Faculty Profile: Richard Wysk

Meet Richard Wysk, Dopaco Distinguished Professor in the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering

Necessity is the mother of invention. But in the case of one high schooler from Massachusetts, it was also the driving force behind a career in engineering. “I started doing engineering out of the basic need to have the kinds of things a high schooler needed to get around,” admitted Richard Wysk. “I bought my first car for $60 and an engine for $40 and I put them together myself. That car has been a great source of humor over the years.” But where does a teenager get that kind of drive to take on such a difficult task? It was his father that taught him that if you wanted something you were going to have to work hard. “My dad could make anything work,” recalled Wysk. “I spent much of my childhood helping him make his things work.”

That love for making things work led Wysk to the University of Massachusetts. This gave him the opportunity to play basketball against future NBA legend, Julius Irving. “Playing basketball against Julius convinced me that engineering was the right choice,” joked Wysk.

But with struggling grades, the Army drafted Wysk for the Viet Nam War in his sophomore year. During his year in Viet Nam, he became a squad leader and received the Bronze Star with an Oak Leaf Cluster for bravery during several combat missions.

After Viet Nam, Wysk returned to the University of Massachusetts with a new sense of purpose. He not only completed his bachelor’s degree in two years, but finished his master’s degree as well. All this while working full-time and trying to keep up with a young family.

After graduation Wysk started his career with GE where he was a production control supervisor. “I was doing what industrial engineers do, coordinating the arrival of components for assembly,” said Wysk. A short time later, GE promoted him to production control manager overseeing 30 people. This is where he discovered that managing people in a manufacturing environment was not the same as managing people in battle. So after three years at GE, Wysk was on his way to Purdue University to earn his Ph.D., something he would do in only two years.

His teaching career has included stops at Virginia Tech, Penn State, Texas A&M and Penn State again before joining the ISE faculty as a Dopaco Distinguished Professor in 2010.

NC State was attractive to Wysk because of its advanced manufacturing and 3D printing capabilities. These would allow him to pursue his passion for designing high-performance and customizable medical devices, a passion he discovered while teaming up with a Ph.D. student during his second tenure at Penn State.

Wysk brings that same passion and energy to everything he does here at NC State. “I still look forward to coming to work each day and using engineering tools to improve the quality of peoples’ lives,” confided Wysk. “I enjoy doing what I’m doing and if I enjoy doing it, it’s not work,”