The latest generation in a long line of scholars and engineers, First year PhD student Nathan Adeyemi is carrying on the family tradition at Northeastern’s Department of Industrial Engineering. He can be found in the Operations Research and Social Justice lab of Dr. Kayse Maass, applying data analysis techniques to medical access issues in the US. As passionate as he is analytical, he feels drawn to his field of study by his desire to fix a broken system. “There are so many problems in the American medical system that make no sense to me,” he says, “I would read about them in the news and in classes, and I couldn’t understand why we, as a country, choose to do things that way.”
Adeyemi’s present research in Dr. Maass’s lab is focused on mental health care access in the state of Minnesota. Using a method of data analysis known as Operations Research, he uses mathematical modeling and statistical analysis to explore extremely complex problems and derive optimal or near-optimal solutions. In this case, he uses data from medical providers to study how the state handles patients in need of urgent mental health care when they arrive in an emergency room , and how long it takes the hospitals to transfer these patients to a facility equipped to help them.
As Adeyemi explains it, the goal of optimizing the transfer process for these vulnerable patients is first and foremost to reduce the time between when they come into the emergency room and when they began receiving specialized care. “Right now, the decision-making behind where a patient is transferred to is mandated by a policy of steering them to whatever facility is nearest to them, rather than the facility that makes the most sense for their treatment,” Adeyemi explains, “So it may be that a policy change will be enough to better optimize things.”
A graduate of UMass Amherst with a B.Sc. in Industrial Engineering and a strong interest in data analysis, Adeyemi credits family for his interest in his field of study. “My dad is an electrical engineer and my mom is a mechanical engineer, my older sister is an engineer too,” he says with a laugh, “So from an early age I knew I wanted to be an engineer as well, but I wanted it to be in a totally different field than anyone else in my family!”
This field of study seems to be very much in harmony with Adeyemi’s world view: “I work with medical systems problems because I can see so many ways that we could be doing better. Given what one hears on the news, in classes, even anecdotally from other people, you can see the deficiencies in our system. So every time I see something broken, I think ‘there has to be a better way to make this work’. That’s the sort of thing that drives me.”