Department History

The department first offered an industrial engineering degree in 1956, but the core curriculum started way back in 1919. That’s the year an industrial engineering option became available for mechanical engineers. John O. Keller, a 1914 graduate of Pennsylvania State College’s industrial engineering program, came to Iowa State to direct the new program. Keller was one of the first students in the country to earn an IE degree.

In 1926 a general engineering (GE) curriculum was started, and in 1929 the Department of General Engineering (the predecessor to industrial engineering) was established with offices in Engineering Hall (now Marston Hall).

The GE curriculum consisted primarily of classes in electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering, as well as many classes in economics. There were only two GE courses (both personnel related) in the original curriculum.

IE Chair Joseph teaches a plant design class in the 1950s.

Frank Paine was the first department chair, serving in that position from 1929 until he died of a heart attack in 1942. Joseph Walkup was appointed the new department chair in 1942, staying until 1973. During his tenure, many changes were made, including moving the general engineering department closer to the IE concept. Accordingly, an IE option was prepared and eventually offered in 1946. By 1955, the ECPD Accrediting Committee recommended that the department change its name to industrial engineering. The Board of Regents accepted the recommendation, and the change was made on July 1, 1956.

IE Associate Professor John Jackman works with a student in the Material Handing Laboratory, in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

At that time, the department had 197 undergraduate students and three labs in Marston Hall. The curriculum was equally split between engineering and management through most of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. In 1989, IE became the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering (IMSE), with more emphasis in the curriculum on manufacturing. Also that year, IMSE moved into the Engineering Annex, which allowed the department to increase the number of labs from three to six.

In 1999, engineering management was introduced as a new focus area to provide students with an opportunity to learn management principles. Also in 1999, IMSE moved again—this time to Black Engineering. That move increased the number of laboratory facilities available for students and faculty in the department to 16. In 2004, the department in collaboration with the College of Business introduced a new combined B.S. in IE and MBA program.

In spring 2014, there were 474 undergraduate students and more than 70 graduate students working toward an MS or PhD in industrial engineering. In addition, there were approximately 75 students in the systems engineering MEng program and enthusiasm is growing for the engineering management MEng program since 2013.

As the economy continues to become more global, so does IMSE. In addition, nearly 20 percent of IMSE students travel overseas to study as part of their work toward an undergraduate degree at Iowa State. A significant number of both our undergraduate and graduate students complete at least one internship or co-op during their time at Iowa State.

The department continues to reach a wider audience through courses offered by engineering distance education. Students can now earn an MS degree completely online. On-campus students find the online lectures very useful as well for reviewing difficult topics.

Increased collaboration has been at the forefront of the department as several new teaching grants and labs continue to improve the student experience. As a result, the department’s research productivity has grown strongly as well.

In 2021, plans for the Therkildsen Industrial Engineering Building were announced. Once completed, this 50,000 square foot facility will serve as a standalone home for the IMSE department and will include classrooms, labs, manufacturing facilities, offices, meeting spaces and more. This project was made possible because of a 42 million dollar gift from C.G.”Turk” (a 1959 alum of industrial engineering) and Joyce A. Therkildsen.

Students in IE’s metalcasting lab.

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1929 | Department of General Engineering (GE) established

1931 | First PhD in engineering valuation awarded; Depreciation and the “Iowa Curves” are most often associated with research and study in engineering valuation; first published in 1931, Iowa curves have been used to describe forces of retirement acting on physical property and intangible assets

1945 | Letter from President Friley to Dean Agg about changes in curriculum to general engineering

1946 | Industrial engineering option offered in GE department

1948 | Society of Industrial Engineers founded on campus (later became IISE organization)

1953 | Gamma Epsilon Sigma honorary society established

1955 | ECPD Accrediting Committee recommended department change name to Department of Industrial Engineering

1956 | Recommendation to change name passed by Board of Regents and became effective July 1, 1956

1961 | Engineering operations curriculum offered for the first time Letter from President Friley Dean Agg about changes to the curriculum in general engineering

1974 | Alpha Pi Mu, the national IE honor society, started in department— curriculum focuses on engineering and management courses

1989 | IMSE moves to Engineering Annex— department focused on manufacturing and operations research

1992 | New Ph.D. program in industrial engineering replaces engineering valuation Ph.D. M.S. in operations research is approved.

1995 | Interdisciplinary M.S. in systems engineering began, managed by IMSE

1997 | IMSE creates new manufacturing labs

1999 | IMSE moves to Black Engineering. Engineering management becomes a focus area in the IE curriculum

2000 | IMSE and EE departments partnered with the University of Iowa’s College of Business to offer Executive MBA program; program’s home is in IMSE

2002 | Information Technology Throughout the Curriculum initiative instituted

2004 | IMSE goes global with multi-national project teams

2006 | First combined IE/MBA degree awarded and first engineering distance education MS/IE degree awarded.

2011 | Undergraduate minor is sales engineering approved

2012 | Department Chair Janis Terpenny brings Center for e-Design to Iowa State

2013 | Graduate certificate in advanced manufacturing developed in collaboration with mechanical engineering, and the engineering online MEng degree program is established.

2015 | Thanks to the generosity of IE alum Charles George “Turk” Therkildsen and his wife Joyce Arlene McEwen Therkildsen, the C. G. “Turk” and Joyce A. Therkildsen Department Chair in Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering is established. Gül Kremer is the inaugural holder of this title.

2019 | The IMSE department celebrates a mini-centennial for the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the “Industrial Management” program at Iowa State.

2021 | Plans are announced for the Therkildsen Industrial Engineering Building, a standalone home for the department. This project was made possible because of the generosity of C.G. “Turk” (an IE alum) and Joyce A. Therkildsen.