Sven Axsater

MSOM Fellow, 2008

What was OM like for you early in your career, and how has it changed?

The competence in industry has increased a lot, which is very good for our profession. However, it is still often difficult to find specalists (with a research background) to cooperate with in companies.

What is your philosophy towards your research and how has it developed over the years?

I do not have a clear philosophy. I think I look for things that are both interesting and simple.

What is a good research topic, and how do I find it?

Again a good research topic should be both interesting and not too difficult. A good thing with OM is that you can do different types of research, e.g., mathematically oriented research as well as more practically oriented case studies etc. A good research topic has some practical relevance and is also of interest from a methodological point of view. Two ways to find a topic are: (i) A simplified industrial problem. A real industrial problem is often too difficult to start with. (ii) Variations of research that has been done by others.

In the upcoming 20 years, what do you think the OM field needs to do to make a positive impact on the world?

It is very good if the research leads to tools that are valuable in practice. This has indeed to a large extent already happened. Examples are inventory control systems, which are used by many companies.

What do you think a PhD student’s role should be as a part of the MSOM society?

MSOM meetings are very important for Ph D students. For my students it has, e.g., been very valuable to meet other Ph D students. It is also very good to get an insight in ongoing research.

What are some common misconceptions you observe that young researchers have? Do you feel you’ve made any mistakes?

I make all types of mistakes all the time. For students I have the following advice: (i) Do not start with a too general problem. Often it is very good to start with a small limited problem that is still interesting. Quite often it is surprisingly easy to generalize the results in various directions. (ii) Try to interact with your advisor regularly and show her/him what you are thinking of. You can save a lot of time if various mistakes are discovered early.

In you view, why is OM important? What significant contributions has OM made to the society and world?

This is related to Question (4). OM research has e.g., contributed with decision support systems that are successfully used in practice.

Any other comments or advice you would like to share with the OM Ph.D. students.

It is very important to choose a research topic that fits both the student and the advisor. The student needs to have a good background for the research, and the advisor should know the area well.