses and medics at first-response transportation bases across the U.S.,” explains Shefali. “When creating these schedules, I’m trying to maximize employee satisfaction. This means I maximize shifts per week per employee, keep total shifts equal between employees, and minimize commutes per week by keeping shifts far apart. While I try to maximize employee satisfaction, I must make sure people do not work consecutive 24-hour shifts, that there are the correct number and types of employees on base at all times, that no shifts are double-booked, and that people are working positions for which they are qualified.”
Shefali found out about her internship from Professor of Mathematics Victor Donnay, whom she had worked with last summer through the College’s Summer Science Research program.
A lot of her work with Donnay focused on linear programming and one day he mentioned that he’d advised a math student, Dave Benson, from Haverford (Class of ’95) who’d gone on to get a Ph.D. in operations research—a branch of applied mathematics that uses various mathematical techniques to make optimal decisions—and put the two in touch.
After looking at Shefali’s resume and talking to her about her research interests, Benson offered her the internship.
Shefali credits the math courses she’s taken at Bryn Mawr, and particularly a course she took in linear optimization, for preparing her for the work she’s doing but adds that students looking for similar opportunities need to do more than just have technical knowledge.
“You have to take initiative and you can’t be afraid to ask for advice,” she says. “People like professors and those in your intended field have the insight and experience to give really helpful advice and are always happy to help others interested in their work.”
Shefali grew up in Pleasanton, Calif., with parents who both studied STEM fields in college, and was encouraged from a young age to pursue her interest in math. However, as she took courses at her local community college in high school, she started to experience some of the bias that remains in the field.
“I would sometimes be one of the three to five girls in my mathematics or computer science classes of forty,” she says. “I was sometimes spoken over, had my ideas dismissed a little more often than others’, but I was extremely lucky to have a supportive environment at home that gave me faith in my own abilities and ideas, and professors who took the effort to give me a space to share my ideas.”
Coming to Bryn Mawr only strengthened her confidence in her decision to study math and in her ability to do math.
“I think I wouldn’t have gotten as excited about math or as deep into the field as I have without the direct and indirect support of the Bryn Mawr community.”
Shefali still has two more years at Bryn Mawr but plans to go to grad school in a math-adjacent field, like statistics or operations research.
“After that, I think I want to enter the industry and do work that’s a lot like what I’m doing at Air Methods! I really enjoy the work I’m doing here and could definitely see myself continuing it past college.”
Mawrters, are you volunteering, working, learning something new on your own, helping family, or anything else this summer that you'd like to let the world know about? If so, we want to hear from you at email@example.com.