Pitt | Swanson Engineering


Industrial engineering (IE) is about choices - it is the engineering discipline that offers the most wide-ranging array of opportunities in terms of employment, and it is distinguished by its flexibility. While other engineering disciplines tend to apply skills to very specific areas, Industrial Engineers may be found working everywhere: from traditional manufacturing companies to airlines, from distribution companies to financial institutions, from major medical establishments to consulting companies, from high-tech corporations to companies in the food industry.

View our Spring term 2018-2019 course schedule for undergraduate and graduate students.

View our Fall 2018 course schedule for undergraduate and graduate students.

The BS in industrial engineering program is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET (http://www.abet.org). To learn more about Industrial Engineering’s Undergraduate Program ABET Accreditation, click here

Our department is the proud home of Pitt's Center for Industry Studies, which supports multidisciplinary research that links scholars to some of the most important and challenging problems faced by modern industry.




ASEE names Pitt engineering student Julie Shields as 2019 National Co-op Student of the Year

All SSoE News, Industrial, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (December 18, 2018) … Recognizing her exceptional performance at FedEx Supply Chain, University of Pittsburgh graduating senior Julie Shields was selected as the 2019 National Co-op Student of the Year by the Cooperative Education and Experiential Division (CEED) of the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE). Shields received a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering this December, having completed three, four-month rotations with FedEx Supply Chain and will join their company this January. During her third rotation, Shields played a critical role in a competitive bid with a major company. Based on her performance during her first two rotations, she was trusted to represent FedEx during the initial phases of the bid process. Impressed by her success, she was selected as lead engineer on the project and developed plans for a new one million square foot building with automation. This design helped secure a win for the company. “The victory was a monumental event for FedEx,” said Matthew Voycik, a project engineering manager at FedEx Supply Chain. “Julie had a huge part in this and I am very proud of how she responded under adversity. She showed courage throughout the entire design process by bringing ideas to the table to create a winning design for FedEx.” Within FedEx, Shields received two Bravo Zulu awards, which is the second highest performance award at the company. She was extended an offer to join FedEx Supply Chain and will start as a project engineer in January 2019. “Most students have positive experiences during their co-op rotations, however, few students have the opportunity to be the owner of work that affects not only the entire company but an external company as well,” said Shields. “As a co-op, I designed two complex warehouses, presented those designs to executives and senior managers, and was a critical part of winning a large bid for FedEx Supply Chain. As a full time engineer, I will see my designs constructed and come to life.” Shields will receive the National Co-op Student of the Year award at the ASEE Conference for Industry and Education Collaboration conference on January 30, 2019 and then attend the CEED Awards Reception to celebrate with the other award winners. Within the Swanson School, Shields participated in the Freshman Engineering Conference as  co-chair and mentored 10 freshmen students during their second semester. She was also involved in Pitt’s Students Consulting for Non-profit Organizations, a group that allows students to provide consulting work to organizations around the Pittsburgh area for free. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh on December 9, 2018. “We are extremely proud of Julie, she is an excellent student in and out of the classroom and a wonderful representative of Pitt IE graduates,” said Karen Bursic, associate professor and undergraduate program director of industrial engineering. ###


IE Undergraduate Julie Shields Named Swanson School’s 2018 Co-op Student of the Year

All SSoE News, Industrial, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (November 14, 2018) … The University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering Cooperative Education Program named Julie Shields, a senior industrial engineering student, its Co-op Student of the Year. Shields worked three, four-month rotations with FedEx Supply Chain. “I started in a standard engineering role where I designed over one million square feet in warehouse layouts, and I later became a sales representative where I presented the layouts to potential customers,” said Shields. “Each experience with FedEx Supply Chain has allowed me to grow my technical, professional, and personal skills.” “During Julie’s third rotation, she was lead engineer on a complex $350 million bid, which the company ultimately won,” said Maureen Barcic, Cooperative Education Director at Pitt. “Outside of her co-op experience, Julie is also a member of Tau Beta Pi, Students Consulting for Non-Profit Organizations, Alpha Pi Mu, IIE, and was the Co-Chair for the 2017 Freshman Engineering Conference. She holds a 3.9 GPA and has been awarded two national scholarships.” Shields will utilize the skills that she gained from her co-op experience as she starts full time with FedEx Supply Chain in January. The other finalist was Xavier Strittmatter, a chemical engineering student who worked for Johnson & Johnson/McNeil Healthcare. Cole Burden, a civil engineering student, was awarded the Co-op Tenacity Award for his work at American Bridge. Honorable mentions include: Robyn Moyer, Electrical Engineering, ZOLL LifeVest Julia Marzocca, Mechanical Engineering, Nissan Sean O’Brien, Mechanical Engineering, Nissan Logan Higinbotham, Computer Science, Ansys Jessica Rodgers, Mechanical Engineering, FedEx Ground Casey Kinol, Chemical Engineering, Lubrizol Abigail Wezelis, Computer Engineering, ANSYS Jenna Rudolph, Mechanical Engineering, Cleaveland/Price, Inc. Rushil Shah, Industrial Engineering, The Bank of New York Mellon Casey McBride, Bioengineering, Mine Safety Appliances The 2018 Co-op Employer of the Year is Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. “We have had a great relationship with the Consumer Healthcare Division of J&J for many years,” said Barcic. “They have hired over 60 co-ops in the Fort Washington, Lancaster, and Lititz, Pennsylvania locations and have given tremendous opportunities to many of our students. They have also hired a number of these individuals on a full-time basis.” Other employers who were nominated include: Connors Group FedEx Ground  Philips Human Engineering Research Lab (HERL) About the Cooperative Education ProgramThe University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering Cooperative Education Program was reestablished in 1987 with the initial goal of 20 percent participation among undergraduate students. By 2018, almost 50 percent of undergraduates at the Swanson School participate in the co-op program. More than 6,500 students have participated over the years, with more than 80 percent completing all three required rotations. ###


