A PhD or a SM/MBA?

Every year LGO looks for the best and brightest engineers, scientists, and innovators to come in and become change makers in their field. Many times our prospective students and admits are weighing different options before saying yes to LGO. Read more from LGO 2021, Angela Murray, on her decision-making process between a PhD and the SM/MBA with LGO.


“Hello there! My name is Angela Murray and I am a new MIT Aero/Astro student in the LGO Class of 2021. Prior to LGO, I was working in the commercial avionics industry in LA as a software engineering manager. I really enjoyed working in industry but after 7 years I had reached a point where I wanted to take on a completely new kind of challenge and wanted to realign with my passions by pivoting to the space sector. When I started looking at graduate programs, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to deepen my technical knowledge by entering a PhD program or if I wanted to continue down the management path I had more recently embarked on. I began my research with MBA programs since that was less intimidating than the 5-6 year commitment of a PhD. I was intrigued by some of the top business programs but I feared I would not feel comfortable completely walking away from the technical side, so I began to re-entertain a long-ago plan to get a PhD in Astrodynamics. I delved further into research, talking to former professors, connecting with engineers in mission design at NASA’s JPL facility, and setting up calls with former classmates working at commercial satellite companies in both technical roles and business roles.

About a month into my exploration, I learned about the Leader for Global Operations (LGO) program by chance from a friend who had just visited Boston. I was really intrigued by the idea of working toward a masters in aeronautical/astronautical engineering and an MBA in parallel, especially from a university as prestigious as MIT. I began the application process for both LGO and PhD programs, asking for letters of recommendation, and working on essays and statements of purpose. At the time, I felt confident I wouldn’t get into any programs, but I was hopeful enough to try anyway. Fast forward a few months, I was lucky enough to get an interview at LGO, where I met some of my current classmates and friends and an interview for a PhD program, where I was really fascinated by the research being done in Geodesy. Not too long after, I was ecstatic to be offered admissions from both LGO and the research lab I was interested in. The next several months were torturous for me as I tried to decide which program offer to accept (although I was very aware of the fortunate position I sat in). Shortly before the admissions deadline for LGO, I attended the LGO adMIT weekend in Boston for admitted students. I was incredibly impressed by the community of accomplished people that I met and I believed that I was truly surrounded by tomorrow’s leaders. I was so compelled to be a part of this community that this is ultimately what solidified my decision to accept LGO.


It has been an exciting first few weeks of the summer semester packed with classes, workshops, social events, networking activities, and plant tours. Being on campus and connecting with my talented classmates has been a humbling experience but has reassured me that I made the right choice. Transitioning back to academia after 7 years in the work world has certainly been a challenge but being surrounded by this community has been tremendously motivating. One thing we all have in common is our love to learn. Despite being in the same classroom for nearly 7-8 hours some days, you can find almost the whole class in the LGO lounge down the hall after class, working on group projects, asking for help on problem sets, planning social events, and procrastinating case write ups by any means available. Our class of 45 already feels like a family.

My advice to any prospective students going through the graduate school research process is talk to as many current students and alumni as you possibly can. Talking to former, current, and other prospective students was the absolute best way to get a feel for life on campus and it is these people that really make your experience.”


By Angela Murray, LGO Class of 2021