Industrial Engineers for Science and Business -- Studying in America: The Georgia Institute of Technology

Barbara Christopher
Industrial and Systems Engineering
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When the high divers at the Olympic Games in Atlanta looked straight ahead, before they breathed for the last time before jumping into the water, their eyes could see a building that indeed doesn't offer any special architectonical attractions, but special academic challenges. Facing the swimming pool on the Georgia Tech campus, which was used in 1996 for the Olympic summer games, there is the "School of Industrial Engineering". It can be proud to be one of the oldest, greatest and most famous faculties for industrial engineering.

The school has been offering master programs at the interface of economy and engineering since the 40s; a PhD program has been added in 1958. Today students can choose between seven master's degrees, which approach from different points of view how production and distribution of goods and value added services could be improved and how complex systems of different kinds can be controlled at maximum profit and with minimal use of resources. Additionally there are seven PhD programs, which focus on scientific matters in the wide field of industrial engineering. Beside the classic emphasis on logistics and material control, product management and enterprise planning, there is also a master program which is tailored to health systems. In the faculty's lab for health systems one is for example looking for ways to avoid expensive stays in a hospital by special training for doctors and nurses and the by the use of advanced technologies.

Although the faculty for industrial engineering is by far the biggest in the United States with more than 1400 students, the group of people taking part in a graduate program in Atlanta is not too large. There are 180 future industrial engineers heading for a Master's degree and 140 students, who want to leave university with a PhD degree. Contrary to the alumni of most other American universities, the future of PhDs from Atlanta is not exclusively an academic career. During the past years about half of them found jobs in business positions, like computer companies, the transport business and aerospace.
The students who keep themselves busy with applied mathematics, optimization models and economic analysis, come from all countries of the world, most of the from India and China. The American universities can not complain about too little interest in general, however ISyE still holds a special position, because there are nearly as many international students as Americans.

The reasons for the strong interest of international students are multiple. One of the most important ones is surely the excellent reputation of the faculty. For the eleventh time the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering has been awarded by the news magazine "U.S. News and World Report" to have the best graduate program in industrial engineering among all American universities. Among the nearly sixty members of the faculty there are notable professors like George L. Nemhauser and Ellis L. Johnson, both are members of the well-known "National Academy of Engineering". John J. Jarvis, the academic administrator of the School, is a successful consultant on computer models for industry and government.

In addition to the reputation of the professors, there is the good equipment of the faculty, especially with computers, which are accessible for the students around the clock, so they can find solutions for technical and logistical problems, optimize business processes and evaluate the economic impact resulting from enterprise decisions. Also with teaching, the computer gets more and more important. Professor Gunter Sharp created a course on decision theory, that takes place only in virtual reality. However, the enthusiasm of the students is limited, says Sharp. Except for those who are enrolled in distant learning, students prefer lessons in the lecture hall instead of in front of a monitor.

In a beauty contest with other universities the Georgia Institute of Technology indeed cannot compete - there are no magnificent buildings and parks like for example at Stanford - but on the other hand, the tuition at this state-run university of Georgia is not that expensive as the private competitor in California. The tuition for the one-year Master's program is about $13,000.

It is completely free for those students who take part in the one-year exchange program which the University Dortmund has been organizing together with ISyE for 15 years. At this time, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) covers the costs of three students from Dortmund studying mechanical engineering or logistics. This stipend includes the costs for flight and insurance and a part of the living costs. Thorsten Schmidt, who once achieved the "Master of Science in Industrial Engineering" degree in Atlanta himself and who nowadays works - besides his habilitation - at the School of Conveyor and Storage Systems with the exchange program, predicts: "The Masters degree for [German] industrial engineers comes powerfully".
Schmidt emphasizes that the Masters degree, that German students can achieve in Atlanta, counts as a full academic degree in Germany. Theoretically, German students would not have to take the [German] diploma once they had successfully participated in the American Masters program. But everyday business is still different, says Schmidt. Especially middle size companies still prefer the diploma. Nevertheless most participants in the Atlanta program continue their studies in Germany. Some would stay in the United States after the year in Atlanta, e.g. for an internship; the student visa enables the exchange students to work in research projects of American companies for a limited time. Schmidt himself completed an internship with Siemens in Georgia, which was made possible by contacts at Georgia Tech.

The industrial engineer adores Atlanta as the "Metropolis of the south", that not only professionally, but also in the cultural sector offers a lot for its students. However Schmidt warns not to take the year too easy. Because of the high workload, studying is not always a pure pleasure.

Students, who want to graduate with a Master's degree from the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, must have completed the pre-diploma and passed at least two semesters of the main diploma. Students with many different academic backgrounds can apply, as long as their academic standing shows that they are presumably capable of taking the Master's program in Atlanta. Students that are sent abroad usually study industrial engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering or mathematics [in Germany]. The application papers must include a curriculum vita, three letters of recommendation and a transcript. The application fee is $50. In addition, German students who would like to study at the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, have to take the TOEFL and GRE test which is used to test mathematical and analytical abilities. Information about the tests is available at and

More information about the industrial engineering program and prerequisites for the application can be obtained from the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia, 30322-0205, USA, phone 001/404 894 4289, fax 001/404 894 2301, e-mail Further information abouth the exchange program of University Dortmund is available from Lehrstuhl f

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  • Created By: Barbara Christopher
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Jan 9, 2002 - 8:00pm
  • Last Updated: Oct 7, 2016 - 11:06pm