Advanced Study Program
Profiles of Fellows
Dan... Acquiring New Analytical Tools
Polychronis... Creating an Entrepreneurial Future
Irene... Applying New Knowledge on the Job
Alex... Learning from Global Peers
James... Sharpening Technical Skills
Priya... Changing Her Professional Path
Lisa... Realizing Professional Goals
Mark... Building a Lifetime Connection
Vice President, E-Commerce Software and Services Industry
» B.A., Geographic Information Systems, SUNY Albany
» M.B.A., Supply Chain, University of New Hampshire
After a semester in the MIT Professional Education - Advanced Study Program, Dan brought his new MIT knowledge back to work at a leading-edge provider of IT solutions focusing on the Internet. A key benefit, he says, was a deeper understanding of software engineering concepts.
"The knowledge I gained at MIT has helped me make informed decisions during the design phase of software engineering projects," Dan says. "MIT professors did not dictate how a process should be performed. Rather they taught me how to determine which method would be most appropriate given the circumstances."
The academic work was productive on several levels. "MIT provided me with a toolkit of analytical capabilities that I can apply to various technological industries." Outside of class, he found additional intellectual opportunities. After an informal inquiry about available Geographic Information Systems resources at the Rotch Library of Architecture and Planning, he was soon engaged in a three-month research project that extended his undergraduate academic interests. "The knowledgeable staff offered hours of invaluable instruction, insight, and advice."
The experience is comprehensive. "The benefits offered are enormous," Dan says. "Not only can you attend top notch classes with matriculated MIT students, you're entitled to many extras such as MIT events, IAP courses, and the outstanding Zesiger fitness center."
Former R&D Director, Informatics/Telecommunications Industry
» B.S., Computer Science, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
» M.S., Enterprise Information Systems, King's College, London, UK
"Professional life allows no time to actively keep up with cutting-edge research developments," says Polychronis, who enrolled to make time for such studies and to prepare for an entrepreneurial future. "I aimed at catching up with current research and enriching my academic background, while building on my corporate experience."
In class, he balanced theory and practice by joining a cross-disciplinary team of researchers in the MIT Media Lab’s Smart Cities group. For the team, he designed an algorithm for driving an omni-directional car and implemented the control system for a live demo. He's had the opportunity to demonstrate his collaborative work at the Museum of Science in Boston, at a professional conference, and for the CTO of General Motors in Detroit.
Now he's embarking on his entrepreneurial quest by submitting a patent with the Smart Cities group while working on a master's degree* with the Viral Communications group. He's also kept in close contact with other fellows from Verizon and Pixar corporations.
"If there were a supermarket for excellence in research and innovation, then this is the shopping cart," says Polychronis. "If you enjoy being challenged, then the Advanced Study Program at MIT is the kind of experience you must live at least once in a lifetime."
Project manager, Glenn Research Center, NASA
» B.S.; M.S., Electrical Engineering, Case Western University
When Irene arrived at MIT as an Advanced Study Program student in 2004, she decided to take courses in topics close to her NASA responsibilities as well as in new areas. Her class on data-networking, her own field, helped her develop a new level of understanding in this fast-changing field. Back at NASA, she was soon able to use her knowledge. "I was part of a space communication architecture group and I had a big impact during the evaluation of new types of technology," she says. "I asked key questions that helped focus where the problem really was."
As a project manager in the program mission track, Irene wanted to learn more about management while also upgrading her technical skills. In courses in organizational behavior and negotiations, she learned systematic tools to navigate through new, non-technical territory. “The negotiation course was a great—it helped you create win-win situations. Everything—every meeting, every set or requirements—really is a negotiation."
Beyond the classroom, Irene joined other students from professional fields in academic and personal pursuits. At Thanksgiving, she and other Americans helped explain the annual ritual to international students—while chowing down. And she got to use other cultural skills. "I was surprised how many different languages you hear on campus. I speak Russian and I heard more Russian than I’ve heard in a long time."
Engineer, Data Networks Industry
» B.S., Electrical Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
"I learned so much from every academic experience at MIT," says Alex. "Everyone at MIT is so passionate and eager. On every team project, I was able to learn from the different perspectives each member brought. Students from all over the world attend MIT. Thus, one can benefit from their academic and professional knowledge as well as from all their cultural perspectives."
Alex took courses in engineering, management, policy, economics, and leadership, and now he’s applying that work to his international career as a sales engineer covering Latin America and the Caribbean for a data networking industry leader.
"Combining this academic knowledge with all the experience gained from class projects and extracurricular activities at MIT helped me to obtain a better perspective on how to solve problems, deal with people, and envision ideas for my current job," he says. "In addition, the network of people you create at MIT is very valuable as it helps you to build business relationships with other companies in the industry."
