Letters to Prospective Students from Current Students
Like many people, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after I finished college. Graduate school looked appealing, but I didn’t want to spend five years working on a small problem that no one would care about. I wanted to broaden my understanding of problem solving techniques, and develop a fundamental understanding of the theory behind them. My experience as a MIT ORC doctoral student has lived up to all my expectations. The courses are excellent, and taught by the experts in the field. The diversity of research being done here is amazing – you are only limited by the amount of time you can spare in a day!
Living in Cambridge is fantastic. Not only are there plenty of things to do in the immediate area, you can easily get around town and to downtown Boston in minutes by subway or bike. Restaurants, bars, art galleries, movie theatres – everything you’d want as a graduate student. There are plenty of other perks to being a MIT student, including free access to sailing lessons and the ability to take a boat and go sailing on the Charles River whenever you want, and an on-campus ice skating rink. MIT’s graduate housing is a great option, especially for international students or those not living in the north-east. The graduate student orientation is one of the biggest in the USA and will get you off to a great start socially, and after that there are plenty of clubs and sports teams on campus to get involved in.
When I came to the ORC Open House in April 2011, I had never visited America before. I was a long way from home, but I knew I had found a second home here at MIT. Life in the ORC is vibrant and stimulating. The number of students in the ORC makes the place feel lively, and spontaneous discussions about a wide-range of topics are going on all the time. There is a strong emphasis on collaboration here, whether it is for classes or for research. People here come from all sorts of backgrounds, some straight out of college with degrees in OR, or some after a few years working in industry. Whatever your background, I’m sure you’ll feel at home here too. I look forward to seeing you!
After studying 4 years in France, I decided to come to study in the United States. At first it was very difficult to choose between all the main programs in OR that the top universities had to offer. But the first day I spent with the ORC and the prospective students made me realize that the ORC was going to be my first choice. The incredible concentration of smart people working on such major and various issues is amazing. We are prepared to tackle a wide scope of problems and the fact that people are coming from different backgrounds is undoubtedly very helpful.
The spirit among the students and faculty is perfectly balanced to help you be the most efficient and productive you can be in your work. Finally, the ORC is one of the oldest program in OR and hence has one of the greatest group of researchers you can work and interact with. The Cambridge/Boston area is such a magnificent place to live. Every day we meet new students, working in different fields, having infinite ideas. If you want to make a start-up, work in the best companies in one field or become a professor, you will have all the choices. I feel that here, the horizon of possibilities is endless. Personally, the career opportunities of the students are a great indicator of a programs preparation for its students. From the ORC, you could go in every field you desire. If you show your enthusiasm and your skills that you have acquired during the program, recruiters know the standards of the ORC and its quality which will be a huge asset for your career.
The social life was also something which mattered a lot to me, and I discovered that ORC members are very well balanced. Sports, arts, and social activities are also part of our everyday life. But most important of all, people here are very friendly and welcoming which makes things so much easier, especially for a foreign student. I just arrived at MIT but it is incredible how time flies when you are here. You have so many things to experiment and develop and so many people to meet and talk to. I came to the ORC, knowing that I will be in one of the greatest places to try to become an expert in OR and work with brilliant minds; I know now that I was right. Come and visit the Center, I don’t doubt that you’ll feel the same.
When I decided to pursue a graduate degree in Operations Research, MIT was at the top of my list. I had studied Industrial Engineering as an undergrad at Georgia Tech where I really enjoyed learning about many applications of Operations Research, and I was ready to transition from a quite applied engineering degree to a more rigorous theoretical and application based graduate program to help advance the field. What better place to do this than at MIT?!
When I was going through the application and decision process, I knew that the ORC had a fantastic academic reputation and would provide me with a challenging education with lots of research opportunities. The structure of the ORC was an unexpected huge advantage. Rather than residing within a single school at MIT, the Operations Research program is an interdisciplinary program between many different Departments, i.e. the Sloan School of Management and the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department. This results in a wide variety of courses and research applications to OR that would be hard to find elsewhere. Furthermore, all of the faculty affiliated with the Operations Research Center are there because they are interested in OR as it relates to their field, and each one is very interested in working with students from the ORC; it is evident that the affiliated faculty members care about the success of each ORC student.
And last but definitely not least, my peers at the ORC are absolutely amazing. Since the OR program is contained in its own Center, the ORC students form a very tight community. Prior to joining the ORC, I worked at a management consulting firm, and my favorite part of the job was the collaborative, team-oriented work environment when solving client challenges. I initially thought that I would miss this part of my work when I returned to school, but I was pleasantly surprised to find this part of the culture very similar. The ORC students come from such a diverse background that it is always interesting to collaborate with each other and learn new ways to approach problems, whether in research or in class. Working with them even makes a late night study session enjoyable!
