CLEMSON — J. Cole Smith, the chair of the industrial engineering department at Clemson University, is receiving one of his profession’s highest honors, The Fellow Award from the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers.

J. Cole Smith

J. Cole Smith

The award “recognizes outstanding leaders of the profession who have made significant, nationally recognized contributions to industrial engineering,” according to the institute, also known as IISE. Fellows hold the highest classification of the institute’s membership.

“If you take a look at the people who have come before me as Fellows in IISE, that is a very distinguished group of men and women,” Smith said. “They’ve made a lot of very impactful contributions to our field. They’ve done more than just excellent research or being captains of industry. They’ve really paved the way for people like me. They’ve supported me since the time I was a brand new assistant professor. To be mentioned among them right now is quite an honor.”

Smith is not only on the faculty at Clemson, he is also an alumnus. He received a Bachelor of Science in mathematical sciences from the university before heading to Virginia Tech for his Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering.

Before returning to Clemson, he served as professor and interim chair of industrial and systems engineering at the University of Florida and assistant professor at the University of Arizona.

No more than 20 fellows can be named each year, according to IISE. Candidates must demonstrate outstanding accomplishments in their professional careers and service to industrial engineering.

Of all his accomplishments, Smith said he is most proud that he has been able to develop Ph.D. students and teach students at all levels.

“I also believe the impact of the research, the kind of results we’ve had in network interdiction and optimization, have been important enough for other people to take notice and build off some of the work I’ve done, just as I built off the work that other people have done,” he said. “The problems were interesting enough and the results were deep enough that other people want to continue studying these, and the folks within the logistics, transportation and defense industries can all put this to use.”

Smith specializes in using math to solve very complicated problems. The solutions help organizations and individuals save money and effort and improve safety.

Smith is active in his profession, serving in several leadership positions, including as the 2017 president of Council of Industrial Engineering Academic Department Heads. A colleague said the position indicates the degree of confidence and trust the IISE leadership community places in Smith.

He twice served as chair of IISE doctoral colloquia and has served as chair of the subcommittee on the conference proceedings. Smith has been a department editor for IISE Transactions for the past eight years.

He was Industrial Engineering Research Conference track chair in 2007 and an IIE Awards Panel member from 2011-2014.  He was also a member of an IIE Transactions best paper award committee from 2009-10, and served as an IIE OR Teaching Award Committee member in 2010. In 2009, he was program co-chair for the IERC meeting in Miami.

Smith has several awards to his credit, including: IERC Best Operations Research Track Paper Award, Hamed K. Eldin Outstanding Young Industrial Engineer in Education Award, IIE Operations Research Division Teaching Award, IERC Best Logistics and Inventory Track Paper Award,  IIE Transactions Best Paper Award, and Young Investigator Award from the Office of Naval Research.

Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, congratulated Smith on being selected as Fellow of IISE.

“This is a special and richly deserved honor,” said Gramopadhye, who served as industrial engineering department chair before Smith. “Dr. Smith has accomplished much in a relatively short time. The award is a testament to the leadership, scholarship and teaching excellence that he brings to Clemson, his alma mater.”

Smith said the honor belongs not only to him, but also to others who have helped him through his career, whether it was someone who supported him after getting a paper rejected or those who encouraged him to aim higher.

“Nobody gets here alone,” Smith said. “This particular achievement is wonderful, but I can look back through every phase of my career and show you where somebody picked me up along the way.”