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 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.



NSF Awards Pitt Engineers $200K to Study the Impact of Reflection on Learning

Electrical & Computer, Industrial

PITTSBURGH (September 25, 2018) … University of Pittsburgh professors Samuel Dickerson and Renee Clark received an NSF grant to help students in the Swanson School of Engineering start to think about thinking. The two-year, $200,000 award will support a project to improve learning and development by promoting the frequent use of reflection and “metacognition” among students in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Dickerson, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, believes that the Swanson School is perfect for this kind of project. “Engineering is different from other disciplines because this type of thought process isn’t inherent in our training,” he said. “Reflection and metacognition are not skills that are regularly cultivated or practiced in the engineering curriculum - in the classroom we are more focused on immediate problem-solving rather than pausing and looking at the big picture, which is more common in the engineering workplace.” They hope to change that standard at Pitt by first introducing these skills to electrical and computer engineering students in Dickerson’s ECE-0257 microelectronic circuits course. According to Clark, assistant professor of industrial engineering, it is easier for a student in a classroom environment to ask a professor or teaching assistant to help them solve a problem. Outside of college however, there may be fewer resources on which to rely. Dickerson and Clark want to encourage engineering students to develop lifelong learning skills that will help them independently learn how to find a solution and ultimately give them an advantage when they join the workforce. “When a student faces an obstacle in class or doesn’t perform to the level he/she should, we don’t typically ask them to critically reflect on how they got there, what they can do to solve it, or how they can perform better,” said Clark, who is  also director of assessment for the Engineering Education Research Center (EERC). “Our goal is to utilize frequent activities that prompt students to reflect and better understand their learning processes.” “Metacognition is a useful skill that helps students take a deeper look at their learning processes by simply thinking about their thinking,” said Dickerson. “Reflection is a closely related skill where students are asked to critically analyze something they have done. In this project, we want to encourage students to use both metacognition and reflection to guide their own learning during new tasks.” A unique aspect of their research is the use of SPICE simulation tools to drive students to analyze their work and gain insight into success as well as mistakes. “I will ask the students in my class to use engineering theory to complete a problem and then compare their answer to a computed result using SPICE, the standard simulation environment used by professionals to predict electronic circuit behavior,” explained Dickerson. “I want them to reflect on the gaps in their understanding, thereby taking a deeper look at their learning process and understanding.” Dickerson and Clark will examine the impact of frequent reflection using SPICE by looking at both quantitative and qualitative data. In addition to monitoring exam scores, they will distribute surveys, conduct interviews, and hold focus groups. They will be using a system to measure the depth of the students’ reflections and will evaluate the content to see if it is showing growth in students’ professional development. “The results we are looking for are not necessarily better exam scores,” said Clark. “We want to know if we have cultivated reflective and metacognitive skills in engineering students and if we have made an impact on their development.  We will be analyzing both the depth and content of their reflections using a systematic approach that has been working for us in our preliminary research.” With the use of these skills, Dickerson and Clark hope that ECE students will become better students, learners, and professionals by developing the ability to critically reflect on their own performance. These types of reflective activities are applicable across disciplines and can be easily implemented in any classroom at the University. Clark said, “We hope that these efforts will help our students develop lifelong learning skills that will make them better prepared for the professional world.” ###


NSF Awards IE’s Andrés Gómez $150K to Solve Widespread Optimization Problems in Computational Mathematics


PITTSBURGH (August 13, 2018) … Relationships between return and investment cost, profit and time, or cost and quality are important for decision-makers looking to optimize efficiency. If the possible choices faced by the decision-maker have a simple structure, then these tradeoff problems can be solved efficiently; however, in practice, the decisions are rarely simple and the existing computational approaches fail after complexity reaches a certain point.The National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Mathematical Science awarded $150,000 to Andrés Gómez, assistant professor of industrial engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, to widen the computational boundaries of complex optimization problems involving such tradeoffs. The project titled “Advancing Fractional Combinatorial Optimization: Computation and Applications” (1818700) begins Sept. 1.“We will be working with a hard class of problems called single- and multiple-ratio fractional combinatorial optimization problems,” Dr. Gómez explains. “There are no adequate approaches to these kinds of problems if they involve many layers of complexity or variability. This project aims to develop computational approaches with solid underlying theoretical foundations to solve these problems.”Dr. Gómez’s research falls broadly into the field of “decision-making under uncertainty.” He studies ways to improve mathematical modeling to better understand problems in finance, statistics, machine learning, manufacturing, revenue management, and many other applications.“Our proposed approaches will contribute to our understanding of mathematical optimization, particularly conic, fractional and discrete optimization, combinatorics, and algebraic graph theory,” adds Dr. Gómez.Oleg Prokopyev, professor of industrial engineering at Pitt, will join Dr. Gómez as co-principal investigator of the study. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Integrated Sensor Could Monitor Brain Aneurysm Treatment

