Alumni Spotlight: Ran Jin Pursues a Career in Academia
After receiving his PhD from the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE), Ran Jin has accepted a position as an assistant professor at the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech (VT). Jin, who has always wanted to pursue a career in academia, is excited about starting his career. According to Jin, several features attracted him to his current position such as the flexibility to determine his research focus, the interaction with young people, the teaching and self-learning, and ability to measure his career success by the students’ success.
During his time in ISyE, Jin was the recipient of several prestigious awards including: 2010 INFORMS QSR Best Student Paper Award Finalist for “Reconfigured Piecewise Linear Regression Tree for Multistage Manufacturing Process Control”, Runner-up for the 2008 Best Poster Award for “Intermediate Adjustment Feedforward Control,” in the College of Engineering Graduate Symposium, and the 2007 Forging Industry Educational & Research Foundation Scholarship.
To learn more about Ran Jin, continue reading the interview that follows.
ISyE: Ran Jin, what motivated you to achieve your career goals?
RJ: When I was a kid, my father told me: “You can't expect to be both grand and comfortable.” Now, even if I am having great difficulty achieving my career objective, I feel being persistent seems to be the only choice. I want to contribute something in my area when I still have the chance.
ISyE: Tell us about yourself.
RJ: I was born in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, China. My hometown is famous for panda bear and spicy food. I received my bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. Afterwards, I joined Professor Jan Shi’s research group at the University of Michigan where I received a master’s degree in statistics, as well as in industrial engineering.
Outside of work, I enjoy photography, kayaking, and reading books, specifically history and economics related. I enjoy cooking, and I seldom repeat what I cook because I always want to try something new.
ISyE: What influenced your decision to get your PhD at Georgia Tech?
RJ: Professor Shi heavily influenced my decision to pursue a PhD at Georgia Tech. I think the most important part of the PhD study is to find a good advisor. A good advisor can lead you to the objective that you want to achieve. A good advisor is a tour guide to help you quickly explore the areas that you might have interests in. Professor Shi is such a good advisor. When Professor Shi decided to join the faculty at Georgia Tech, I wanted to transfer with him, and I feel that was probably the best decision I ever made. Another aspect that drew me to Georgia Tech was the size of the ISyE faculty. I was happy to have so many faculty members in our department, with flexible course choices and many research collaboration opportunities.
ISyE: Tell us about a favorite or most memorable ISyE experience you had.
RJ: I highly enjoyed the seminars given by world class scholars invited to our department. As a graduate student, the learning, dialog, and questions with these scholars helped me understand what defines good research, and what makes that research outstanding in the academic society.
ISyE: What is something every student should do while at Georgia Tech?
RJ: Go workout at the CRC! As a student, balancing work and life is important. Besides, how many students from other schools have a chance to go workout on an Olympic site?
ISyE: Where was your favorite spot on the Georgia Tech campus?
RJ: The lawn beside the ISyE and Instructional Center buildings. From this spot, I enjoyed many picnics and beautiful views of the campus.
ISyE: What have you been doing since finishing your PhD last April?
RJ: I moved to a new place and joined the VT faculty. Joining the VT faculty is a completely new start for me. It means challenges, and also opportunities. Being outstanding in this top IE department of the country is not easy, but fortunately I have a lot of great colleagues to learn from.
ISyE: Would you say that ISyE prepared you for your current position?
RJ: ISyE prepared me for almost every aspect of my current position. ISyE has one of the best industrial engineering programs in this country, with teaching and research being performed by some of the best scholars in the field.
ISyE: What do you do to make learning more engaging for students?
RJ: I use multiple types of media, such as video and images, to help students link new material to information they already know. I teach students how to solve real-world problems, rather than focusing on textbook problems.
ISyE: What piece of technology could you not live without as an instructor?
RJ: PowerPoint. Without the PowerPoint presentation, it is hard to use video, photos, or data plots to illustrate the ideas behind the problems I teach.
ISyE: Tell us a little bit about your PhD thesis and current research.
RJ: My thesis is about how to manufacture products with better quality. To improve the quality, we need to understand the relationship between the quality and the important factors to change the quality. Nowadays, the manufacturing system becomes more complex, and we may have limited knowledge about this relationship from an engineering perspective. On the other hand, the advancement of sensing technology gives us a data-rich manufacturing environment. My thesis is about how to integrate the engineering domain knowledge and operational data to model the manufacturing process, and improve the quality. I applied this methodology in the semiconductor manufacturing processes.
My current research involves engineering driven data fusion in manufacturing system modeling and quality improvements, with specific interests in the variation reduction in product realization and manufacturing scale-up, and quality engineering based on high definition profile data.
ISyE: What is your favorite book?
RJ: Modern History of China, by Tsiang, Tingfu. The reason why this is my favorite book is that the author has a completely new angle and new evidence to show the history of China from years 1840 to year 1911, with only 50,000 Chinese characters (It could be very challenging even with 500,000 Chinese characters). I believe this should be the first book to read to understand the Chinese modern history. Dr. Tsiang’s personal experiences are also interesting to me. He was a faculty member at Tsinghua University in the 1920s, where I completed my undergraduate degree.
Recently, I have been reading Economic Imperialism, by Wuchang Zhang.
ISyE: What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
RJ: Actually I got two from my advisor Prof Shi about how to work efficiently:
“Have a beginning and an end.”
“Only Handle It Once” (OHIO)