Graduate Student Spotlight: Kurtis Konrad

Kurtis Konrad is a Ph.D. student who received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in industrial engineering from NC State. He has performed undergraduate research studying blockchain technology with ISE associate professor Yunan Liu.

It’s no secret that engineers need to be good at math. There is a reason that “I’m an Enginere, I’m an Engeneer, I’m an Engenere, I’m good at math,” is the oldest engineering joke in the world. Raise your hand if you have ever had that on a coffee cup or t-shirt. So it is not surprising that ISE Ph.D. student Kurtis Konrad is good at math. While in the seventh grade, his algebra teacher told him that he would love calculus. When he finally got to take AP calculus, Konrad found that his teacher was right. “I loved it,” recalled Konrad. “But my favorite part was using it to solve real-world problems. That was when I knew that engineering was for me.”

Konrad has always tried to find a better way to do things. During his senior year of high school, he discovered a Disney video showing how industrial engineering is used in the company’s parks. “It instantly resonated with me,” he exclaimed. “I had found a major that would help me formalize the thoughts I had always had.” His next step was to find an engineering school to start his college career. 


Even before entering college, Konrad knew that he wanted to earn a master’s degree. When he began to look at engineering schools, he realized that NC State was the best value because it offered the Accelerated Bachelor/Master Program. This curriculum allows undergraduate students to complete the requirements for both the bachelor’s and master’s degrees at an accelerated pace. “When it came time to apply, this was my only choice,” Konrad reflected. “I applied with an industrial engineering intent, and I have never looked back.”

During his first graduate class, Konrad received an inspiring comment from Russell King, ISE Foscue Distinguished Professor. “After one of the tests, he told me that I should really consider staying for a Ph.D.,” Konrad said. While it had never been a consideration, he could see himself enjoying being a professor. “That little seed never left my mind,” Konrad said. During a co-op rotation, he found that he genuinely enjoyed working through proofs to show his work was correct. Then, during a simulation class with ISE associate professor Yunan Liu, Konrad discovered that he enjoyed doing research. These experiences, along with and finding out that the jobs he wanted required a Ph.D., helped Konrad decide to earn his doctorate. 


So after receiving his master’s this spring, Konrad will stay in the ISE department for a few more years. In the meantime, he enjoys seeing how he will be able to use the ISE skills he has mastered in the real world. “I have always been, and still am, a huge fan of Lego,” he said. “In fact, I love it so much that before my sophomore year, I got a job working at the Lego Store in Crabtree Valley Mall.” While this allows him to spend time with his fellow Lego enthusiasts, it has also shown him the impact industrial engineers have on the business. “Working as a retail associate has taught me incredible lessons about how the decisions that industrial engineers and supply chain managers make affect frontline employees.”