North Texas Daily

Research lab gives students practical experience

Research lab gives students practical experience

Research lab gives students practical experience
November 13
00:04 2014

John Hoang / Intern Writer

Technicians installed new logistics equipment this summer in BLB 277, and classes started to use it in September. The lab is only open to graduate students during the fall and spring semesters. The logistics faculty has plans to open the lab for undergraduates next fall.

Lab director Brian Sauser developed the concept of a new logistics lab at UNT. Sauser had ambitions for the university to compete against many of the top college business programs in the country.

“In order for any university to achieve a Tier One status, you have to have Tier One research assets with labs,” Sauser said. “In the college of business, we didn’t have that yet.”

After receiving approval from the College of Business Dean Finley Graves, the logistics faculty worked on the development and funding for the research lab. UNT seed-funded $50,000 toward the creation of a new lab, with outside industries lending the rest.

“What we did is propose to them our vision for our lab,” Sauser said. “And some of the companies invested in us and wanted to make that vision happen.”

The logistics computers enable both applied and basic research. Faculty members assign basic research as part of educating the students, while companies want applied research for practical uses for their businesses.

“They want the basic research that in the end can be applied,” Graves said. “They hope it will actually be used in the industry.”

The primary capabilities of the lab consist of modeling and simulation. The simulations enable companies to save money by creating scenarios in which students manipulate several factors. This allows companies to see the affordability, maintenance and the overall realities of their business plans.

“The accuracy of comp is dependent on the sophistication of the model itself,” Sauser said. “And that’s the case in any situation. The more accurate of model, the better the outcome.”

As many companies do not have the resources to conduct their own research, the College of Business collaborates with the industry to benefit both parties. Students gain experience working with professionals, while companies gain data for business.

“It’s a wonderful example of community engagement,” Graves said. “[We have new] ways to engage the community and directly engage industry and be a part of economic development in the area.”

Many companies that invested in the new lab previously worked with UNT’s logistics program. Williamson Dickey, one of the investors, has collaborated with the College of Business.

“I think the students in logistics will truly enjoy the uses of it,” Graves said. “It provides them the opportunity to conduct real-world research.”

The latest logistics computers offer touch screens in which groups of students can interact with one another’s work directly. It enables efficiency, as groups previously had to work with one computer at a time.

“It’s now a collaborative space, that’s what I like about it,” Sauser said. “It’s flexible for individuals and groups to do things.”

Over the course of two years, the logistics faculty struggled with difficulties in finding the computers best suited for the technicalities of their work.

“Getting the lab established is a supply chain problem itself,” Sauser said. “[We had trouble] finding the right technology and procuring that technology while checking for its availability.”

Sauser sees the new computers as giving a more technological savvy education to students and enabling them to adapt to the modern world.

“Graduates can do more computer-based research and not just papers or something on an Excel spreadsheet,” Sauser said. “They get more sophisticated computer skills.”

As computers become more advanced, the logistics faculty hopes to continue updating the lab technology. Sauser works to find new companies who will invest in the program to maintain its status as an advanced research lab.

“Students often are learning from textbooks,” Graves said. “This is an opportunity to learn from real-life problems that can be addressed in this lab.”

Sauser hopes that, eventually, funding for the lab will become independent of UNT, and investments from outside companies will keep the program afloat.

“The College of Business at UNT will benefit because it will reflect so well on us,” Graves said. “There are absolutely no losers. It is just a win-win situation.”

Sauser sees the lab as giving an experience to business students that will give them an edge in employment.

“Now they have more capability in the College of Business that undergrads can engage in, that they never had before,” Sauser said. “It differentiates them in the employment market for being hired. They have a skill that they didn’t have before.”

Featured Image: The newly opened Complex Logistics Systems Laboratory in the Business Leadership Building room 277 allows students to work with companies and gain experience in the fields of research and management. Photo by Devin Dakota – Staff Photographer

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