Florida State University

As an industrial engineering student at The Florida State University, senior Carlos Parra has come to appreciate finding ways to refine and optimize the manufacturing process.

"I chose to attend The Florida State University because the industrial engineering program was geared toward manufacturing," Parra said. "When I first started my undergraduate education, I began to realize that there was more to the field than meets the eye."

Parra's interest in operations research has complemented his fascination with manufacturing. Operations research draws many elements from statistics, optimization, queuing theory, decision analysis and simulation, and then applies them as problem-solving techniques and methods to improve decision-making and efficiency.

From making manufacturing cheaper and safer while improving product quality or reliability, Parra has learned that industrial engineering is a big field of study, and it can be applied to any kind of industry.

"The goal is to make the process as efficient as possible," Parra said. "We try to solve common manufacturing problems by constantly analyzing processes in order to make the most of whatever we're dealing with."

During his junior year, Parra conducted research at Florida State's High Performance Materials Institute with Mei Zhang, an associate professor of industrial engineering at the Florida A&M University-Florida State University College of Engineering.

"Research during my undergraduate years gave me insight into what it would feel like being a graduate student," Parra said. "There were challenges, such as trying to manage my time between my classes and the laboratory. It could be frustrating when the next step of the investigation wasn't readily apparent or when the results were not as useful as I would have hoped. However, when I look back at my overall research experience, it gave me the necessary skills to be able to learn on my own and find answers where there were none."

Parra also enjoyed the chance to get to know his professors in a more personal way.

"When Carlos worked with me as a research assistant, I was impressed with his ability to quickly grasp a complex subject and apply it," Zhang said. "He was always eager to learn more and to know more. I believe he will be a great scientist in the future."

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