College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences

Kevin Taaffe recognized as outstanding leader in industrial and systems engineering


Kevin Taaffe of Clemson University is winning an award that is reserved for outstanding leaders who have made significant, nationally recognized contributions to industrial and systems engineering.

Taaffe has been selected to receive The Fellow Award from the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE), an honor that puts him in the highest class of IISE membership.

Kevin Taaffe

Taaffe serves as the chair of Clemson’s industrial engineering department and as the Harriet and Jerry Dempsey Professor of Industrial Engineering.

Some of Taaffe’s most notable innovations have focused on improving patient care in hospitals, including in operating rooms. Colleagues said he is committed to diversity and mentoring junior faculty, graduate students and undergraduates.

“It is always an honor to be recognized by one’s peers, but this award is especially satisfying because it reflects the accomplishments of an entire career,” Taaffe said. “I thank my nominators and everyone who has supported my career throughout the years.”

Delbert L. Kimbler, professor emeritus of industrial engineering at Clemson, said that he has known Taaffe for more than 20 years. It’s worth emphasizing not only Taaffe’s measurable qualifications but also the quality of his character, Kimbler said.

“He presents a quiet, unassuming, friendly demeanor,” said Kimbler, who was named IISE Fellow prior to his retirement. “Diligence and work of the highest quality are the norm for Kevin, as for many successful faculty members. But what sets him apart is the intensity and focus of his work, which leads him to achievements far above his peers.”

As department chair, Taaffe is the leader of an enterprise that encompasses 23 faculty members, six staff members and a budget of about $2.5 million.

As a researcher, his body of work includes 58 refereed journal publications, six book chapters and 50 refereed conference proceedings. His research has been funded by various federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Health and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Much of Taaffe’s most recent research has centered on applying industrial engineering techniques and analysis to healthcare. Colleagues said Taaffe’s research on removing barriers and delays to patient flow on the day of surgery or during an emergency room visit has improved patient safety and the quality of the hospital experience.

Taaffe has been recognized for collaborating across disciplines and institutions in his research. He has worked closely with collaborators at Prisma Health on various research projects and in organizing the Harriet & Jerry Dempsey Research Conference to promote high-impact medical research.

In 2018, Taaffe shared the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences’ Collaboration Award with Lawrence Fredendall, professor of management.

While developing his research, Taaffe maintained an active teaching load in production control, simulation and logistics. He teaches both graduate students and undergraduates and was an early adopter of the Creative Inquiry program for undergraduate research.

Taaffe has been a committed member of IISE for years, serving in a number of roles, including faculty advisor to the Clemson chapter, region vice president and vice president of student development. He was twice recognized as an outstanding faculty advisor in his region.

Taaffe worked as a senior consultant for American Airlines and senior manager for Sabre Holdings in the 1990s before returning to academia for his Ph.D. He holds a Master of Science in industrial engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a Ph.D. in industrial systems and engineering from the University of Florida.

Taaffe joined Clemson as an assistant professor in 2004.

Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, called Taaffe an exemplary scholar, researcher, educator and mentor who conducts ground-breaking healthcare research and is committed to educating the field’s future leaders.

“Dr. Taaffe serves as an example of excellence in the domains of industrial and systems engineering,” said Gramopadhye, who won the IISE Fellow award in 2010. “He represents an ideal IISE Fellow, and I offer him my wholehearted congratulations.”

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