Laura Duncan

Country of origin: United Kingdom

Professional Stage Manager

Laura completed a Maths and Philosophy degree at Oxford before starting the MSc in OR. After she graduated, she worked for a specialist OR consultancy but has since applied her project management skills to a career in stage management.

In Operational Research (OR) I hoped to find a discipline which would enable me to use my mathematical skills in a practical environment, and throughout the Lancaster University MSc in OR course I did indeed find an excellent introduction to this area.

To complement my rather theoretical Mathematics and Philosophy undergraduate degree at Oxford, I decided to study for an MSc in Operational Research. I planned that this step would give me a secure basis in the techniques of OR and prepare me for a career in the field. I also wanted to begin to acquire a set of skills to help me progress in the non-academic world.

Lancaster was my first choice of university for my MSc because of the practical emphasis given to the subject and, in particular, because of the importance placed on the four-month summer project. The Management School has a high reputation and the MSc in OR is well regarded among OR companies. The generous funding from EPSRC was a deciding factor too. I also recommend Lancaster to you for the beautiful countryside around about, the helpful lecturers and the international mix of students.

The main points of the course were the opportunities that the summer project provides and the broad coverage of a variety of Operational Research areas. The majority of projects are undertaken for clients in the private and public sectors, with results being of specific use to the sponsoring organisations. My project required me to learn more advanced forecasting techniques than those covered in the previous parts of the course, to liaise with the client and to undertake some new research. The modules covering OR techniques are taught with emphasis on how methods can be used in tackling real-world problems and I found the majority of the courses engaging and informative.

The course organisers therefore take seriously the task of preparing you for work in Operational Research, and modules such as Consultancy Skills help students to develop a professional attitude. Many of my friends from the 2004/05 year group had lined up OR jobs for when they finished the MSc.

When I finished the programme, I joined Hartley McMaster Ltd – a small and friendly Operational Research consultancy based in St Albans, Hertfordshire. During my first four months I already had opportunities to use skills directly from the Lancaster MSc course – including statistics, simulation, data mining and programming – on a variety of interesting projects.

Since writing this profile, Laura has become a professional freelance stage manager.