Kristin Knuutila (MSE ’14)


Kristin at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit

I’m a return-to-learn, first generation college graduate. I attended Schoolcraft College in Livonia, MI, where I completed an associate’s degree. Later, I transferred into the bachelor’s degree program in the Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering (IOE) at the University of Michigan. During both of my undergraduate degree programs, I worked in the retail service industry. My experiences in this industry led me to become interested in helping people to improve their work experience through process improvement. Upon sharing these aspirations with a professor, he helped me to find an internship with an industrial engineering company. All of these experiences led me to pursue a master’s degree in IOE to gain more specialize knowledge on occupational safety topics.

Having grown up in the Metro Detroit area and having completed my bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan, which has such an excellent reputation and is recognized around the world, I couldn’t have imagined going anywhere else for my master’s degree. I was introduced to a wide range of ergonomic and safety principles during my master’s program. For instance, I participated in a research project which involved exploring disruption in normal sleep patterns as it relates to safety and how that can lead to cognitive dysfunction. In another project, I helped to evaluate wheelchair users and their ability to use household appliances. The knowledge that I gained from this program and research has allowed me to consider additional ways that I can help people to improve their work experience.

I recently graduated with my master’s degree in IOE this past Spring semester (2014). I am currently employed as a Simulation Engineer Intern with an industrial engineering consulting company where I am enhancing website content and user experience. In the immediate future, I hope to use my ergonomics knowledge along with innovative human modeling software to create realistic computer simulations of employee movement on the job. This software represents the state-of-the-art in ergonomic and worker safety evaluation techniques. In the long term, I hope to also be able to address the social aspects of ergonomics in my work.

My experiences at the University of Michigan have opened up opportunities that I never could have dreamt of ten years ago. Interaction with graduate and PhD students, renowned professors, and so many different facets and fields of the engineering discipline have given me the exposure that helped me to define my career goals. Furthermore, the opportunity to tailor my research projects and internships to my own interests significantly enhanced my learning experience. In addition to the job postings they send me and recommendations they support me with, I thank UM for exposing me to these possibilities and for helping me to find my place in the professional world.