Student Profile – Best Paper Winner Pooya Alavian

Since childhood, Pooya Alavian has known that he would one day take over his family’s business: a metal enamel factory that his father created before Pooya was born. Pooya grew up watching his father work diligently to improve the factory, and he worked alongside his father as much as possible. In the future, Pooya hopes to “take control of the company, grow the business, and gift [his] father the retirement that he deserves”. In order to accomplish this goal, he set off on the higher education pathway.

After earning both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Industrial Engineering in Iran, Pooya turned to the United States to pursue a doctoral degree. He considered many different universities but had difficulty finding a program that focused on the manufacturing curriculum that he wanted. Eventually, he realized that ISD’s manufacturing program “matched perfectly, and [the] University of Michigan was the best university [he] could have asked for”. His decision was made; he would become a Wolverine.

Although choosing his university was not overly difficult, Pooya’s transition to life as a PhD candidate was, at times, challenging. Not only was Pooya adapting to the rigors of pursuing a doctoral degree, he was also adjusting to an entirely new culture. Pooya credits part of his success to his academic advisor, Professor Semyon Meerkov: “Thanks to Professor Meerkov’s trainings I became more and more prepared everyday.” Their work together leaves no doubt as to whether or not Pooya successfully adapted to the challenges of academic life in the United States. In 2018, Pooya, Peter Denno, and Professor Meerkov were awarded the International Journal of Production Research’s Best Paper Award for their paper “Multi-job production systems: definition, problems, and product-mix performance portrait of serial lines”. According to Pooya, the paper “provides analytical multi-job production theory, methods for design and analysis of Programmable Manufacturing Advisor-based smart production systems, and a statistical theory for reliable evaluation of machine up- and downtimes.”

Receiving this award “was a great feeling” for Pooya, who spent more than two years preparing the paper with Professor Meerkov, including many months revising their submissions in order to receive publication approval. For Pooya, “it was a great encouragement to see that [their] work [was] appreciated by the scientific community”.

Pooya’s award-winning paper was an important step in his continued path forward. Recently, he started a job at the Ford Motor Company, where he believes the experience will be invaluable to him and his career progression. He also co-founded a start-up, Smart Production Systems LLC, which works to commercialize the theory and software he developed during his doctoral studies.

Still, the most rewarding experience of Pooya’s educational experience at U-M was not receiving the Best Paper Award, starting his own company, or starting his new job — to him, making his family proud was most meaningful. When Pooya gave his dissertation defense, his family was unable to travel to the United States to hear him speak because of recent travel restrictions. ISD staff and faculty stepped in to stream a live broadcast of the defense to his family. Pooya’s sister told him that after he finished speaking, his “mom, dad, and grandma stood up and started clapping”. Their pride in his hard work proved to him that his journey to U-M to continue his education had been worth it, and he felt their support despite the physical separation between them. One day, he will be ready to return to his family to run their factory, but for now, he will continue making them proud with the new roles that he has taken on in the U.S.