Personal Statement of a MIT Pakistani PhD Student

Written by Talha Omer

June 19, 2014

10171662_10151913205886442_2087249612_n Personal statement’s are written and edited by Tim Cleary, the head of the admissions team at BrightLink Prep. He can be reached at info@brightlinkprep.com.

 

At one time, I thought that Pakistanis don’t apply to top global universities like the MIT’s, Stanford’s and Harvard’s. However of late I have been inclined to think that not only many students are applying but a few are also getting in – moreover they are kind enough to share their applications most crucial part to future aspirants from Pakistan; the personal statement.

Before you go on and read the sample PhD personal statement of this student (which I know you will without reading all this :P) I want to highlight the 3 key points that you must cover inside your PhD statement of purpose.

  • Why are you choosing this particular area of research – clearly state reasons of why you are interested in pursuing a PhD in this particular area. Convey your reasoning and motivation by giving concrete examples of relevant projects, research work etc. that you have done in this area.
  • Why you have chosen to apply to this particular university and department – is there any specific reason that why are you applying to this program; for example, special research facilities/equipment or faculty etc. that appeal to you?
  • Short and Long term Career objectives – at this point you may not have a clear idea of where you want your career to be at after completing your PhD, however you should at least have some loose ideas that you must write down in your statement of purpose.

Here is the personal statement of the MIT PhD Student from Pakistan

In today’s world, few have the chance to complete high school, even fewer get to go to college, and only a handful are fortunate enough to pursue graduate studies. Being born and raised in Pakistan, I have witnessed firsthand the disparity between the haves and the have-nots. My academic and professional endeavors over the past five years are an attempt at fulfilling the responsibility which comes with my good fortune of being in the “haves”. In what follows, I discuss how these experiences have shaped my interests and have led me to my pursuit of an academic career in Operations Research.

My scholastic voyage began with two research internships I had at Cornell during the summers of 2004 and 2005, where I worked at the Laboratory for Elementary-Particle Physics (LEPP) studying particle trajectories under electro-magnetic fields. My work resulted in a research paper titled “Emittance & Phase-space Distributions of Electron Bunches in Energy Recovery LINAC”, which was also presented at a LEPP seminar. In the summer of 2006 I declared my undergraduate major in Engineering Physics, a degree which fulfilled my need for mathematical rigor and my interest in the natural laws governing particle interactions. Subsequently, I began research at Cornell?s Laboratory for Plasma Studies studying the effects of thin-wire etch techniques on uniform plasma expansion, and developed software to analyze multi-wire experiments.

My first exposure to Operations Research was a course I took in linear-optimization during the fall 2006. I was particularly drawn to the subject having been introduced to the Simplex method, a seemingly simple algorithm boasting an impressive reputation for solving most real-world problems in polynomial time. As the semester progressed, I was able to draw beautiful parallels to familiar concepts from Physics; linear-programming bore an astonishing resemblance to Lagrangian multipliers used to find extrema of constrained functions, and duality seemed to be to linear-programming what Fourier transforms are to signal-processing.

During my junior year, I began pursuing a concentration in Operations Research alongside my coursework in Physics. In the summer of 2007, hoping to experience firsthand the application of the field?s tools in finance, I began an internship as an analyst with BlackRock?s Financial Modeling Group. There, I developed a time-series smoothing application for risk-analytics, and implemented a Kalman-filter to validate estimates of time-varying volatilities. The highlight of this experience came at summer?s end when I presented my work to the entire modeling group. This very positive first presentation experience in a professional setting kindled my interest for teaching. Returning as a senior that fall, I became an „Academic Excellence Workshop? facilitator for Calculus I, and subsequently for Linear Algebra. These weekly courses were designed to supplement the students? understanding of course material by having them practice on a challenging set of problems. Overall, teaching students and helping them solve problems was a unique experience I was fortunate to have.

