CEE Student Spotlight: Liza Xu, LGO ’21

The MIT  Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) solves problems like optimizing automobile traffic flow, designing global logistics systems, and conducting environmental impact analysis. LGO students in Civil and Environmental Engineering have the flexibility to build their own curriculum from the ground up or take a pre-defined research area. Meet one of our current LGO students, Liza Xu, LGO ’21, who is pursuing an MBA and an MS in CEE.


What is your academic/professional background?

I earned an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering during which I did research for three years and considered getting a PhD. Instead, after graduation, I decided to enter industry through a rotational development program at Genentech, one of the founding companies of the biotech industry.  While there, I developed an interest in operations, specifically around continuous improvement, and supported our manufacturing network and roll-out of a Lean Production System.

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

Despite having rotated around different functions at Genentech, I didn’t have a strong background in supply chain and wanted to compliment my manufacturing knowledge with the other parts of operations. I also appreciated that many of the supply chain courses in CEE were cross registered with other departments such as Sloan and the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics, which results in a great mix of students with varying backgrounds.

Liza Xu, LGO Class of 2021

What has been your favorite class in the department?

One of my favorite classes so far has been Supply Chain Planning with Professor Sean Willems. This is a continuation of the introductory operations class that all the LGOs take as part of the summer core curriculum. The intent of the class is to provide insight into different modeling skills and ways to think about the design and planning of a supply chain. The course is taught through case method and forces people to think more holistically about the business implications of certain supply chain decisions. A key lesson that students take away is to “Simplify and accelerate” – there’s a lot to learn about a business from even the most basic models, so start there before trying to add on layers of detail.

Why is CEE a good fit for you?

CEE at MIT is very flexible in that students can choose to be quantitatively focused (e.g. complex stochastic modeling) or more business-oriented (e.g. interpreting business implications of an excel model). Although I don’t see myself pursuing an analytics career after LGO, I still wanted to ensure I had the opportunity to take the heavier quant classes to form a basic understanding of how data can be used in future business applications. CEE ultimately has provided a great balance between learning and applying the basic theories around supply chain.

Do you have any tips for CEE applicants?

I’d encourage any LGO applicant to think about why they’re interested in operations and how that aligns with their own career interests. Make sure that story line is clear and communicate how taking classes within CEE and other engineering departments can help.


By Liza Xu, LGO Class of 2021