“What is ISE, anyway?”: Part 1

juliana-2016 Industrial and Systems, Juliana 0 Comments

Hi everyone!

I hope you all had a nice weekend. This week I’m going to blog about one of my favorite topics – my major! I’m actually splitting this blog into a two-part series. This week I’ll talk about what ISE is in general. Then, next week I’ll talk about where my ISE friends at USC work both in internships and after graduation.

“So, what is ISE anyway?”

I actually get this question all the time. From family, friends, fellow engineers, prospective students, even potential employers sometimes. ISE, or Industrial & Systems Engineering, is not as widely known as many of the other engineering majors, but it seems to be becoming more and more popular each year.

While there are a lot of different ways to explain it, to me ISE is ultimately all about efficiency. As Industrial & Systems Engineers we make all kinds of things more efficient. We design methods that allow people to work faster and better. We design layouts of buildings or theme parks or airports so that people can move through them more efficiently. We create systems for hospitals or other healthcare facilities so that medical equipment and personnel can be most productive and helpful to patients. We redesign supply chains so that products can be produced and delivered more efficiently to retail locations around the world. We optimize technology so that it runs more quickly and productively.

Basically, like I said, we just make everything more efficient.


A few of the many things ISE majors can do!


I was talking with Dr. Higle once (she’s the ISE Department Chair here at USC), and she had a really interesting perspective on ISE. She essentially told me that it can be really challenging to explain ISE to people because often it doesn’t have physical, tangible results the same way that other engineering majors do. Civil engineers might be able to show you a bridge or building they worked on. Aerospace engineers can point to an airplane. Even Computer Science majors can show you a physical computer program or application they built. ISE is different because the results of our work are harder to show in physical, visual terms.

However, just because I can’t point to a plane or bridge, doesn’t mean that my ISE work doesn’t have real results, because it totally does! I could show you a process re-design I created. I could show you a database I optimized. I could show you real cost-savings that I provided for a manufacturing facility by implementing more efficient technological tools. And what’s even cooler is that I actually really could show you all of those things because I’ve done them in classes, through group projects, and through other exercises.

Project-ERD (3)

The optimized Conceptual Data Model my group made for a database class project last semester!


So that’s a summary of what it means to major in Industrial & Systems Engineering, if you ask me. The cool thing about the program at USC is that you can pick from a couple of different emphases so that you really get the chance to specialize in your area of interest if you choose!

Still a bit confused? Wondering where ISE majors actually apply all this knowledge of efficiency? Stay tuned! Next week I will blog about where the ISEs I know work, both during internships and after graduation!

Until next week,





Industrial & Systems Engineering, Class of 2016, Learn more on her profile here!

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