Following graduation, and upon receiving a fellowship for academic excellence and graduate teaching-assistantships for courses in “Monte Carlo Simulation” and “Spreadsheet-based modeling”, I decided to pursue my Masters degree in Operations Research at Cornell. That summer I worked as a quantitative developer at Milcord LLC, a geospatial intelligence and knowledge management solutions company in Boston. My work involved developing belief-network models to predict geographic changes in insurgency, and prototyping a „dynamic risk-avoidance? GPS using a variant of Dijkstra?s algorithm. This experience helped me understand just how much industry relies on academia for insights into solving complex problems, and prompted me to pursue graduate coursework in “Discrete Models” and “Service Systems Modeling” back at Cornell. The first course built extensively on the foundations of linear-optimization, with a specific emphasis on graph theory, traveling salesmen problems, as well as a variety of network algorithms. The second course developed, through lectures and individual case-studies, the applications of optimization and queuing theory to radiation-therapy, ambulance deployment, and call-center staffing.

Beyond coursework, perhaps the single most defining experience I had as a graduate student was a semester-long group project sponsored by Iowa farm-owner, Clay Mitchell, and supervised by Prof. H. Topaloglu. Historically speaking, the farming industry has been constrained by the use of domestic animals as a source of power, but recent advancements in technology have opened the doors to a sea of innovation and possibilities. Our research aimed at assessing the feasibility of a farm-yield optimization by redistributing eroded top-soil from low-lying areas. We began by framing the problem as a series of “soil pick-up and drop-off” requirements satisfied in some optimal manner. Our first breakthrough was the realization that by assuming prior knowledge of these requirements, the problem simplified into finding a minimum-cost traversable path. Further, by discretizing the farmland into soil “supply” and “demand” regions, the task of generating profit-maximizing requirements assumes the structure of a classic assignment problem.

I took the initiative to develop an integer-program which solved for Manhattan-paths that fulfilled soil-redistribution requirements for this project. As it turns out, solving this formulation optimally was intractable for any reasonably sized grid and requirement set, and thus I proposed an iterative method for solving the problem. Subsequently, we used simulations to develop criteria that guaranteed no substantial loss in optimality. The highlight of working on such a novel project was being able to dissect formulations to understand the sensitivity of our solutions to perturbations in key parameters and constraints. Our project won 2nd place in the Silent Hoist & Crane Company competition for best Masters-of-Engineering project, and received special coverage in the „Cornell Daily Sun? newspaper.

Recent decades have seen a fundamental shift in the market landscape, with e-commerce businesses like Vistaprint taking full advantage of the internet. Being particularly intrigued by its value proposition and marketing strategy, I began my first full-time position with Vistaprint?s Customer Analytics department in July of 2009. My work thus far has entailed using an assortment of clustering and predictive modeling techniques to develop preference models, as well as creating a performance monitoring system for key business metrics. Here, not only have I acquired a diverse set of analytical skills, I have also developed an admiration for research in its ability to tackle complex problems arising in practice. This, along with my teaching experiences, is what has inspired me to pursue a PhD in Operations Research.
Through my coursework and internship experiences, I have developed interests in stochastic modeling and data-mining. Specifically, I am interested in pricing and capacity allocation problems arising in revenue-management, as well as dynamic lot-sizing models that govern order-replenishment in supply-chains. Because decision problems in these settings involve complex networks, multiple periods, and a large number of products, I have also taken a keen interest in stochastic approximation methods.

I believe MIT?s Operations Management program is particularly well-aligned with my interests, and find Professor Farias and Perakis?s research in pricing and revenue management particularly appealing. In “Optimal Bidding in Online Auctions”, G. Perakis et al. adopt a dynamic programming framework to derive exact optimal bidding solutions for both single and multiple items in an online auction. The authors test their results on real data from eBay?s website and show how the optimal solution outperforms „static heuristics? which have become industry standard. Today, competition in the marketplace is compelling companies to become increasingly creative in persuading their customers to buy. Apart from the familiar „limited time? and price hurdled offers, online auctions have become an integral part of e-commerce business in the last decade. This paper clearly demonstrates how OR is both changing the way we think about such problems, and continuously improving upon existing solutions to drive efficiency and profitability. As an aspiring academician, I look forward to contributing to this effort.

The interdisciplinary nature of OM at MIT Sloan stems from the diverse backgrounds of its faculty and students; in turn, this enables the program to span the spectrum of cutting-edge applied and theoretical research in OR. Given the range of professional experiences I have had over the years, being a PhD student in this department would be the ideal start to my academic career. I believe strongly that this program will not only fulfill my passion for applying mathematical theory to solving complex problems, but will also give me the opportunity to leverage my analytical skills and industry experience to contribute to the program’s intellectual diversity.

