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Honors and Awards

Engineering Doctoral Students Sindhoora Prakash and Yukti Kathuria Win TAG Master Modeler Competition

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Sindhoora Prakash and Yukti Kathuria receive the $6,000 TAG Master Modeler Competition prize
Sindhoora Prakash and Yukti Kathuria receive the $6,000 TAG Master Modeler Competition prize.

Doctoral students Sindhoora Prakash and Yukti Kathuria in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering are the winners of the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) Master Modeler Competition, co-sponsored by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), an international society for practitioners in the fields of operations research, management science and analytics.

In addition to receiving support to attend the INFORMS Analytics Conference in Orlando, Florida, in April, the students also received a $6,000 prize.

According to the TAG website, the multilevel, multidisciplinary, data-science competition for both academics and practitioners is intended to fight addiction, fuel recovery and encourage healthy family lives.  The Master Modeler Competition 2024 required the application of the INFORMS Certified Analytics Professional Framework and domains for problem solving to provide Davis Direction Foundation (DDF) and other related nonprofits meaningful insights, models and solutions to make a societal impact.

Through the TAG competition, the DDF, a non-profit foundation dedicated to supporting addiction recovery, aims to enhance donor engagement and retention while improving grant-acquisition and donor-attraction effort.

Prakash and Kathuria’s winning project, a collaboration with MedStar Health funded by a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, “breaks down the problems faced by the DDF into several business questions, employing a combination of exploratory data analysis and machine learning to segment donors, discern donation trends and optimize support strategies.”

By employing a recency frequency and monetary value analysis, Prakash and Kathuria sorted donors into categories that allowed for tailored retention initiatives focused on value maximization and personalized communication. The team analyzed the DDF’s past grant-acquisition outcomes, which revealed areas requiring more preparation time and recommended that the foundation explore alternative grant databases for specific program areas.

In addition, Prakash and Kathuria’s examination of DDF's online presence revealed that the creation of audience-specific content, complete with targeted media attachments, would lead to better engagement on Facebook.

“Recommendations from this study include leveraging Facebook-audience insights and applying for a Google Ad Grant to enhance online presence and effectively promote fundraising events, thus attracting donors across different platforms,” Prakash and Kathuria concluded. “This comprehensive approach has the potential to strengthen DDF's role as a vital community resource, fostering sustainable support for addiction-recovery initiatives.”

Prakash is pursuing a doctorate in industrial engineering and operations research and serves as the vice president of the INFORMS Student Chapter at UMass Amherst. She earned her Bachelor of Technology degree in information technology from the National Institute of Technology Karnataka in India.

“I am passionate about operations research and data science and dedicated to optimizing processes and facilitating informed decision-making,” Prakash said.

Kathuria is pursuing a doctorate in industrial engineering and working on operations research in healthcare. She also serves as the social media of the INFORMS Student Chapter and is part of the MIE Graduate Leadership Council. Kathuria holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Her research is focused on understanding health inequities that prevent vulnerable populations from timely access to healthcare and lead to certain communities experiencing a disproportionate burden of sickness or death.