For David Luo, it was the combination of location, finances and a faster-paced curriculum that challenged him, which drew him to the University of Houston's Cullen College of Engineering.
Since graduating with his master's degree in December 2019, Luo has worked as a Healthcare Systems Engineer focusing on Human Factors for the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Earning both his B.S. and master's degree from the Industrial Engineering program at Cullen, Luo knew of UH after growing up in the area and attending Bellaire Senior High School.
Luo had several options coming out of high school, but chose UH because of the location and the financial incentives offered.
“Having grown up in the Houston-Galveston area, I wanted to attend a local school. Family is important to me, and I did not want to attend out-of-state schools or schools outside the Greater Houston area,” he said. “The University of Houston also offered me an $18,000, four-year scholarship, which when combined with my other scholarships, lowered the cost of attendance significantly. I wanted to graduate college without taking on any student loan debt and the fixed tuition of the 'UH in 4' program and my scholarships helped to ensure that I could graduate without any debt.”
However, Luo noted that he did feel a bit “burnt out” after high school, especially because of the crunch involved with taking multiple tough advance placement (AP) courses at once. He was interested in earning a B.S. and a master's in a shorter time span.
“Upon speaking with my advisor, I learned of our Accelerated BS/MIE Program, which allowed me to take graduate courses as an undergraduate student,” he said. “The Accelerated Program, coupled with my AP credits and taking additional courses every summer, allowed me to graduate with my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in four years.”
When it comes to his educational achievements, Luo said there were several important influences at different stages.
“My parents were my first educational mentors,” he said. “From an early age, they instilled in me a strong work ethic that carries through today. From there, my high school AP Macroeconomics teacher, Mr. Michael Clark, encouraged me to pursue engineering at UH, even though math and science were never my best subjects in high school.
Luo said that once he got to UH, “Dr. Gino Lim believed that I had what it takes to be a successful engineer. Dr. Randal Sitton introduced me to the world of Industrial Engineering in Health Care, and Drs. Ali Kamrani and Yaping Wang, my two undergraduate advisors, helped facilitate my goal of graduating with my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in four years.”
Among other duties at M.D. Anderson, Luo's job involves designing and implementing the institution's Tiered Readiness Briefings to ensure the timely resolution of safety concerns, and automating their Covid-19 screening algorithm to reduce errors. Asked to describe his role, Luo said he specializes in the “human factors” of the hospital environment.
“I evaluate processes for potential sources of human error and then redesign them to either eliminate or mitigate the effects of such errors,” he said. “In essence, we want to ensure that the correct process is the easy process to perform.”
Luo also continues to further his education.
“In addition to working full-time, I also go to school full-time. I am currently a Ph.D. candidate in Healthcare Management at the UTHealth School of Public Health after recently passing my Ph.D. preliminary exams. The Healthcare Management Ph.D. program has allowed me to connect my Industrial Engineering background with my Health Care work environment to better leverage my skill and understanding of both.”
Luo had advice for current students as well, shaped by input from Dan Burleson, Instructional Associate Professor for the Cullen College of Engineering's First Year Experience program.
“I would tell current students to have high expectations for the future, since you won’t be a student forever and there’s much to look forward to once you finish school! Grit and resilience are two traits that helped me be successful in my time at UH,” he said. “Dr. Burleson introduced me to the concept of grit during my freshman year. Grit involves putting in consistent effort, even if you encounter difficulties and setbacks. Resilience is the ability to adapt, recover and continue after encountering those difficulties and setbacks. Even if you have a rough semester or two, focus on the progress that you are making towards your degree and let that drive you to continue past the finish line.”