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52 Comments

  1. Avatar

    I want to study abroad fot master’s. Plz send me a suitable scholarship link. Regards

    Reply
    • Talha Omer

      You can check the Fulbright program.

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    I seriously need help in preparing GRE. I live in Karachi and couldn’t find any better teacher here who can help me on that

    Reply
    • Avatar

      I am facing a similar problem though magoosh and manhattan materials have made it frivolous. There is a single book for GRE in Defence Central Library which is KaPlan’s GRE verbal book, and no one picks it up, except me. GRE is undoubtedly undervalued here.

      Reply
  3. Avatar

    Dear Talha Omer,
    I would like to thank you first for taking such an initiative in guiding your country students regarding applying to USA and I appreciate and acknowledge that.
    I am actually a Final year Electrical Engineering student from Mehran University of Engineering & Technology, Pakistan and I wish to apply to MIT for graduate studies for the fall 2015. However , I am getting it quite difficult to write a clear Statement of Purpose Since I do not have any research experience which I could highlight and detail my future research interest.I actually read an SOP of a Pakistani Student who got admission to MIT that was posted on your blog.Keeping that in reference, we do not have such privileges to work or research like that being in Pakistan during undergraduate studies.So , the point is , what to write in an SOP for MIT?
    Please guide me to make my career successful..

    Reply
    • Talha Omer

      Hi Rooh, I guess i replied to your query on the email as well 🙂

      Reply
      • Avatar

        i have the same question. please kindly post your recommendations here or email me ASAP

        Reply
      • Avatar

        Hi,
        I have the same question to Talha omer. So what should I do, who have higher CGPA and GRE score but don’t have enough research experience. What can we write?

        thanks
        Sazed

        Reply
        • Talha Omer

          Hello Sazed, Well in that case you must focus on your work experience (if any) or internships relevant to the program. But do note that for top programs research is sort of mandatory because then you don’t have much meat to write.

          Reply
      • Avatar

        Talha great work, can you email me as well as I also need help in this regard (Statement of Purpose).
        Email: hinakhalid22@yahoo.com

        Reply
    • Avatar

      To think, I was coesfund a minute ago.

      Reply
  4. Avatar

    I want to get admission in MIT Mathematics Graduate School but I have low CGPA. If I perfrom well in GRE General and GRE Subject tests, then will scores of these tests enhance my chances to get in MIT?

    Reply
    • Talha Omer

      Hi Muddassir, Yes of course – i have a student with a 3.11 GPA and GRE of 331 and a perfect subject test score who made it to MIT

      Reply
  5. Avatar

    Hi , I am an Olevel student studying in beaconhouse karachi , and its my dream to do bachelors in engineering from MIT. I would appreciate it if you help me and guide me during this journey. Here’s my email : shaiqrehman@gmail.com , please get in touch with me ASAP 🙂 you are an inspiration to me 🙂

    Reply
  6. Avatar

    Well my question is related to first line of SOP which states that i.e. “In today’s world, few have the chance to complete high school, even fewer get to go to college, and only a handful are fortunate enough to pursue graduate studies.” Is is not it reverse the case, in today’s world more people going to schools and colleges” ?

    Reply
  7. Avatar

    Hi Talha, how important is it to have done masters in the US before applying to MIT for PHD in engineering? Thanks 🙂

    Reply
    • Talha Omer

      It depends on your profile actually. I have had a few students who would go directly for a PhD to MIT after their undergrads simply on the basis of their research work and publications. While many with an MS would not make it. I think it is the overall package that would determine your chances.

      Reply
  8. Avatar

    Aoa Sir I have done By Bsc hons in environmental sciences and MS in Disaster Managment From NUST.i have 6 publications 3 National 2 International 1 in National Conference 2 Internships 1 Community work Experinece Currently working as DRR Officer at Mercy corps International NGO.I want to do PHD in Disaster Mangement and want to avail full bright Schlorship Kindly suggest me something Really Thankfull to you regards

    Reply
    • Talha Omer

      Hey – that is an awesome profile. Now just give the GRE exam and apply next year. Your chances are V HIGH.

