Faculty and Staff Updates

Paul A. Green, research professor at the U-M Transportation Research Institute and adjunct associate professor in IOE, was interviewed on Michigan Radio’s “Stateside with Cynthia Canty” about texting and driving. You can read and listen to the article here.

Professor Mariel Lavieri has been awarded the Young Participant With Most Practical Impact Award to be given at the International Conference on Operations Research by the German and the Dutch OR Society. The winner of this award is an outstanding young practitioner or researcher in the field of Operations Research, who has made an important contribution to the practice of OR. The competition is open to all nationalities. The jury committee consists of John Poppelaars, René de Koster, Hein Fleuren, and Mathieu Clerkx.

Professor Jon Lee has been elected a Fellow of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS). INFORMS Fellows are examples of outstanding lifetime achievement in operations research and the management sciences. They have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments and made significant contributions to the advancement of OR/MS over a period of time.

Reed

Matt Reed

Matt Reed has been promoted to the position of Research Professor. Matt is also Head of the Biosciences Group of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. He conducts research in a variety of areas relating to anthropometry and biomechanics, including vehicle ergonomics and vehicle occupant crash protection. As a Research Professor in the Center for Ergonomics in Industrial and Operations Engineering, he directs the Human Motion Simulation Laboratory. Some of Dr. Reed’s recent work includes: study of soldier posture, position and body shape, driver preference for fore-aft steering wheel position, development of a new framework for conducting virtual seat fit testing using a parametric human model, study of seat belt anchor locations and safety implications, development of anthropometric specifications for the Army’s new WiAMan blast dummy and study of older driver posture and seat belt fit.

IOE lecturer Dan Reaume was recently made a technical fellow at General Motors.

Professor Mark Van Oyen, along with PhD student Jivan Deglise-Hawkinson, was awarded a Second Place, Best Paper Award from the College of Healthcare Operations Management of the Production and Operations Management Society (POMS). See the full details in our “Student News” section.

Professor Mark Van Oyen was also promoted to Full Professor effective Sept 1, 2013.

Research Funding Updates

Marina Epelman

Marina Epelman

IOE Professor Marina Epelman, IOE Emeritus Professor Bob Smith and IOE Alum Archis Ghate, have received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for their project titled “Analysis and Algorithms for Countably Infinite Linear Programming Models of Markov Decision Processes.”

Professor Yili Liu has received funding from Ford for his project titled “Computational Cognitive Modeling for Evaluating In-vehicle Infotainment Systems.”

Student & Alumni Updates

The University of Michigan IIE Chapter has been awarded a Gold Award for 2012-2013 in recognition of the chapter’s improvements, progress, and overall achievements.

The University of Michigan INFORMS Chapter was awarded the Cum Laude INFORMS Student Chapter Annual Award. The purpose of these awards is to recognize the achievements of the strongest student chapters in INFORMS.

IOE PhD candidate Jeremy Castaing has been selected as the 2013 Bonder Fellow. The one year Seth Bonder Fellowship is awarded to a superior IOE graduate student who wishes to study and do research in the field of applied operations research.

Four IOE Master’s students were awarded the First Place Prize in the 2013 ProModel Competition. Led by IOE lecturer Luis Garcia-Guzman, the team members were: Rui Chen, Po-Chao Huang, Baiyang (Sarah) Liu, Chi-Han Lo. The ProModel Corporation sponsors a student simulation competition based on one of ProModel’s simulation tools. The evaluation was based on how well the team gathered data, built the model, conducted the experiments and reported the results.

IOE PhD Candidate Jivan Deglise-Hawkinson, Dr. Blake Roessler, and Prof. Mark Van Oyen have been awarded a Second Place, Best Paper Award from the College of Healthcare Operations Management of the Production and Operations Management Society (POMS) for the paper “Operational Planning Models with Service Pathways: Project Portfolio for Phase 1 Trials.” The best paper competition is held each year to identify and honor outstanding papers in the field of Healthcare Operations Management.

Tom Armstrong, Natalie Naruns, Peter Naruns

L to R: Tom Armstrong, Natalie Naruns, Peter Naruns at the 2013 IOE Undergraduate Reception.

