Welcome from the Department Head

Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) became a department at Rensselaer in 1987 (the precursor program, management engineering, started much earlier in 1933).  The world has changed a lot since then. Breathtaking technological advances are accompanied by new natural and human-made challenges—extreme weathers, energy sustainability, skyrocketing healthcare cost, income inequality, disinformation, terrorism, and a slew of others. In this increasingly complex and cacophonous world, ISE’s grounding in evidence-based, data-driven reasoning and decision making is more relevant and critical than ever before.

Industrial and systems engineers today address highly interconnected societal systems consisting of engineered and human components, with distributed decision making based on huge amounts of disparate data. ISE faculty are at the forefront of the field—conducting innovative and impactful research, and at the same time bringing their insight and discovery into the classroom. To name just a few examples:

  • Jennifer Pazour is leading the charge on the supply chain of the future, which integrates resource sharing, user preference, and real-time information. She has been honored with a trifecta of prestigious awards: the National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER), the Johnson & Johnson Manufacturing Scholar Award (part of the Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Manufacturing, and Design (or WiSTEM2D) Scholar Program), and the IISE Dr. Hamed K. Eldin Outstanding Early Career IE in Academia Award.
  • David Mendonça, in his role as the program director for the infrastructure management and extreme events program at NSF (2015-2017), has been shaping research in community resiliency.
  • Al Wallace analyzes behavior in social media in disaster events through funding from the Department of Homeland Security, the Army Research Office, and NSF.
  • Tom Sharkey’s innovative virtual office hour was recognized by the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE) Operations Research Teaching Award.
  • Sergio Pequito, a new ISE faculty member, is expanding the boundary of ISE by applying his research on large complex systems to neuroscience and biomedicine.
  • Cheng Hsu’s patent on natural language interface has ushered in the advent of voice-based search such as Siri. The settlement with Apple has enabled the establishment of an ISE department endowment fund.
  • ISE graduate students have been garnering multiple awards, from the Department of Defense Fellowship to scholarships in professional societies to best paper awards in conferences.

As a testament to the recognition that our faculty and students have received, our U.S. News & World Report graduate school ranking has been at 17 in both 2017 and 2018.

The coming year will bring preparation for ABET accreditation, curriculum review to ensure adequate coverage of both fundamentals and contemporary applications, and expansion of the Arch program for sophomores in summer.  We will also continue close engagement with the ISE Advisory Council, many of whom are our alumni, for internship/co-op opportunities, capstone design project sponsorship, research collaboration, and curriculum input.

To broaden our outreach, we have updated our website and set up an ISE YouTube channel. Please check them out and let us know what you think!

When I was growing up in Taiwan, I was drawn by American idealism and activism. There was a whole set of daunting challenges then—from the civil rights movement to gender equality to the Vietnam War. The problems were hard, but there was always the commitment to continue to strive for a better world, “a more perfect union,” and the belief that the effort is ultimately rewarding—the long arc of history bending towards justice.

I am honored to serve as the ISE department head and to have the opportunity to work with wonderful students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Let’s collectively harness the idealism and actively strive for a better department, university, and society.




ISE Overview