Data driven

Graduate engineering student and data intern Kaitlyn Ellison was awarded the prestigious Cacioppo Scholarship

Kaitlyn Ellison, a graduate industrial and human factors engineering student, is a recipient of the Anthony J. Cacioppo, Ph.D., Memorial Scholarship. (Photo by Erin Pence)

She’s a data detective. Interning with a defense contractor, Wright State University graduate industrial and human factors engineering student Kaitlyn Ellison digs up elusive data and makes it deliciously visible.

Ellison interns in Mason with L3Harris Technologies, a pioneer in space exploration and military/defense. A leader in high technology and engineering services, L3Harris is known for its expertise in the areas of infrared detection and space and missile electronics.

Ellison said the most challenging part of her internship is digging up the data needed by her coworkers, who sometimes need help finding it or showing it. Data visualization is the graphic representation of data, producing visual elements that communicate to viewers discoveries and insights hidden in data.

“The fun and most gratifying part of my job is finding those pockets of good data and being able to automate the content in a dashboard that everyone can then look at and splice the data they need to do their jobs,” she said.

Ellison graduated from Wright State in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial and systems engineering with a minor in supply chain management.

She is now pursuing her master’s in industrial and human factors engineering and a certificate in supply chain management.

Ellison received the Anthony J. Cacioppo, Ph.D., Memorial Scholarship. Cacioppo, who died in 1996, was chief scientist of foreign technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and served as chair of what was then called the Department of Biomedical and Human Factors Engineering at Wright State.

Ellison said receiving the Cacioppo Scholarship means a lot to her because it eases her financial burden for graduate school and housing. It’s also extra meaningful, she said, because of all of the time she has spent in the “Cacioppo Lab,” where students and senior design project teams meet to use the computers, whiteboard and printer.

Ellison grew up in a military family and moved around a lot. Her father was in the Army and served in Iraq and Afghanistan, where his job in communications had him running wire across the desert while trying not to trip planted bombs.

Ellison’s family eventually settled near Piqua. Her mother works as a team leader for a dentist’s office. Her stepfather is a full-time farmer with a side business repairing everything from water heaters to giant farm machinery.

While attending Houston High School, Ellison learned about the field of industrial engineering during a presentation by Nathan Klingbeil, Ph.D., professor of mechanical and materials engineering. As valedictorian of her class, the full tuition valedictorian scholarship offered by Wright State clinched Ellison’s decision to attend the university.

Ellison did some job shadowing in Versailles at Midmark Corp., which provides medical, dental and veterinary equipment, technology and services. After graduating from high school in 2017, she spent the summer working at Midmark as a drill press operator before coming to Wright State.

Following her first year at Wright State, Ellison returned to Midmark, where she completed a summer internship in the company’s quality-engineering department.

Ellison said the highlight of her time at Wright State has been the friends and connections she has made.

“You need friends to help pick you up when you’re feeling burnt out, you need to be close with professors who help your connections grow, you need peers to help you study at 3 a.m. for a calculus exam at 10 a.m.,” she said.

Ellison said students also need professionals and alumni for advice on how to survive and thrive in their chosen fields.

“The real learning is done on the job, and to get the job you need connections,” she said. “College is loaded with professors and peers who can help you with the connections. That is the biggest takeaway.”

Following graduation, Ellison hopes to work for L3Harris or another defense contractor. When she is not studying or working, Ellison likes to paint, cook and play computer games.

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