Five IOE students are featured in the 2013 Spring Academic All-Big Ten Team list: Ethan Dennis, Sr., Grand Rapids, Mich.; Miguel Echavarria, Sr., Medellin, Colombia; Joanna Fleming, Sr., Grand Haven, Mich.; Natalie Naruns, Sr., Los Altos, Calif.; Amber Smith, Jr., Cleveland, Ohio. To be eligible for Academic All-Big Ten selection, student-athletes must be letter winners in at least their second academic year at their institution and carry a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or higher.

IOE PhD Candidate Pooyan Kazemian has been selected to receive the 2013 Bonder Scholarship for Applied Operations Research in Health Service out of a competitive number of applicants from around the world. This prestigious scholarship was established by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) to recognize outstanding doctoral students who have achieved excellent academic records and have the excellence as well as innovation in their research programs for making a significant contribution to the field of applied OR in health care systems.

PhD student Ilbin Lee has been chosen to receive the 2013 Murty Prize. His paper is titled “A Linear Programming Approach to Constrained Nonstationary Infinite-Horizon Markov Decision Processes.” A committee reviews papers nominated for the annual award.

Troy Long‘s presentation “A Stochastic Optimization Approach to Adaptive Lung Radiation Therapy Treatment Planning” was awarded first place at the 2013 AAPM Great Lakes Chapter Spring Meeting.

IOE students, Jordan Morgan, Amber Smith, and Silken Thomas, were recently elected to the Order of Angell, an exclusive campus leadership society.

L to R: Dan Nathan Roberts and Rama Mwenesi at the 2013 IOE Undergraduate Reception.

Recent IOE Graduate, Rama Mwenesi, received the Fall 2012 Andrew S. Crawford Award for Entrepreneurship Excellence for his work on E-MAGINE in IOE 422. He’s now making that project a reality. E-MAGINE partnered with the International Peace Initiative and has been working to deploy a solar-powered Internet system at a children’s home for orphans near Meru, Kenya. The E-MAGINE team raised funds for their travel to Kenya and then, through a crowdfunding campaign, raised the funds needed to build and transport their system to the children’s home.

Jonathan Or was the recipient of the Winter 2013 Andrew S. Crawford Award For Entrepreneurship Excellence for his work in IOE 422. The project he and his team worked on, Boomerang, is an interactive solution that helps you find almost anything misplaced. With a pocket-size Bluetooth-enabled device synchronized with a user-friendly mobile application and computer software, Boomerang is a revolutionary product that helps the user quickly and accurately track and locate almost anything in your surrounding area. By attaching the device to your belongings and navigating through the software platforms, whether you are looking for your luggage on the baggage carousel or your keys in your living room, there is no longer a need to fret about the hassle and inconvenience of locating almost any belongings with this innovative solution. Jonathan’s team members on the project were Lawrence Jau, Laura Yee, Damon Hamilton, and Michael Kiriazis.

In Memory
IOE Alum, S.D.S. Mongia (ENG 1957), passed away on March 1, 2013. Mr. Jack Saluja said, “During my stay in Ann Arbor, I had met Mr S.D.S. Mongia who graduated in Mechanical Engineering and later in Industrial Engineering. His daughter, Nandini Mongia, in later years graduated with an MBA from Michigan also. Mr Mongia, after a couple of years working with General Motors went back to India and soon thereafter started a motorcycle division for Escorts Ltd. He developed the company so much so that over the years he was called the Father of The Motorcycles in India. He later introduced the Yamaha Motorcycles to India also. When the owner’s son came of age, he retired from the company.”

IOE Students Shine in Spotlight! Showcase

The Tauber Institute for Global Operations recently held their annual Spotlight! Team Project Showcase Scholarship Competition. Teams, composed of 82 students and supported by 51 faculty at 28 sponsoring companies around the world, worked in sectors including manufacturing and supply chain, health care, energy, technology, non-profit, and logistics to uncover solutions to real-life issues. Six IOE students were on this year’s winning teams.

