Recent Profiles of PhD Graduates in the ISE Department at RPI

Sarah Nurre

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Arkansas.

Profile: Sarah Nurre is an Assistant Professor in the Industrial Engineering department at the University of Arkansas. Prior to this, she was an Assistant Professor in the Operational Sciences Department at the Air Force Institute of Technology. She received 3 degrees, all from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: a B.S. in Mathematics, a M.Eng. in Industrial Management Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems. While at RPI she was supported by two Fellowships: the Chauncey and Doris Starr Fellowship and the Sandia National Laboratories and RPI Excellence in Engineering Fellowship.

Her experience: (Directly written by her) I had an exceptional experience as a Ph.D. student in the Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) Department at RPI. The Ph.D. program design has students start research early. By starting research early, I was able to submit a paper to a top journal at the conclusion of my first year of graduate school. This proved invaluable when job searching as I already had a paper in print and others under review which I believe set me apart from other applicants. The community at RPI was also very supportive. I met at least weekly with my advisor, Tom Sharkey, but also met weekly in a group research meeting with John Mitchell, Al Wallace, and other graduate students. This type of collaborative environment provided me continuous feedback on my research and valuable different perspectives and ideas about future directions. It was because of this group advising that I felt more confident advising students of my own as a Professor.

At RPI, the rules do not let graduate students instruct a full course. However, even with these restrictions I was encouraged to be creative and innovative within the boundaries to gain teaching experience. During my last year as a Ph.D. student, I created video tutorials which walk through example problems for students. This was very successful and my advisor continues to add to the video repository by making his own videos and having his Ph.D. students make them. Further, because of these video tutorials, I had a unique teaching experience which helped with my job search and developing my own teaching philosophies.

Overall, here are my top 3 reasons of 'Why ISE at RPI?'
  1. Ph.D. students start research early. Starting research early in your time as a Ph.D. student helps with many things including making classes relevant and allows you to submit papers early. With an early submission of papers, you have a stronger record with hopefully at least one accepted paper and others in the pipeline when job searching.
  2. Small number of well connected Faculty. With a small department, students have a significant amount of face time with not just your advisor but many faculty in the department. However, even with the small number, faculty are well connected with academics and industry professionals outside of RPI which helps build your network.
  3. The RPI atmosphere. RPI has a very distinct community and culture. This culture is very welcoming and embraces intelligence and an eagerness to always learn. The community is also very collaborative in which people interact and work across departments and disciplines.

Walter Yund

Current Position: Research Scientist, GE Global Research

His Experience: (Directly written by him) I am currently a research scientist at GE Global Research working on supply chain technology and applications for the Industrial Internet. My time in the DSES Ph.D. program at RPI helped me prepare for my current role in three ways. First, the courses offered through the program, while deep in terms of knowledge transfer, were sufficiently diverse to give me a broad level of competence in many technologies and methodologies. This is particularly useful in a corporate R&D environment where different techniques are required for different problems, and where focus areas change rapidly. Second, the program focused on enhancing my research skills through focused seminars, courses and collaboration sessions. These were quite valuable in teaching me the research process, which continues to help me tackle industry problems that have no obvious solutions. Third, the professors in the department were always eager to help me in any way they could, and always put my interests as a student above their own. Their constant guidance and support made the successful completion of my degree program very smooth.