Student Spotlight: Student Matthew Plumlee Discusses Pursuing a Ph.D. in ISyE

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Matthew Plumlee is a third year Ph.D. student at the Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering (ISyE) and the recipient of the 2012 INFORMS Quality, Reliability and Statistics Best Paper Award which he received for his paper “Tractable Functional Response Modeling using Nonstationary Covariance Functions.” Jointly advised by ISyE Associate Professor Roshan Vengazhiyil and Professor Jianjun Shi, Plumlee’s research interests focus on system informatics for product and process improvement.  According to Plumlee, the expertise of his advisors and the faculty in ISyE has been one of the most beneficial aspects of being in the graduate program. 

“The faculty in ISyE are the best in the world and extremely open. If you have a research idea or even a random question in mind, you have the capability to walk down the hall and find a world-renowned expert,” said Plumlee.

During his time as a student in ISyE, Plumlee has been awarded both the Morris Fellowship as well as the Tennenbaum Fellowship.  Plumlee has been invited to attend and present his work at several conferences including the 2012 IMS/ASA Spring Research Conference, the 2012 Design and Analysis of Experiments Conference, the 2012 NSF CMMI Engineering Research and Innovation Conference, and the 2011 NSF Summer Institute on Energy Manufacturing. Prior to coming to Georgia Tech in 2010, he received a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Purdue University where he received the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and the College of Engineering Dean's Choice Award for best poster. 

Plumlee is originally from Indiana and enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and camping during his free time. To learn more about Plumlee and his work as an ISyE Ph.D. student, read the interview that follows.

ISyE:      What influenced your decision to get your Ph.D. at Georgia Tech?

MP:        Obviously its ranking and reputation had a huge influence on my decision, but ultimately where to get a Ph.D. comes down to potential thesis advisers and Georgia Tech had faculty members working closely within my research interests.

ISyE:      What piqued your interest in becoming an industrial engineer?

MP:        As an undergraduate in mechanical engineering, my fellow ME friends were out building solar powered cars and 3-d printers, and I was taking real analysis and algebra as electives. Industrial engineering departments tend to give students a little more freedom to study ideas in abstraction, focusing more on my interests which are math and statistics, so I switched departments.

ISyE:      Can you explain your thesis in layman's terms? 

MP:        My thesis work is on the development of efficient techniques to analyze simulation models. People, from material engineers to financiers, have a habit of building simulation models with computer code to study problems, mostly due to the cost or infeasibility of experimenting on certain systems. For example, most people do not have the resources to create a natural disaster on the level of a hurricane or earthquake (Department of Homeland Security might have some questions if you do). Therefore, people in this department build simulations of disaster relief to find optimal procedures in the event of a catastrophic event. How do we analyze these models? Simulation models can be computationally expensive to run, so we have a sample size limited by computer power and time.

ISyE:      What did it mean to you to receive an award at INFORMS this year?

MP:        It is always nice to get a pat on the back, but ultimately you always hold out hope that your research is useful to others. Luckily, people asked me for more details, wanting to try similar techniques on different problems.

ISyE:      What are your plans for the future?

MP:        I plan on continuing my research through the foreseeable future. Simulation models are becoming more popular, and huge amounts of data are sitting out there without well-developed techniques to put the data to use.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Ashley Daniel
  • Created: 01/10/2013
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016


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