Alex stays connected to MIT by participating in activities and clubs and by maintaining strong relationships with colleagues. "I am in continuous contact with these friends for matters related to work and personal lifestyle."
Engineer/Subsystem manager, International Space Station
» B.S.E., Aerospace Engineering, University of Michigan
» M.S.E.; Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, Rice University
Tribology. For James, studying the science and technology of interacting surfaces in relative motion at MIT had direct application when he returned to NASA. In his work on the International Space Station (ISS), friction, lubrication, and wear are critical issues. "The tribology course in the mechanical engineering department allowed me to initiate some tribology work here at NASA. Testing at the component level saved the program more costly man-in-the-loop testing later with more accurate results."
Although James’ coursework meant putting in some late-night homework hours, it also reconnected him to the academic rigor he enjoyed during his Ph.D. work. His only regret about his learning experience was that NASA limits the opportunity to one semester.
His studies also offered the opportunity to take a management course. "Being in a government agency, you lose sight of the business aspects of a program. Many of the principles are applicable to all types of industry—government or commercial."
Now he’s back at NASA, where he began his career as a student intern, and working on developing ISS elements. "I'm responsible for verifying the structural integrity of several ISS elements," James says. "My goal is to make sure that elements from several international partners get integrated to ISS with no problems."
Former Project Director, Software Industry
» B.E., Electrical and Electronics; M.Sc., Physics, Birla Institute of Technology and Science, India
» M.S., Electrical Engineering, Boston University
Applied Quantum and Statistical Physics and Physics for Solid-State Applications are two challenging courses, but they were a perfect match for Priya. In fact, these courses helped change her professional path, leaving behind the software industry, where she had worked for ten years, and returning to her original interest--electrical engineering research.
"I wanted the experience of doing graduate level courses at a great school like MIT," she says. "I know that many good schools do not have such an offering. I thought the courses at MIT might help me establish confidence in my academic abilities in the field and be a way to strengthen my resume."
Priya explored her academic opportunities through classes, but also by using the informal connections she made with faculty and students. "I got in touch with professors who pointed me to the right faculty for the kind of research I wanted to be doing. I also talked to students in the EECS department and got to know more about their research and the faculty they worked with."
Now she continuing her academic work in a Ph.D. program* at MIT. "Everything I did through the Advanced Study Program is directly applicable to the career switch that I intended," Priya says.
Technical Director, Aerospace Industry
» B.S.ChE.; M.B.A., University of South Florida
Lisa has significant goals. When she arrived at MIT, she was intent on learning from preeminent faculty and studying with top students. She hoped to engage in a dynamic learning environment that addresses societal and industry issues and to acquire the latest engineering knowledge in aerospace guidance, navigation, and control applications. And those were just her short-term goals.
Her long-term goals are even more comprehensive. By taking a course at MIT, she’s realizing her ambition to become involved in the forefront of emerging technologies, theories, and practices and to develop connections to a community of people committed to advancing new knowledge and leading change in the world.
In practical terms, she can apply her MIT credits to her master’s degree work in electrical engineering at the University of South Florida. Further, she expects to advance in her company by becoming an engineering fellow. "I am already able to apply the technical skills I am learning in the course to my current job," Lisa says.
Advice for prospective fellows? "I would say to be careful what class you pick because it may require a great deal of your time."
Major, U.S. Air Force, space system acquisitions manager
» B.S., Engineering Sciences/Space Engineering, Colorado State University
» M.S., Systems Management, Air Force Institute of Technology
For Mark, the Advanced Study Program has been a gateway to a continuing academic connection to MIT. He was selected to come to MIT as the 2006 US Air Force Lean Aerospace Initiative Fellow and admission to the Advanced Study Program provided the academic path into MIT classrooms. "My goal was to get a head start on classes before entering into the System Design and Management (SDM) master’s program in 2007."*
Mark says both formal academic work and informal connections to faculty and students continue to be valuable. "I really enjoyed the system project management and lean enterprise courses. They provided a very nice set of tools and techniques that will be useful in my career in Air Force space system acquisition management."
Outside the classroom, faculty and students make great colleagues and productive learning partners, he says. "Other students and professors can always point you to the right place or people to learn more about what is new in a vast array of topics."
Now Mark has taken the next step in his MIT education. "I have continued my education by joining the SDM ‘07 cohort, and this has continued building my connections and number of friends here at MIT. I hope to continue my connection to MIT for the rest of my career."
*Students who have successfully applied to MIT degree programs from the Advanced Study Program have independently met the full requirements of the admitting department's regular competitive graduate admissions process. The Advanced Study Program is a non-degree program and admission does not lead to an MIT degree.