Undergraduate student research highlights innovation for society

Miranda Buckheit
December 19, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Students in the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at Penn State showcased their innovative engineering projects to fellow students, staff and faculty during the undergraduate research poster session held on Dec. 13. 

The poster session highlighted the undergraduates’ work this semester, but more importantly, it showed students the significance of research in modern society.

Research projects included: analyzing how to detect when people are overworked; human-autonomous vehicle interactions; analyzing the pricing of New York City's Airbnb market; 3D printing of metal materials; and cardiac cell modeling.

Elena Joshi, associate teaching professor of industrial engineering and the department's undergraduate program coordinator, said the event showcases how research provides students with insight into fields that they might otherwise lack exposure to.

"They can see what it is like to work on an undefined problem, and the number of hours spent on a research project," Joshi said. "We hope that they develop a greater understanding and appreciation for what it means to conduct research. We also hope that they get excited enough to consider graduate school."

Kareem Hakim and Samantha Satterthwaite, both seniors in industrial engineering, worked collaboratively to study an ergonomic shovel design. Supervised by Andris Freivalds, Lucas Professor of Industrial Engineering, Hakim and Satterthwaite analyzed the optimum size and shape for handles on round point shovels, share point shovels and rakes to improve worker performance and comfort. 

Man in blue shirt speaks to young woman in green sweater.

Charles Purdum, professor of practice of industrial engineering and director of industry relations in the industrial engineering department, shares his industry experience with undergraduate student Maria Vighetti.

IMAGE: Miranda Buckheit

Applying his industrial engineering education to study the human body and ergonomic design excited Hakim. 

"Normally, for a human factors job, you need a Ph.D. or some form of higher schooling," Hakim said. "That's a big commitment when you don't know what that industry is like. Having the chance to work with Dr. Freivalds and some of the graduate students has shown me that this is something that I'm interested in pursuing later down the road."

Beom Ki Lee, an industrial engineering senior, worked with Ling Rothrock, professor of industrial engineering and interim department head, to measure cognitive workload, or mental effort, via portable, wearable sensors that resemble smartwatches and headbands.

"Research has a special meaning behind it because it's more than just being at a desk or in a lecture hall," Lee said. "You can retrieve real-world data and your education to see how it makes an impact. It's relieving to know that I can be useful and be a part of something bigger. It's a great preview of what's to come."

Similarly, Maria Vighetti, a fellow senior industrial engineering student, worked with Rothrock to study heart rate variability, sweat, brain activity and eye tracking to analyze their correlations with cognitive workload.

"It was fun because I learned what it means to be in a research lab," Vighetti said. "It allowed me to apply what I learned in the classroom differently. I don't think I would have had this kind of experience so quickly with an internship."

Brian Byrne and Bernardo Crespo, junior and senior industrial engineering students, respectively, both enjoyed the chance to engage in research and take on new challenges. The team worked with Hui Yang, professor of industrial engineering, on cardiac cell modeling for smart health. 

"It helped me get out of my comfort zone by learning new technologies that will serve my future plans," Crespo said.

Byrne shared that the experience helped open his eyes to real-world applications.

"It showed what goes on in the department beyond the classroom," Byrne said. "Using the modeling software showed me what it means to be a Penn State researcher.”

The student spotlight series by the Penn State Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering (IME) aims to highlight innovators, makers and those that personify engineering excellence in their academic studies. The department currently has 90 doctoral students, 59 master’s students and 436 undergraduate students. In addition, the department hosts 31 full-time and courtesy faculty members. Established in 1908, the department is home to the first industrial engineering program in the world and has made a name for itself in the engineering industry through its storied tradition of unparalleled excellence and innovation in research, education and outreach. To learn more about IME, visit ime.psu.edu.


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Last Updated December 19, 2019