Nick Zacharek, Industrial and Operations Engineering Undergraduate

Nick Zacharek
Nick Zacharek

Hi everyone, my name is Nicholas (Nick) Zacharek, and I am a senior from Ann Arbor studying Industrial and Operations Engineering (IOE), and have been working at CHEPS since May 2019. In my nearly 2.5 years at CHEPS, I can safely say that working here has been the best decision I have made in college. CHEPS has given me the opportunity to apply various skills I have learned in class and grow greatly as a professional. I have worked on projects ranging from simulation modeling to improve patient access to care, to provider scheduling to maximize capacity utilization, and data analytics to better understand trends in medical data.

Thinking back to my freshman year, I have grown a great deal professionally, socially, and academically. Like many freshmen, I was unsure about my passions and what I wanted to pursue professionally. CHEPS instantly gave me an opportunity to apply knowledge from computer science, IOE, and math courses to solve real problems affecting real people. My experience in CHEPS helped motivate me in my academic coursework because I was able to see its direct application. CHEPS even introduced me to topics like linear programming and queueing theory prior to taking those courses.

The turning point in my college career was summer 2020 when I worked on a COVID-19 response project through CHEPS. The project was called OPS REVAMP, and it focused on accounting for the backlog of elective surgeries incurred by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This work was crucial because all non-essential procedures were delayed in the hospital when the COVID pandemic began and, even minor procedures, when delayed, can become more serious for the patient. In addition, this caused immense backlog and strain on providers. Being able to meaningfully contribute during a time of uncertainty for society was very rewarding. This experience has helped me develop my long-term career goals. I want to use operations research and data science to help solve problems in healthcare on a nationwide basis.

SpecAccessTeamS20 zoom
Nick in a virtual meeting of the Specialty Access team in summer 2020

I couldn’t write a CHEPS blog without mentioning the community aspect that CHEPS brings. It’s been very special to become good friends with so many people whom I would have otherwise not met. CHEPS has cultivated a community where I feel that I can always ask for help or simply just find someone to talk to about anything. Whether it’s formulating an optimization model, competing in the NY Times Daily-Mini crossword, or a CHEPS Thursday, every experience of mine at CHEPS has been fantastic. I look forward to coming back to Ann Arbor for CHEPS reunions for many years to come.

My experience at CHEPS has impressed various interviewers from multiple companies. For anyone looking to pursue consulting, healthcare engineering, or continuous improvement, CHEPS is the perfect place to develop skills useful in these industries. I am very proud that I will be working as a consultant in Chicago post-graduation. I will be focused on using artificial intelligence and machine learning to help technology companies with critical issues. I know for a fact that I will draw upon my experiences at CHEPS when meeting with clients and developing solutions.

During my first year at CHEPS, I found mentorship from more senior students very helpful. Not only could they help me with difficult engineering courses, they also provided internship recruiting advice. Now that I am a senior, I find that I am able to provide academic and professional advice to the newer CHEPS students. Being able to help the newer students is a very rewarding experience because I know how helpful it can be. The fact that CHEPS offers so much more than just a work opportunity is what separates it from other research groups at Michigan. As I said earlier, the CHEPS community is special and feels like a family.

I could honestly write a book on how much my experience at CHEPS has impacted me, but I want to keep this blog relatively short. CHEPS means so much to me because I definitely would not be where I am without it. My friends always make fun of me because I constantly rave about my CHEPS projects. If I meet any CS, IOE, or Pre-Med student, I always encourage them to apply to CHEPS because I want others to have the same amazing experience that I have had. I will be very sad to leave CHEPS after next semester, however, I know that I will be returning for future CHEPS reunions and hopefully will be able to give an alumni lunch and learn as well.