Industrial Engineering Student Takes Home Top Prize at Research Conference

December 4, 2015 | LSU Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering

Industrial engineering senior Briana Saul recently received first place at the LSU Undergraduate Research Conference for Engineering Level 2 Researchers.

“The first year I presented, as a Level 1 researcher, I didn’t win anything,” Saul said. “It’s funny to see how everything has turned around. It was definitely my goal to my push myself further, and it paid off.”


Saul’s award-winning presentation featured research on the handoff process, the passing of information between two professionals during a shift change, in the community paramedic program in the East Baton Rouge Parish.

This research project is the result of a grant application Saul was introduced to during a conference. In December 2014, she applied for the Supervised Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) grant, a grant supported by the Louisiana Board of Regents. The SURE grant requires applicants to conceptualize their own research interests and projects, collect and analyze data and report the findings.

“The community paramedic program is different from most handoff programs. With other occupations you complete a 12-hour shift, handoff off your information within 10 minutes and you’re done,” Saul explained. “ With the paramedic program, you’re handing off information after one month of completing a shift.”

With her research, Saul aimed to answer the questions: How are they handing off this information after one full month of a shift? How much are they handing off? How much of this information is retained?

Though Saul was unable complete the implementation process of program, she was able to collect the necessary feedback and data.

“One phase of data collection focused on how prepared the paramedic was before going on a shift or visit,” Saul said.

Saul collected data through multiple practices, including ride-along sessions with community paramedics, surveys and general observations. The next set of data was to measure the amount of information that was shared and then retained.

“They had meetings where they would discuss what went on throughout the month, and I’d ask the ongoing paramedic the five things I was looking for. I’d then follow up with looking at the agreement percentage between what was said by the previous paramedic.”

Saul also received an honorable mention the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Fall Regional Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, for her paramedic research the day after she received her first place recognition.

Much of Saul’s campus involvement included NSBE, a student-led organization of which she was a member of for six years.

“I’ve held every position on the chapter level, and I’ve held three positions on the regional executive board. So, for my last year, I was like ‘I have to retire,’” she said with a laugh.

With an anticipated graduation date of December 2015, Saul has been able to balance a large course load, her research and job interviews.

“I imagine my day-to-day is not very traditional,” Saul said, referring to her studies under Dr. Laura Ikuma, associate professor of industrial engineering.

Saul has worked with Ikuma since January 2014, doing some of her initial research work under her tutelage.

“Everyday I go to class, and beyond that, I sort of set my own schedule when it comes my research. If I’m preparing for a conference paper, there’s constant communication with Dr. Ikuma,” Saul said. “A poster? There’s constant revisions. So it’s go to class, study, try to socialize with your friends when you can, but I also love spending time at home.”

Saul said research has been her main interest since high school. During her first semester as an engineering major, she was able to land a summer research opportunity at Olin Engineering College in Needham, Massachusetts.

“I’d always wanted to be a researcher, so when I got the position with that program, I thought, ‘Okay, I can really do this,’” she said.

The summer she spent at Olin Engineering College was just before she switched her major from chemical engineering to industrial engineering. She said her experience in that program was instrumental in preparing her for the requirements of an industrial engineering major.

“My first research was on engineering education,” Saul said, adding she’s an advocate for education. “My recent research was more on healthcare. My goal was always to work in either education, healthcare or consumer goods. Places where I could see myself helping people.”

Saul has landed a position at Bimbo Bakeries USA as a Change Architect, which she will start two weeks after she graduates. There, her focus will be on process improvement.

“Research has helped me succeed with so much, with knowing and learning how to work on your own, how to schedule, how find and analyze data, all on your own,” Saul said. “I’m going into a company where I’m basically going to be on my own and be responsible for that information, and I have to report out every week.”

Saul said while a great support system is vital, being diligent about forging your own way is just as important.

“Create your own path and run with it and stick with it. I feel like that’s what I really did,” she said. “And find a mentor that really supports you. I say this about Dr. Ikuma all the time, she’s really supported me from academics to personal to research.”

Saul believes that drive, as well as support from her family and mentors, played a huge part in her recent success.

saul at bec

“Not even just family support, I expect that, really. We are all family oriented and we’re Creole, so you aren’t going anywhere without family,” Saul said with a laugh.

“But as far as the support from Dr. Ikuma, Jada [Lewis, the College’s assistant dean for diversity] and everyone across the board, I can say as a student I’m blessed,” she said. “I walked up to Dr. Ikuma with the SURE grant in November and the deadline was in the first week of December and she responded, “Well, if we’re going to do this, let’s do this.’”

And they did.


For more information, please contact communications assistant M.B. Humphrey at 225-578-5660 or