How the Master of Industrial Engineering capstone is helping communities affected by COVID-19

MIE students are working with healthcare systems engineers at the MD Anderson Cancer Center as part of their capstone project.

Mason Weld, Elifnaz Dogan and Madhura Sridhar

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, disciplines like industrial engineering are finding ways to support affected communities. 
Mason Weld, a Rice undergraduate who extended his stay to pursue the Master of Industrial Engineering (MIE), and his counterparts Elifnaz Dogan and Madhura Sridhar, both international students, are part of the Engineering Professional Master’s Program. The three are learning how data-driven decision models can be used in the design, analysis, optimization and management of complex systems in health care, energy, manufacturing, supply chain and logistics. 

"The MIE courses involve real-life company-provided projects, and the students have internship opportunities in the companies located in the greater Houston area," said Andrew Schaefer, the Noah Harding Chair and Professor of the Computational and Applied Mathematics Department. 
Taking advantage of being located in Houston, home to the world’s largest medical center, Weld, Dogan and Sridhar are working with healthcare systems engineers at the MD Anderson Cancer Center as part of their capstone project.

“The projects help students test their analytical skills, and improve the efficiency and safety of various systems while working on real-world problems,” said Dr. Eylem Tekin lecturer and co-director of the MIE program.

MD Anderson wanted to ensure the flexibility to relocate and condition hospital floors quickly with all the tools staff needs to treat patients. Since both inpatient and outpatient rooms require complex hardware and equipment installations to meet the patients’ needs, expansions and room transformations require experts from different teams within facility and technology departments to work together in a sequential and efficient way. 

"Hospitals like MD Anderson have to constantly make changes and modifications to their facilities and room layouts to make room for COVID-19 patients, while keeping everyone as safe as possible, continuing normal operations with limited space," Weld said. "Our goal of developing a clear and efficient system for these complicated modifications will give MD Anderson more flexibility during volatile and urgent times." 
The staff at MD Anderson is enthusiastic about the impact the capstone project is having.

"The biggest impact so far is that different departments are talking to each other in a structured manner to make decisions about how the process should work: the sequence of tasks and their key decisions to make the process better, ” said Benitez.
Weld, Dogan and Sridhar will continue working on the project until the end of the semester.  They all agree that there are many different methods and concepts learned in classes that they will be able to apply to MD Anderson’s problem. “This capstone project is a great opportunity for us to test our I.E. knowledge on a real-world problem,” says Weld.

Learn more about the Master of Engineering program.

Rosario Sá Martinez