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What Is ISE?

Process diagram

Industrial & Systems Engineering (ISE) is a branch of engineering that uses mathematical, statistical, and scientific techniques to design, analyze, implement, and improve systems of people, information, and materials. Such systems often involve complex interactions between humans and machines. ISEs strive to ensure that these systems work safely and efficiently. 

ISEs are experts at collecting, cleaning, analyzing, and interpreting qualitative and quantitative data. They utilize such data to make predictions about a system's behavior and to make decisions that ultimately improve people's lives. They often rely on computer programming to attain these systems-level and people-oriented objectives in our modern technology-driven society.

Engineer in hard hat

ISEs work in a variety of domains including logistics and transportation, healthcare, energy, manufacturing, robotics, and cyberinfrastructure. Examples of ISE projects include: 

  • optimizing the distribution of goods around the world
  • planning and executing relief operations for natural disasters
  • reducing traffic congestion
  • managing airline operations
  • designing safety protocols for autonomous vehicles
  • streamlining the flow of patients in hospitals and improving the quality of treatment 
  • optimizing the electric grid
  • reducing rework, waste and defects in manufacturing processes and products
  • planning robot motion in warehouses
  • mitigating the risk of phishing attacks and other cybersecurity threats

I-5 in downtown Seattle

Consequently, ISEs secure jobs in government and non-profit organizations, as well as in small and large corporations. For example, they work at Accenture, Amazon, Apple, Boeing, CIA, Facebook, FEMA, Ford, General Motors, Google, Intel, Mayo Clinic, McKinsey, Microsoft, Red Cross and Starbucks, to name a few.

For more information about different subfields within ISE, please see: