Dr. Alparslan Emrah Bayrak has been a part of the School of Systems and Enterprises at Stevens Institute of Technology since 2019. His extensive knowledge of human-computer collaboration is a driving force behind his research and shapes the university’s Master of Engineering in Engineering Management (M.Eng.) program.
Dr. Bayrak sees the overall value of the intelligent systems that are increasingly a part of everyday life but believes the most sophisticated smart systems still require human input to reach their full potential. His research focuses on bridging human cognition and computational methods to develop collaborative architectures — a concept he integrates into his classes.
Dr. Bayrak recently shared his insights into what makes the online Master of Engineering in Engineering Management program at Stevens unique, how his research informs his teaching and why Stevens’ interdisciplinary curriculum prepares students to drive innovation across industries.
WHAT MAKES THE STEVENS ONLINE MASTER OF ENGINEERING IN ENGINEERING MANAGEMENT PROGRAM UNIQUE?
Stevens has a very long history in online education. Our faculty knows how to deliver material so that students can easily follow and understand it. Especially during the pandemic, many schools realized that online teaching is hard. It’s not just teaching the same thing on Zoom. You have to design the courses for online graduate programs from scratch. We have been doing it for a long time, which is part of what makes Stevens unique. We didn’t just start bringing graduate programs online during the pandemic.
We also have faculty members in our program who work in healthcare systems, transportation, smart cities, energy systems, space systems, etc. They bring their industry expertise into the engineering management curricula. Our faculty knows the problems organizations face in the real world, and what we teach is more valuable and impactful for students.
WHAT IS THE FOCUS OF YOUR RESEARCH AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
I study collaboration between humans and intelligent systems. These intelligent systems are everywhere and an integral part of our daily lives. They help us do our jobs better, drive our cars more safely, diagnose diseases earlier and so on. They are everywhere. Many researchers study how we can make these systems better and more accurate. No matter what, they are not perfect. At the end of the day, there has to be a human user who makes decisions based on whatever the system suggests.
Think about an autonomous car. If you don’t trust the system, it will be very uncomfortable for you to sit in that car. We need to know what people feel and want to see in an autonomous vehicle. Do they want to see precisely the same settings as in manual cars? Do they want to see different settings? How can we design intelligent systems in ways that work with people? Computers can do certain things better than humans, but they are not perfect, and we are not perfect either. We have complementary skillsets. If we team up — humans and systems — we can be excellent team members.
HOW DOES YOUR RESEARCH FIT INTO THE ONLINE ENGINEERING MANAGEMENT CURRICULUM?
Engineering management is not just management. It’s management plus engineering. We teach our students the skills they need to understand how engineering is done. I bring my expertise and what I learn through my research into the engineering management curriculum. We update what we teach every year based on what we learn in the previous year. I fill in the data analysis and the human factor side, and other faculty members fill in the gaps in domains such as healthcare or transportation.
My research is, by definition, focused on cutting-edge technology. I study how we should design particular engineering systems to make our lives easier. This involves collecting data and extracting useful knowledge from the data, as well as understanding how humans work and what they expect. You have to analyze data in the context of human needs, which is an integral part of the engineering management curriculum.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BENEFITS OF ONLINE LEARNING AT STEVENS?
We’re learning about the benefits of online education as we speak. It’s not set in stone yet. In my experience, online learning represents a good integration of flexibility, expertise and guidance. The majority of the learning in our online program happens before the live sessions. We follow a flipped classroom model, which means students read and study the posted materials before coming to the virtual classes. In the live sessions, students have time to interact with professors, do exercises and engage in peer discussion.
There are limits. Students need to be careful about how they interact with the online teaching material. If they don’t take it seriously, they may not get much out of it. There are certain things that we can do to keep students on track. For example, we set specific milestones and deliverables. But students also need to approach online education like they’re attending classes on the campus.
WHY SHOULD STUDENTS LOOKING AT ENGINEERING MANAGEMENT MASTER’S PROGRAMS CHOOSE STEVENS?
Stevens is the only university with a separate School of Systems and Enterprises in the U.S. It’s an interdisciplinary school that brings together people from industries such as healthcare, space systems and transportation. It isn’t easy to find such a diversity of expertise in one school.
The M.Eng. in Engineering Management faculty have the first-hand experience to identify real-world engineering management challenges in various fields. That’s key because our graduates work in different sectors. They’re not always going to go into, for example, finance. Some of them will be in manufacturing or transportation. The diversity of our program lets us give them a taste of what they’ll encounter in various industries.
Our graduates are the best illustration of the success of our program. They find employment easily at well-paying, respected organizations. It shows we are doing something right.
The 30-credit online engineering management master’s program at Stevens Institute of Technology pairs the flexibility of remote learning with world-class instruction. Recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a top provider of online master’s programs in New Jersey and the nation, Stevens provides cutting-edge, interdisciplinary graduate education aligned with industry demand. When you are ready to leverage intelligent systems to drive innovation in your field, apply to earn your M.Eng. in Engineering Management online.