Faculty Spotlight – Bobby Martens


Where did you earn your degrees and what are your current responsibilities at Iowa State?

BS – North Dakota State University

MS – North Dakota State University

PhD – Purdue University


When did you come to Iowa State and what brought you here?

When I originally came to Iowa State University, I held a joint appointment with the Department of Supply Chain and Information Systems (formerly Logistics, Operations, Management Information Systems) and the Institute for Food Safety and Security.  It was a logical fit between my work in food systems, agribusiness, and logistics management.


What are your favorite courses and why?

This is a tough one! I enjoy SCM 301 because it is an opportunity to make students excited about Supply Chain. SCM 461 – Principles of Transportation – is a fun course because I have much to offer students (work experience, direct tie to research and industry engagement). Students often provide feedback that that they did not realize just how complex and interesting transportation is! In the end, seeing students embrace the discovery process is incredibly rewarding.


What interests you about your field?

Supply Chain Management is a unique way to think about and integrate business horizontally. Specifically, around eight percent of GDP is spent on transportation and inventory costs, but relatively few people study the topics. I believe domestic transportation is at a point in time when tremendous opportunities exist to revolutionize the industry; using technology to decrease costs, improve service, and integrate supply chains.


What are some highlights of your career at Iowa State?

“Engaged Scholarship” is important to me. Working with companies is rewarding and important. Two White Papers (State Rates and Favored Shipper research) written with CH Robinson have thousands of downloads and have made a major impact on domestic transportation.


How does your research inspire your teaching?

Knowing classroom subject material, especially in an evolving discipline such as Supply Chain, is critical. My research looks at issues and opportunities that companies are dealing with every day. Turning this research into classroom material is fun because I know students will use the concepts and ideas discussed in class.


What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?

I will give a two part answer. First, students need to learn and understand course specific concepts. This is critical. Second, I hope all my students learn how to take information from multiple sources and build business intuition about the subject material. This is perhaps especially important in Supply Chain because integration means that students need to connect or integrate multiple areas of business.


Describe your ideal student.

I’m not much about specific details. Most of those are on Google. I enjoy when students are able to truly grasp difficult concepts.  Some students enjoy this, while others seek to learn “multiple choice details”. To me, ideal students are those who try to grasp difficult concepts.


Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…

Riding bike through campus with my kids during the summer.


Community civic involvement includes…

St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, St. Cecelia School, Iowa Sate Athletics


Favorite book?

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


Favorite movie?

I’m not much of a movie person, but Secondhand Lions aligns with my humor.


Proudest moment at Iowa State?

From time-to-time students will take time to write thank you cards. These often come from out-of-the-blue and from students who I’d never expect one from. Over the years I’ve collected a few and keep them in my desk drawer.


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