Almost 90% of the time I tell people I am studying Industrial & Systems Engineering they ask me with a puzzled expression, “What exactly is that?” I don’t blame them for their confusion; after all, the name of my major conjures up images of antiquated machinery in some grimy Industrial Revolution-era factory. Industrial & Systems Engineering combines engineering and business concepts to solve efficiency, logistical, financial, and safety problems in the real world. We study statistics, economics, and simulation in addition to more technical fields courses such as manufacturing and computer programming, so that we can understand the full picture of how a company produces and sells products/services.

Starting Freshmen year I started research in the safety area of Industrial & Systems Engineering. I joined a joint research team from the Industrial & Systems Engineering department and the Keck School of Medicine working on the Human Factors of Pediatric Patient Safety. Through our research, we carefully analyzed case studies on how different devices, labeling, training programs, and hospital protocol led to error in pediatric patients–especially newborn babies. The research was fascinating, and I especially enjoyed how I could apply my Industrial & Systems Engineering knowledge to the field of medicine.

Last summer I expanded my Industrial & Systems Engineering knowledge in a more financial sense. I interned with ConocoPhillips in their Commercial Group, where I learned about commodity trading in the oil industry. All summer I worked on a special project analyzing the transportation needs for the Eagle Ford Shale oil fields in South Texas. I utilized one of the subject areas I learned in my ISE curriculum, Operations Research and Linear Programming, to  optimize transporation capacity, minimize operation costs, forecast future growth, and finally give a business plan recommendation for the next year in Eagle Ford.

When I came back to school in the fall as a Senior, I started the job hunt along with my fellow ISE peers. My classmates and I were blessed to find that our ISE degrees opened doors for us in all sorts of industries. Some of my friends are working in the logistics field for companies like Nestle or Target, and others are going into consulting at firms like Protiviti and Accenture. Other of my peers are going straight to graduate school, pursuing investment banking, or practicing “traditional” Industrial Engineering at companies like Disney. I was weighing my options at consulting firms and continuing my work at ConocoPhillips. Ultimately I chose to take my offer with ConocoPhillips because the work was both challenging and rewarding and the work/life balance at the company is amazing. I can’t wait to join the team again in Houston when I start work in July.

Clearly a degree in Industrial & Systems Engineering can take you in many different directions, which is just one of the reasons I love my major. I like that my degree has given me so many options to pursue whatever interests I have.