Student spotlight: Hector Perez

Lauren Smith

Feb 27, 2023

Hector Perez with his wife and three children, standing outside by a fountain

Source: Hector Perez

Hector Perez with his family

Almost everything we use today depends on a supply chain in one way or another. Carnegie Mellon Chemical Engineering Ph.D. candidate Hector Perez is helping to develop the next generation supply chain. "Finding ways to make supply chains more efficient has a world-wide impact," he says. His area of research is mathematical optimization, and he has worked closely with Dow, Inc., developing a digital supply chain and helping people managing supply chains respond better to disturbances.

With the support of his advisor, Ignacio Grossmann, Perez has done three summer internships, all with Dow. Through the internships, he gained more exposure to their supply chain and was able to continue working on his research with more support and connection within the company.

Perez chose to work with Grossmann, the Rudolph R. and Florence Dean University Professor, because of his many industrially-focused projects. He says that the Chemical Engineering Department as a whole and also the faculty are very supportive of the career paths that their students choose, helping to create opportunities and align projects across industry and academia. Perez has observed a focus on student growth. "ChemE at CMU really supports your vision and your goals," he says.

Last year, Perez received a Presidential Fellowship, amongst the university's most competitive and prestigious scholarships. He has also received Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Association (ChEGSA) Symposium awards.

As a side project, Perez developed software for mathematical optimization using the Julia programming language. He wanted a tool that would speed up the development of the mathematical models he was working on. Last summer, organizers of the Julia conference invited him to present his work.

Perez never expected that his fun side project would lead to a job offer. His presentation, however, caught the attention of the leadership at Relational AI, a start-up advancing a real cloud-native knowledge graph data management system to power intelligent data applications. As Perez shared more about his work in Grossmann's research group, Relational AI invited him to give a technical talk, then to interview, and then to join their company in June as an operations research specialist. "I'll bring some of the tools I've developed at CMU into their product and will look for ways to build a supply chain practice within the company," Perez says.

Perez is married and has three young children, with a fourth on the way this summer. He is enjoying raising his family in Pittsburgh and serves in his local church community.

As a child, Perez thought that going to work meant going to do research at a university. That's what he saw his parents, who each have a Ph.D. in engineering, doing. His parents always stimulated his scientific, inquisitive side, and he remembers being surrounded by books. Perez made the decision to pursue an engineering degree when he learned how engineers bring in the sciences and apply them to have an impact on society. Now, he is excited to join a start-up because "there are so many things you can do, so many career paths you can explore," he says.