Message from the Interim Department Head

Twelve years ago, when I first came to join the University of Minnesota, there was no Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE). ISyE was, at the time, a graduate program within the Department of Mechanical Engineering consisting of five faculty members. Launching ISyE to a full-fledged department meant no step for the people of ISyE at that time: We didn’t even have to move offices. But surely it was a giant step for the College of Science and Engineering (Thank you, Dean Steven Crouch and Dean Mos Kaveh, for making it happen!). I was fortunate enough to serve as ISyE’s founding department head, and thanks to my successor (now predecessor) Professor Saif Benjaafar, who took it to a whole next level, ISyE is now home to 15 faculty members, 200 undergraduate students, and 70 graduate students. There is so much excitement and energy in this department, you can hardly miss it when you come to visit our fantastic new space on the second floor of Lind Hall. This year, I am acting as an interim department head, and a national search for a new head is on the way.

ISyE is centered around its people. Last year’s recruitment efforts resulted in two new faculty members joining us: Jeff Hong and Kathryn Wust. Jeff is a full professor, a leading expert on simulation, and he will arrive in Minnesota next fall. Jeff currently is the Area Editor (area: Simulation) of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) flagship journal, Operations Research. Kathryn received her Ph.D. in June from University of Wisconsin- Madison and joined us in August as an assistant teaching professor. Kathryn’s research and teaching interests include industrial engineering, human factors, healthcare systems, patient experience, and patient safety; her expertise expands the dimension of the existing faculty of ISyE. As for the coming year, a regular faculty search will continue. 

This year also marks a year of harvest for all our educational programs. We continue to be a discovery major that attracts a wide variety of diversity in our undergraduate student body to include female identifying, international, and transfer students. Our undergraduate students tend to stay in ISyE once they declare ISyE as their major, and are successful in finding a career after graduation with a steady placement rate of over 98%. We offer over 10 scholarships annually to undergraduate students who demonstrate leadership, community impact, or inclusion, among other qualities. ISyE undergraduate students are engaged in the classroom via Senior Design Projects increasingly sponsored by ISyE Alumni, and they are leaders in our student organization and support recruitment efforts across campus. The ISyE master’s programs (the IE, SE, and Analytics tracks) have had a record high total enrollment in the past academic year. In the meanwhile, eight new Ph.D. students joined ISyE this year – yet another record number on that front. 

There are a lot of exciting developments going on here at ISyE. This spring, for example, marked a series of events in the wake of the 10th anniversary of ISyE, among which was a thorough 2-day external program review conducted by a team of top-notch leaders in our field. The final remark of the review team in their exit report reads, “The University of Minnesota is to be congratulated on building a prominent department in just ten years, admired by its peer institutions.” Investing in ISyE and its future has proven to be a great idea for all partners involved. I look forward to receiving your feedback, comments, and suggestions; I am only an email away.

Dr. Shuzhong Zhang
Professor and Interim Department Head