Kevin Chen, IE 2014, has forged an impressive path while at ISyE and is on his way to meet his goal of one day becoming a professor. After five years of taking a rigorous schedule, Kevin managed to complete two majors (IE and Math), two internships, three Ph.D. classes, and two research projects. He received a ticket to ACC Meeting of the Mind Conference and was presented the ISyE Alpha Pi Mu Academic Excellence Award and the COE Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award at the ISyE Undergraduate Awards Ceremony. Now, Kevin has finally “gotten out.” In this interview, he discusses how he handled his intense workload and still had free time to do what he enjoyed. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for Kevin.
You just graduated in May, what lies ahead?
I will work on wrapping up my research project at school. After being admitted to multiple top Ph.D. programs, I have decided to start the Ph.D. program at University of Chicago Booth School of Business in the fall of 2014.
Tell us a little about your background. What motivated you to come to Georgia Tech to get your undergrad degree at ISyE?
I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chengdu. It is the largest city located in the south west of China. Later in my life, I spent six years at Chengdu Foreign Languages School for my junior high school and senior high school. I was amazed by some of the early high school students who directly got into United States for their undergrad degrees, so I also tried to follow their path and applied for to American institutions. I didn't know much about Georgia Tech back then, but I U.S. News and World Reports provided a very good reference. Luckily I got in!
You would like to eventually go to graduate school and become a professor. When did you decide you wanted to be a professor and why?
I am interested in the research aspect where you have a chance to break through what people haven't solved in the world. It's a different flavor compared with working in the industry.
You have a very intense schedule and have accomplished a lot in the last five years. It sounds like you are taking advantage of all that Georgia Tech has to offer. How have you juggled two majors, three Ph.D. classes and two research projects and still make outstanding grades?
There are brilliant teachers who teach well. I also have really smart friends at all levels who’ve helped me a lot. In the end, hard work also pays off more or less.
With all your academic activities, do you have free time outside of classwork? If so, what do you do enjoy doing?
Actually quite a lot. I'm a big fan of our football team. I watched all of the Georgia Tech football games in the past five years either on TV or at Bobby Dodd Stadium. For the home games, I went to the majority of them. A random but cool thing I did was be one of the bananas in the 2011 Homecoming game against Clemson. Like most of the Tech fans, I hate UGA and always remember the score 45-42 from 2008 game. Early in my college when I have more free time, I enjoyed doing community service project within an on-campus club called Georgia Tech Circle K. I made a lot of nice and cool friends in the club. During my Co-op and Intern semesters, I like inviting friends to my apartment and cooking food together during the weekends. I also jog every single weekend and like to travel when I don't have a lot of work on hand.
You mention you were one of the bananas in the 2011 homecoming game against Clemson. What is the banana and do you have a photo of you in the suit?
Well, my previous roommate decided that he wanted to bring a group of friends in banana suits together and go to the homecoming game. It might seem random and stupid to some people, but the experience turned out to be one of the best parts for my college life.
Where is your favorite place on campus?
The best memory at college goes to Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Tell us a little about each of your internships. What did you enjoy most about each of them?
I spent three semesters working as a Software Engineer Co-op at Ventyx ABB. I learnt a lot of technical stuff in programming and modelling. I also learnt to behave professionally in a company. Meeting experienced industry people within the company has helped me a lot in many different aspects. Talking to Georgia tech alumni from previous generations and listening to their story is the best part!
I also spent one summer semester working at Hewlett-Packard. It was the semester when I developed a much better understanding of self-motivation and proactive work attitudes. The experience is simply invaluable.
Tell us about one of the research projects you worked on.
The most recent research project I'm working on is about applying Robust Optimization in Demand Response Scheduling. Advised by Dr. Andy Sun, I had a chance to work on the modeling and simulation aspects of the problems.
What do you consider your biggest achievement? What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
By talking to friends and teachers and listening to their stories, I start to understand what self-motivation is and how it can be applied in work. To me, self-motivation is something that comes from inside. It's about interest, inspiration and proactive attitudes that you have in work.
My view about co-ops has been completely changed by one of my ISyE friends at school. I was actually a very passive worker in my own co-op, someone who stayed in a cycle of getting assignment from manager, finishing them on time and then getting another one. I have never thought about any change because I felt it just went fine. Then I met this cool, smart friend who was working as a co-op at Delta. His daily work at company was generating reports, but somehow he decided and managed to go beyond his assignment, explore something of great potential value, define the problem and consistently work on the problem. I mean it was just so amazing as how much impact an undergraduate student can have in such a big corporate. I learned from this and applied it in my internship at Hewlett-Packard. The feeling was great. It was like a new world you opened for yourself - full of passions, inspiration, challenges and opportunities.
Finish the sentence: Few people know that…
1. It takes me 3 years to realize that WR in football means "wide receiver" not "white receiver".
2. I'm currently a San Francisco 49er fan although I'm in the city of Atlanta.
Industrial and Systems Engineering