ISE Insider Spring 2023: Message from the Chair

David Kaber, Ph.D.

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

This spring term has brought many developments for our department, including elevated research awards, an increase in graduate program enrollment and graduation rates, and a higher graduate program ranking. All of these outcomes are due to the tremendous efforts of the faculty, staff and students in continuously striving to create new opportunities for ISE research, education and leadership in scholarship and service.

This semester, the department hit a high of $6.34 million in active awards, including Dr. Katie-Basinger-Ellis’s award through America’s Cutting Edge for training students and a regional workforce on advanced manufacturing methods (see article in this issue), and Dr. Elif Akcali’s recent NSF Mid-Career Award for the study of how to effectively introduce creativity through divergent thinking skills in specialized undergraduate engineering coursework.

This year, the department saw a major increase in Ph.D. program applicants resulting in our highest admit count in five years as well as 20 new Ph.D. students joining the program in Fall 2023. This represents a ~64% increase in program subscriptions relative to our current active student population. Related to this growth, the department graduated 139 new ISE Gators this spring, including 71 bachelor’s degrees and 65 master’s degrees. We congratulate all our students on their accomplishments through excellence in ISE studies. Among our undergraduates, 86% completed a co-op or internship and nearly half (48%) completed multiple work opportunities. We believe these faculty and student activities and outcomes contribute to our new graduate program rankings with the department being recently recognized by peer leaders as #11 among public programs and #17 overall (see article in this issue).

We continue our focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in what we do as an academic unit, including curricular and co-curricular activities. This semester our ISE Inclusive Excellence committee organized and hosted a panel on “Women in Academia” as part of Women’s History Month. The panel addressed unique challenges that women experience in academic careers, including unconscious bias. The panel was comprised of distinguished female faculty, who provided examples of lived experiences and perspectives on hurdles in professional advancement, mentoring opportunities, performance evaluations, and balancing work and life events. The Inclusive Excellence Committee also recently hosted a student self-care time-out during our exam period to remind students of the importance of good mental health. Related to this activity, several of our undergraduate students have taken the opportunity to diversify their educational experience at UF through leadership roles in our college student organizations. Saron Belay served as president of our National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE) Gator chapter before graduating this semester. Jorge Moros served as president of our Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) student chapter and also graduated this spring. Ian Lai served as president of the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE) UF Chapter. Ian is a third-year ISE student. Our department has been fortunate to have such outstanding undergraduate students.

Following on this note, at our annual department awards celebration, we saw 23 outstanding undergraduate and graduate students realize $40K in scholarships. The ISE Graduate Teaching Award went to Coralys Colon-Morales, one of our new Ph.D. graduates, and the ISE Graduate Research Award went to Haolan Zhang for his research in human-systems engineering with Dr. Wayne Giang. We are proud of all of our students for their perseverance in challenging academic programs as well as the contributions that they make to the department. At this same awards celebration, we recognized two alumni leaders, including Josh Bass of J.M. Family Enterprises, Inc. and Trey Lauderdale as founder and former CEO of Voalte Corp. Both Bass and Lauderdale have led exemplary careers in corporate and entrepreneurial capacities, based on their ISE and business backgrounds. They have also made major contributions of their time and expertise to the department (see article in this issue) and are now part of the UF ISE Gator “Hall of Fame.” We congratulate Bass and Lauderdale on this highest honor that our department can extend to an alumnus.

Lastly, this semester our department initiated a search for a new chair. I will be completing service with the close of the current fiscal year. As many know, the department has undergone a major transformation in the past 5 years through critical strategic and operational decisions. The vision was to become a technically broad ISE department, including faculty in data analytics and operations research, health and human systems, production and supply chain systems, and digital manufacturing, with a new strong program management team. The transformation included hiring 12 new assistant professors, creating tremendous upward potential in terms of research and academic programs. I believe we are now just starting to see the impacts of these changes on department outcomes and that future trends (five years plus) will reveal even greater impacts in research expenditures and doctoral degrees. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to lead the department through this successful process, and I believe all our programs are in excellent shape for a new leader to further advance current strategic initiatives and to develop new programs for the faculty and students.

Best regards to all and (as always) GO GATORS!

Dave Kaber
ISE Department Chair