In my opinion, the enthusiasm of the faculty, variety of academic coursework, and the team-oriented, collaborative culture of the students are what set the ORC at MIT apart from other top OR programs. I encourage you to apply to the program, come for a visit, and hopefully join us in the future!
MIT has a reputation for being the best engineering school and the ORC is no exception. The research at MIT is phenomenal - people here are really trying to change the world, and are succeeding! There is a very positive research environment that encourages big ideas. I came to the ORC because I felt like there was a perfect balance between advancing the theory and developing new applications. If you really want to make a difference in the world, MIT and the ORC are the perfect place to do it.
Since coming to the ORC, I've really appreciated how much the students in the Center work together. We came from a wide range of academic backgrounds and work experiences, and many (including myself) hadn't previously studied operations research. I love the diversity and we learn a lot working with each other.
When you're not studying, Boston will keep you busy. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the US and MIT is the best engineering school in the US. It's a great life!
In my opinion, the MIT ORC is all about being involved with a wide variety of projects. The people here stay on top of their classes, but definitely do not spend all their time doing theory. They usually have research projects that require clear-headed thinking on paper but also network-building skills in practice. Some are entrepreneurs, some have ongoing positions with consulting firms, while others spend summers working on Wall Street...the possibilities are endless around the Cambridge/Boston area. The overall atmosphere is a social group of enthusiastic, diligent students who work together and help each other succeed, instead of competing against one another.
I am still discovering myself here at MIT, but some advice I can give so far is to go out and try things you never thought you'd like. At MIT, there will be clubs/opportunities for any activity you can think of, so always keep your eyes open. This can be overwhelming at first, receiving 30 emails a day describing 30 different interesting activities, but you will be really motivated to make good use of your time when once you discover how much you miss by wasting it. The students are really active and willing to take risks with their ideas, throwing them out there to try to make a difference. All in all, I think this is a great place to be, that will change you for the rest of your life, into a pleasant, ambitious, and opportunistic person liking things you never thought you'd like.
Daniel Ryan Schonfeld
The OR Center is a special place at MIT and is very different from other departments/programs. Its culture is one of teamwork, mentorship, and support. As a first year student, I always feel comfortable asking the older students for advice regarding classes, research, and even life in the Boston/Cambridge area. As an interdepartmental program, the ORC allows you to tap into several areas of study at MIT. We have students working on problems ranging from the optimal kidney transplant system to unmanned underwater surveillance vehicles. And when it comes to resources, the students are provided with everything they need to succeed, whether it be software, access to data, or even seminars with leaders in the field.
The Boston/Cambridge area contains 58 institutions of higher education and over 200,000 students. This makes for a very young, vibrant atmosphere. As if the MIT campus is not bustling enough, there is always something going on in the area to fulfill your entertainment needs. This fall, I have found myself at Red Sox games, 5K runs, pumpkin carving contests, dance competitions, country music concerts, and even an outdoor ballet performance. Overall, the Boston/Cambridge area is a very student-friendly community that is perfect for a mix of work and play.
In summary, if you are passionate about solving real-world problems using mathematics and operations research methods, the MIT OR Center is a place in which you will thrive and make a difference. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about the OR Center, MIT, or the Boston/Cambridge area in general. Hope to see you next fall!
I believe that studying operations research gives you the ability to make a difference in the world, and I decided to come to the ORC because of the many resources and opportunities here that will best prepare me for this.
When I was applying to graduate schools, I was having trouble deciding where to go… that is until I met my future classmates and professors at the MIT Operations Research Center. The level of energy and excitement among students and faculty in the Center is remarkable and in my mind sets it apart from other top programs.
My key interest in research is to do something that actually causes some significant change to the world, and I feel like I’m in the right place to do that. The professors in the Center are working on projects that span a wide range of disciplines, and each is pushing the boundaries of a field. The focus here isn’t on churning out a large number of moderate-quality publications, but instead on producing high-impact publications that will change the way research is done in an area or that will significantly advance the dialog in solving a particular problem.
When I first arrived at the ORC, something that struck me is how quickly the research process begins. We selected our advisors before the school year, so by week one we could already get started on projects. Now, just a few months into my Ph.D., I feel like I’m up to speed on my research and able to make contributions, which wouldn’t have been possible with a less streamlined onboarding process.
Something that has struck me my entire time here is the level of collaboration and support among students in the ORC; the atmosphere at the Center is far from ultra-competitive. This applies not only to problem set marathons but also to collaboration in research. Universally, students are glad to sit down and chat about a research problem, often providing some interesting insight. There is a pervasive intellectual curiosity here that leads students to present at and attend each other’s research seminars, to collaborate on research projects, and to pause late-night problem set parties to chat about a new project idea.
Since starting here I’ve been more convinced than ever that this is the right place for me, and I look forward to seeing you here as well!