Tied for First Place:

Grainer

W.W. Grainger's team L to R: Scott Metcalf, Chris Towers, Jonathan Dailey, Christopher Kalich (MBA ’14), Joel D. Tauber, Judy Xu (MSCM ’13), Nikhil Patel (EGL BSE ChE/MSE IOE’14), Al Woodliff, Roman Kapuscinski, Larry Seiford, and Eric Svaan (Photo courtesy of Tauber Institute)

W.W. Grainger’s team Christopher Kalich (MBA’14), Nikhil Patel (BSE ChE/MSE IOE’14), and Judy Xu (MSCM ’13)
This team developed and piloted an automated mobile application for the Grainger sales force to submit RFQs in a standardized manner. Their goal was to improve the conversion rate of customer requests to purchase orders. The impact of the team’s recommendations amounts to a potential revenue increase of $32 million. The Grainger team’s faculty advisors were Eric Svaan from the Ross School of Business and Vijay Nair, College of Engineering/LSA.

Cisco Team

Cisco Systems, Inc. team L to R: Steve Williams, KW Chan, KK Gan, Kevin Harrington, Prakash Sathe, Jean Kim, Chris Stevens (EGL BSE/MSE IOE ’14), Joel D. Tauber, Ben Ranta (MBA & MSE IOE ’15), Salmizan Salleh, Rob Rogers (MBA ’14), Al Woodlif, Dan Hsu, Roman Kapucinski, Eric Svaan, Larry Seiford, and Jason Ho (Photo courtesy of Tauber Institute)

Cisco Systems, Inc.’s team Benjamin Ranta (MBA/MSE IOE ‘15), Robert Rogers (MBA ‘14), and Christopher Stevens (BSE/MSE IOE ‘14)
The team traveled to Malaysia to assist in the rapid launch and delivery of two new strategic products. The team accelerated the mass production ramp-up by increasing manufacturing throughput by 50% and was able to identify bottle necks and implemented solutions, increasing throughput by 33% and future revenue by $4M. The faculty advisors were Eric Svaan of the Ross School of Business and Prakash Sathe of the College of Engineering.

Second place:

Boeing Paint’s team Simon Bank (MSE IOE ’14) and Benjamin Brelje (BSE & MSE AERO ’14)
These students led a project to automate the paint process for a large section of the 787-9 aircraft, resulting in $1.2 million annual savings and enabling strategic rate increases to accommodate future growth. The faculty advisors were Erdogan Gulari, College of Engineering and Len Middleton of the Ross School of Business.

Third place:

General Mills’ team Meital Haas (BSE ChE/MSE IOE ‘14) and Erica Hoffman (BSE CEE/MSE IOE ‘14)
Students on this team analyzed the end to end supply chain of 135 million pounds of savory spices, including R&D, sourcing, logistics, manufacturing, engineering, and finance to establish a baseline and model recommended changes, saving $10.5 million annually. The faculty advisors were Gordon Krauss of the College of Engineering and Lisa Pawlik of the Ross School of Business.

Students on the first place teams were awarded $5,000 scholarships. Scholarships were $4,000 for the second place team and $3,000 for the third place team. Teams were presented with a “check” by Joel D. Tauber, benefactor of the Institute, at the conclusion of the Spotlight! event.

You can learn more about the Tauber Institute on their webpage.

Chair’s Message

Mark DaskinWelcome to IOE News, our newsletter for alumni and friends of the Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering. It’s difficult for me to believe that we’re already at the start of a brand new school year. You’ll see that this past summer has been a productive one for the IOE Community.

I’m especially pleased to be able to shine a light on our spectacular undergraduate students in this issue. We feature two students who traveled to India in an effort to introduce more young people to the STEM fields and one student who traveled to Nicaragua with a team aimed at improving maternal health there.

Students here in Ann Arbor stayed just as busy. People often think of research as a graduate student undertaking but we’ll introduce you to some undergraduates who have been working on important and exciting projects in healthcare and the airline industry that I’m certain will have an impact.

Already this Fall, several IOE students have been recognized along with their teams in the Tauber Spotlight! competition. If you aren’t familiar with the Tauber Institute for Global Operations, I’ll let Co-Director and IOE faculty member Lawrence Seiford introduce you to the Institute in our latest video. In addition to the Spotlight! awards, you’ll see a host of impressive accomplishments and awards from our students, faculty, and alumni. And finally, I’m pleased to introduce you to our newest faculty member, Clive D’Souza.

