Abhijit Deshmukh: IE Head

Abhijit Deshmukh: IE Head

Leading the School to an exciting future

As an industrial engineer, Abhijit Deshmukh studies complex systems. As the head of the School of Industrial Engineering, he manages one.

He assumed the leadership of the School of Industrial Engineering in January 2011, and is now working with the School’s talented faculty, staff, students and administration in moving to the next level and asserting Purdue IE’s leadership role in the industrial engineering field.

Deshmukh received a doctorate from Purdue in 1993, working with Professors Moshe Barash and Joe Talavage.  He recalls meetings with Barash over coffee in Pappy’s Sweet Shop where the two talked through the idea of complexity: “What makes one system more complex than the other? What is the science behind it? How do you measure it? What are the mathematical constructs?”

He credits his advisors with having helped him mature from a student to a researcher.  “Moshe encouraged his students to ask the right questions,” Deshmukh says. “He gave us the respect as a colleague. He wanted us to think independently and look at things differently.”

Industrial engineering as a discipline and profession is about to hit its zenith, Deshmukh believes. He refers to the ties between engineering and societal development: Sputnik led to a focus on mechanical and aerospace engineering. The oil embargo and energy crisis of the ’70s put chemical engineering on the map. The last few decades have engendered nano and bioengineering. Looming on the horizon, he hypothesizes, is the age of integration and the age of IE.

“IE is the key discipline that has the tools to develop the science of integration that can help us build systems that are complex but manageable,” he says. “IE is a lynch pin to a lot of the problems we are looking at and could provide the key element to solving big societal issues … when you look at infrastructure or climate change, these are highly correlated, integrated problems. It’s a fascinating time for IE.”

Deshmukh believes that Purdue IE can play a major leadership role in redefining the discipline. The School, he says, is ready to lead with a dynamic strategic plan and its vision of evolution of IE frontiers.

“We are at the beginning of an enormous opportunity for the profession,” he says. “Most engineers recognize that the systemic challenges out there are key, and the discipline that helps understand those and provide tools to help answer them is going to be at the heart of the next decade — IE”