Student Spotlight: Ibukun Phillips

Author: Chloee Robison
Meet our next student spotlight: Ibukun Phillips!
Ibukun is a PhD candidate in Industrial Engineering completing research on the verification and validation of AI-enabled systems.


He received his undergraduate degree in Industrial and Production Engineering from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria before making his way to Purdue in 2016 to begin his graduate work. After completing his degree, Ibukun decided that he wasn’t quite done with his time at Purdue and chose to commence his doctoral studies in the fall of 2020.  
Ibukun says he applied to Purdue for its prestige, location, and research opportunities. “I wanted to join a top-ten engineering program in the United States, and also wanted to be in the Midwest,” he says, “I also looked into several IE faculty and opted to work with my advisor, Dr. Robert Kenley. The research I wanted to do mirrored what he had done in the past and his research interests.” 
Ibukun’s research interests have evolved since his initial application to Purdue IE. His bachelors maintained a heavy focus on the mechanical engineering aspects of manufacturing and production. However, at Purdue, he has opted for courses more tailored for the digital aspects of IE. “Beyond traditional industrial engineering, the advent of data science and the use of data to make for enterprise decision-making made me start to view IE in a different light.” He says, “My research interests gradually transitioned away from traditional IE work such as studies and time studies, and manufacturing. The proliferation of data in industry is improving the efficiency and effectiveness of production and service companies, and that also made me change my research interests. I got involved in systems engineering, focusing on especially applying quantitative approaches to systems engineering leveraging on operations research techniques and data science.”  

Ibukun Phillips accepting an award with Dr. Pat Brunese (Left) and Dr. Young-Jun Son (right)

Ibukun’s work has recently received a multitude of awards, including the 2023 Brian Mar Best Student Paper Award and the Stevens/INCOSE Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Award at the INCOSE International Symposium this year.  
This past summer, Ibukun began an internship with Idaho National Laboratory in their Digital Engineering Division to expand his knowledge base and gain more industry-level experience. He says the most exciting part of his work is utilizing innovative digital technologies in his research, which have applications in a variety of industries including energy, aerospace, and defense. “The prevalence of large complex systems in current engineering applications opened up more opportunities for the application of approaches such as model-based systems engineering,” he says. “It's really exciting because I can see the wider applications in my internship as well.” 
Ibukun has also spent time getting involved on campus. He previously served as the communications director, treasurer, and president of the Purdue Systems Thinkers Club (PurSysT), where he helped the rebrand the student club while driving for increased membership growth. “We’re (PurSysT) interested in working with anybody on campus regardless of their discipline, who does research or who is interested in applying systems thinking and methods towards resolving societal challenges, especially in this current dispensation.” He was also the first graduate assistant for the University Residences Multicultural Connections (URMC) group, where he helped establish a welcoming community for first-year domestic minority students within ResLife. “I met with a lot of bright, smart, and enterprising undergraduate students who wanted an opportunity to take up responsibility within an organization and work towards the club’s growth and development. It was a blessing getting involved and collaborating with those students with support from ResLife staff.” 
Now, looking towards the future, Ibukun is ready to take his expertise to industry. He hopes to leverage the skills and knowledge he has gained during his studies to find work as a systems engineer at the intersection of Artificial intelligence and Systems Engineering. “I want to contribute to the development and the continued growth of my discipline,” he says. “I'm hopeful for a digital engineering focus in my future endeavors and career pursuit.” 
Ibukun has a community of people he would like to thank for their help during his academic journey.  
“I am grateful to all my professors, and especially my advisor – Dr. Bob Kenley. He has been a great pillar of support for my success in the program so far, and I have experienced a lot of growth working under his guidance,” he says. “I am thankful for my parents, who supported me coming over here from Nigeria. I also thank my wife, who has been with me providing love and enthusiastic support through it all. She is my greatest cheerleader.”  
Ibukun would also like to thank DeEtte Starr, Director of Communications at the College of Education. Also, he is grateful for Leza Dellinger, Director of Operations for the School of IE, Dr. Amy Childress, Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, Wilfrido Cruz, Senior Diversity Recruiter here at Purdue, and Professors Daniel DeLaurentis and Audeen Fentiman for the graduate research opportunity on their project during his time at Purdue.  
“For anyone interested and coming into Purdue IE, I wish them the best and just want to let them know they are coming into a good place,” Ibukun says. “The school has been consistent in the rankings, while ramping up efforts to improve scholastic and professional development opportunities for the students. With the current head of the department, Professor Son, I strongly believe we are moving in a great direction and positioning Purdue IE as one of the very best in the country.” 

Written by: Chloee Robison