Megan Wellons, 2015, Operations Research and Financial Engineering

The goal of my internship with American Native Nursery was to research native plant propagation methods and to develop an Excel model that nurseries can use to run experiments to maximize their yield. For the model we used the Taguchi method. In traditional models, all combinations of levels (amount or type) of all factors (e.g. fertilizer, soil drainage) need to be tested to calculate results. The Taguchi method allows you to determine the optimal level of several factors and their relative significance with a much smaller number of experiments. In order to develop a good model I spent several weeks researching propagation methods. I then determined which factors should be tested and began building the models in Excel. Once my models were completed, I spent the final weeks of my internship tweaking the models’ user interface and writing user’s manuals so the models could be used and understood by laymen. Through this internship I gained a lot of experience in running my own long-term technical project and creating a mathematical model that is easy to use and understand. This internship has confirmed my desire to use mathematical models–both in my academic study and in life beyond Princeton – in order improve processes that are not typically analyzed.