28 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
Just as the COVID-19 pandemic brought massive so-
cietal disruption, the antidote for the deadly virus cre-
ated its own unique challenges. As vaccines became
widely available early in 2021, process improvement
experts faced the logistics task of learning how to dis-
tribute them on a large scale.
One high priority location was on college campuses, where
many students and faculty weary of a year of remote learn-
ing and social distancing were anxious to receive their shots
quickly and efficiently so they could attend graduation cer-
emonies and other gatherings at the end of spring semester.
To streamline such operations, a team of industrial and
systems engineering students at Iowa State University col-
laborated with the schools Emergency Operations Center for
procedures to help administer the shots effectively at a central
mass vaccination site on campus.
The student group included undergraduates Tyler Brenza,
Grace Nashleanas, Colton Richardson and Sam Schwierking,
ISE students help deliver a shot in the arm
Data analysis, logistics used to set up Iowa State vaccination clinic
By Keith Albertson
Photo courtesy of Christopher Gannon | Iowa State University News Service
August 2021 | ISE Magazine 29
with Ph.D. student Ghazal Shah Abadi as project manager. All
are part of an undergraduate research program led by Sarah
Ryan, an industrial and systems engineering professor and
IISE fellow.
The goal of the university’s emergency operations depart-
ment was to move the vaccinations to a single site to maxi-
mize the number of shots delivered. The students began by
studying data from smaller clinics operating in late March.
They analyzed wait times along each step of the process to de-
ISE students help deliver a shot in the arm
Data analysis, logistics used to set up Iowa State vaccination clinic
By Keith Albertson
vise a queueing network model and determined that the clinic
could vaccinate more than 2,000 people per day.
Schwierking, a junior and undergraduate research assistant
in industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, told ISE
that efforts to move people quickly through lines at the vac-
cination site relied on collecting data involving several time
measures. Those included when people arrived for their ap-
pointment, how long it took to register, their arrival and de-
parture at each station and how many registration areas were
being used.
They factored in potential time delays along the way. While
the vaccination itself can be administered in as little as five
minutes, planners had to account for variables such as late ar-
rivals and delays patients might encounter at registration sta-
tions. Because the vaccines must be prepared in advance and
can be spoiled if not delivered in time, the goal was to move
people as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The team also worked to ensure there was enough space set
aside for people waiting 15 minutes at a post-vaccine observa-
tion station to be monitored for any allergic reactions. They
measured the number of patients at a time every minute for
the 15 minutes to calculate the amount of space needed.
One of the delay factors that we had seen when looking at
the minor clinic was if there were technical issues or a large
group of people coming into the clinic at once. Both of these
issues would force a backup in the queueing line before the
entrance,” Schwierking said. “Then once they started pushing
people through as fast as they could, the number of people
in the observation section would increase, and their number
of chairs would be too low. So we recommended that they
would have additional seating areas for these two cases. Actu-
ally, during the first few days of the clinic opening, this spe-
cific recommendation seemed vital to the operation.
“With a queueing network model, we get a glimpse ahead
at issues they might confront so they can make adjustments on
Industrial engineering
students helped design Iowa
State’s mass vaccination
clinic at State Gym.
An ISU student receives a COVID-19 vaccine at Iowa State’s
mass vaccination clinic at State Gym.
Photo courtesy of Christopher Gannon | Iowa State University News Service
30 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
Healthcare ISEs: Reach out and change a student’s life
the fly,” Brenza, a junior majoring in industrial engineering,
told The Iowa State News Service.
With the processes in place, the clinic began serving the
university population April 20 at State Gym. Once the clinic
began dispensing vaccines, the team observed the results and
sought to make any necessary adjustments based on changing
Actually, the clinic went well,” Schwierking said. “We
made most of the adjustments before the clinics opening be-
cause of the statistical analysis that we did. For instance, us-
ing queueing theory, we discovered that the sticker dispenser
station, where people get what registration and vaccination
station they are supposed to go to, was understaffed. So we
adjusted accordingly, and I believe, got rid of that function
altogether to make sure it wasnt backing up the process.
“With any research project, you typically start out with
some objectives, then things change along the way and you
have to adjust as you go,” Ryan told ISU News Service. “I was
worried the students would be frustrated by that, but I was
encouraged that they understand this clinic has to adapt to
events as they happen.
