Undergraduate Student Spotlight Maria-Hunter Mackie

There are many stories about ISE students and faculty who knew that industrial engineering was for them from a young age, either through playing with legos or following in their parent’s footsteps. But what about the people who find themselves later in life? 

Enter Maria-Hunter Mackie, an undergraduate student whose entire life path changed once she discovered ISE. “I have been interested in systems design for a long time, but it wasn’t until 2017 that I realized it was a field I could get a degree in,” Mackie recalled. “I read up on the major and found that it fit my desire to work with people, technology, and processes to get better outcomes for the customer, worker and the company.”

When Mackie finished high school, she wanted to move out of state to continue her education like many of her fellow graduates. However, she made a decision that changed everything; she took a gap year to work in the field. Once the time to apply to colleges rolled back around, her outlook on North Carolina had changed. She decided to stay in her home state, beginning her associate’s in engineering at a local community college. It was there that she discovered the perfect degree.

Mackie Joins ISE

Mackie enrolled in the ISE department and joined a research experience (REU) with Ph.D. student Zach Traylor under the supervision of professor Chang S. Nam. Nam leads the research at NC State’s Brain-Computer Interface Lab, focusing on human-systems engineering.

Together, they studied Brain to Brain Interfacing (B2BI), an emerging technology that allows information exchange directly between brains using neuroimaging and neurostimulation methods. At that point, B2BI researchers lacked a uniform classification for B2BI systems. So the team set out to fix that. “From the research, we noticed a lack of classifications for experimental communication loops,” Mackie explained. “An interesting outcome of my semester was working with Mr. Traylor and Dr. Nam to create terminology to distinguish experiments where the feedback loop for communication used B2BI or other methods (such as a computer screen).” To speed up all future B2BI research, The team developed a system that put all B2BI systems into one of four classifications.

At the same time, Mackie applied what she had learned at the NC Undergraduate Research (NCUR) Conference and a featured article in IISE magazine. “I left the REU with new insight into how ISE could be applied to the world, a deeper understanding of graduate school and research paper writing,” said Mackie. “It was a really positive experience for me, and I would recommend it to anyone considering undergraduate research.”

When Mackie isn’t busy researching cutting-edge technology, she’s volunteering at a local nonprofit. “Pre-Covid-19 I spent those hours helping people learn how to use 3D printers, laser cutters, micro bits, and shop tools as well as mentoring a 14-person middle school FIRST FTC team – FTC 13883 the Razzle Dazzle of Fantazmagazzles,” Mackie explained. “With Covid-19 I have continued to work with Razzle Dazzle and have done a small amount of laser cutting support as well. I like to read and play lots of puzzle games.” 

After graduation, Mackie hopes to get a job in supply chain that has a direct impact on the consumer. If her adaptable and diligent nature has shown anything, she should have no problem finding that perfect job too.