Professor named faculty chair for service enterprise engineering

Miranda Buckheit
November 21, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Vittal Prabhu, professor of industrial engineering, has been named the Charles and Enid Schneider Faculty Chair of the Penn State Service Enterprise Engineering Initiative (SEE 360) in the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. Prabhu will begin this new appointment on Jan. 1, 2020.

The position is funded by a recent gift received by the department in support of the growth of service systems engineering. Charles R. Schneider and Penn State partnered on a nearly $9 million investment to fund a scholarship, two professorships, a faculty chair, two program support funds, a program director and director of industry consortia and technology transfer.

Currently, Prabhu serves as director of SEE 360, for which he researches service systems, guides student projects, promotes industry collaboration and sets the course for future endeavors. 

"I am very pleased that Dr. Prabhu was appointed as the faculty chair," said Schneider. "Vittal is passionate about the program and has provided creative leadership for several years."

Ling Rothrock, interim industrial engineering department head, said that Prabhu's dedication has been apparent through his years spent working with the initiative, as well as his research in the field of service systems engineering. Rothrock said that Prabhu has been able to merge his research findings with his engineering courses to teach the next generation of industrial engineers about the opportunities within the service sector.

"This honor validates his work and will propel the program to national prominence," said Rothrock. "I look forward to his leadership in forming the undergraduate and graduate service systems engineering degrees. It's an exciting time to be in the department."

Prabhu explained that there has been a gradual shift in the types of careers industrial engineering students procure after graduation. He said that more than 60% of students have their first job in the service sector. 

“With the future of work expected to change significantly over the next several decades, it is important to equip students with a good mix of skills and competencies to contribute effectively to society," Prabhu said.

A well-known researcher in the domain of manufacturing and operations, services and analytics, Prabhu takes a particular interest in control systems and service enterprises. Recently, Prabhu returned from a sabbatical in India as a Fulbright-Nehru Fellow, where he worked on smart systems engineering and the industrial internet of things. The project involved sensing, networking and computing of various systems and products to automate them. 

Prabhu recently received the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE) Joint Publishers Book-of-the-Year Award at the annual IISE conference held in Orlando, Florida, in May 2019. Prabhu and A. Ravi Ravindran, professor emeritus and the provost's emeritus teaching scholar, along with Paul M. Griffin, professor of industrial engineering at Purdue University, won the award for their textbook, "Service Systems Engineering and Management (Operations Research Series)." The textbook emphasizes the use of engineering principles to the design and operation of service enterprises, relying on mathematical models and methods to solve problems in the service industries.

"Our department’s key strength is the breadth of our curriculum and research, and service systems engineering builds on this to grow the services dimension," Prabhu said. "This is truly an excellent opportunity to contribute to engineering and the economy." 

About SEE 360

With more than 80% of the U.S. economy in the service sector, the mission of SEE 360 is to contribute to engineering the 21st-century economy. This includes developing teaching resources such as textbooks and case studies that apply engineering techniques toward solving problems in service industries, introducing students to opportunities for engineering in labor-intensive service industries and partnering with businesses to allow students to develop solutions that optimize service. For more information, visit


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Last Updated November 22, 2019