PhD student’s interest in teaching sparked by industry experience

Cara DienesCara Dienes, PhD student in industrial and manufacturing systems engineering (IMSE), knows from experience the importance of being prepared. After graduating from Purdue University’s industrial engineering department, she worked in industry for over three years as part of a team that used systems engineering models in the management of defense systems design. Even while working full time as a systems engineer, she pursued a master’s degree in operations research from Georgia Tech.

As part of this industry experience, Cara trained new employees to use systems engineering tools. As she did so, she discovered her interest in teaching. Fully aware that faculty positions usually require a research element, Cara directed her ambition toward pursuing a PhD in industrial engineering at Iowa State University.

Cara was awarded a 2050 Challenge Fellowship from the College of Engineering at Iowa State. The fellowship supports PhD students whose research addresses engineering issues related to sustainability and quality of life over the next four decades. These are students who have the potential to become the world’s next generation of insightful thinkers and problem solvers.

During her first year of graduate study, Cara is already helping to write research papers for submission to peer-reviewed journals. She has been working with Assistant Professor Lizhi Wang on applying optimization techniques, and their work, “Determining Optimal Schedule Requirements for Green Hotel Renovations,” was recognized with an honorable mention in an interactive session at the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) 2008 annual conference in Washington, D.C. INFORMS is the largest society in the world for professionals in the field of operations research.

Cara is excited about the IMSE program at Iowa State because of its focus on how to improve decision making. In less than a year, the IMSE department has provided opportunities for her to participate in research, identify research problems, and share findings with the international research community.