What prospective PhD applicants can make out of the meeting?

(Originally posted in the 2014 INFORMS blog).

In 2012, I went to the INFORMS meeting in Phoenix aiming a bit of everything related to applying to PhD programs: I wanted to show my research work as a master’s student, engage with the ORMS community in as many ways as I could, get a feeling of what life as a graduate student in the US would be like, get to know more about the schools I was intending to apply, and even get acquainted with other areas of research that could interest me (an exhausting list just to read, isn’t it?).

Two years later, here I was in Phoenix again, waiting for my connection towards SF while writing this. Looking back at those days and thinking about the Portuguese poet who said that there is nothing that could not be made any better (which also means that there is infinite room for ORMS in anything!), I believe I did a good job back then. In many ways, that was thanks to amazing people willing to share their experience and give invaluable advice. The best thing about INFORMS is the people you get to know.

Even though things went well and I got where I wanted, I am an optimizer and I cannot help but think of how they could be even better. Hence, if I were to go back in time and talk to the 2012 Thiago Serra with all those goals in mind, the one thing I would say to him is to be even more ambitious in learning about other areas. This not only broaden your application perspectives, but is extremely important in the long run either in the academia or in the industry.

The only problem, of course, is that you will soon realize that you can easily end up with a conference schedule in which you are supposed to be in 2 or 3 places at each technical session. But this is the sort of problem one should be glad to have!

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