A Day in the Life of Industrial Engineer Becca Lasky BSIE '16

Industrial, Student Profiles

I didn’t decide to go into engineering until the week before starting college!  I had taken a class in engineering in high school, and I had helped lead a summer program that included STEM outreach.  But I just wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted to study in college. I finally decided on engineering because I knew it was a viable career option, and if I decided to leave engineering later, it would be easy to transfer from engineering into something else.  Once I started studying engineering, I found out that I loved it! What drew me to industrial engineering is how broad it is.  It covers many different aspects of work and many different industries.  I also liked that it is a lot more business-focused and less “physical design” focused.  I like designing systems and that’s what industrial engineers do. Read Becca's full story in her own words at SWE Blog.
Author: Becca Lasky

Pitt Researcher Uses Video Games to Unlock New Levels of A.I.


PITTSBURGH (November 5, 2018) … Expectations for artificial intelligences are very real and very high. An analysis in Forbes projects revenues from A.I. will skyrocket from $1.62 billion in 2018 to $31.2 billion in 2025. The report also included a survey revealing 84 percent of enterprises believe investing in A.I. will lead to competitive advantages.“It is exciting to see the tremendous successes and progress made in recent years,” says Daniel Jiang, assistant professor of industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering. “To continue this trend, we are looking to develop more sophisticated methods for algorithms to learn strategies for optimal decision making.” Dr. Jiang designs algorithms that learn decision strategies in complex and uncertain environments. By testing algorithms in simulated environments, they can learn from their mistakes while discovering and reinforcing strategies for success. To perfect this process, Dr. Jiang and many researchers in his field require simulations that mirror the real world.“As industrial engineers, we typically work on problems with an operational focus. For example, transportation, logistics and supply chains, energy systems and health care are several important areas,” he says. “All of those problems are high-stakes operations with real-world consequences. They don’t make the best environments for trying out experimental technologies, especially when many of our algorithms can be thought of as clever ways of repeated ‘trial and error’ over all possible actions.”One strategy for preparing advanced A.I. to take on real-world scenarios and complications is to use historical data. For instance, algorithms could run through decades’ worth of data to find which decisions were effective and which led to less than optimal results. However, researchers have found it difficult to test algorithms that are designed to learn adaptive behaviors using only data from the past.Dr. Jiang explains, “Historical data can be a problem because people’s actions fix the consequences and don’t present alternative possibilities. In other words, it is difficult for an algorithm to ask the question ‘how would things be different if I chose door B instead of door A?’ In historical data, all we can see are the consequences of door A.”Video games, as an alternative, offer rich testing environments full of complex decision making without the dangers of putting an immature A.I. fully in charge. Unlike the real world, they provide a safe way for an algorithm to learn from its mistakes.“Video game designers aren’t building games with the goal to test models or simulations,” Dr. Jiang says. “They’re often designing games with a two-fold mission: to create environments that mimic the real world and to challenge players to make difficult decisions. These goals happen to align with what we are looking for as well. Also, games are much faster. In a few hours of real time, we can evaluate the results of hundreds of thousands of gameplay decisions.”To test his algorithm, Dr. Jiang used a genre of video games called Multiplayer Online Battle Arena or MOBA. Games such as League of Legends or Heroes of the Storm are popular MOBAs in which players control one of several “hero” characters and try to destroy opponents’ bases while protecting their own. A successful algorithm for training a gameplay A.I. must overcome several challenges, such as real-time decision making and long decision horizons—a mathematical term for when the consequences of some decisions are not known until much later.“We designed the algorithm to evaluate 41 pieces of information and then output one of 22 different actions, including movement, attacks and special moves,” says Dr. Jiang. “We compared different training methods against one another. The most successful player used a method called Monte Carlo tree search to generate data, which is then fed into a neural network.”Monte Carlo tree search is a strategy for decision making in which the player moves randomly through a simulation or a video game. The algorithm then analyzes the game results to give more weight to more successful actions. Over time and multiple iterations of the game, the more successful actions persist, and the player becomes better at winning the game.“Our research also gave some theoretical results to show that Monte Carlo tree search is an effective strategy for training an agent to succeed at making difficult decisions in real-time, even when operating in an uncertain world,” Dr. Jiang explains. Dr. Jiang published his research in a paper co-authored with Emmanuel Ekwedike and Han Liu and presented the results at the 2018 International Conference on Machine Learning in Stockholm, Sweden this past summer. At the University of Pittsburgh, he continues to work in the area of sequential decision making with Ph.D. students Yijia Wang and Ibrahim El-Shar. The team focuses on problems related to ride-sharing, energy markets, and public health. As industries prepare to put A.I. in charge of critical responsibilities, Dr. Jiang ensures the underlying algorithms stay at the top of their game. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Making a Transparent Flexible Material of Silk and Nanotubes


