“The years I spent at Boston University will never fade in my life, and obtaining my PhD from the Division of Systems Engineering is one of the proudest achievements I have ever made.
My PhD research focused on efficient Monte Carlo simulation methods for parameterized estimation with Control Variates approach. My advisor, Professor Pirooz Vakili, directed me from a little knowledge to a deep understanding of computational finance with his experience and keen ideas for research. I am eternally grateful for this experience, which equipped me with the confidence and bravery to face any uncertainties in the future.
The faculty in the Division of Systems Engineering are passionate and willing to share their research and perspectives. The weekly CISE/SE seminars exposed students to the research of others. The administrative staff were kind and warm, helping to take care of us in all aspects of life. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the program, I had opportunities to sit in courses in other departments at BU and at MIT and Harvard. BU provided me with the greatest resources and exposed me to many brilliant people from around the world.
Now I am an investment analyst at AXA UK, a leading company in insurance, financial protection and asset management with a history stretching back to the 18th century. Our team is managing 7 billion GPB assets for three main AXA operating companies with strategic asset allocation, tactical trading and asset liability management. My current responsibility is to monitor the risk of our portfolio and the market impact of short term economic capital by opportunistic trades.”
“Currently I am working as a Senior Operations Research Developer at Sabre Airline Solutions in Sabre Inc., which is a leading technology company in the travel industry. My work is to develop a pairing optimizer and crew controller, to provide crew pairing and rostering for more than 30 airline companies all over the world. The problems being handled are large-scale mixed-integer programming problems, which require solid optimization knowledge and understanding of large-scale cooperative systems. Without the knowledge I gained during my PhD study, I would not have gotten through the technical difficulties and fit into the group at Sabre as quickly as I did.”
Xiaojin Tang, SE PhD, 2013, Quantitative Research Analyst, State Street Global Advisors
“I vividly remember when I was indecisive in choosing between BU and another US top university. My advisor in Peking University told me ‘Go to BU, you will never regret it’. It turned out she was absolutely right. Boston University’s Systems Engineering program was relatively new at that time, but the professors have tons of experience and are full of passion. My first impression was everyone was so nice, enthusiastic and genuinely interested in the problems unsolved. Five years of study helped me build a solid foundation in domains like optimization, simulation and stochastic processes, which paved the way for my career.
I’m currently working for State Street Global Advisors, the world’s second largest asset manager, with over $2.0 trillion in assets under management. My group is responsible for developing, enhancing and maintaining quantitative stock selection models which are used to pick high-performing stocks for our clients. Our work requires advanced knowledge in statistics, econometrics and optimization.”
“I feel lucky to have spent my life as a PhD student at Boston University in the Division of Systems Engineering. The courses I’ve taken have enriched me with knowledge and power, and have continuing impact on my research and work. The knowledgeable faculty members in the Division of Systems Engineering were willing to discuss academic problems and gave encouraging and insightful advice. My fellow graduate students were nice and friendly. All those things I have mentioned provided an enjoyable and fulfilling environment.
My PhD research focused on developing a fast distributed approximate algorithm to solve The Maximum Independent Set Problems. I was lucky to have Professor Yannis Paschalidis as my adviser, an expert in the optimization area. We had regular meetings to discuss my research progress. During our meetings, Professor Paschalidis always pointed out the main goal of my research and led me through the tough path. I also had access to many resources I needed to help with my research.
After graduation, I started working at Google as a software engineer in an optimization team. It is really exciting to use what I’ve learned to solve real large-scale problems. My strong research background helps me a lot during the process. It would be hard for me without all those years I studied at Boston University.”
“I still remember freshly back to the summer of 2003, as a rising senior, I attended a lecture given by Professor Christos Cassandras, who was then visiting my alma mater—Tsinghua University (Beijing, China). I was immediately captured by the intricacy of discrete event system and the interesting problems that arise in the control and optimization of such systems. Prof. Cassandras encouraged me to apply to the Systems Engineering PhD program at BU, which I did, and it has been one of the best choices I’ve made in my life.
Systems Engineering is a new, interdisciplinary subject, and being a Systems Engineering graduate student, I had access to top faculties at all departments in the College of Engineering, as well as various laboratory facilities. There are limitless possibilities at BU. For example, in addition to my own affiliation with Prof. Cassandras’ CODES (Control Of Discrete Event Systems) lab, I was actively involved with the research in Prof. John Baillieul’s IML (Intelligent Mechatronics Lab) lab, even though it is in a different department. In both places I gained not only theoretical knowledge but also hands-on skills with which I applied the research results to some demo/proof-of-concept projects. Professors in the Division of Systems Engineering at BU are very encouraging and happy to facilitate students’ research ideas by providing resources and advice.
Currently I am a Senior Software Engineer at Akamai Technologies Inc. Started as an MIT spin-off, Akamai is the largest Content Delivery Network (CDN) company in the world. With more than 100,000 servers around the world, we constantly handle between 15% to 30% of global internet traffic. At work, I design innovative algorithms and software to direct user traffic across the internet, optimizing the end-user experience. It is a very difficult problem to solve even by academic standards, and we are doing it at scale in real-time.”
