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Dec. 6: Mathematician Receives Erlang Prize


Lauren Ward

Amy Pavlak

Carnegie Mellon Mathematician Receives
Erlang Prize For Contributions to Applied Probability

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University mathematician Kavita Ramanan has received the 2006 Erlang Prize from the Applied Probability Society, a subdivision of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS). Ramanan, an associate professor of mathematical sciences at the Mellon College of Science, received the award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to several areas in applied probability last month (Nov. 5–8) at the INFORMS annual meeting in Pittsburgh.

Kavita RamananThe prize, given once every two years, recognizes an applied probabilist under the age of 36 who has made significant contributions to the field. Applied probabilists use probability theory to model phenomena that have random or uncertain outcomes, from the throwing of dice to the behavior of communication and computer networks such as landlines, wireless technology and optical networks. Ramanan analyzes the performance, design and control of such random, or stochastic, networks in an effort to make them more efficient and of higher quality.    

"Kavita has made outstanding contributions to several areas in applied probability. Her development of the Extended Skorokhod Map has revolutionized and simplified heavy-traffic theory of stochastic networks," stated a citation made by the INFORMS Applied Probability Awards Committee. "Her work is characterized by a careful treatment of deep foundational issues strongly motivated by important practical problems. This combination has produced breakthrough results."     

Ramanan's general area of expertise lies in the field of probability theory and stochastic processes. She specializes in using mathematics to understand queuing networks. The Internet is one example of a queuing network. Like people in a line at the post office, packets of information queue up before they are routed through the system. According to the INFORMS citation, Ramanan's research on large deviations theory, which estimates the probabilities of rare events, "has shown that theory developed for the single queue must be treated with extreme care when considering networks of queues. She has also worked on scheduling in queues, Markov random fields, capacity of wireless systems and polarization mode dispersion."

For more information about Ramanan's work, visit