PITTSBURGH (October 30, 2018) … The silk fibers produced by Bombyx mori, the domestic silkworm, has been prized for millennia as a strong yet lightweight and luxurious material. Although synthetic polymers like nylon and polyester are less costly, they do not compare to silk’s natural qualities and mechanical properties. And according to research from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, silk combined with carbon nanotubes may lead to a new generation of biomedical devices and so-called transient, biodegradable electronics.The study, “Promoting Helix-Rich Structure in Silk Fibroin Films through Molecular Interactions with Carbon Nanotubes and Selective Heating for Transparent Biodegradable Devices” (DOI: 10.1021/acsanm.8b00784), was featured on the Oct. 26 cover of the American Chemistry Society journal Applied Nano Materials. “Silk is a very interesting material. It is made of natural fibers that humans have been using for thousands of years to make high quality textiles, but we as engineers have recently started to appreciate silk’s potential for many emerging applications such as flexible bioelectronics due to its unique biocompatibility, biodegradability and mechanical flexibility,” noted Mostafa Bedewy, assistant professor of industrial engineering at the Swanson School and lead author of the paper. “The issue is that if we want to use silk for such applications, we don’t want it to be in the form of fibers. Rather, we want to regenerate silk proteins, called fibroins, in the form of films that exhibit desired optical, mechanical and chemical properties.” As explained by the authors in the video below, these regenerated silk fibroins (RSFs) however typically are chemically unstable in water and suffer from inferior mechanical properties, owing to the difficulty in precisely controlling the molecular structure of the fibroin proteins in RSF films.  Bedewy and his NanoProduct Lab group, which also work extensively on carbon nanotubes (CNTs), thought that perhaps the molecular interactions between nanotubes and fibroins could enable “tuning” the structure of RSF proteins. “One of the interesting aspects of CNTs is that, when they are dispersed in a polymer matrix and exposed to microwave radiation, they locally heat up,” Dr. Bedewy explained. “So we wondered whether we could leverage this unique phenomenon to create desired transformations in the fibroin structure around the CNTs in an “RSF-CNT” composite.”According to Dr. Bedewy, the microwave irradiation, coupled with a solvent vapor treatment, provided a unique control mechanism for the protein structure and resulted in a flexible and transparent film comparable to synthetic polymers but one that could be both more sustainable and degradable. These RSF-CNT films have potential for use in flexible electronics, biomedical devices and transient electronics such as sensors that would be used for a desired period inside the body ranging from hours to weeks, and then naturally dissolve. “We are excited about advancing this work further in the future, as we are looking forward to developing the science and technology aspects of these unique functional materials,” Dr. Bedewy said. “ From a scientific perspective, there is still a lot more to understand about the molecular interactions between the functionalization on nanotube surfaces and protein molecules. From an engineering perspective, we want to develop scalable manufacturing processes for taking cocoons of natural silk and transforming them into functional thin films for next generation wearable and implantable electronic devices.” ### About the NanoProduct LabThe NanoProduct Lab (nanoproductlab.org), also known as the Bedewy Research Group, focuses on fundamental experimental research at the interface between nanoscience, biotechnology, and manufacturing engineering. The group explores basic scientific discoveries and applied technological developments in the broad area of advanced manufacturing at multiple length scales, creating solutions that impact major societal challenges in energy, healthcare, and the environment. This work was supported by the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) at the University of Pittsburgh. M.B. is grateful for the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU). Fabrication and characterization were performed, in part, at the Nanoscale Fabrication and Characterization Facility, a laboratory of the Gertrude E. and John M. Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering, housed at the University of Pittsburgh. The work was also supported in part by the Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Education (NRF-2018R1A4A1025169). Image below, left: ACS Applied Nano Materials cover. Image below, right: Schematic diagram illustrating the structural changes of RSF-CNT composite film exhibited during microwave- and vapor-treatment.

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