Alumni / March 29, 2022

Taking A Passion for Research Outside Academia

Debdatta Sinha Roy, PhD ‘19

When we imagine researchers, we often think about the world of academia in which professors conduct research while taking on a teaching schedule. However, outside of academia, there are a variety of professional research scientists, like Maryland Smith alum Debdatta Sinha Roy, PhD ‘19, who use data to help companies find patterns in customer behavior and optimize future decisions. 

With machine learning and big data becoming increasingly important components of the business world, researchers like Sinha Roy are using concepts from mathematical sciences to solve real world business problems.

Currently a Senior Research Scientist at Oracle, Sinha Roy works on a variety of projects including developing a state-of-the art recommendation system for fashion and grocery retailers and building a fulfillment forecast model that will help retailers optimize inventory between warehouses and stores and thrive in an omnichannel world.

“On average, I spend 50% of my time doing research about new data science, optimization and machine learning solutions to emerging problems in retail and supply chain,” Sinha Roy said. “The other 50% is spent working with developers to productize the algorithms I am building for our B2B retail customers.”

Sinha Roy credited the Smith school’s research opportunities and resources for setting him up for success after his PhD program. 

“The Department of Decision, Operations and Information Technologies at the Smith School had weekly research seminars where they would have external faculty members and industry researchers present their work,” said Sinha Roy. “The PhD students would go out to breakfast with the speakers and were able to ask them questions about their career and journey. This really helped me to practice explaining my research concisely as well as giving me insight into how to navigate the post-PhD job market.”

Recently, Sinha Roy, along with many other research scientists, has been experiencing difficulty in forecasting demand and using that forecast to optimize other supply chain decisions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“There is a heavy amount of historical data involved in learning customer behavior,” Sinha Roy explained. “Forecasting demand involves using historical data. Unfortunately, with COVID-19, the historical data lost its significance because customer behavior changed so drastically. Now different time-varying behaviors don’t have the same correlations as they did before, so we’re having to think of innovative mathematical ways to keep forecasts running with minimal data.”

Despite the challenges of the profession, Sinha Roy says he loves doing research and plans to stay in the field for the foreseeable future.

“I want to make a contribution to the supply chain field as a whole,” Sinha Roy said. “Within the past few years, our society has realized the importance of efficient supply chains and recognized that without them, the world’s operations can come to a stop. By catering to the needs of customers and suppliers through efficient mathematical models, we can accomplish this.”

For current Smith students, Sinha Roy advised using different resources Maryland Smith and the University of Maryland offer to make the most of their experience. 

“The campus has a lot of resources to help prepare students for their future jobs,” Sinha Roy said. “It’s important to not live in the bubble of research and to take advantage of all the resources offered to make the most of your experience and set yourself up well for your future career. Doing so will help you to feel confident in your work and in your journey.”

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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