The department’s research is focused on core disciplinary strengths in Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE).
ISE involves the application of:
ISE employs methods of mathematical programming, queuing theory, computational optimization, decision analysis, applied statistics, database systems, soft computing, and discrete event simulation for solving problems related to the design, planning, and operation of complex systems where intelligent coordination is necessary to achieve optimal performance. It is distinctive from management and economics in the use of an engineering approach to design and analyze enterprise processes to optimize performance. It is distinctive from computer science in its focus on the design of data and knowledge systems as the organizational nerve center where operations and enterprise systems are integrated.
The department’s faculty research aligns directly with these core strengths to exploit dynamically evolving opportunities of high relevance in such areas as Adaptive Supply Chains, Social and Cognitive Networks, Homeland Security, Service Systems Engineering, Energy and Environmental Systems, and Biotechnology.
The department’s research thrust in cognitive and social networks relates to the development of computational technologies focused on the application of artificial intelligence, soft computing, data fusion, information systems, and data mining. Key applications include:
- threat detection in social network communications,
- issues of trust and ethics in online communities,
- visualization in media and design,
- emergent and improvisational organizational responses to natural and unnatural disasters, and
- group and individual behavior in dynamic social systems.
This research lies at the intersection of operations research, systems engineering, and psychology. The unifying thread is the use of cyber-infrastructure to enhance the information value chain from data, to information, to knowledge to decision making. The research has yielded practical techniques and algorithms for such tasks as automated mining of media files and social network communications, modeling organizational responses to unplanned events, and the impact of interdependencies among infrastructural sub-systems in urban areas.
The department’s research in adaptive supply chains deals with the logistics of efficiently deploying finite resources to assemble, transport, sustain and distribute people and goods, thereby facilitating the fulfillment of demand associated with economic commerce, national defense, disaster response, and/or humanitarian aid.
The focus is on efficient and integrated coupling of supply with distribution network resources from a total integrated systems perspective.
The functional scope of Adaptive Supply Chains spans:
- materials management, storage,
- delivery, and
Its contextual scope spans production, transportation, military, health, maritime, and communications systems. All of these systems are characterized by complex interdependencies where the methodologies of Industrial and Systems Engineering can address major challenges in both the ability of supply chains to adapt to evolutionary change and respond to planned and unplanned disruptive events. The current body of design and modeling research in this area focuses on life-cycle cost minimization under steady state conditions, sequential supply and demand management, and predictable asset and material values. This traditional approach is clearly insufficient to deal with the challenges facing supply chains in the 21st century where criteria related to resiliency and sustainability will rival cost as a dominant driver in decision making. The department’s research in adaptive supply chains is expanding the theoretical frameworks for understanding, modeling, and simulating interdependent supply chains under short-term disruptive conditions as well as their adaptability over the system life cycle.
Global Needs: Disaster Response and Recovery
An excellent example of the department’s research in this area is in systems for disaster response and recovery. Recent events remind us of the global importance of natural, technological, and willful disasters. Such critical events precipitate a wide range of impacts on the interconnected, complex systems that constitute our infrastructure for food, transportation, power, housing, and medical supplies. These technological systems are more vulnerable because they are interdependent; disruptions in one can spread to others, causing cascading and potentially catastrophic failures. This vulnerability is exacerbated by advances in communications and computing technologies that are now integral to the operations of our infrastructure systems. For example, efficient and effective global supply chains such could not function without both the logistical infrastructure to collect, store, and move goods and the information infrastructure to monitor and control the flow of those goods over the network.
Other Important Research Themes
ISE research in Energy and the Environment models self-reconfigurable power grids with cyber-infrastructure and distributed sensors using agent-based methodologies. Related research in this application area involves load forecasting, advanced simulation models to assess the impact of climate change, and proton exchange membrane fuel cell manufacturing. ISE research in Service Systems Engineering builds on the complementarity of services and manufacturing in applying cyberinfrastructure to produce and provide on-demand, mass-customized services. The key characteristics of these services include scalability, asynchronous co-production, and human-centered assistance through cyber-infrastructure. ISE research in Biotechnology uses computational intelligence for computer-aided drug design, simulation tools for modeling the spread of infectious diseases, and the development of text-mining techniques in bioinformatics.