A Taste of Real-World Challenges

Photograph of Gary CheungGary Cheung '08 is confident that when he completes his master's degree in systems science and industrial engineering he'll be ready to take on the world.

As both an undergraduate and a graduate student at the Watson School, Cheung has tackled real-world challenges-in and out of class-and made connections in area industry. He's also experienced working conditions that mirror those of the working world.

For example, Cheung cites one recent project that focused on an emerging technology. "The entire class was one big project," he explains. "At the time, the government was developing a lightning-fast computer processing chip. Our job was to research the chip and develop a plan for manufacturing and marketing it. We had to address everything from market research to production issues and hiring.

"We started with a few tidbits of information and had to schedule interviews with the ‘customer,' our professor, to learn more. But the faculty could only tell us so much, and some of the information was wrong. The whole experience was very typical of real life, where you get incomplete information all the time."

As an undergraduate, Cheung landed two internships with the help of his Watson professors. "My first major engineering internship was with Lockheed Martin," he says. "My job there was to finish coding a computer program that was designed to test certain aircraft properties to see if the aircraft was safe to fly."

Cheung's second internship was with Universal Instruments, where he worked on building simulation models of the company's products. "My job was to make a virtual replica of a particular machine," he explains. "That way they could send the simulation model to customers, rather than an old-school pencil-and-paper version, to make operations more efficient."

Cheung says that with his Watson experience, he'll be able to go just about anywhere. "A degree in industrial engineering is business oriented as well as technical," he notes. "Our job is to make things more efficient, whether you're in a manufacturing plant, an accounting firm, a hospital, or the financial industry.

"For instance, one of my fellow alumni works in a hospital where the emergency room is always packed and wait times are long. Through operations research and optimization techniques, he's working on moving the system to a more efficient way of accomplishing the goals."

Last Updated: 11/26/13