Aero/Astro Student Spotlight: Caitlin Auffinger, LGO ’21

Only at MIT can you do an MBA and specialize in aerospace engineering at the same time. Students who complete the LGO program through MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics are uniquely prepared for a leadership career in the aerospace industries. Meet one of our current LGO students, Caitlin Auffinger, LGO ’21, who is pursuing an MBA and an MS in Aero/Astro.


What is your academic/professional background:

  • B.S. Aerospace Engineering, MIT, 2015
  • Boeing Research & Technology, Chemical Technology, 2015 – 2019

Why did you decide to pursue an MS in AA from MIT?

In the long term, I want to be a technology leader in the aerospace industry. I have seen how important it is for leaders of engineers to establish credibility, so I knew I wanted an MS. I was slightly biased since I completed my undergrad at MIT, but for me, LGO was worth the risk of leaving work for two years to study full time, and I knew it would be a fun challenge.

What has been your favorite class in the department?

1.233J/16.763: Air Transportation Operations Research with Prof. Hamsa Balakrishnan and Prof. Peter Belobaba

After taking Intro to Operations Management, this class made it really clear how airlines are following the same operational playbook as anyone else except that they have bizzarely intricate constraints that are difficult to predict and expensive to adapt to, along with customers who want a set schedule. Couple that with unraveling the mystery of revenue management, and it was an eye opening class!

Why is AA a good fit for you?

I can’t get away from new technology, or aerospace tech in particular. I know technology is often incorrectly touted as the savior, while there are other often better ways of impacting businesses (ex. cost structure), but I’ll always be drawn to the aerospace industry and cutting edge research. Since there are good applications for both strategies, I’ll stick with the side that’s most motivating to me.

What is your favorite part about being a part of the MIT School of Engineering?

Sloan is its own tight-knit bubble at MIT, which is great, but there is also the entire rest of MIT that we are often tempted to forget about since Sloan’s pull is so strong. Being part of an engineering department motivates me to get involved in initiatives outside of Sloan and LGO, of which there are many!

Aero/Astro Student Spotlight: Caitlin Auffinger, LGO '21
Caitlin in the air traffic control tower at Reagan National Airport, D.C.

Do you have any tips for AA applicants?

AA admissions are unique from most other LGO engineering disciplines in that, instead of being admitted as part of a general cohort, you are admitted to a lab to study under a specific PI, so the more you can lean into why you’re a good fit for the department, the better. I get frustrated when I see MBA applicants needlessly focusing on stats. Meanwhile, the thing I spent my application time on was a video featuring me pretending to be a flight attendant (safety belt demo and all!) as I discussed learning about how to leverage team member strengths and weaknesses for an airline start-up class project. Prior to submitting, I got feedback on my application that it was a little too sky-high. I kept it as is because in Aero/Astro, there is no such thing! Tell your story about why you fit into the culture of LGO, and be true to yourself in doing so. I hope it will serve you well.


By Caitlin Auffinger, LGO Class of 2021