I’m proud of each and every achievement in our IOE community and I know those listed here are just the tip of the iceberg. We hope to highlight more alumni news in upcoming newsletters and on our website and to feature more IOE alumni in our Alumni Spotlight. If you have news of achievements and awards that we can share with the IOE community or would like to be featured in the Alumni Spotlight, please contact us at IOENewsletter@umich.edu.

I have enjoyed meeting many of you in the past years. Whenever you are on campus, our doors are always open to you. Please drop by to introduce yourself or catch up.

Go Blue!

Mark S. Daskin

Encouraging Young People in India to Study in STEM Fields

Emily Zumbrunnen is a part of the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society and the Women in Science and Engineering Residence Program (WISE RP) and Jenna Bertke is active with the Engineering Student Ambassador Program. However, this summer it was their roles on the executive board of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) that led them to India.

The College of Engineering encourages all students to have an abroad experience. According to Jenna, the board of SWE decided a trip abroad “would not only give our members an opportunity to volunteer outside of the greater Ann Arbor area, but would also provide them with an international experience to contribute to their overall development as leaders.”

The students found that there were two IOE alumni in India who were looking to partner with students. Five members of SWE traveled to India over spring break to determine which partnership would be the best fit. As it turned out, Chakor Doshi, an IOE alum and previous IOE Merit Award recipient, owns Walchandnagar Industries, a company that has strong relations with the Bharat Children’s Academy and Jr. College which was the perfect place for the SWE members to do some educational outreach.

In May 2013, eleven SWE members headed to Walchandnagar to conduct a four day summer camp encouraging young people to pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. The trip was funded by the members traveling, the Society of Women Engineers, corporate sponsorships, the College of Engineering, the Women Science and Engineering Office, and the Center for Engineering, Diversity, and Outreach.

Both Jenna and Emily found their IOE education helpful throughout the trip. Jenna spoke of how her IOE Background helped in the trip planning process. “Through many of the organizational development classes, I have learned about working within diverse teams and implementing change on a global scale. This educational background was very helpful in the execution of this trip, and learning how to translate activities and lessons SWE does here to be more effective there.”

Jenna Bertke

Jenna Bertke

Emily spoke of passing on some of her IOE knowledge to the students they were working with. “One of the specific activities we did with the students was simulating an assembly line in a factory setting. This activity lent itself to discussing many lean concepts with the students such as task time and sources of waste.”

Their time in India wasn’t limited to their teaching activities. They taught in the mornings and in the afternoons met with teachers to discuss U.S. and Indian educational systems and encouraging students to pursue study in STEM fields. They were also to fit in some sightseeing and travel.

Jenna says, “In addition to the volunteer work, some members of our group were able to travel to the US consulate. From there, we went to go visit the Usha Mittal Institute of Technology at SNDT Women’s College where we were able to present to students and faculty about the Society of Women Engineers. While there we discussed our student organization and the value behind a professional group such as SWE. Some members seemed very interested in the topic, and even asked questions about how they could join!”

Both students spoke highly of travel abroad in general and their experience of India in particular. Emily says, “This opportunity allowed me to experience a new culture, which I hadn’t yet done as a Michigan engineering student. I really enjoyed seeing how the education system differs from and is similar to the system in the US.”

Jenna was moved by the generosity of their students and the students’ families. “While we were at the camp, many of the students brought in food from home to share with us that their mother’s had prepared especially to share with ‘the Michigan guests.’ I will never forget their kindness and hope that I can echo their attitudes moving forward.”

Both found their experience in India inspiring and are driven to continue their work. Jenna says, “It was so exciting to see this trip come together, and really gave me the confidence to know that even as an undergraduate student, I can still have a global impact. I think overall this experience has encouraged me to push the bounds of what I think is possible, and to continue to question whether I can do more.”

SWE Group

The SWE students showing their U of M pride outside Humayun's Tomb in a photo from the SWE Overseas blog

Emily too feels moved to do more in the future. “I really enjoyed the chance to share with younger students why and how I became an engineer. And I also appreciated the chance to talk with them and learn what was influencing their decisions as they moved forward with their studies. For the future, I hope to be able to continue to encourage younger students to pursue a STEM based field.”

Emily and Jenna were undergraduates when they traveled to India. This fall both students have returned to IOE to pursue master’s degrees.