      Reply
  9. Avatar

    I am a student of A level in lahore.
    (I have 9 A* in O level, which i know wont be of much help.)
    And i want to get in MIT for undergraduate in engineering.
    How well can be my chances and what should i do.?

    Reply
    • Talha Omer

      Well unless you don’t have the SAT’s and the subject tests it will be hard to tell.

      Reply
      • Avatar

        Well,
        i’ll be giving the SAT’s ,the new one, and probably the subject tests also.
        I was trying to know wether i could do other things that would help my application apart from the academics. E.g any project, internship.
        Thank you for the response.

        Reply
        • Talha Omer

          Yes definitely they will greatly help you. Internships and Volunteer work especially.

          Reply
  10. Avatar

    Talha omer
    kindely help me to write a statement of purpose for higher education commission (Hec oversease scholarship (PHD in finance). i will be wait for your answer.

    Reply
    • Talha Omer

      Hi Shahid – can you contact us at 0323-4096656 please – let’s discuss

      Reply
  11. Avatar

    I also want to apply for Hec overcseas scholaship for P.hd in Computer science.how to write POS?suggest please.

    Reply
  12. Avatar

    Hi!
    I also want to apply for HEC scholarship for phd in computer science.how to write P urpose of satemnet for it?reply please

    Reply
  13. Avatar

    hi Talha thanks for sharing can you kindly share his profile too..

    Reply
    • Talha Omer

      Well we share all the info that the student has agreed to share with us 🙂

      Reply
  14. Avatar

    Dear Sir,
    I want to get admission into MIT for Phd in Electrical Engineering. I can prepare for it as much as I can. I have CGPA 3.7+ in Masters and 3.1+ in bachelors. The problem is that MIT don’t offer the admissions after Masters and I have low gpa in BS. kindly guide me what steps should I take. I can’t sleep at night just because of

    Reply
    • Talha Omer

      Hello Abdul – can you please contact us at 0323-4096656 to discuss your specific case with us. Thanks

      Reply
      • Avatar

        Sorry Sir, I didn’t get the notification for your reply. I will contact you.

        Reply
  15. Avatar

    Hello,
    I hope you are well. I have done Masters in TESOL with 3.34 Cgpa, what are the prerequisites for PhD in English language and applied linguistics? Do I need to complete my M.Phil first? Where should I begin?

    Reply
    • Talha Omer

      Hello – Yes you have to complete your MPHIL get a couple of int’l research publications and then apply 🙂

      Reply
  16. Avatar

    I need Statement of pupoose for phd in cs hec scholership whose last date is 31-june kindly send me at iqbal.parvi@yahoo.com thanks

    Reply
  17. Avatar

    Hello Talha! I just graduated with 2.7GPA BS Computer Science from Bahria University and have 3-4 months experience. Please tell me that how much GRE would be required for me to get in MSCS at LUMS?

    Reply
    • Talha Omer

      Hello Ahmed, anything above 165 on quant and 145 on verbal

      Reply
  18. Avatar

    Can students avail Fulbright after MBBS

    Reply
    • Talha Omer

      Yes they can – for non clinical programs

      Reply
  19. Avatar

    Dear Sir,

    I want to apply for Commonwealth Scholarship for Phd Civil Engineering. I have to submit SOP. Kindly guide/send me the sample SOP.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Talha Omer

      Hello – you can call us at 0331-4513196 to discuss SOP and how to draft it!

      Reply
  20. Avatar

    Hlello sir I am a student of sexond year and I want tp do my bachelors abroad. How much SAT score do i require ?

    Reply
  21. Avatar

    Hy I want pursue post graduate degree in US. But as u have mentioned your achievements ,mine are very mediocre ones.. Do I have chance to get enrolled in US .and how can write a good sop.

    Reply
    • Talha Omer

      Well in that case you can apply to slightly lower ranked programs which are not that competitive.

      Reply
  22. Avatar

    i have done electrical engg from NFC IEFR Fsd with cgpa of 3.21. i have A+in final year project. my final year project is a unique one. i done two internships in my 2nd and 3rd year. now i have about 2 years industrial technical experience. i am position holder in school and college. i got an appreciation letter during internship from the company. with these achievement can i get admission into any QS ranked top 50 university (subject wise ranking).

    Reply

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