IE Student and Alumni Profiles
Today, Lauren Hall is a senior operations engineer at SpaceX, in the company’s supply chain quality division. Trace her career path back from there, and you’ll find rail-industry expertise, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification, experience in streamlining manufacturing lines, and a commitment to safety.
Trace back even a little further yet, and you’ll find yourself in an Engineering 100 classroom at UIC.
It was there that Lauren, who was always adept at math and science but didn’t know exactly what kind of career lay ahead of her, discovered industrial engineering. One day in class, Associate Professor Houshang Darabi gave a presentation about the major, and he mentioned the parallel between industrial engineering and flight traffic control. With that, Lauren knew her major. She declared industrial engineering.
Lauren chose to attend UIC because she thought a big city would offer more unique experiences and opportunities—and she was right. “What was especially great about the IE program and being in Chicago was access to manufacturing companies and the chance to perform real-world projects in class,” she said. “Even if you graduated without an internship, you had completed at least two or three projects at different companies, automatically helping to build your résumé and prepare you for the real world.”
Lauren shared some advice for today’s students and recent graduates:
- Become tech-savvy. Get good at coding, learn how to query, and become an Excel expert. Lauren learned that being a good industrial engineer depends heavily on the ability to use tools to analyze data. Being able to automate processes and data collection is an essential skill.
- Do as many internships as possible. Have experience before you enter the workforce full-time.
- Familiarize yourself with Lean and Six Sigma. It is a highly desired skill set in most companies, especially among engineers who go into manufacturing, quality, or supply chain management.
Emma Yang began her studies in automobile engineering, then earned an MS in mechanical engineering and a PhD in industrial engineering. “I started with a major that is very specific and expanded to a more general major,” she explains. Industrial engineering, where she ended up, embraces a big-picture, best-results worldview that suits Emma very well. She cites a classic tagline that describes her field, and which she truly believes: “Engineers make things, and industrial engineers make things better.”
Emma chose her doctoral program because of the resources offered in Chicago, at UIC, and in particular, within Dr. Lin Li’s lab. “I greatly benefited from the easy access to a wide range of state-of-the-art instruments and equipment, from hardware to software,” she says. “I think that’s critical for doing cutting-edge research.”
Emma is now a tenure-track assistant professor at the University of Texas Arlington. She does research, advises students, teaches courses, and offers service to her university and her department. She enjoys UTA as it reminds her of UIC, with its collaborative and inspiring research environment and high-quality and diverse student population.
Emma’s advice for current or future students: research is hard and a PhD can be even harder, but you shouldn’t give something up just because it’s hard. Challenge leads to meaning and makes the endeavor worth your effort.
Stephany Ruiz Gonzalez was fascinated with both math and people—and feeling ready for a greater academic challenge than the community college program she’d been attending.
This led her to a UIC Engineering open house, where one of the speakers was a member of the industrial engineering faculty. Stephany listened as he related a case study in which an industrial engineer applied analytical and problem-solving skills to a complex problem. In the industrial engineer’s work, Stephany saw a way to use her love of math while interacting directly with people. She soon transferred to UIC’s undergraduate major in industrial engineering.
As a UIC student, Stephany was active in many student organizations: a three-semester president of the student chapter of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers, outreach chair for UIC’s chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and an active member of the Society of Women Engineers. Meanwhile, she made the most of studying in Chicago by holding internships at Goldman Sachs, McKinsey & Company, and GE Healthcare. Stephany now works full-time at GE Healthcare in its two-year Operational Management Leadership Development Program.
Sauban Farooqui didn’t have just one interest. He had many. Process engineering, business, possibly consulting. Three or more majors across multiple colleges would have been overwhelming, so fortunately for Sauban there was a single answer: industrial engineering at UIC. He chose IE knowing that he could work for any company, improving processes and products while working directly with people.
“Industrial engineering is the sweet spot between business and engineering—a steering wheel into any career,” Sauban said.
For three years, Sauban has been president of UIC’s student chapter of the premier national organization for industrial engineers: the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers, or IISE. He recommends that all industrial engineering students get involved. It’s a great way to meet other students in the IE major, and it becomes like a campus family.
Working in automotive manufacturing and as part of a new product launch team, Kasandra Dominguez discovered that she loved the process—but she saw ways to make manufacturing more efficient.
Kasandra became interested in quality control and continuous improvement, so she began looking for a degree that would address these interests. At the time, she was attending community college toward an associate’s degree, and the advisor of her student chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers offered some advice: consider an industrial engineering degree from UIC. She did.
Now at UIC, Kasandra says flexibility is the best part of industrial engineering: there are so many career paths to choose from. She also continues to benefit from student organizations such as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, or SHPE. She is an officer, working actively with other organizations on and off campus, and she attends the society’s national conferences to network and pursue scholarships. She received a 2018-2019 El Poder en Ti Telemundo scholarship and has won a John Deere scholarship the last two years in a row.
“Professional and academic development is key to our growth and success,” Kasandra said. “I am a strong believer in paying it forward. Credit much of my success and continued success to SHPE.”
Thinking toward her future, Kasandra has several post-graduation job offers to choose from. She is considering a rotational program, which would allow her to continue to learn before she chooses a full-time focus.
Tony Bell enjoyed calculus so much that it was his first college major. Once he attended a UIC event and spoke with Clinical Assistant Professor Quintin Williams, however, Tony switched his major to industrial engineering.
With an IE degree, Tony has a broad range of options in front of him. He could set his sights on healthcare, working with statistics-based health standards to improve patient experiences and outcomes. He could work in quality control, helping companies to improve what they present to customers. (In fact, he is starting an internship in the quality-control field.) He expects his industrial engineering degree will allow him to adapt through various phases of his career after he graduates.
Asked what he liked best about IE, Tony cites the continuity between levels of courses, because he values the ability to progressively build knowledge. If you are on the UIC campus, look for Tony at the UIC MakerSpace, where he goes to develop hands-on experience.