IOE Undergrad Analyzing Impact of Weather on Flight Performance

This summer IOE undergraduate Vera Lo was the recipient of the Wang Chu Chien-Wen Summer Research Award. Vera says she was especially honored to receive the award because, like her, the donor, Mr. Tony Wang, is a University of Michigan alumnus from Hong Kong.

Vera spent the summer analyzing the impact of weather conditions on flight performances, in order to find effective solutions to mitigate the impact from the perspective of network planning. She worked under the guidance of Professor Amy Cohn in the IOE Department and in collaboration with the Network Planning team of Southwest Airlines.

Vera Lo

Vera Lo

Vera said, “It has been very interesting to see how flight operations are being affected by different weather conditions at different parts of the country, for example, the overnight/early morning sea fog at Houston and the summer storms at Midway, Chicago. It was also unexpected to know that among the airports with worst on-time performance, most of them are not the busiest/largest ones that we are familiar with.”

The eventual goal of Vera’s research will be developing tools for prediction and forecasting based on the research results. These tools could potentially be used by Southwest or others in industry to improve on-time performance.

Vera said what enthuses her most about research is being able to further her knowledge while applying what she’s learned to tackle real-world problems. “There are times in classes when we couldn’t go as deep as I would like due to syllabus and time constraint, so doing research gives me the time and space to explore further with the guidance of a professor, which helps me to consolidate my knowledge and technical skills at the same time. Ultimately, knowing how my knowledge/skills can be of value to the society is what motivates me the most.”

As someone who’s always been interested in aviation, Vera said she first applied to Aerospace Engineering at University of Michigan before deciding on IOE. The chance to work in aviation now has been particularly rewarding for her. She said that, in addition to being exposed to a new industry by performing research, she finds it is a “dynamic way of learning beyond textbooks and classrooms.”

Vera would recommend research experience to any undergraduate students whether they’re interested in pursuing a career in academia or not. She hadn’t given much thought to research because she assumed it was only for students looking to pursue an academic career path. However, during her freshman and sophomore year, she was part of the Women in Science and Engineering Residential Program (WISE RP) and was exposed to research opportunities on campus through fellow hallmates in both that program and the Michigan Research Community (MRC). Since then she’s been seeking out opportunities to get involved.

“I find the experience to be very enjoyable,” she said. “Undeniably, doing research means extra work, but it has been very rewarding and worth-while. Also, you get to develop a more personal connection with professor(s), who are very interesting to talk to and can offer valuable advice. I don’t really see a bad side to doing research for students who are interested in what they study. “

In addition to her research and schoolwork, Vera is part of the Engineering Global Leadership Honors Program where she serves as the Cultural Chair and the Michigan Engineering Consulting Club, in which she’s served as project manager and senior project advisor. In the past, she’s been involved in WISE RP, Innoworks, and the Tech Day Planning Committee. She also enjoys attending events organized by Hong Kong Students’ Association.

Next summer, Vera intends to do an internship through the Tauber Institute and afterwards will pursue her Master’s degree in IOE under the Engineering Global Leadership program. “At the moment, I do not have an ideal job in my mind – I like to think that my future is full of all kinds of possibilities, and would rather not to put a limit/set goal at an early stage,” she said. “However, I would say that my career goals mainly revolve around improving the lives of people through adding values and making positive impacts to different businesses across the world, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.”

IOE Welcomes Clive D’Souza

Clive D’Souza joined the faculty of IOE at the start of Fall 2013. Clive is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering. He earned a PhD in Industrial and Systems Engineering and a MS in Mechanical Engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

D'Souza

Clive D'Souza

Dr. D’Souza conducts research in ergonomics and human factors to address human performance, safety and inclusive (universal) design concerns in human-in-the-loop systems analysis and design. He has extensive experience in the design and conduct of experiments to evaluate and model performance, behavior and coping strategies of people with diverse functional abilities including wheelchair users, older adult users of walking aids, blind and visually impaired users for environmental design applications.

His research also includes computer graphics programming, data visualization and digital human modeling for ergonomics and environmental design. This involves developing empirically-based design resources and software tools for assisting designers and engineers in environment and product design that accommodate users of diverse functional abilities i.e., inclusive design.