Bioengineering, Industrial

POSTED WITH PERMISSION FROM GEORGIA TECH. ATLANTA (August 2, 2018) ... Implantation of a stent-like flow diverter can offer one option for less invasive treatment of brain aneurysms – bulges in blood vessels – but the procedure requires frequent monitoring while the vessels heal. Now, a multi-university research team has demonstrated proof-of-concept for a highly flexible and stretchable sensor that could be integrated with the flow diverter to monitor hemodynamics in a blood vessel without costly diagnostic procedures.The sensor, which uses capacitance changes to measure blood flow, could reduce the need for testing to monitor the flow through the diverter. Researchers, led by Georgia Tech, have shown that the sensor accurately measures fluid flow in animal blood vessels in vitro, and are working on the next challenge: wireless operation that could allow in vivo testing. The research was reported July 18 in the journal ACS Nano and was supported by multiple grants from Georgia Tech’s Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology, the University of Pittsburgh and the Korea Institute of Materials Science. “The nanostructured sensor system could provide advantages for patients, including a less invasive aneurysm treatment and an active monitoring capability,” said Woon-Hong Yeo, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “The integrated system could provide active monitoring of hemodynamics after surgery, allowing the doctor to follow up with quantitative measurement of how well the flow diverter is working in the treatment.”Cerebral aneurysms occur in up to five percent of the population, with each aneurysm carrying a one percent risk per year of rupturing, noted Youngjae Chun, an associate professor in the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. Aneurysm rupture will cause death in up to half of affected patients. Endovascular therapy using platinum coils to fill the aneurysm sac has become the standard of care for most aneurysms, but recently a new endovascular approach – a flow diverter – has been developed to treat cerebral aneurysms. Flow diversion involves placing a porous stent across the neck of an aneurysm to redirect flow away from the sac, generating local blood clots within the sac.“We have developed a highly stretchable, hyper-elastic flow diverter using a highly-porous thin film nitinol,” Chun explained. “None of the existing flow diverters, however, provide quantitative, real-time monitoring of hemodynamics within the sac of cerebral aneurysm. Through the collaboration with Dr. Yeo's group at Georgia Tech, we have developed a smart flow-diverter system that can actively monitor the flow alterations during and after surgery.”  Repairing the damaged artery takes months or even years, during which the flow diverter must be monitored using MRI and angiogram technology, which is costly and involves injection of a magnetic dye into the blood stream. Yeo and his colleagues hope their sensor could provide simpler monitoring in a doctor’s office using a wireless inductive coil to send electromagnetic energy through the sensor. By measuring how the energy’s resonant frequency changes as it passes through the sensor, the system could measure blood flow changes into the sac.“We are trying to develop a batteryless, wireless device that is extremely stretchable and flexible that can be miniaturized enough to be routed through the tiny and complex blood vessels of the brain and then deployed without damage,” said Yeo. “It’s a very challenging to insert such electronic system into the brain’s narrow and contoured blood vessels.”The sensor uses a micro-membrane made of two metal layers surrounding a dielectric material, and wraps around the flow diverter. The device is just a few hundred nanometers thick, and is produced using nanofabrication and material transfer printing techniques, encapsulated in a soft elastomeric material.“The membrane is deflected by the flow through the diverter, and depending on the strength of the flow, the velocity difference, the amount of deflection changes,” Yeo explained. “We measure the amount of deflection based on the capacitance change, because the capacitance is inversely proportional to the distance between two metal layers.”Because the brain’s blood vessels are so small, the flow diverters can be no more than five to ten millimeters long and a few millimeters in diameter. That rules out the use of conventional sensors with rigid and bulky electronic circuits.“Putting functional materials and circuits into something that size is pretty much impossible right now,” Yeo said. “What we are doing is very challenging based on conventional materials and design strategies.”The researchers tested three materials for their sensors: gold, magnesium and the nickel-titanium alloy known as nitinol. All can be safely used in the body, but magnesium offers the potential to be dissolved into the bloodstream after it is no longer needed.The proof-of-principle sensor was connected to a guide wire in the in vitro testing, but Yeo and his colleagues are now working on a wireless version that could be implanted in a living animal model. While implantable sensors are being used clinically to monitor abdominal blood vessels, application in the brain creates significant challenges.“The sensor has to be completely compressed for placement, so it must be capable of stretching 300 or 400 percent,” said Yeo. “The sensor structure has to be able to endure that kind of handling while being conformable and bending to fit inside the blood vessel.”The research included multiple contributors from different institutions, including Connor Howe from Virginia Commonwealth University; Saswat Mishra and Yun-Soung Kim from Georgia Tech, Youngjae Chun, Yanfei Chen, Sang-Ho Ye and William Wagner from the University of Pittsburgh; Jae-Woong Jeong from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; Hun-Soo Byun from Chonnam National University; and Jong-Hoon Kim from Washington State University. CITATION: Connor Howe, et. al., “Stretchable, Implantable, Nanostructured Flow-Diverter System for Quantification of Intra-aneurysmal Hemodynamics” (ACS Nano, 2018). http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acsnano.8b04689 ### A proof-of-concept flow sensor is shown here on a stent backbone. (Credit: John Toon, Georgia Tech)   With gloved fingers for scale, a proof-of-concept flow sensor is shown here on a stent backbone. (Credit: Woon-Hong Yeo, Georgia Tech)
John Toon, Director of Research News, Georgia Tech

