3 Questions for Prof. Tarkan Tan

As of 1 September 2022, Tarkan Tan is a full professor of Sustainable Operations Management at the Department of Informatics. In a short interview, he answers what he wants to achieve in research and teaching.

What do you focus on in your research? 

My research interests include inventory theory, capacity management, spare parts management, and supply chain management with a particular focus on sustainability. Sustainability is an ever-developing field: The process of making a supply chain truly sustainable can never have a well-defined endpoint. Instead, a more sustainable supply chain is one that is better at identifying current and future environmental and social impacts, and finding ways to mitigate those. I work on problems such as where to exert sustainability efforts within the supply chain, how to assess and improve supplier sustainability, what are the best ways to adopt green transportation technology, and how to enable circularity in supply chains. In my research, I treat sustainability explicitly within the supply chain design and operations without neglecting the economic aspect, which is essential to choices made by companies about the structure of their operations as well as policy decisions of governments.

What would you like to convey to your students?

I believe that one of the biggest contributions that the academicians can make to the society is to positively influence students, all of whom will shape the future. Naturally, I try to make that impact particularly on the sustainability front, so that the students become sustainability ambassadors in the organizations in which they work. Accordingly, my vision is to be instrumental in educating successful decision makers of the future with a sustainability mindset and to motivate and mentor students in their research. My mission is to graduate students who have learned how to learn and have become independent and critical thinkers. As a general strategy, I try to integrate my research with teaching through developing new courses and redesigning existing ones. I try to facilitate the students to learn not only from me, but also from their peers and on their own. For this end, I keep making increasingly more use of challenge-based learning and flipped classroom approaches.

What were the decisive factors for you to join the University of Zurich? 

Frankly, it all started with an invitation from Prof. Christiane Barz of the Department of Business Administration to apply to an open position in the Department. I already knew that the University of Zurich was a world-class university with fantastic researchers, but the more I learned about the academic environment and opportunities here, the more I was amazed. The research support compares to none that I have had in my career before. Even though I started with high expectations, what I have experienced so far beats the highest of them. All the personnel and the students are kind, appreciative, and supportive. I feel very lucky to be a part of the UZH family.