Examples of on-going and previous work include usability studies to evaluate and improve the design of environments that are constrained by space, time and/or user abilities including public transportation systems and occupational environments. He is a recipient of the University of Buffalo Graduate School’s Presidential Fellowship.

Improving Maternal Health in Nicaragua

Michigan Health Engineered for All Lives (M-HEAL) is a student organization at the University of Michigan developing sustainable solutions to healthcare challenges in low-resource settings. IOE undergraduate Amanda Lee joined M-HEAL two years ago at the start of her sophomore year.

“Through my own research and recommendations from other engineering friends, I found M-HEAL, which seemed to be the perfect combination of my interests in engineering and global health, along with my desire to put the knowledge I learn in school to good use, implementing them into real-world problems,” Amanda said.

When asked what she enjoys most about M-HEAL, Amanda said, “I am able to put my skills and knowledge to good use, and I feel like I’m taking the small steps to making a difference for a certain population in this world, suffering from health issues.” She also appreciates being a part of a community of students from a variety of backgrounds and majors who have come together to work toward a common goal. Outside of her project team, she said M-Heal has also provided many opportunities to expand her knowledge on global health issues and needs.

Amanda is co-project leader of the Maternal Health team which works to alleviate the health disparities in rural areas of Nicaragua for pregnant women. “In these areas, most clinics do not have adequate equipment for doctors to assess the conditions of their patients. In addition to helping make women’s healthcare more accessible in these areas, the Maternal Health team decided to design and build a portable, gynecological exam table that doctors and nurses would be able to carry from clinic to clinic, giving women a safe and secure surface to lie on while being examined properly.”

Amanda

Amanda Lee

As project leader, Amanda plans, organizes, and facilitates weekly meetings. She also acts as a liaison between the team and the student organization as a whole. She said, “Lastly, and most importantly in this past school year, as co-project leader, I was working hard on planning our trip to Nicaragua, establishing contact with the host country and locations we would visit and stay at, registering our team’s travel with the College of Engineering, attending the necessary meetings and coordinating with the necessary people, informing team members of their duties and steps they needed to take in getting ready to travel, creating fundraising events to gather support for our cause and our trip, and the list goes on.”

The Nicaragua trip Amanda referred to happened this summer after many years of work and dedication from the Maternal Health team which began in 2010. In 2010, a group of students traveled to Nicaragua to perform a needs assessment. From that trip, the group got the idea to create a portable gynecological exam table.

“A year after this initial assessment trip, the Maternal Health team went back to Nicaragua to present the first prototype of the exam table, receiving extremely helpful feedback and understanding the maternal health needs even better. Two years later, we finally have traveled back to Nicaragua again. These past two years have been spent taking into consideration and implementing the feedback we received from the previous trip to create a beta prototype of the exam table. In addition, throughout the past school year, we researched materials and created a protective backpack and frame to carry the table in. Through all these efforts, we were finally ready to travel to Nicaragua again where we were ultimately able to leave the table to be put to good use with our main partner clinic, Sacuanjoche,” Amanda said.

About half of this most recent trip was paid for by the traveling members of the team. The other half of the trip was paid for by the Maternal Health team’s efforts in fundraising over these past two years and the generosity of individual engineering departments within the University, including IOE, as well as the College of Engineering, Dean Munson, and more. The team also tapped non-university sources, such as Buffalo Wild Wings, Panda Express, and Ben & Jerry’s.

The team accomplished a great deal on their trip. In the first leg of their trip Amanda explained, “We were exposed to the healthcare industry and process through meeting with organizations that trained volunteers within communities to be health promoters, and meeting health promoters themselves. These were people who would be able to recognize what health issues required what sort of assistance. Training these members within individual communities was a key aspect to the rural populations of Nicaragua, as these communities were prone to be much more comfortable seeking out a member within their community rather than to travel far from their homes to unfamiliar and large hospitals, only to be treated roughly.”

The group visited both regional hospitals and small, rural clinics. They toured the facilities and also presented their prototype. They received a great deal of feedback which they’ll be taking into consideration as they plan their team’s future steps. Throughout the trip, Amanda said she was able to utilize her IOE education in identifying the merits of the current healthcare processes and the areas that could improve in efficiency. In addition, ergonomics was crucial in the design of the team’s table. Amanda said, “I was able to implement my ergonomics knowledge learned from my IOE curriculum in noting and evaluating what the general demographic of people would be in operating and lying on the table, how these patients would feel on the table, and the points of safety that needed to be addressed and improved.”

