Back in 2007, you graduated from the MIT Zaragoza Master of Engineering Logistics and Supply Chain Management (ZLOG). How was the experience? Did you take any fond memories away with you?
I have a very good memory of my time spent in Zaragoza during the ZLOG program. We were a relatively small cohort and had a very close interaction between each other and with all faculty and staff at ZLC. We were in the program when it was located in Gomez Laguna and everyone in the Center was really young and energetic. I loved the vibe! I learned a great deal of things, not only from the lectures, also from my classmates and from the visits that the center organized to different companies. Two special moments were the initial trip to the Pirineos when we were getting to know everyone and, of course, the trip to Boston.
Looking at you CV, it seems that you’ve got itchy feet! Right after graduating, you engaged in your doctoral studies at University of California, Berkeley. What made you join it?
Even though I was already familiar with the logistics and SCM field, going through the ZLOG helped me a great deal. While in the program I reached my tipping point, because going through it helped me confirm that I wanted to dedicate my professional career to SCM, starting with pursuing a PhD in the United States. This was a very challenging objective that was greatly facilitated when I was awarded a La Caixa fellowship that completely sponsored my first two years in any USA PhD program that I would get admitted to. I applied to a number of Operations Research departments and when I was admitted to U.C. Berkeley it was a no-brainer. It was one of the best ranked programs and the location was really attractive to me.
Could you briefly describe the theme of your research work? How important is the practical application of your research in general?
The major themes of my research are related to facility location, closed-loop supply chain management, and not-for-profit operations. The practical application of my research is really important because the research we are doing is expected to be directly applicable to organizations. Being a professor in a school of management helps me keep close contact with companies and other institutions. For example, I am currently helping a Chinese electronics company design their closed-loop supply chain. I am also studying the business continuity plan for a specific set of products of a very large consumer goods US company. Also, teaching MBA and Master students keeps us informed of what is going on in the different industries.
It seems that the American lifestyle has hitched you! From California, to Indiana, which is your home right now, to take the role of Assistant Professor at Purdue University. How do you manage to coordinate research, writing and teaching – in themselves 3 extremely demanding areas?
And you have to add another task, taking care of two daughters! You need to learn to schedule each task and follow the plan. The school give us flexibility so I teach all my load in one of the two semesters, so when I am teaching I am mainly focusing on that and the rest of the year is devoted to the rest of tasks. The position of Assistant professor (tenure track) is highly demanding in terms of research and teaching. While it is expected that we keep publishing in the most prestigious journals, our teaching is also being evaluated and we are expected to perform at an excellent level. Luckily, I enjoy research, writing and teaching and I have the freedom to do it in the topics I am most interested in.
Will your next stop be a prestigious University in Spain?
Possibly. This summer my husband and I are celebrating 10 years since we left Spain and arrived in the United States but, despite all these years, we are still somewhat homesick. Additionally, Spain has a very competitive set of business schools and centers with operations and SCM programs. So, this could be an option.
Knowing what you know now, would you still get a PhD if you had the chance to go back and do it over again? Why or why not?
Definitely yes, without my PhD I would not be able to pursue a career in academia. So, while holding a PhD opens the door to academia, it might not be the best path if you want to work for a specific industry in a specific location because not all companies hire PhD graduates. However, in the US a lot of companies in different industries (including logistics and SCM) value having PhDs in their workforce because these individuals offer highly analytical and technical skills. So, the option to go to industry is also a possibility.