Student Testimonials

Ryan Cory-Wright

Ryan Cory-Wright

Ryan Cory-Wright

Doctoral Student

I chose to do a PhD at MIT’s OR Center because of its collaborative nature, focus on performing world-class research, and the vibrant tight-knit student community. After nearly three years (as of writing this) at the ORC, I can unequivocally say that choosing MIT was the right decision for me. MIT offers everything necessary to obtain a high-quality PhD, from world-class faculty who are genuinely interested to hear about your research, to friendly other students who are willing to help you debug a proof, go for a hike in the White mountains, or just catch up while grabbing coffee. Ultimately, for me the biggest selling point of the ORC is the strength of the student body. For instance, there have been many occasions where I have Googled a very obscure Julia issue only to find that it was resolved on GitHub/StackExchange by a fellow ORC student.

Having moved to Boston from the other side of the world, I have also found settling into Cambridge to be much easier than I originally anticipated. You can get to essentially anywhere in Cambridge/Boston by either taking a 15-minute bike ride or jumping on the Red Line. Additionally, the Charles river offers picturesque running (especially in Fall), and New Hampshire’s White Mountains are only a couple of hours drive away and very accessible for a weekend hike. The winter also isn’t as long as you might think-especially if you take something like running, rock-climbing or skiing up to get you active and outside.

Finally, as a prospective student, picking your advisor is perhaps the most important decision which you make during your PhD. For this reason, I strongly recommend attending the open house and meeting potential advisors. The open house allows you to get an idea of which advisor best suits you, in terms of both personality fit and mutual research interests (of the two, personality fit is at least as important as overlapping research interests). In this regard, a great way to figure out whether you and a potential advisor can work productively together is to talk to several of their current students in an informal setting at the open house. I’ll also add that it’s ok to not know precisely what you want to work on when you first start your PhD. In fact, most students' research interests evolve as they garner more knowledge and mature as scientists.

Arthur Delarue

Arthur Delarue

Arthur Delarue

Doctoral Student

Getting a PhD at MIT was the right decision for me for several reasons. It means I am part of a rigorous academic program that challenges me every day to find creative solutions to important problems. As an interdepartmental graduate program, the ORC has a pretty unique status in the MIT archipelago, and it’s easy to grab a canoe and explore other fields by taking classes, going to talks or collaborating with researchers in economics, computer science, health care, finance, and many more. Most importantly, being a graduate student at the ORC means being part of a community of incredibly driven students with diverse backgrounds and interests, working on many different problems, and always happy to discuss a new idea or perspective. Finally, I love living in Cambridge: it’s a young, vibrant (and walkable!) city where there’s always something happening.

If you are thinking of coming to the ORC for graduate school, I would recommend choosing your advisor wisely. As a graduate student, your relationship with your advisor is by far the most important relationship in your professional life, and will be a huge influence in your development. The ORC has many world-class faculty working on a lot of different problems, so whatever your interests you will probably find an advisor who is excited about working with you. When you come to the open house and meet with faculty, try to picture yourself working with them regularly for a long period of time. And of course, most important of all, try to talk to as many of a particular advisor’s students as possible to get a sense of what working with them is like. Are they more hands-on? hands-off? do they prefer longer or shorter meetings? what is it like working on an industry collaboration? At the end of the day, ORC faculty care about the success of every single student and so it’s really a matter of finding the right fit for you.

Michael Li

Michael Li

Michael Li

Doctoral Student

Unlike many others here, I was initially unsure about pursuing a PhD altogether. I was worried about competing in an environment where everyone is academically brilliant, and the pressure that could result from it. However after 3 years here, I am happy to say that all of my doubts have been proven completely wrong. The ORC is a tight-knit and extremely friendly community where everyone genuinely tries to help out one another. Collaboration between students are frequent, and given the interdisciplinary nature of ORC, you will constantly hear new ideas from vastly different fields (and go to classes in unrelated departments!). The advisors and the directors genuinely look out for the students and have our best interests in mind. I couldn’t imagine being happier elsewhere.

The main advice I have for you, if you are thinking about ORC, is to choose your advisor carefully. Being an interdisciplinary program means that the range of advisors are wide, and there might be many that match to your interests. Since your advisor is someone you would be in constant contact for the next few years, academic alignment is not sufficient for the best outcome. I strongly suggest you to reach out to former students and current students at the ORC to understand better the personality and the philosophy of each advisor to see if you match.

As for Boston, growing up in many different cities around the world, Boston is definitely one of the friendliest cities to live in as an international member. The large student population cultivates many unique and exciting communities, and the city itself also has a lot to offer, from historical buildings to music concerts and theatre that are generally reachable by public transport. The growing biotechnology and innovation scene means that a lot of the world’s top companies have sites here, so you can get an internship just steps away. Despite what one might say about the winter weather, skiing and hockey more than makes up for it. I’m sure you can find your own place in Boston.

Zhen Lin

Zhen Lin

Zhen Lin

Doctoral Student

I chose to become a PhD student at MIT ORC because I was interested in solving important problems in an interdisciplinary and collaborative environment. This decision was definitely a significant step for me. In fact, what I have got from studying at MIT ORC is way beyond my expectations. The courses taught by knowledgeable faculty members have inspired me to approach problems from creative perspectives. The advisors at ORC can always give excellent suggestions that guide students through their research. Being challenged by the fast-paced PhD life at ORC has made me a much better researcher. Plenty of academic seminars are valuable opportunities to meet people from different backgrounds. It is true that PhD is hard, but pursuing it at MIT with talented classmates from all over the world has been one of the most exciting parts of my life.

