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Graduate Student Profile
Michelle Park
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Michelle Park

Hometown: Seoul, South Korea
Undergraduate Study: Yonsei University, B.A. Economics, 2005 
Graduate Study: Johns Hopkins University, M.A. Economics, 2010
Degree(s) Sought: Ph.D. Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems
Department: Industrial and Systems Engineering
Faculty Advisor: Jennifer K. Ryan
Expected year of graduation: 2015

Describe your graduate research and its purpose/applications.

My research focuses on providing managerial advice related to inventory control, spare parts maintenance, procurement, and many other managerial level processes. The advice is based on operations research methodologies, including mathematical analysis, optimization, and game theory approaches. For instance, an aircraft engine needs lots of spare parts which are expensive to keep in stock.  However, if a spare part is not in stock when it’s needed, the manufacturer loses time and money. Part of our work is to optimize which parts a manufacturer should always have on hand and which can be ordered as needed. We try to answer these questions by using an inventory model and applying a variety of forecasting methods.

Another interesting part of my research is in understanding how to motivate suppliers and retailers, who have conflicting interests, to work together towards meeting a common goal. To achieve their shared goal, it’s important to look for incentives that will satisfy each party. There’s a lot of research being carried out on this topic and we often look to game theory for possible solutions. This is an area where I can make practical use of my experience and knowledge in Economics.

What are your hobbies and interests?

Outside of work, I enjoy rock climbing. It is not only a fun recreational activity, but it’s a wonderful social activity for meeting new people outside of the university. Further, it trains me to have an active attitude towards my research. I may get to the top only after I fall, slip, and fail many times. If I don’t want to become frustrated and fail, I could simply choose not to climb. However with that attitude, I would surely never reach the top.  Both scenarios help to motivate me to continue with my research even when I don’t feel that I’m making much progress.

What made you decide to attend Rensselaer?

When I applied for the doctoral program, it was quite a big decision for me. After earning two degrees in Economics, the natural progression might have been to continue on in Economics.  However, I was interested in a field where I could be involved in interdisciplinary collaborations that could make use of economic methodologies.  My advisor has a number of research projects to which these methodologies are applicable.

What are some benefits of being part of the Graduate Community at Rensselaer?

My research has many connections to Applied Mathematics, Business, Electrical and Systems Engineering, Economics and other closely related fields.  RPI has one of the strongest engineering schools in the nation and low walls encourage collaboration across academic departments and Schools.

What would you tell a prospective student about choosing Rensselaer?

What I really want to say is to talk to faculty members and be open to other students. Don’t be afraid to talk to faculty about their research projects and what interests you about their projects. This will help you to focus in on research that is of personal interest to you and to identify a graduate advisor with whom you can work well. Talk to students who are already working with the faculty to ask for their impressions about the faculty and once you’ve selected an advisor, ask the other students in your research group for support when you need it. There is a great community here.

What are your plans following graduation?

I wish to find a tenure track faculty position, and I’m open to going anywhere in the world. Studying far from where I grew up has been physically and mentally more difficult than studying in my home country. However, the experience has been filled with many adventures, and I’ve learned what I can and should do no matter what circumstances are facing me. I greatly appreciate and enjoy exploring different parts of the world and I hope to continue doing so for the rest of my life.


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