Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Standing among the nation’s elite

Robert Rappa, Gus Gustafson, Aurelie Thiele and Tamas Terlaky took time at the recent INFORMS conference to enjoy the Southern California sun.

Lehigh’s industrial and systems engineering department (ISE) takes pride in its ability to prepare students for careers in industry and academia. Its many successful alumni testify to this commitment—as does a recent national honor.

Last month, the department was chosen by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) as one of three finalists for the new UPS George D. Smith Prize. INFORMS is the world’s largest professional society devoted to operations research, management science and business analytics.

Named for the late CEO of the United Parcel Service, the Smith Prize promotes stronger ties between industry and higher education while recognizing an innovative academic department or program that effectively prepares students for careers in operations research, management science or analytics.

Of the three finalists, Lehigh was the only academic department selected. The University of Michigan’s Tauber Institute for Global Operations won the prize. Cornell University’s School of Operations Research was also chosen.

Tamás Terlaky, department chair and the George N. and Soteria Kledaras ’87 Endowed Chair Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering, said the honor reflects ISE’s continued improvement.

“Being rated one of the three best is a wonderful feeling,” said Terlaky. “It’s great that we can claim to be the most innovative department in the country.”

“This award places Lehigh among the most elite universities in understanding how to develop leaders in the field of analytics, the newest discipline to provide global competitive differentiation,” said Gus Gustafson ’74, managing director of Lehigh’s Enterprise Systems Center.

Capitalizing on an “amazing” opportunity

The finalists made their presentations April 15 at the INFORMS 2012 Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Proposal leader Aurélie Thiele, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering, was joined by Terlaky, Gustafson and Robert Rappa ’11, ’12G at the presentation.

Rappa discussed the master’s thesis he completed under Thiele’s supervision. The project sought to determine the attributes of people who have defaulted on student loans but are more likely to resume payment if they are contacted. Rappa used analytics, including statistical analysis, technology and advanced calculations, in the project.

“Attending and presenting at the INFORMS Analytics conference was an amazing experience,” said Rappa, who is joining IBM Global Business Consulting this summer. “I am extremely proud and grateful to have had the opportunity to travel across the country to talk to leaders of academia and industry about the ISE department.”

To meet the needs of undergraduate and graduate students, the ISE department has added new courses and programs and restructured current ones.

“The design for a refined undergraduate program is crystallizing,” said Terlaky, “and our professional master’s of engineering program in healthcare systems engineering is very much operational. Our first graduates will be graduating in August.”

The department’s Ph.D. program and six master’s-level programs have placed alumni at leading companies, research labs and universities worldwide, said Terlaky.


Story by Karl Brisseaux

Posted on Thursday, May 24, 2012

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