Through the end of May, the university had served nearly
6,800 patients and delivered more than 12,000 vaccines. The
school planned to reopen clinics in August in time for fall se-
“I got vaccinated the same day we had done observations.
It’s weird how different the patients see it versus how we’re
observing it,” Richardson, sophomore in industrial engineer-
ing, told the ISU New Service.
Schwierking said he received positive feedback from those
served at the clinics who had a positive experience.
“I heard many quality responses, personally,” he said. “I
know the people we were working with within the Environ-
mental Health and Safety department were very grateful for
having our help in trying to make sure that it went correctly
the first time. I heard no complaints about the wait being long
or unclear where to go next. So all in all, I think it was a suc-
“I’m really glad we got to work with these students,” ISU
Emergency Manager Clayton Oliver told the ISU News Ser-
vice. “This was a way for them to contribute directly to the
In addition to helping get more shots in arms, the project
gave the students a chance to apply ISE principles they learned
in class to tackle a real-world challenge.
This idea was foreign to the rest of my team and me before
the project,” Schwierking said. “So it we received the oppor-
tunity to expand on something even outside the studies that
we have been given to that point and use some of the higher-
level skills that we have learned in classes, like matrices.
“I think that it was a wonderful experience. I am not quite
sure what I want to do in industrial engineering yet, but being
a part of this project helped me understand the process side. I
thought it wouldnt be something that I would consider, but
this subset of IE allows me to touch so many different people
in different ways.
Keith Albertson is managing editor of ISE magazine.
From left, Iowa State University industrial engineering students, from left, Grace Nashleanas, Sam Schwierking, Tyler Brenza and
Colton Richardson, industrial engineering professor Sarah Ryan and Ph.D. student and project manager Ghazal Shah Abadi.
Photo courtesy of Grace Nashleanas
August 2021 | ISE Magazine 31
Dashboard helps track vaccination levels
As COVID-19 vaccines are delivered, the next step
for healthcare directors and process improvement
experts is to gather data on who has received the
shots, mostly to determine who is not getting the
vaccines and how to reach them.
As of late June, more than 66% of U.S. adults
had received their full vaccines, according to the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(covid.cdc.gov), leaving a third of the population
unvaccinated. The percentage of people who have
been immunized can vary widely by region and
To monitor this data in their state, a research team
at Georgia Tech assembled a dashboard to measure
and display vaccination rates that can be divided
by county, race and age, according to Georgia Tech
Research Horizons (rh.gatech.edu). The Georgia
COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard includes interactive
maps and tables that compare and rank counties by
vaccination rates, social vulnerability index and other
“There is a lot variability in different regions of
the state, so we wanted to take a closer look from an
equity perspective,” said Pinar Keskinocak, an IISE
member, the William W. George chair and professor
in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and
Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech and co-founder
and director of the Center for Health and Humanitarian
Systems, an interdisciplinary research center at
Georgia Tech.
Georgia Tech’s research team includes Ph.D.
students Akane Fujimoto and Tyler Perini and CHHS
Research Director Dima Nazzal, an IISE member. They
worked with the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) to set up the dashboard. They share early versions of it with the DPH
and the Georgia COVID-19 Health Equity Council.
The dashboard concept is key to helping specific areas achieve full herd immunity. Even as vaccination rates rise overall,
targeting areas that fall short of achieving such immunity is key. It also helps divulge what socioeconomic factors might be involved
in keeping rates low. Its totals as of early June showed that vaccination rates were higher among white residents in large metro area
counties and in about 70% of counties overall.
Nazzal said the dashboard shows lower rates overall in areas below the poverty level compared to the national average. Some
counties showed higher vaccination rates among white residents, particularly in large urban counties, while the vaccination rate is
higher among Black residents in a few counties.
A CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) released in late May showed vaccination rates lower among adults in
counties with the highest social vulnerability, such as lower socioeconomic status, households with children, single parents and
persons with disabilities.
A sample screen shot of the Georgia COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard.
Photos courtesy of Georgia Tech Research Horizons
The research team behind the COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard includes,
from left, Center for Health and Humanitarian Systems Research
Director Dima Nazzal, an IISE member, and Ph.D. students Akane
Fujimoto and Tyler Perini.