UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Raghav Bansal, who earned both his bachelor of science and master of engineering from Penn State’s Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering (IME), never imagined he would study abroad not once, but three times while earning his degrees. Now, he credits his career to his multinational academic experiences.
Originally from India, Bansal chose to enroll at Penn State in 2014, citing the IME’s legacy as the oldest industrial engineering program in the world. He earned his undergraduate degree in 2018 and his master of engineering in 2021.
As an undergraduate, Bansal learned about the opportunities to travel from his peers, leading him to explore the Global Penn State website and ask alumni about their experiences. His research helped him pick from the various opportunities to study abroad in China, Germany and Singapore.
He first studied abroad for a month during summer 2015 in China, participating in the course ENGR 118: Impact of the Culture of China on Engineering. The students met business owners, learned about Chinese work etiquette and experienced the Chinese culture.
“We learned about current and former Chinese engineering projects and how the culture of China impacted construction,” Bansal said. “We visited many of China’s greatest engineering projects to learn the process behind their construction. My favorite was the Bejing National Stadium, the bird’s nest Olympic stadium. It has a unique design.”
The following summer, in 2016, Bansal spent time in Germany for the Engineers Made in Germany program, a collaborative effort between Penn State, Lehigh University, University of Massachusetts Lowell and Pforzheim University in Germany. Bansal studied production and supply chain management, visiting such companies as Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because I was able to work with major industry leaders like Mercedes-Benz,” Bansal said. “Being able to take all of what I learned, focus it in the classroom and apply it out into the field was amazing.”
In the summer of 2017, Bansal studied abroad at the National University of Singapore, where he took part in an engineering design competition with other engineering students from around the world, including China, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, India and Singapore. The students worked to create a sustainable cleaning tool for older workers.
Bansal’s team’s cleaning tool, which resembled a broom, had a hollow stick and a sponge at the end instead of broom bristles. For older workers, this meant that they could fill the hollow stick with cleaning liquid, skipping the step of spraying down surfaces, such as tables, to clean quickly and easily.
The different student teams studied the market, looked for available products, stayed under budget, interviewed customers and, finally, sold the product. Bansal related the experience to creating a startup.
“Each team had to be creative to come up with a unique solution, so we were working out of our comfort zone because all team members had different cultural backgrounds and ways of approaching a problem,” Bansal said. “We saved cleaning time by 40%.”
Bansal’s experience and understanding of various engineering approaches helped set him up for the next stage of his education. After earning his bachelor of science, he continued in IME as a master’s student focused on smart systems.
Soundar Kumara, Allen E. Pearce and Allen M. Pearce Professor of Industrial Engineering, who taught one of Bansal’s courses, encouraged Bansal to become a graduate student and study smart systems.
“Kumara was a big role model for me and ultimately the reason why I chose to enter into smart systems and modeling,” Bansal said.
Kumara also advised Bansal during his co-op at Kohler, an American manufacturing company known for its plumbing products, furniture, cabinetry, tile, engines and generators.
Utilizing Power BI, the Microsoft business analytics service, Bansal automated the financial reporting process and cut costs by $60,000. Bansal’s work was piloted at Kohler’s headquarters, and, after the company saw success, it was scaled to North America and later used in a global capacity.
“Kumara is a great adviser who taught me how to think outside of the box, resulting in cost-saving for the company,” Bansal said. “Overall, it was a fantastic experience, and I was able to achieve those results because of the strong academic program at Penn State.”
Bansal is now a senior salesforce engineering at Aetna, a CVS Health company.
“The time I spent studying abroad allowed me the opportunity to work on cultural competencies, like being sensitive to other cultures, learning how to adapt to new situations, and tolerating ambiguity,” Bansal said. “Being able to take all of what I learned, focus it in the classroom, and apply it out into the field and the world through my co-op was amazing. All students should take advantage of these incredible opportunities at Penn State.”
The student spotlight series by the Penn State Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering aims to highlight innovators, makers and those that personify engineering excellence in their academic studies. The department currently has 90 doctoral students, 59 master’s students and 436 undergraduate students. In addition, the department hosts 42 full-time and courtesy faculty members. Established in 1908, the department is home to the first industrial engineering program in the world and has made a name for itself in the engineering industry through its storied tradition of unparalleled excellence and innovation in research, education and outreach. Learn more at ime.psu.edu.