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What Is Operations Research? (And Seven More Things CC Students Don’t Understand About SEAS)

I asked CC students to define some engineering terms, and the results were…interesting

Hey CC students! So you took LitHum and a Global Core, and you think you understand other people’s cultures and communities. But how much do you know about the culture and practices smallest and most elusive school on campus – SEAS? I asked a group of CC students some engineering questions, and here are their answers.

Question 1: Operations Research is one of the most popular majors in SEAS. What is it?

A lot of people had no clue:

  • Remember that episode of Friends where no one knew Chandler’s job? Very that.
  • An opportunity for econ majors and future investment banker bros to claim they’re “stem” and “have an engineering background”
  • like when you have your folders really organized on your desktop
  • I have never heard of this major before nor do I have the slightest clue what it may involve
  • Getting to know how things work! You’d think a degree in engineering would solve that issue, but apparently it doesn’t!

Some got pretty close:

  • It’s something about studying how businesses work and making them work better, correct?
  • you study how businesses work and how to make them better (could be how to make an app more profitable/how to make a factory run more efficiently)

There was this hot take:

  • The easiest major in SEAS

But the real answer is: “the application of scientific principles to business management, providing a quantitative basis for complex decisions” – Google

aka using algorithms to optimize businesses and systems


Question 2: Another popular major is Financial Engineering. What is that?

Some people hated on finance:

  • Being quants on Wall Street, or otherwise designing better ways for the rich to hoard their money in return for a small share of their untold billions.
  • The major you pick when you are 100% sure you are gonna go into finance but you’re still telling your parents that you’re trying to make the world a better place.
  • it’s like capitalism on steroids
  • Fancy magic words to get you a job at Goldman
  •  learning how to build pyramid schemes

A lot of people thought it had to do with…building banks?

  • you build banks
  • They fix the speed of the numbers that are on the screens in the Stock Market/Wall Street complex.
  • Building better money – these dollar bills be fallin APART

But the real answer is: “Financial engineering is the use of mathematical techniques to solve financial problems.” – Google

aka using algorithms to figure out investment


Question 3: What does an Applied Mathematician do?

A lot of people simply didn’t know:

  • I thought applied math was just physics
  • like statistics?? maybe??
  • Look at a whiteboard for 20 years and maybe publish a paper that’s about solving knots. Just untie them! Ask a sailor!
  • they stay in butler forever and write down numbers and letters

They knew it related to pure math…somehow?

  • I know applied math is just like regular math but somehow harder, so I guess these people just cry?
  • People who are too scared about just getting a degree in Math because they’re not creative enough to get jobs with just a degree in Math.
  • They just do math but for corporations.
  • probably a lot of math

But the real answer is: “the professional specialty in which mathematicians work on practical problems by formulating and studying mathematical models” – Wikipedia

aka turning things from the real world into solvable equations


Question 4: What is the difference between Computer Engineering and Computer Science?

Yes, @ this person, there is a distinction:

  • what the fuck! and seas kids say humanities have fake majors

A lot of people thought it was hardware vs software, which is…basically it. Good job!:

  • Computer Engineers try to construct the teeny tiny hardware parts that Computer Scientists then use to support Skynet.
  • one of them studies how to make computers and the other one studies how to use computers. boom
  • Build computer…and understand computer…
  • CE has more robots

But actually: Essentially it’s hardware vs software, but a little more complicated than that. CompSci is a science, meaning they work on the theory of programming and discovering new ways of using logic. CE is more focused on applying the concepts CompSci people develop to real machines.


Question 5: When you “tolerance a hole” what are you doing?

First of all, you are all dirty dirty people. Some highlights include

  • something I wouldn’t want my parents to find out about
  •  just the tip
  • Oh you know ;)
  • I don’t think you can put that in print
  • Is this a sex thing

A few thought it had to do with filling a hole:

  • fill the hole? block the hole?
  • seeing how much pressure or whatever it can take before it cracks/explodes/gets bigger

But really the answer is: A tolerance is the range of precision in which a machine will operate. A tight tolerance means the machine has to be very precise (for example, +/- 1mm on a 1 meter hole), whereas a loose tolerance means the machine can be quite imprecise (for example +/- 1mm on a 1cm hole). So when you “tolerance a hole” you tell a machine how precisely you want to manufacture the hole.


Question 6: What color wire typically represents ground?

It’s a bit of a trick question, because it can be one of two things, black or green, depending on your system. Regardless

  • 31% answered red
  • 18% answered brown
  •  12% answered yellow
  • One person said they didn’t know and “you have to keep cutting them to find out”


Question 7: What does CAD stand for?

Seemingly simple, but after giving them a bunch of made-up options,

  • 37% were correct in saying Computer-Aided Design, but
  • 31% said Computational Analysis Diagram
  • The rest had some…interesting ideas such as
    • Ctrl-Alt-Delete
    • Clock: Analog Digital
    • Carbolic Acid Dunk


Question 8: Which of these programming languages is fake?

After giving them a number of real languages,

  • 43% correctly identified “Jiver” as not a real language, but
  • 25% said Kotlin was fake
  • 6% said Ruby was fake
  • and the rest said all the languages I listed were real


In conclusion, nobody actually knows what SEAS does (us included). Jury is still out on if the school itself actually exists, because some of the majors (maybe) don’t.

NoCo via Bwarchives


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  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Has anyone ever actually seen the SEAS?

  • SEAS kid says:

    @SEAS kid For the life of me, I still can’t figure out what “gender studies” majors do and have no idea what kinds of jobs they are even qualified for.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous nuclear take, my guy. revolutionary stuff here

    2. a SEAS kid who knows how to google something says:

      @a SEAS kid who knows how to google something what is gender studies?

      what can you do with a gender studies degree?

      1. Come on bro says:

        @Come on bro >cites the Odyssey as a source for gender studies employment opportunities

        You’re telling me that someone who has never had a real job AND is majoring in “gender studies” (whatever that is) is an authoritative source on “what you can do with a gender studies degree”?

        About the author (from your source):
        “I’m currently a senior student at UM-Dearborn working towards a Bachelor’s in Anthropology and Women’s and Gender Studies with a minor in Art History. Passionate about human rights, feminism, activism, and the arts.”

        1. Anonymous says:

          @Anonymous bro just check ur vibes m8…eat some bread…drink some chamomile…do some breathing exercises…chill it ok to like different things

    3. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Next you’re gonna be telling me these kids are majoring in freaking underwater basket weaving! Folks…

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.” -a bwog staffer who avoided this survey like the plague

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Yes, the two Columbia schools, CC and SEAS

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