Dipayan Banerjee, a fifth-year doctoral student at Georgia Institute of Technology with a passion for teaching, is pursuing research that can have a societal impact regarding logistics and supply chain management as well as equity and fairness in the context of transportation.
Banerjee excels at both teaching and research, according to Dr. Damon P. Williams, associate dean for inclusive excellence in the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech.
Williams said some faculty members become such experts in their field that they forget what it is like to learn as novices. “Dipayan never wants to become so smart, so erudite that he can’t relate to an 18- or 19-year-old student who is trying to learn the material,” Williams said. “He is really interested in learning how he stays connected — boots on the ground — with the students he will be teaching.”
That resonates with Banerjee, who acknowledges that when he got to college at Northwestern University, he didn’t know what he wanted to pursue as a career even though he declared an industrial engineering major. Sophomore year, he took a course in which he began modeling production, power generation and transportation problems, and that proved life changing.
“It’s not something I knew even existed before, and I realized what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” said Banerjee.
Banerjee said he asked one of his undergraduate advisors, Dr. Jill Wilson, if there were research opportunities for him in the department. And Wilson put Banerjee in touch with Dr. Karen Smilowitz, who needed an undergraduate student to work on a problem in public school transportation. Banerjee, having ridden the school bus throughout K-12, said he felt an immediate connection to the subject matter.
“We got to work with public school transportation planners and get their perspective on it, learning how to map,” Banerjee recalled. As they explored things such as changing school start times and bus schedules, he saw the equity issues that could arise. Working on this research made it clear to him that transportation was the subfield in which he would specialize as a graduate student.
Banerjee said he chose Georgia Tech because of the faculty and advisors with whom he works. Of the possible research projects, he chose one on same-day delivery systems, the subject of his dissertation. While addressing a problem in a for-profit industry is different from a project like public school transportation, he said the mathematics of it intrigued him.
Some of his doctoral research, working title Demand Management and Delivery Optimization for E-Retail Fulfillment, has been published in Transportation Science and Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, two preeminent scientific journals in the logistics field. Banerjee has presented at academic conferences and was awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the U.S. Federal Highway Administration’s Eisenhower Transportation Research Fellowship.
Banerjee said he loves teaching and looks forward to impacting undergraduate and graduate students as he was impacted, finding new ways to explore concepts. Last summer, he had the opportunity to teach an undergraduate class in supply chain modeling. His goal after completing his Ph.D. is to secure a tenure-track academic faculty position at an institution where he can teach and do research.
“I do love the freedom that academic research brings,” said Banerjee. “I really enjoy the process of sitting down with colleagues and thinking, ‘What if we change this thing this way?’ Then, we play around with that system in our minds. We write up some models. We’re not constrained by the realities of what a company is doing. We can be a little more forward thinking.
“We can do work without there being an immediate need for there to be an impact,” he continued. “We can learn things with the promise of ‘maybe this will be applicable because it will teach us something we didn’t know earlier.’”