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I am a PhD candidate in Operations Research at Cornell. I work with Professor David Shmoys on topics in optimization and approximation algorithms, and plan to finish in Spring 2012. I am particularly interested in stochastic optimization problems in graphs: how well can spatial decisions be made when only probabalistic information is available? Since most of these problems are NP-hard we focus on provably-good approximations.

My recent work is on a two-stage model motivated by a planning problem in forestry: in advance of the outbreak of a fire, preventative fuel reductions can be placed on the landscape. How much and where should investments in these fuel reductions be made to best augment real-time fire-fighting resources?

During 2012-2013, 2013-2014 I will be a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College. Then I will join the faculty of the Math Department at Smith College.



  • Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Candidate for PhD in Operations Research, expected completion in May 2012. M.S. in Operations Research, May 2010. PhD Minors in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics. Course work includes graduate courses in Linear Programming, Algorithms (incl. topics courses in Network Flow and Scheduling), Nonlinear Programming, Revenue Management and Dynamic Programming, Computational Sustainability, Game Theory, Algorithmic Game Theory, Statistics, Stochastic Processes, and Probability.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Boston, MA. Visiting graduate student, Fall 2010.
  • Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, CA. B.S. in Mathematics (Graduated with High Distinction), May 2005.
  • Full CV/Resume.


Cornell, Spring 2011: Instructor, ENGRI 1101: Introduction to Optimization. 28 students. Course included weekly homeworks, a computational lab, two prelims and a final. Teaching evaluations available on request.

Harvey Mudd College, Fall 2002-Spring 2005: Writing Center Tutor. Consulted on technical and humanities writing assignments, also fellowship and admissions applications.

Harvey Mudd College, Spring 2005: Student TA, Humanities 2. Jointly developed curriculum for a writing-based literature course during an independent study, created discussion questions, co-led class discussions, consulted with students.

Summer Institute for Mathematics at the University of Washington, Summer 2003: T.A. Topics including: Number Theory, Cryptography, Elliptic Curves, Probability, Combinatorics and Ray-tracing Software.

Gwen Spencer

Gwen Spencer

Contact Information

Gwen Spencer
257 Rhodes Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY, 14853
gwenspencer at