I enjoy living in Cambridge. The beautiful views of the Charles River and the fresh air always put me in a great mood. Exploring the area with the warm company of friends and enjoying delicious food are perfect ways to slow down a bit and reduce stress. This is the best place where you can work hard to positively impact the world while enjoying your life!

Yu Ma

Yu Ma

Yu Ma

Doctoral Student

Looking back, I could not think of another place that I would enjoy as much as the ORC to complete my PhD study. Personally, the ORC gave me access to a close-knit community of talented, caring and hard-working people. The peers and faculties not only support my aspirations and endeavors, but also motivate me to become a better person every day. Academically, the ORC provides unparalleled research opportunities. Here, you are challenged to understand the fundamentals of important problems and to create innovative solutions that can truly make impacts in the world. Close to many major firms and other research universities, the ORC will allow you to collaborate within and beyond the MIT campus. If you have ambitious ideas you would like to see into action, the ORC is definitely the place for you.

One advice for perspective students is to choose your advisor carefully. Besides academic research interests, think of someone who you can trust personally, a mentor whose core values align with yours. The style of their advising also plays a crucial part of your interaction with them: would you like to have someone more engaged, or someone more “hands-off”? Reach out to current or former students to find out.

After living in California for 8 years, I was ready to venture out to new exciting places, especially the East Coast. It was no surprise to me that I instantly fall in love with Boston as soon as I arrived. Around the Cambridge area, there are countless beautiful hiking destinations as well as natural parks, such as the Middlesex Fells Reservation and Boston Commons. When winter comes, you also have access to a wealth of skiing resorts and ice skating rinks close by as well. Overall, the people here are kind and sincere, and there are many fun activities to keep yourself busy.

Agni Orfanoudaki

Agni Orfanoudaki

Agni Orfanoudaki

Doctoral Student

Studying at the Operations Research Center has been one of the best decisions of my life! It is a truly unique environment that combines high quality faculty with intelligent and aspiring young researchers that work jointly to tackle some of the most important problems in the world. In the ORC, I found people dedicated to a wide range of fields, from transportation, security, medicine, finance to airspace engineering.  Diversity does not come only due to the breadth of applications encountered in research. The members of our community come from very different academic backgrounds, nationalities and industry experiences, sharing their passion for learning and creating new solutions for real-world challenges. As a student at the ORC, you will have the chance to attend courses from any department of MIT that you might be interested in. However, I realized over the past years that it was the vibrant and collaborative environment of the Center that benefited me the most.

Settling into Cambridge as a foreign student, proved easier than what I originally imagined. The city is very international, full of young and brilliant students from all over the world. The historic city center has so much to offer that I am still exploring after living here for three years. Sports, arts, and social activities are also part of our everyday life. Winter might seem long, but there are various opportunities to go for throughout the year!

Holly Wiberg

Holly Wiberg

Holly Wiberg

Doctoral Student

The vibrant community and research opportunities sold me on attending the Operations Research Center for my PhD. From my first visit to the ORC as a prospective student, I have been impressed by the camaraderie and mentorship found throughout the center. There are always other students eager to give advice on courses, study together for midterms, or just catch up over lunch or a coffee break. Everyone comes from diverse nationalities, academic backgrounds, and industry experiences, but there is a shared passion for learning and tackling challenging problems. This fosters a dynamic and hard-working environment that makes me excited to go into the ORC every morning.

I was also drawn to the ORC's breadth of healthcare work, from personalized medicine to operational challenges. After working at a healthcare technology company for a year, I developed a passion for healthcare and decided to go back to school with a goal of applying Operations Research to this field. I have also enjoyed the opportunity to get involved in research from day one: in this first year, I have had the opportunity to interact with clinicians and healthcare researchers which has given me an interdisciplinary perspective. MIT also has an ideal location for medical work due to its proximity to major hospital systems and the biotech community.

Finally, as a native Bostonian, I am a huge fan of the area. There is a lot of (well-justified!) hometown spirit in this city, from its rich history to fantastic sports teams. It is small enough to feel like home quickly, but there are always new things to explore and discover as well. MIT’s Kendall Square location provides easy access to Boston and Cambridge, and it is also a beautiful area- nothing beats walking along the Charles River at the edge of campus in the fall. Between the student community, academic environment, and location, I could not be happier to have ended up in the Operations Research Center at MIT.

Matthew Yuan

Matthew Yuan

Matthew Yuan

Masters Student

The ORC is a great place to be. Its location in Cambridge is a vibrant community, buzzing with an intellectual and exciting atmosphere. The faculty are world class, tackling important topics in healthcare, transportation, scheduling, and other topics.

But without a doubt, the best part of life at the ORC is the students. Just like the diversity of the OR field, the students have a diverse array of research interests and academic backgrounds. They also represent all corners of the world and have many different life experiences. Every day at the ORC, you can hear lively discussions among students discussing coursework, research, or other exploratory topics.

If you were to decide to join the ORC, I would advise you take advantage of the myriad of opportunities that will become available to you. This includes finding an advisor that suits your research interests and working habits with whom you can synergize. Joining an academic or extracurricular group also provides you with great developmental opportunities. You will be among the best at the ORC, so enjoy the opportunity and accomplish your goals.