Campus & Community

Deep Thinker: Systems Engineering Ph.D. Student Thrives on Challenges

Stevens doctoral student Ivan Hernandez never looks for the easy way out. In fact, he thrives on overcoming obstacles.

“I think that if you go for the biggest challenges, you can have the most impact,” said Hernandez.

That’s why Hernandez, who hails from Venezuela, plans to conduct research in some of the world’s most complex fields – neuroscience, genetics, robotics or energy – when he graduates with his Ph.D. in Systems Engineering in May 2014.

Since he came to Stevens, Hernandez has been preparing himself with the technical, quantitative and managerial knowledge he will need by taking some of the toughest courses in a wide range of disciplines, hoping to bring a broad systems perspective to advanced research projects.

“Thinking deeply I think is one of the most important things to do while at school,” Hernandez said.

With an undergraduate degree in computer science, Hernandez came to Castle Point after collaborating with two Stevens systems engineering professors on a research project while he was pursuing his master’s degree in operations research.

“I like to have a little bit of diversity in my background,” said Hernandez. “And the Stevens School of Systems and Enterprises (SSE) has some great professors that bring many years of experience to the classroom.”

The courses Hernandez takes are as diverse as his diplomas, opting for graduate level courses in mathematics, optimization, machine learning and more. He has also published a number of papers and presented at industry conferences, which helped him obtain a research internship at AT&T Labs.

“I was given a lot of freedom,” said Hernandez. “My mentor would talk to me about the current challenges the company was facing and as me to maximize the benefit for me and for the company.”

Hernandez also completed an internship at Citrix Online, doing computer programming and computer engineering.

“Studying at Stevens gives plenty of opportunities for internships and jobs while practicing English, which is very important to me,” said Hernandez.

Hernandez said that for a Ph.D. student coming to Stevens from another continent, the small size made him feel at home.

“You meet the same people at the gym, in the classroom and in the dining hall,” he said. “There is a strong sense of community that I did not experience as an undergraduate back home.”

But whatever metaphorical mountain Hernandez climbs next, the thing he’ll miss most about Stevens is the view.

“The view towards New York City is amazing,” he said. “I have visited many campuses of universities and I think Stevens has the best one, by far.”