The team spent the majority of their trip in Matagalpa at the Casa Materna, where high-risk pregnant women from rural areas go right before they go into labor to receive proper pre-natal and post-natal care and receive education on maternal and child health. They also visited two clinics including Sacuanjoche, the clinic for which they specifically designed the portable gynecological exam table. Amanda explained the reasoning behind the table, “Doctors and nurses from this maternal health clinic travel out to the surrounding rural communities and conduct exams for the women in these areas. As a result, making the exam table transportable was a key factor in our design process.”

Amanda was deeply affected by her experiences on the trip. “This trip to Nicaragua was definitely one of the most worthwhile experiences of my life. Like a lot of other engineering students, I’m sure, I want to be able to apply the knowledge I’ve learned in college and be able to put it all to good use in the real world once I graduate. I felt like I was already contributing to the world in a much larger sense than I had realized and previously anticipated, even if it might still be on a small scale in the larger sense of global health as a whole. Nonetheless, it was incredible to see how this team, in just a few years, was able to bring to life an incredible design that could assist so many within a developing country like Nicaragua in such a way, and it really opened my eyes to all the ways that engineers can help around the world.”

IOE Undergrad Working to Maximize Training Opportunities for Transplant Surgeons

Ryan Chen, an undergraduate student who is pursuing a dual degree in IOE and music performance, spent his summer working with IOE professors Amy Cohn and Mark Daskin as well as several people in the medical school on a project concerning the training of cardiothoracic (heart and lung) transplant surgeons.

Ryan Chen

Ryan Chen

Ryan described the problems they were facing as, “In short, these transplant surgery fellows receive certifications based on numbers of experiences, but opportunities for these experiences occur randomly. Thus, there is no guarantee that the fellows will receive adequate amounts of experiences.”

Ryan and the rest of the research group developed a simulator that randomly generates procedures on a timeline and assigns these procedures to fellows. Through this simulator, they found that the probability of all four fellows receiving at least ten procedures was only roughly 5%. Their goal is to “eventually write linear programs to create call schedules that would maximize the amount of training that the fellows receive.”

Ryan said he enjoyed the challenge of applying techniques he’d learned in classes to open-ended problems. “Performing research has given me a greater appreciation for the skills that professors teach us in classes,” he said. “Sometimes, students might feel that professors are pedantic or that certain parts of course material will not be useful later in their careers, but I now know a lot more about the applications of course material to real-world problems.” He followed that up with, “Of course, I’d also like to think that our work has some impact – better training outcomes means better doctors, which in turn means better treatment for patients.”

Ryan appreciated seeing the reaction of medical personnel to his group’s research. “They often describe the problem qualitatively and anecdotally, so their reaction to the quantification of the problem is always interesting. Ultimately, we want them to recognize the magnitude of the gap between the amount of training required and the mean amount received. Aiding them in this recognition is very rewarding!”

Ryan had nothing but praise for his experience doing research and the team he’s worked with. He’d recommend participating in research to other undergraduate students without hesitation. “If you have any thoughts of wanting to go to graduate school, undergraduate research is the best way to figure out if graduate school is for you. Additionally, you’ll get a leg up on everyone else in the admissions process from having research experience and more meaningful letters of recommendation from faculty. After being involved in research, I also feel much more directed and motivated in classes because I know how the material applies to real research problems. Lastly, research is fun! The people I get to work with are all highly motivated, intelligent, and hilarious, making for a great work environment.”

In addition to his studies and research, Ryan is involved with two engineering honor societies, Tau Beta Pi and Alpha Pi Mu. This fall he is serving as president of both organizations. He is also a member of the BlueLine Brass Band, a New Orleans-style brass band started by members of the music school. He says their “repertoire mainly consists of traditional New Orleans ‘Second Line’ music, pop covers, and mashups — all danceable and grooveable music.” You can find out more about the group on their website.

Once he finishes his undergraduate degree, Ryan would like to pursue graduate school. He’s not yet sure if that will mean a PhD in IOE or a master’s in music performance.