Internships provide opportunities for Chinese IMSE graduate student

Xiaoli Yang had earned a bachelor’s degree in management information systems in China and also took some graduate level courses. He was eager for an opportunity to apply his textbook and coursework learning. He found that opportunity at Iowa State as a full-time graduate student in industrial and manufacturing systems engineering (IMSE), ranked by U.S.News and World Report as a top 25 program. Within two years after arriving from Zhongshan, China, Xiaoli enjoyed two excellent internship opportunities, and he has also applied his data mining expertise.


In his first year of graduate studies, Xiaoli was offered an internship with Proplanner, a company located at Iowa State University Research Park that develops IT solutions to streamline and automate production for industrial engineers. In his second year, Xiaoli accepted a six-month internship with Whirlpool in Amana, Iowa. There he was involved in multiple projects including supply stream improvement, supplier development, just-in-time receiving/shipping schedules, and other lean manufacturing practices.


In China, Xiaoli had developed an interest in data mining and its applications, a major topic in enterprise informatics, which also happens to be one of the research focuses of the Iowa State industrial engineering program. Sigurdur Olafsson, Xiaoli’s major professor, is recognized for his expertise in knowledge discovery and data mining, stochastic optimization, and simulation.


While completing a master’s degree, required of IMSE students before starting a PhD, Xiaoli applied data mining techniques to a national database maintained by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. His goal was to discover the root causes of different types of underground mining accidents and injuries. In the long term, Xiaoli is hoping to work closely with domain experts in the mining safety area to put into practice what he found, thereby reducing accidents in the mining industry. He also hopes to work with his major professor on methodologies and algorithms that can better utilize incident database for root cause extraction and pattern recognition.


As advice to international students considering studies in the United States, Xiaoli encourages students to throw themselves into American society rather than focusing merely on school. Xiaoli has come to understand that for engineering students to be successful they must go beyond class and textbooks. In his case, two internships early in his graduate career have proven this to be true.


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