Yang Shen, SE PhD, 2008, Research Assistant Professor, Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago
“An interdepartmental program in a highly interconnected school of engineering, Systems Engineering at BU provided me with a unique opportunity to conduct interdisciplinary research in its non-typical area of computational biology. Coming from an engineering background, I have always had a strong interest in unraveling inner workings of biological systems and a desire to engineer them for therapeutic purposes, but I was not able to pursue these goals until I became a graduate student in the Division of Systems Engineering at Boston University.
I worked on developing new optimization methods to predict protein interactions that constitute the molecular basis of many important biological processes and are thus often drug targets. I was lucky to have a strong, multidisciplinary advising team, including Prof. Yannis Paschalidis, an expert in operation research who never tires of exploring new frontiers; Prof. Sandor Vajda, a biophysicist with profound background in mathematics and chemistry; and Prof. Pirooz Vakili, who specializes in stochastic processes and simulation and always offers his perspectives in an articulative way. The team directed me to understand the topic from biological and computational perspectives and encouraged me to cross disciplinary boundaries. I also had access to many resources, including taking courses in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Chemistry besides those in Systems Engineering, and getting advice from faculty members with expertise in biophysics, chemistry, mechanical engineering, and systems biology. Our research proved fruitful: it helped us win first place in a community-wide assessment of related methods and research grants funded by the National Institutes of Health.
After three years of being a postdoctoral associate at MIT, I recently started the position of research assistant professor at Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago, an academic institute in computer science on the campus of the University of Chicago. I look forward to developing interactions with computer scientists at the Institute and with chemists, biologists, and physicians at the University, and to continuing exploring unknowns and addressing challenges at multiple scales ranging from molecules to cells and to systems.”
“BU’s System Engineering program created a unique environment that allowed me to study complicated engineering systems from a broad and interdisciplinary angle. The program prepared me for my career in many ways:
• It offered a great set of courses that allowed me to go as broad and as deep as I wanted in the areas I was interested in pursuing.
• It provided a laboratory environment in multiple engineering fields that allowed me to gain hands-on experience in real engineering systems.
• Solving real, cross-domain engineering problems enabled me to work with people from different fields. Thinking from the whole system angle honed my ability to communicate and integrate my thoughts with those of others.”
Haining Yu, SE PhD, 2005, Manager, Operations Research within Decision Science Team, Walt Disney World
“The Systems Engineering program has had a decisive impact in shaping my career. The courses gave me a strong foundation in mathematical programming, probability and stochastic processes, and simulation. My advisor and committee members provided me constructive feedback for my research. Additionally I also had frequent opportunities to attend seminars from faculty and visiting scholars.
When I joined the industry after graduation, my training at the Systems Engineering program proved to be enormously helpful. At Walt Disney World, we seek to improve business decisions and enhance guest experience for our theme parks, media networks, movie studio and so on, all through analytics (see recent article from our college in ORMS Today for more information at http://www.informs.org/ORMS-Today/Public-Articles/April-Volume-39-Number-2/ROUNDTABLE-PROFILE). The complexity of the practical business problems forces us to creatively build analytic solutions from mathematical programming, simulation, and statistical methodologies. In hindsight, it would have been hard for me to tackle these problems without the training at Systems Engineering Programs.”
“It is a pleasure for me to share my experience at Boston University, Division of Systems Engineering. I happily remember the years I spent there as a PhD student, and can assertively say that my professional activities are well grounded in the good education I received. At BU I had the opportunity to take all the courses I needed to carry on my doctoral research. The number of students in each class was relatively small, which allowed me to closely interact with both faculty members and classmates. In addition, once I was more focused on my research, I had the privilege to periodically discuss my research progress with three faculty members and to regularly receive constructive feedback from them.
In my doctoral research, I focused on management decisions in the R&D process. In particular, I provided managerial guidelines to evaluate the development of high-tech products and to form R&D portfolios, under market and technical uncertainties. I worked closely with Professor Pirooz Vakili, my supervisor, to understand the impact of several sources of uncertainty in the project value. In addition, I followed up a startup company where a novel product, the scanning laser ophthalmoscope, was being developed. This interaction allowed me to apply the models I was developing and to gain practical insight.
After graduation I went back to my home country, Brazil, and started to work as an assistant professor at the Federal University of Minas Gerais. Yet I continued to conduct research with senior colleagues at BU, who mentored my first steps in my academic career. Furthermore, most of my research community is based in the US and the fact that I went to BU was crucial in connecting me with my research peers. For instance, in 2010 I was elected to be part of the board of the Technology Management Section of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Science (INFORMS)- a four years commitment plan. Last but not least, in 2009-2010, when I was on my sabbatical leave, I went back to the Systems Engineering Division and to the School of Management at BU as a visiting scholar to start new research endeavors. Needless to say, it was a very productive year.
In a nutshell, my years at the Division of Systems Engineering played a key role in shaping my analytical and critical reasoning. Not only was my professional activities deeply impacted by the education I received there, but also my personal life.”