Skip to main content
Ava Schmidt
February 6, 2023

Undergraduate Q&A: Industrial engineering major Ava Schmidt

Written By: Tom Ziemer


Ava Schmidt is a Milwaukee native who’s thrilled to have discovered the field of industrial engineering at UW-Madison. The senior, who recently participated in the inaugural ISyE Discovery Day event, shares insights about her engineering education.

Why did you choose UW-Madison?
I chose UW-Madison because I knew in high school that I wanted to study engineering. I was drawn to UW-Madison’s reputable engineering college, the unbeatable campus, and the culture of balancing fun with hard work. Plus, I am a true Midwest native and love all things Wisconsin.

What drew you to industrial engineering?
Going into my first year at UW, I knew nothing about industrial engineering. I started off studying mechanical engineering, but quickly found myself interested in the consideration of people when designing and improving systems. I enjoyed solving problems that forced me to think about many factors: How much will it cost to implement this solution? How can I design this solution so that it will be sustainable? How many people will need to staff or support this solution? How long will this solution take to implement? When I learned about industrial engineering from a classmate, I quickly made the switch!

What have been the highlights of your industrial engineering education?
I am so grateful for the staff and student body that make up the ISyE department here at UW-Madison. Professors and teaching assistants have always been excited to answer questions, tell stories, and offer insight on anything IE-related whenever asked. It is clear to me that industrial engineering draws a particular kind of person, someone who is curious, insightful, and fundamentally driven by helping and interacting with others. Getting to work with those kinds of people has been a true highlight of my time at UW so far.

What’s been your favorite industrial engineering course?
So far, I really enjoyed taking ISyE 323, Operations Research-Deterministic Modeling. While I found the course to be challenging, I was really interested in the problems I was asked to solve. Before taking this course, I had no experience with optimization. I learned that it’s pretty awesome (not to mention useful) to be able to provide the most optimal solution for almost any mathematical scenario you can think of, from bus stop locations to staffing in a restaurant.

What is something most people don’t realize about industrial engineers or industrial engineering as a field?
Professional industrial engineers don’t always know what industrial engineering is either! I am a firm believer that the opportunities in this discipline are endless, and because of that, it can be hard to explain to others what we do. How do you explain a field of study that produces bankers, government workers, CEOs, designers, data scientists, healthcare professionals, manufacturers and everything in between?

What are your career plans?
After recently completing a co-op with Sub-Zero, I’m newly interested in operations management. I loved getting to interact with so many different kinds of people and was comfortable in the fluid daily environment of manufacturing. I do, however, think I have some unexplored interests within healthcare, so I don’t quite have my mind set yet. Maybe something at the intersection of the two industries.

Do you have any secret powers?
I do consider myself to be superhuman at serving breakfast, so come grab pancakes and say hello at Short Stack Eatery here in Madison!