Industrial Engineering Alumnus Discusses New Position at Purdue, Life at LSU

2/22/2017

Brandon Pitts has always been driven by a fascination for airplanes, airports and the airline industry, so a major in industrial engineering at LSU seemed to be his best chance of making
his dreams a reality.brandonpitts

He recently joined Purdue University as an Assistant Professor in the School of Industrial Engineering and is also a Faculty Associate in the Center on Aging and the Life Course (CALC).

After graduating cum laude from LSU in 2010, Pitts went on to earn his master’s degree and doctoral degree at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. He was offered the position at Purdue upon graduation, but decided to take four months to work as a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Healthcare Engineering and Patient Safety (CHEPS) at Michigan.

Pitts’ research is primarily geared toward assessing and overcoming the effects of aging on multimodal information processing. He enjoys his new position as an assistant professor because he gets to share his passion with students daily.

“I love what I study and what I teach,” he said. “And really being able to share that passion and that excitement for what I love with people is the most rewarding part of the job.”

While there is no average day for an assistant professor, there are many different obligations he is expected to fill. He is teaching one class three days a week, publishing papers from his dissertation, interviewing students to help with his research, attending faculty workshops and conferences, and building a lab for his area of focus.

“There is also an expectation that I develop a new class,” Pitts said. “That is possibly going to happen this fall. I am often thinking about what that material would be and building on it.”

He explained this new class would tie in with his research, but it would be broad enough to allow master’s and doctoral candidates to be engaged. It will be “under the umbrella” of his research on multimodal display design and aging populations.

One of his biggest challenges is the amount of time there is in a day. He wishes he could have about three to four more hours just so he can have more time to do what he loves.

Pitts was extremely involved in student organizations while at LSU, such as the Institute of Industrial Engineers, Alpha Pi Mu Industrial Engineering Honor Society, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, and the National Society of Black Engineers. He also did a collaborative project with Engineers Without Borders through playground builds.

“The classroom is there for the theory,” he said. “But the student organizations help you see the practical implications of what you are studying.”

Getting involved in organizations was where Pitts was first able to share his passion for engineering.

“One thing I noticed was that a lot of people didn’t know what industrial engineering was about,” he said. “So me getting involved and reaching out to students in elementary and middle school allowed them to hear about that specific discipline, when normally they would just hear about other types of engineering.”

His advice for future engineers was simple- “Ask questions!”

“This shows that you’re curious. Even when you’re older, you should ask questions,” Pitts explained. “If you learn to ask questions and get comfortable doing that, you’ll realize how many things you’re interested in, how many things that you don’t know and how many things you need to learn. The more questions you ask the more you learn about yourself.”

When asked where he saw himself in five years, Pitts was quick to respond. He plans to have his research lab operating like a “well-oiled machine.”

“I hope to still be here,” he said. “But I hope to be an associate professor who has a very structured, developed research program that is trying to figure out how to develop technology to support older adults.”

After six years as an assistant professor, he may have the opportunity to become as associate professor. He is currently on the track to tenure and promotion if all goes well his first six years. The next step would be a position as a full professor, which he is ultimately working toward.

Thinking back on his time at LSU, Pitts recalled one of his favorite things about his undergraduate experience- the sense of community. He remembers going to events on campus such as crawfish boils put on by Residential Life and plays in the Union Theatre.

He shared that his favorite memories of the university were when his college experience directly overlapped with his life experiences.

Pitts is looking forward to an upcoming conference he is attending in New Orleans where he plans to enjoy some crawfish just like he did as a freshman.

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Sydney Larriviere, communications intern, LSU College of Engineering

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