PhD in Business program track Operations Research

The Operations Research (OR) group aims at conducting cutting-edge research in deterministic OR research, stochastic OR, and game theory. The focus of the program is on fundamental theoretical research for improving the quality of decision making in business.

The members of the OR-research group have been educated in disciplines such operations research, mathematics, computer science, data science and machine learning, and econometrics. They apply their methods to a wide range of areas: logistics and transport, energy transition, environmental issues, information systems, finance and accounting, healthcare, and network structures. Another important application field are the research topics investigated by the Zero Hunger Lab (ZHL).

Research field

Deterministic OR

The research area of deterministic OR includes research on polynomial optimization, semidefinite programming, graph theory, discrete and continuous optimization and optimal control. It includes the development of fast algorithms and procedures in a wide range of optimization problems. Applications include travelling salesman problems, food supply chain optimization, healthcare treatment, network design, and scheduling problems.

Stochastic OR

A common feature in stochastic OR is the presence of uncertainty. Research methods in this field originate from probability theory, Markov chains, simulation, stochastic control theory, and real options.

Robust optimization is a specialized technique to find optimal solutions that are robust against uncertainties in the underlying data. Applications include big data, food supply optimization, radiotherapy optimization and dike height optimization.

Game Theory

Solutions of optimization problems typically involve coordinated behavior and cooperation between several actors or players. To establish and maintain stable cooperation, game theoretic techniques construct adequate strategic incentives and/or allocation mechanisms to share the jointly generated revenues or cost savings. Applications include scheduling and vehicle routing problems, network congestion problems, financial networks, joint investment decisions, and energy transition.

PhD research projects can take place within any of these research fields.

First year PhD development program for a PhD in Operations Research

For each PhD student in Operations Research a tailor-made PhD Development Plan (DP) will be composed at the start of the 4-year PhD period by the PhD student and the OR Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC).

A DP will consist of three parts: coursework (36 ECTS), soft skills development like scientific integrity, academic writing, or teaching skills (3 ECTS), and a research proposal or first paper, as part of the research training by the supervisors (9 ECTS). The coursework will typically contain the following elements:

  1. The 6 ECTS course Orientation Research Topics in OR (230326-M-6).
  2. A selection of PhD courses offered by the Dutch Network on the Mathematics of OR (LNMB). For more information, see:
  3. A selection of at most 15 ECTS of Master courses offered by the LNMB or the Master courses offered by the joint program in Mathematics of the Dutch universities (Mastermath). For more information, see and .
  4. A selection of Master courses offered by the Tilburg University MSc program in Business Analytics and Operations Research (BAOR). For more information on these courses, please visit the Master's program Business Analytics and Operations Research.
  5. In individual cases, a selection of Master or Research Master courses from programs at Tilburg University.  

All DPs should be approved by the GPC and by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) as integral part of the individual Training and Supervision Plan (TSP) within the PhD tracking system Hora Finita.

After the first year, there is a formal GO/NO GO decision.

Placement records

During the past ten years, on average 3 PhD students started the PhD program each year. They all successfully defended their PhD thesis. About 50% of these students came from outside the Netherlands. Two out three remained with academia, mainly in postdoc positions, assistant professorships or lecturer positions at institutes like CWI, Maastricht University and Eindhoven University within the Netherlands, and Harvard Medical School, Clemson University, and Technion Israel Institute of Technology outside the Netherlands.  About one out of three has chosen for a professional position as for example scientific analyst or consultant at TNO or CQM. 

To get some further impression, please have a look at the personal websites of three former PhD students:

  • Hao Hu: Hao defended his PhD thesis on semidefinite programming and combinatorial optimization in 2019 and currently is an assistant professor at Clemson University, United States of America after  a two-year postdoc position at Waterloo University, Canada: personal website Hao Hu
  •  Bas Dietzenbacher: Bas defended his PhD thesis on game theory in 2018 and currently is an assistant professor at Maastricht University after a two-year postdoc position at HSE University in Saint Petersburg, Russia: personal website Bas Dietzenbacher
  • Frans de Ruiter: Frans defended his PhD thesis on robust optimization cum laude in 2018 and currently is a decision scientist at CQM (Consultants in Quantitative Methods) in Eindhoven: personal website Frans de Ruiter

Graduate Program Coordinator PhD in Business – track Operations Research