Engineering professor earns prestigious award

Mechan­ical and indus­trial engi­neering pro­fessor Allen Soyster has received the Frank and Lil­lian Gilbreth Award, the most esteemed honor bestowed by the Insti­tute of Indus­trial Engi­neers. Founded in 1948, IIE is the world’s largest pro­fes­sional society ded­i­cated to advancing the field.

The award is named in memory of one of the world’s most accom­plished husband-​​and-​​wife teams of sci­ence and engi­neering. According to the Gilbreth Net­work, the duo col­lab­o­rated in the early 1900s on the devel­op­ment of motion study as an engi­neering and man­age­ment technique.

Soyster’s ser­vice to the society, man­age­ment respon­si­bil­i­ties, and vast body of research made him the per­fect can­di­date to receive the award, which honors only one person per year, if any.

“It’s won­derful to be rec­og­nized because there are a lot of qual­i­fied people in this busi­ness,” said Soyster, who served as pres­i­dent of IIE from 2004–2005 and who was hon­ored ear­lier this month at the society’s annual con­fer­ence in Puerto Rico. “I’m happy that I was for­tu­nate enough to be that person this year.”

Soyster has more than 45 years of pro­fes­sional expe­ri­ence in the field. He holds a bach­elor of sci­ence in indus­trial engi­neering from Penn­syl­vania State Uni­ver­sity; a master of sci­ence in indus­trial engi­neering and oper­a­tions research from Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity; and a doc­torate in oper­a­tions research from Carnegie Mellon University.

Over the last four decades, Soyster has pub­lished more than 80 peer-​​reviewed research papers in the field of math­e­mat­ical pro­gram­ming and opti­miza­tion; many of them have appeared in pres­ti­gious jour­nals such as IIE Trans­ac­tions, Oper­a­tions Research, and Man­age­ment Sci­ence.

He owes his unre­lenting pas­sion for his field to his stu­dents and col­leagues. “I’m around fac­ulty and stu­dents who for­ever ener­gize me,” Soyster said.

From 1981 to 1996, he headed the Indus­trial Engi­neering Depart­ment at Penn State, where he presided over the devel­op­ment of the Learning Fac­tory, in which engi­neering stu­dents receive prac­tical expe­ri­ence through client-​​based cap­stone design projects. In 2006, the National Academy of Engi­neering awarded the Learning Fac­tory the Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Inno­va­tion in Engi­neering and Tech­nology Edu­ca­tion, which rec­og­nizes new modal­i­ties and exper­i­ments in edu­ca­tion that develop effec­tive engi­neering leaders.

Soyster served as dean of the Col­lege of Engi­neering at North­eastern from 1997 to 2006, before returning to the uni­ver­sity in 2011. From 2006–2010, he worked as the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion divi­sion director for engi­neering edu­ca­tion and centers.

As dean, Soyster helped the uni­ver­sity attract two NSF-​​funded cen­ters—the Center for High-​​rate Nanoman­u­fac­turing and the Bernard M. Gordon Center for Sub­sur­face Sensing and Imaging Sys­tems.

He mar­veled at the college’s trans­for­ma­tion into one of the country’s top engi­neering schools. “We have recruited the best fac­ulty in the world,” he said, “and the quality of stu­dents we enroll is beyond any­thing I could have imag­ined in 1997.”


Related Faculty: Allen Soyster

Related Departments:Mechanical & Industrial Engineering