Final Five

With Michael Hoffman, industrial engineering graduate student, The Pennsylvania State University, NIST fellow

Michael Hoffman is a doctoral student at The Pennsylvania State University who recently was awarded a Graduate Student Measurement Science and Engineering (GMSE) Fellowship through the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The GMSE program provides doctoral-level students with opportunities and laboratory experience in STEM-related disciplines within the NIST field of research. Hoffman's research with NIST focuses on manufacturing systems and maintenance systems.

Michael Hoffman

What drew you to industrial engineering and research in a STEM-related field?

I always excelled in math and science throughout high school, so I knew that I wanted to pursue a STEM degree in college. It wasn't until I started exploring different majors that I got a better understanding of what engineering was and all the possibilities it offered. I wanted to work on large-scale problems and find ways to optimize complex systems and processes, and industrial engineering was the perfect field for accomplishing this. I first started doing research as an undergraduate for an engineering analytics course, and I enjoyed it immediately.

How did you get involved with the National Institute of Standards and Technology?

NIST was recruiting graduate fellows and asked my current advisor for a recommendation. He then referred me for the position. Their ongoing work was similar to the research I was doing at the time, and I was excited to have the chance to work alongside NIST and make use of their resources. I had the chance to explore several projects at NIST and decide where I wanted to contribute so I could spend my time doing work that would move my own personal research forward.

What do you hope to achieve through your research on maintenance system optimization, and where do you see yourself in the future?

One of the goals of my current research is to find ways to use large amounts of manufacturing data to influence systemlevel decision-making. When considering the maintenance policy for a system, there are many decisions that must be made. I want to optimize maintenance policies for complex systems that effectively use this abundance of data to accomplish various objectives such as minimizing throughput disruption, maximizing system production or minimizing overall maintenance costs. I'm confident that my work with NIST will give me the experience necessary to pursue a career as a professional researcher in this field.

What do you hope to achieve through the GMSE fellowship program?

The GMSE fellowship is designed to provide laboratory experience at NIST while supporting students through a doctoral program. I have the chance to work on-site at NIST during the summer and return to school to continue research and complete coursework. I'm able to continue working with my colleagues at NIST throughout the school year, so I can keep making progress on the research projects at NIST. The program has provided valuable work experience and has given me access to resources that have helped me become a better researcher.

What advice you do have for undergraduate students seeking further education in STEM-related disciplines?

My advice would be to stay open-minded and always look for ways to keep learning. Sometimes the solution to a problem can require a unique approach or a different way of thinking. It's also very helpful to be able to work with others and understand differing perspectives.The ability to communicate and collaborate with others is a very important skill and is crucial for being a successful researcher.

– Interview by Cassandra Johnson