The research strengths of the department lie in operations research, its applications and implementation, with a strong emphasis in optimization, algorithmic development and data analysis. Applications can be found in a variety of areas, including the optimization of transportation, logistics, manufacturing, military, healthcare, biological, biomedical, financial, energy, telecommunications and infrastructure systems.

Funding comes from a variety of sources, including federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Office of Naval Research, Department of Defense (Defense Threat Reduction Agency), National Institute of Health, Veterans Administration Hospital, Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy. State funding sources include the Florida Department of Transportation and the Florida Department of Health.Much of the applied work is centered around the six centers and labs housed in the department. The Center for Applied Optimization, directed by Panos Pardalos, works on a wide variety of problems using various optimization and data mining techniques.  The Computational and Stochastic Optimization (CSO) lab focuses on solving large-scale stochastic optimization problems generally in supply chain management or energy systems.  The Supply Chain and Logistics Engineering Center (SCaLE),  Risk Management and Financial Engineering Lab (RMFE) and Defense Oriented Operations Research Lab (DOOR) are much more focused in their application areas. Ravi Ahuja and Joe Geunes direct SCaLE, Stan Uryasev directs the RMFE and Vlad Boginski directs DOOR. The Industrial Assessment Center, directed by Tim Middelkoop (and S. A. Sherif of MAE), helps companies deal with problems of energy management.

The department spent over $2 million on research in FY2016. The funding included 39 grants and contracts from 9 federal agencies and numerous industrial and foreign sponsors.