Thomas Monks

Country of origin: United Kingdom

UK Government Operational Research Service (GORS)

Before coming to Lancaster, Thomas graduated from Staffordshire University with a degree in Computing with Applicable Mathematics. Because of his very good performance on this degree, he was awarded a prestigious scholarship by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

During his year on the MSc, he was runner up for the Operational Research Society's 'May Hicks Award' for the best MSc project in 2006. He also won Lancaster's 'Simpson Prize'.


I first became interested in Operational Research back in 2003 during my computer science and maths degree at Staffordshire University. This was through a set of modules that looked at some classic OR techniques such as linear programming and queuing theory. In fact after a recommendation from a lecturer I was extremely close to applying to the MSc directly from undergraduate studies.

Before I could do this, though, I was offered a job working as programmer. This I did in various guises for the next two years before deciding that my career would benefit greatly from returning to university and developing my analytical skills. The MSc in Operational Research at Lancaster was the perfect course for meeting my aims.


There is a lot more to management science than linear programming and queuing theory. A solid understanding of management science and the wide range of techniques that go along with it are built up in the first two semesters. There were many highlights from this section of the course. These ranged from sitting at my computer racking my brains about Lagrange multipliers and tabu search algorithms for my heuristics project, to researching and debating the future of UK energy, to standing in JJB sports for three days collecting data on service times for my groups’ simulation project.

Summer project

I wouldn’t do the course justice without discussing the four-month summer project. I worked with another student for a client within the food manufacturing industry. Some of the OR techniques that we used were the Balanced Scorecard, facilitation, Soft Systems Methodology as well as some statistical data analysis. The course prepared us extremely well for the project work and the academic supervision process provides valuable feedback along the way. Again there were many highlights, the one sticks in my mind though is actually working on a food packing line for sausage rolls to help assess some problems with it!

Job prospects

Judging by the number of my friends who got jobs quickly it is clear that employers highly value the MSc. Companies that were keen to take on graduates were Tesco, Barclaycard, DSTL, BA, Capgemini and several more. Currently I am working for the Government Operational Research Service (GORS).

Other students (and lecturers)

Last but not least, I think it’s important to mention that I made a group of extremely good friends on the course. I am still in contact with them and hope to do so for the imminent future. The course takes on around 45 students and through the early group work people get to know each other very quickly. I think the friendly atmosphere on the course with both the other students and the lecturers contributes to its success.

Applying for the MSc in OR at Lancaster is one of the best decisions I have made. I would highly recommend the MSc.