Industrial Engineering

International Collaboration: Clemson IE leads the way

- November 2010


The economic landscape of South Carolina has changed over the past 20 years. We are now home to several multinational companies, and even our local ones have extensive international footprints. The Upstate alone has more than 250 international firms and has the highest level of foreign capital investment per capita in the nation. South Carolina ranks second in the nation in terms of the percentage of its private workforce employed by foreign investment. In this global environment, higher education institutions play a role in innovation, research, education and economic development. Clemson University has become a leader through its international research and collaboration, and the Industrial Engineering Department has created a dynamic environment in its classrooms and laboratories, one that has brought the world's talent to our doorstep, providing our students with experiences that enrich them in the classroom and beyond. Examples of these efforts can be seen in the review of their research below. 

Some of the most important research in the Department focuses on issues in healthcare and healthcare delivery systems. For example, PhD student Odette Reifsnider from the United States and her advisor Dr. Maria Mayorga are collaborating with researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina in analyzing clinical processes to predict the long-term consequences of diseases. Specifically, they are developing two simulation models, one exploring the cost-effectiveness of various smoking cessation treatments and the second predicting the effects of intrauterine exposure to maternal obesity and diabetes on the prevalence of diabetes in subsequent generations.  While the estimates resulting from these two models are specific to these two health concerns, many of the techniques developed from this collaboration are generic and can easily be applied across diseases.

Research currently being conducted by Dr. Rae Cho and his PhD student Melissa Zelaya from Honduras focuses on the development of new drug formulation systems to maximize bioavailability and improve manufacturability as part of a preclinical R&D effort. They are also developing a stepwise scale-up design system which will upgrade a small-scale laboratory-based drug formulation system into a good manufacturing practice (cGMP) large-scale environment.

PhD student Yuan-Han Huang from Taiwan is working with his advisor Dr. Sandra Garrett on the quality of communication in long-term healthcare facilities. Using five dimensions of communication quality, Huang's work demonstrates how the characteristics and patterns of communication in these facilities have changed as the population has aged, specifically focusing on their impact on resident-centered care and the services provided.  His research will ultimately provide communication strategies for staff members for preventing high frequency and high-risk adverse events. 

Narges Hosseini, a PhD student from Iran under the guidance of her advisor Dr. Kevin Taaffe, is concentrating on emergency medical care.  Currently, she is focusing on the most cost-effective policy for scheduling emergency operations as they arrive at the hospital. In addition, she is also developing strategies for block allocation and capacity planning for emergency situations. 

Under the guidance of Dr. Joel Greenstein, Kapil Madathil, a PhD student from India, is working on creating a mechanism for simplifying the collection and management of informed consents and privacy authorizations.  This Research Permissions Management System is intended to create a new research permissions profile that will enable users to manage their own data.  Initially planned for implementation in South Carolina, this project will eventually lead to a permissions framework that will be released to the general research community as an open source code. 

A second prominent line of research involves optimization and logistics. PhD student Mark McElreath from the U. S. under the guidance of his advisor Dr. Maria Mayorga is researching the applications of operations research methods to retail and service industries. His current project focuses on modeling product assortment decisions and finding solutions to the resulting complex problems using metaheuristics. He has collaborated with area businesses and government agencies including BMW, Michelin, and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. 

In similar research, Thashika Rupasinghe from Sri Lanka under the guidance of her advisor Dr. Mary Kurz is focusing on the design and development of metaheuristics for hard combinatorial optimization problems. Her computationally intensive research is facilitated by the high-throughput computational resources provided by Clemson's Cyber-Infrastructure Technology Integration groups.  In addition, she is also exploring how Virtual Reality (VR) can be incorporated into traditional classrooms to enhance learning.

Also exploring the potential of VR, Melissa Paul, a Fulbright Scholar from Haiti under the supervision of Dr. Anand Gramopadhye, is researching its usability as a training tool for aircraft maintenance technicians. She has developed a simulator to provide an alternative to the traditional training, her results indicating its potential as a viable approach. 

  Similarly, Andreas Boeker, a Master's student from Germany and his advisor, Dr. Maria Mayorga, are using discrete event simulation software to create a virtual representation of a sub-assembly line at the BMW manufacturing plant in Greer.  This model has been used to analyze the effects of various variables on the line's productivity.  According to Andreas, "the recommendations given to BMW have already increased the throughput and decreased the downtime of the equipment of the line."

PhD students Paul Goethals from the U.S. and Lucy Aragon from Peru, both advised by Dr. Rae Cho,  work in the area of developing new conceptual and mathematical tools for quality improvement and process optimization. Their recent collaboration on developing optimal decision criteria for estimators was published in a top-tier journal. 

This mix of international students provides a fertile ground for exposing our students to a variety of cultures, developing in them an awareness of global issues. This diversity enriches the learning experience, creating engineers who can not only address the complex technical challenges facing us but who are also more sensitive and    educated global citizens, a clear need for the Engineer of 2020.




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