Faisal Alkaabneh becomes first student to earn Ph.D. in Systems at Cornell

Faisal Alkaabneh Ph.D. '20

Faisal Alkaabneh Back in 2015, Faisal Alkaabneh was one of the first 10 students to enter the Systems Ph.D. program at Cornell University. This weekend, he becomes the first student to earn a Ph.D. in Systems.

“Faisal’s research was driven by and reflects the vision of Cornell Systems Engineering. He studied several important management and policy analysis problems in food supply chain systems utilizing large-scale optimization, stochastic resource allocation, and data-analytics methodologies, said H. Oliver Gao, director of the Systems Engineering program and Alkaabneh’s advisor. “We are very proud to have such an outstanding person such as Faisal be the first Ph.D. graduate of the program.”

Who inspired or influenced you during your time at Cornell?
As far as professors goes, the answer is definitely Professor David Williamson from the ORIE department. I took his class ORIE 6330: Network Flows during my first semester at Cornell and I learned a lot in that class and from him personally. Aside from the technical knowledge I learned in his class, he is very humble, nice and dedicated to his students. I consider Professor Williamson as a role model and he changed my way of thinking and behavior in many ways. I cannot thank him enough for his efforts and support.

Outside of the classroom, I would pick Yasin Ahmed, the Muslim Chaplain at Cornell. Yasin is a great person is all ways and I definitely learned a lot from him. I appreciate his hard work, dedication, and support for all student groups at Cornell.

What will you miss the most about Cornell?
I will miss the people—professors, students, staff and everyone in Ithaca.

What surprised you most about your Cornell experience?
I found that students here are very kind and, at the same time, they are brilliant and hard workers. To find a group of students who truly combines those qualities is rare; nonetheless, all students at Cornell are kind and brilliant. That is what surprised me the most.   

What accomplishment as a Cornell student makes you most proud?

  1. Getting the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award from the Systems Engineering Program back in 2017. I felt very proud when I read the comments of students. It was truly amazing to see how much students appreciate my dedication and support. I am very grateful to all students I worked with.
  2. High-quality, impactful research I did during my Ph.D. Part of my research was in collaboration with the Food Bank of the Southern Tier to help them better manage the supplies they receive to better serve people. We developed a decision support tool and a website that food bank stakeholders can use to increase the efficiency of food banks’ operations. When I demonstrated my work to the food bank managers, I felt very proud that my research will be making difference on ground and help people.
  3. Indeed, getting the Ph.D. degree itself. The journey was intense and full of challenges, so I feel proud that I made it with good research outcomes.

What are your plans “Post Cornell”?
I will be an assistant professor. I have a couple of offers from schools in the U.S. and I am evaluating them at this point.

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