Student balances research with the joys of being a Penn Stater

From modeling ERP systems to improving the Berkey Creamery to dancing in THON 2020, there are not many stones senior Matthew Hoffman has left unturned


By Mia Hollie

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Matthew Hoffman, a fourth-year industrial engineering (IE) student at Penn State, is the embodiment of the age-old saying, “You only have four years in college, so make the most of it.”

As a Schreyer Honors Scholar, 2020 THON dancer and member of several clubs, Hoffman ensured that he made his mark in Happy Valley before graduating in May 2020.

For this Penn Stater, however, committing to the University was no easy decision. Hoffman said that when it was time to make a final decision, everything “clicked” for Penn State.

“When it really came down to making a decision, I realized that I didn’t know why I never considered Penn State, but that it was the school I wanted to go to,” Hoffman said.

His aptitude for math and science made him want to pursue either business or engineering and he realized that IE had the best of both worlds.

“IE is the broadest major in the College of Engineering, which is what I love about it,” Hoffman said.

By learning about statistics, supply chain and manufacturing, the IE major has allowed him to merge his two interests into one cohesive learning tract.

Working to help a Penn State legacy

Hoffman began working with the Service Enterprise Engineering Initiative (SEE 360) in the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering during his junior year when the group offered him a research assistant position. SEE 360 enables students to apply engineering to industries in the service sector, which gives them the opportunity to create real-world impacts.

His particular research project was focused on shortening the lines at the Penn State Berkey Creamery. During football season, Hoffman spent his Saturdays gathering data on the number of people in line at the Penn State landmark.

“Helping the Creamery shorten the line was rewarding. I think it is attainable,” Hoffman said.

Vittal Prabhu, professor of industrial engineering and Charles and Enid Schneider Faculty Chair in Service Enterprise Engineering, encouraged Hoffman to focus his honors thesis on the Creamery, too.

“His work demonstrates that one outstanding engineer can help small-to-medium businesses transform their operations,” Prabhu said. “Simultaneously, the Creamery management now has one implementation to try and experiment with as they transform their operations in the future.”

Initially, Hoffman worked on creating an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. An ERP system combines all the functions of a company, like inventory and sales, into one shared database. ERP systems give businesses the opportunity to maximize profits and efficiency, which can aid the Creamery in their sales and speed.

The Creamery currently does not use an ERP system. “It’s not a bad thing to not have an ERP, but they have a wealth of opportunity,” Hoffman said.

After designing an ERP system, Hoffman shifted his efforts to designing a production scheduling optimization tool. He explained that optimization tools help businesses like the Creamery avoid long sanitization processes, which are a result of using ingredients with allergen constraints.

“You can input what flavors you are going to make, and then run this program that will tell you what the optimal order is, which minimizes the number of clean ups,” Hoffman said.

One step ahead

Hoffman was well-prepared to begin his thesis research, thanks to his internship the summer after his freshman year at Frankford Candy, one of the country’s largest makers of chocolates and sweets.

Initially, his responsibilities included hands-on work. Then, he assisted in designing an ERP system for the company that, like the ERP he designed for the Creamery, tracked and located goods stored within the warehouse.

In addition to his internship with Frankford Candy, Hoffman also interned the summer before his junior year with Boscov’s Distribution Center in Reading, Pennsylvania.

“That was an awesome experience because there are not a lot of people out there whose job title is industrial engineer, and I worked in an actual industrial engineering office,” Hoffman said.

During his internship, he oversaw the company’s employee incentive program. Hoffman explained that every time an employee completed a task, they scanned that task into a system. The system, then, created a baseline of the employee’s productivity, and this baseline determined if the employee would receive an incentive.

What’s next?

After graduating in May 2020, Hoffman will begin his first job as a tech consultant at PwC, an international professional services network, in New York City. Until then, he plans to finish out his last semester compiling his research findings and writing his thesis.

Hoffman feels his experiences as an IE student equipped him with the skills necessary to be successful in the real world.

“At Penn State, you learn such a wide variety of skills that prepare you for a real-world job,” Hoffman said. “I could be doing something completely unrelated to engineering, but having that knowledge is super helpful to me, especially as a consultant.”

While graduation typically means an end to learning for many students, he hopes to maintain his student mindset throughout his career.

“I just like to learn,” Hoffman said. “I want to do a million different projects and I want to learn new stuff until one day I find something that will make me say to myself, ‘I can do this every day.’”

The student spotlight series by the Penn State Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering (IME) aims to highlight innovators, makers and those that personify engineering excellence in their academic studies. The department currently has 90 doctoral students, 59 master’s students and 436 undergraduate students. In addition, the department hosts 42 full-time and courtesy faculty members. Established in 1908, the department is home to the first industrial engineering program in the world and has made a name for itself in the engineering industry through its storied tradition of unparalleled excellence and innovation in research, education and outreach. To learn more about IME and how you can get involved, please visit


Share this story:

facebook linked in twitter email


Megan Lakatos

a man stands in front of the lion statue at the nittany lion shrine
As a senior, Hoffman has been able to take advantage of all Penn State has to offer. IMAGE: PROVIDED

a man dressed in a colorful costume dances with a large crowd at a dance marathon
Hoffman had the opportunity to represent his fraternity in THON 2020 as a dancer. IMAGE: PROVIDED