Industrial Engineering at the University of Iowa: A History

The Industrial and Systems Engineering Program at Iowa Has a Proud Heritage


The ISE program at the University of Iowa began in 1924 with the creation of a new course called “Industrial Engineering.”

Engineering Building 1924

Photo: Engineering Building, The University of Iowa, 1924, Kent, Frederick W. (Frederick Wallace)


1st Courses in Industrial Engineering taught as part of Mechanical Engineering under the supervision of Barnes

The new program was spearheaded by Professor Ralph M. Barnes, who went on to become a world-recognized author and leader in Industrial Engineering, and winner of the Gilbreth Medal in 1941.

Professor Ralph Barnes with students in 1929

Photo: Ralph Mosser Barnes behind his staff and students.


The first MS degree in an IE subject was awarded to J. Wayne Deegan in 1935.

Deegan would later head the IE program. The first IE Ph.D. was awarded to Marvin E. Mundel in 1939, and the second to Robert J. Parden in 1953.

ISE research lab 1939

Photo: Students working in ISE engineering laboratory, The University of Iowa, 1939, Kent, Frederick W. (Frederick Wallace)


J. Wayne Deegan took over the program.

Deegan was made Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering to teach Industrial Engineering.

1953 - 1962

1953 - Industrial and Management Engineering (I. & M.E.) was formed

Professor Deegan ultimately became the Chair of Mechanical Engineering from 1953 to 1962.

At that time two other professors were in the IE program, Edward Mielnik and Samuel R. Harding, for both of whom the professorship in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering is named.


I. & M.E. became a full undergraduate program with accreditation with Deegan listed as the first head of the department. 


Henri Louis Beenhakker became Chairman of I & ME.


College transitioned to the Matrix Organization (no longer “departments” but: “Divisions and Academic Programs.”)

John M. Liittschwager assumed the Chairmanship and the role shifted to be Chairman of the Systems Division and the I. & ME Program.


 James R. Buck appointed Professor and Chairman of the I. & ME Program.

James R Buck portrait suit and tie


The college discontinued the Matrix Organization structure and returned to departmental organization.


Andrew Kusiak appointed Professor and Chairman of Department of Industrial Engineering.

Andrew Kusiak


Peter O’ Grady appointed Professor and Chairman of Department of Industrial Engineering.



The Department of Industrial Engineering and the Department of Mechanical Engineering are combined into the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. 


Industrial Engineering programs would once again be split off into a separate administrative unit called the "Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering." 

The objective of the new program is to regain its former role as an important player in the college community and the home for students interested in industrial management, manufacturing, optimization, and human factors.