Dr. Lihui Bai Honored by Provost as Exemplary Director of Graduate Studies

April 27, 2021

By Holly Hinson

Dr. Lihui Bai, Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering, has received the prestigious Provost’s Award for an Exemplary Director of Graduate Studies. She holds a Ph.D. in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the University of Florida, and BS and MS degrees in Computational Mathematics from China. Prior to joining the Speed School of Engineering at U of L in 2010, Dr. Bai taught Operations Management, Statistics and Management Science at the College of Business of Valparaiso University, IN. Since 2015, she has been the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) in charge of all graduate student matters for both Master of Science (MS) and Doctoral (PhD) programs.

This Provost’s Award honors those who excel at the work of advising graduate students in areas such as program requirements, career prospects and funding possibilities. Bai will be recognized at the Doctoral Hooding Ceremony on May 6.

Industrial Engineering Department Chair Dr. Pratik Parikh noted that, “Over the past five years, Dr. Bai has made extraordinary contributions to our IE graduate programs, and often sacrificed her own interests to serve our department and students. Her nomination packet included letters from seven of IE’s current and past graduate students, along with a support letter from Dr. Alexander, former IE department chair.”

Parag Siddique, PhD Candidate, Industrial Engineering, Vice President of UofL INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences) Student Chapter, wrote in his support letter that his admission to the doctoral program would not have been possible without Dr. Bai.

“She gave me tremendous assistance to help fund my study through a graduate fellowship. This fellowship brought me the opportunity of focusing on my research without being distracted by financial responsibilities for the first two years of my PhD program,” said Siddique.

Bai said her goal is to help each student be uniquely successful in their master’s or doctoral program.

“Often, just being candid and relating my own journey as an international doctoral student helps them to connect and open up more about what they need and how they might be struggling,” she said. When a fellow PhD classmate unexpectedly died, Bai arranged for a counselor to come in to help the students cope with the aftermath.

Former student Lieutenant Colonel Lee Evans, PhD, U.S. Army, wrote that it is Bai’s “passion for people and service that make her truly stand out among her peers.” He wrote that she not only was committed to making industry connections for students by hosting influential professors and researchers, she took the time to personally attend Evans’ commissioning ceremony an hour away from Louisville when he was promoted.

“I invited her but didn’t imagine she would show, but I was wrong. She supported me inside and outside the classroom,” wrote Evans.

“I want to be a cheerleader and motivate them,” said Bai. “I provide the research infrastructure they need while I emphasize giving them their own space to explore and time to develop.”

Arnab Roy received his PhD degree in IE in 2020 under the guidance of Dr. Bai and is currently a data scientist at Proctor and Gamble. Roy worked as a research assistant to Bai and said that during the research project she “provided a platform that allows a student sufficient time to develop necessary fundamentals through independent problem solving in conjunction with highly informative weekly meetings, striking a good balance to mentor students as well as to trust them to develop their own independence.”

As of Spring 2021, Dr. Bai has advised eight doctoral dissertations and twelve master theses/projects. Bai’s philosophy is that while technical skills are important for a graduate student to succeed, it is their ownership of the research that makes them great. Therefore, she has focused her graduate advising on making room for students to develop independent thinking, providing students with opportunities to present research and to network for career development, and encouraging students to push themselves to go the extra mile.

“I like to bring the learning experience to life,” she said. “At the end of the day I believe I am just doing my job to help students be the best they can be. That’s the ultimate ‘Why we’re in this business of higher education.’”