Nick Tran standing on a boulder in front of a lake and mountain

Q&A with U-M IOE Undergrad Nick Tran

Nick Tran is an undergraduate in the University of Michigan Industrial and Operations Engineering (IOE) department. Nick discusses what Industrial and Operations Engineering is as well as the perks and flexibility of the degree.


Nick Tran is an undergraduate in the U-M Industrial and Operations Engineering (IOE) department. He currently serves as a U-M IOE peer advisor and is a part of many clubs including Engineering Global Leader (EGL), Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) and Michigan Aviators.

Nick Tran stands on the beach in front of a mountain wearing a University of Michigan Industrial and Operations Engineering t-shirt.

Favorite IOE class: IOE 310 with Professor Amy Cohn

Favorite place to study on campus: Ross School of Business

Favorite place to get food near campus: I cook most of my meals but I really like Quickly’s fried chicken and Joe’s Pizza

Dream job: Pilot

What would be important for someone interested in an IOE degree to know?

I like IOE because of all the opportunities that it provides. There’s a lot of overlap between industrial engineering and all facets of industry. You’re doing math, statistics and a lot of data analysis to see some really tangible results and gather real insights. Because of this, a lot of IOE’s end up in business roles because they understand how to make decisions based on the data that they process. There’s also a ton of overlap with computer science and data science because you’re using analytics and programming to get the results that you are interested in. It’s a very practical degree with a ton of opportunities at the end of it. 

What is your favorite IOE class and why?

I’d pick IOE 310 mainly because a lot of the stuff that I was learning about had to do with aviation and network planning. 310 was my first realization  that the things that I was studying actually would play a part in my future career in the aviation industry. That was so cool to me because no longer was it just some random major that I decided on, but now I was actually able to see the direct applications. Also Professor Cohn is fantastic. 

Can you talk about your co-op with United Airlines?

Nick Tran stands on a sand dune wearing a United Airlines shirt.

Essentially, a co-op is where you take a semester off of school and instead supplement that with real-world job experience. United Airlines offers this fantastic program: It’s a six month co-op as an industrial engineering intern within the transportation and process optimization department. You’re doing data analytics, 5S lean implementation, and process improvement work for one of the biggest airlines in the world. This was really cool for me, because I love aviation, and I was actually able to see my analysis and work have an impact.

You also interned at United Airlines, how was that experience?

When I came back, it was like I was returning as a full time employee. All of a sudden, I was getting way more responsibility, assignments and project work. My coworkers were surprised to find out that I was still an intern and not just returning as a full time employee; that felt good because it meant I was being treated as part of the team.

There was this specific project where I was able to come in and use some of the 5s lean techniques that I learned in class and apply that to what we were doing in the warehouse. I got to see things that we talked about in our lectures actually come to life and how they worked in the real world, which is huge. I think that’s one of the most important things I took away: the ideas I learned about in class resulted in tangible results that I absolutely had an impact on.

Nick Tran and friends holding up Michigan flag

A perk of the internship was the ability to travel. Where are some of the places you traveled to this summer?

Chicago > Seattle > Chicago > San Diego > San Diego > Denver > Chicago > Iceland > Chicago > Alaska > Boston > New York City > Aruba > Seattle > San Paulo, Brazil > Houston > Detroit/Ann Arbor > Turks and Caicos > Peru > Panama > Seattle > Detroit/Ann Arbor

If I can remember correctly I took a little over 43 flights, just this summer.

There’s a wall in my room with all the boarding passes because I like to collect boarding passes and it literally just covers the entire length of the wall. 

What U-M groups are you active in?

I’m in Engineering Global Leader (EGL). It’s a group of engineers who are also interested in the business and leadership side of engineering and are interested in pursuing a master’s degree.

I also do Mock Trial. Mock Trial is a pretty cool club to be in and our team is fantastic. You essentially get assigned a case and you have attorneys, you have witnesses, and your job is to be able to play those parts and win your case. 

Outside of some of our academic organizations, I also am a part of Vietnamese Student Association (VSA), Michigan Aviators and the school’s flight club.

Do you participate in Mock Trial because you have an interest in law?

Most of my experiences are very professionally geared and while that’s really good for me, it’s much better to be more well-rounded. I realized quickly that all of these experiences were setting me up for a career in the aviation industry. And I’ve been lucky enough to achieve that – it’s what I want to end up doing. But at the same time, I don’t really have a ton of time to explore other parts of the world and so Mock Trial helps to expose me to those other areas outside of engineering.

You studied abroad in Madrid. How was that experience?

I really like immersing myself in new cities, new countries, new cultures. And studying abroad is the perfect way to do that. I don’t want to say, like, studying abroad changed my life *laughs*. But it was definitely an impactful experience in the fact that I was able to discover more about myself as a person and what I liked and what I wanted in the future. It also allowed me to practice my Spanish, which was pretty cool.

Nick Tran cheering at a University of Michigan football game

Why did you choose the University of Michigan? 

I was between the University of Michigan, University of Washington, and Dartmouth and I knew I really wanted to study engineering. Michigan offered me the best chance for that just because they’re fantastic with out-of-state scholarships, and they’re one of the best schools in the nation for engineering. I also knew that I didn’t want to stay at home. So really, that reduced the decision down to Michigan Engineering and Dartmouth Engineering and from there it was an easy choice.

I love Michigan. I think the school spirit has a lot to do with the way the students feel here. And I think that one of the reasons why we have such a strong alumni network is because of that school spirit. I’ve been in random places in the middle of Europe wearing a Michigan shirt and people say “go blue!” across the street.

What is your dream job?

Eventually, I’m going to fly planes. It’s happening. And yes, I’m serious. I will end up hopefully at United Airlines or Delta, flying some of the bigger aircrafts.

Does that mean you have your pilot’s license? 

Yeah, I have my pilot’s license! I have everything up to a commercial pilot’s license, I need to get my airline transport pilot’s license and as soon as I have that, I’ll be good to go and get to fly for some of the major airlines.