Ravi Shankar and collaborators make a breakthrough in 4D printing


PITTSBURGH (Aug 3, 2018) … Four-dimensional (4D) printed objects are 3D structures capable of changing shape in time. This transformation is achieved by using stimuli-responsive materials. University of Pittsburgh Professor Ravi Shankar and collaborators at the University of Texas at Dallas have now demonstrated a platform that may help improve the way researchers morph these structures. The collaboration was led by Taylor Ware, assistant professor of bioengineering at UT Dallas, and Cedric Ambulo, a graduate student researcher in Ware’s lab. The study, “Four-dimensional Printing of Liquid Crystal Elastomers” (DOI: 10.1021/acsami.7b11851), was published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces in October 2017. Since its release, it has achieved recognition as being “first of its kind” and was awarded best poster at the 2017 International Liquid Crystal Elastomer Conference. “Previous strategies for stimuli-responsive materials require mechanical programming, which involves physically manipulating the material by stretching or bending it to help program the actuation,” said Shankar, professor of industrial engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “In this work, we demonstrate a platform for programming the molecular-level order in macroscopic 3D structures so that the actuation can be triggered without external loading or training.” Their platform works by orienting molecules within a printable ‘ink’. On exposure to light, the ink cross-links into a rubbery material while maintaining molecular orientation. By controlling how the material is deposited, they can build 3D structures with encoded molecular orientation which allows for the control of the structure’s shape change when it is heated. The research team used liquid crystal elastomers (LCE), a polymer that can change shape in response to a variety of stimuli, including heat and light. “In order to undergo reversible shape change, LCEs should be cross-linked in an aligned state,” explained Shankar. “To do this, we controlled the print path used during 3D printing, whereby 3D structures with locally controlled and reversible stimulus response can be fabricated into geometries not achievable with current processing methods.” The resulting 4D models are capable of twisting, bending, and curving on demand. The structure will stay in one state until it is prompted by a stimulus to change shape. By printing objects with controlled geometry and stimulus response, the research team can create magnified shape transformations using snap-through instabilities. “Snap-through instabilities can be seen in nature when observing a venus flytrap catching their prey. The snapping action is used to magnify the power density and speed of actuation,” said Shankar. “Our group mimicked this action by creating curved geometries encoded with molecular-level programming that when exposed to a thermal stimulus, evolve and snap between discrete shapes.” Scientists are just scratching the surface for the future of this technology. According to Shankar, “There is a lot of potential for innovation with these unique materials. There are numerous applications for 4D printing including advancements in soft robotics, implantable medical devices, and consumer products.” This material is based upon work supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research under award number FA9550-17-1-0328. Any opinions, finding, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Air Force. ###


Manufacturing Assistance Center in Homewood provides training and 95% job placement


Donald Harmuth graduated from South Fayette High School this past spring and is building on the training he got at the Manufacturing Assistance Center in Homewood to pursue a degree in Engineering Physics at Westminster College this fall. “I was surprised by what we could do with the equipment we had. I was always extremely resourceful, but the capability of the machines is amazing when fully understood,” he says. “The most important thing I learned is not a technical or ‘hard skill’ but a soft one. It is resilience; anything can be done if you try,” says Harmuth. In May, the University of Pittsburgh’s Manufacturing Assistance Center (MAC) celebrated one year at its new location in Homewood. The center, which shares equipment and space with several other companies in a refurbished warehouse on Susquehanna Street, provides training in advanced manufacturing techniques for budding engineers and others in the East End and beyond. MAC is just one project in a larger effort by the University of Pittsburgh to move more facilities and resources into underserved neighborhoods bordering Oakland. Read the full article at Next Pittsburgh. The Manufacturing Assistance Center is an initiative of the Department of Industrial Engineering.
Bill O'Toole, Next Pittsburgh

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