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E. Andrew Boyd, PhD ’88

Operations research leads to expertise in pricing

Andy Boyd relishes cross-disciplinary work. Between earning an undergraduate degree at Oberlin and a PhD from MIT’s Operations Research Center, he has studied mathematics, computer science, economics, philosophy, and management studies. These diverse interests have helped Boyd thrive as a professor, as chief scientist of a successful software company, and in his avocation as a radio broadcaster.

Much of Boyd’s professional life has focused on the art of pricing, which has major consequences for revenue and profitability. In his decade with the Houston-based software firm PROS, Boyd worked closely with companies like Disney, FedEx, and Swiss International Air Lines, helping them extract pricing insights from operational data.

Now semiretired, he was recently elected vice president of marketing, communications, and outreach for the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) and became a columnist for the professional organization’s magazine, Analytics. His 2007 book The Future of Pricing: How Airline Ticket Pricing Has Inspired a Revolution captures his observations on the interplay between science, technology, and people in a business setting, tracing airline ticketing from the industry’s earliest days to the era of Internet sales.

This story is part of the May/June 2012 Issue of the MIT News Magazine
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Boyd didn’t expect to join the business world. He had a tenured post in Texas A&M’s industrial-engineering department when, in 1997, a former student told him about PROS, which was forming an internal science group. “It sounded like fun to do it for a year—I thought I’d develop some contacts and return to teaching,” he recalls. “But I wound up enjoying it so much, I never went back.” His team helped PROS increase revenues from $7 million to $62 million before going public.

Boyd is now an adjunct professor at the University of Houston and enjoys spending time with his wife, historian Sarah Fishman Boyd, and their two children. He also contributes to a radio program, The Engines of Our Ingenuity, produced at Houston’s National Public Radio station and distributed nationally. The show’s four-minute episodes delve into intriguing engineering topics—from slot machine mathematics to the challenges of fabricating round balls out of flat materials.

Two recent Engines episodes grew out of a conversation with Guy Vachon ’80, SM ’81, EE ’83, PhD ’84, after an MIT Club of Houston golf event. “He told me about the use of artificial ice islands as drilling platforms in the Arctic,” recalls Boyd. “I was fascinated—I love when people shoot ideas at me.”

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