Degree Requirements

The following requirements guarantee that Ph.D. students obtain a core of knowledge in Operations Research, yet allow substantial flexibility to pursue specialized interests. Evaluation procedures are designed to provide each student with timely information about her/his progress.

ORIE Ph.D. Handbook - Fall 2021 (PDF)
 

I. Major and Minor Subjects

All Ph.D. students in the Field of Operations Research major in the subject Operations Research and minor in at least two more subjects that can include Probability and Statistics, Mathematical Programming, Applied Mathematics, Computer Science, etc.

II. Course Requirements

The following requirements cover the first four semesters of Ph.D.-level work, during which your primary goal should be to obtain broad exposure to the discipline of Operations Research. These requirements are intended to provide such academic breadth..

  1. Core courses: Each student must know the content of the following courses:
    • ORIE 6300* Mathematical Programming I
    • ORIE 6500* Applied Stochastic Processes
    • ORIE 6700* Statistical Principles
    • MATH 4130** Introduction to Analysis
    • MATH 4330** Introduction to Algebra (emphasis on proof-based linear algebra)

    *Depending on background, a student may be allowed to bypass one or more of ORIE 6300, 6500, 6700. In each such instance, however, the student is still required to take the final examination at the end of the first semester of study; these final examinations become a part of the student’s Qualifying Examination (discussed later). On the other hand, if, for any course among these three, a student is not academically prepared to take the course during the first semester of study, it may be delayed until the third semester, with an appropriate preparatory course taken during the first year.

    **Whether a student should take MATH 4130 and/or 4330 is determined by the student in consultation with a designated Field member prior to the beginning of the first semester of study.
     
  2. Advanced courses: Students must perform well (A- or better) in three advanced Ph.D. courses with one course from three of the following four areas:
    • Applied Operations Research, 61XX and 71XX
    • Mathematical Programming, 63XX and 73XX
    • Probability, 65XX and 75XX
    • Statistics, 67XX and 77XX
    As a general rule, 6000-level ORIE courses, i.e., Ph.D.-level electives, are used to satisfy this requirement. With DGS approval, courses from other departments may also be used to meet this requirement.
     
  3. Computer literacy:
    • Each Ph.D. candidate must demonstrate computer literacy by taking an appropriate Ph.D.-level course.
    • This course may simultaneously satisfy another requirement; e.g., the simulation course ORIE 6580 would both establish computer literacy and fulfill an Applied Operations Research advanced course requirement (provided you receive at least an A- in the course).
       
  4. Course load:
    • In each of the first two semesters you are expected to enroll in at least three appropriately sophisticated, technical courses, each with adequate provision for evaluating student progress, e.g., through regularly scheduled lectures, homework assignments, and/or examinations.
    • Technical means courses in engineering, mathematics, or science, in addition to certain areas of business, such as quantitative finance or operations management.
    • Appropriately sophisticated means either at Ph.D.-level or at a level appropriate to a student’s background.
      • For example, someone who has taken an undergraduate class very similar to MATH 4130 should not enroll in this course, unless the former class was taken several years earlier – see II.A. note about consulting with a designated Field member.
    • In the third and the fourth semester you are expected to enroll in at least two appropriately sophisticated, technical courses as well as engage in research.
       
  5. Exceptions: Any deviation from the above requires the written approval of the Field’s Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). For example:
    • The computer literacy requirement may be fulfilled by completion of an appropriate project supervised by a Field member. These conditions must be met:
      1. 1. The supervising Field member must agree to the arrangement.
      2. Before beginning, you must submit a one-to-two-page project proposal to the DGS.
      3. The DGS consults with appropriate Field faculty and will decide whether the project meets this requirement.
      4. At the completion of the project, the supervising Field member submits to the DGS written certification that the work accomplished in the project meets the computer literacy requirement.
    • DGS approval is required for courses from other departments used to satisfy the Advanced Courses requirement. For example:
      • Several appropriate Ph.D.-level probability courses are offered by the Department of Mathematics.
    • Exceptionally well-prepared students beginning serious research investigation under the direction of a Field faculty member may seek DGS approval for using the course ORIE 7900 Special Investigations in satisfying the course load requirement.
      • The research project must be documented (at the beginning) by a student proposal approved by the supervising faculty member and (at termination) by a report from the faculty member on the work accomplished.
         

    III. Minor Subjects and the Special Committee

    • Each student forms a Special Committee no later than the fourth semester, although the composition of the committee may be changed at a later date.
      • Your Special Committee will be formalized in Student Center.
    • Your Special Committee will consist of at least three individuals:
      • The Chair, who will ultimately be your thesis advisor.
      • The Minor Advisors, at least one for each of your two minor subjects (see below).
        • You are welcomed and encouraged to have more than one advisor for your minor subjects.
    • Minors must be taken in engineering, science (including mathematics), or technical areas of business (e.g., finance).
      • You may petition for an exception
    • Of a student's two minor subjects, at least one must be from outside the Field of Operations Research.
    • A minor subject typically involves three Ph.D. courses—sometimes four—determined by the minor advisor in consultation with the student.
    • Required courses can count toward a minor; for example, OR&IE 6300(630) can count towards a minor in Mathematical Programming.
    • The role of each minor subject is to enhance the student's exposure to the subject, either in breadth or in depth, beyond the courses that would generally be included as part of the student's major program of study.
      • At least one minor should be entirely satisfied by courses different from those used to satisfy the course requirements for the Ph.D. program.
      • No course may be used to count simultaneously toward both minors.

    IV. Examination Requirements

    There are three mandatory examinations over the course of your Ph.D. program.

    Qualifying Exam

    • The Chair, who will ultimately be your thesis advisor.
    • The Minor Advisors, at least one for each of your two minor subjects (see below).
      • You are welcomed and encouraged to have more than one advisor for your minor subjects.
    • Minors must be taken in engineering, science (including mathematics), or technical areas of business (e.g., finance).
      • You may petition for an exception.
    • Of a student's two minor subjects, at least one must be from outside the Field of Operations Research.
    • A minor subject typically involves three Ph.D. courses—sometimes four—determined by the minor advisor in consultation with the student.
    • Required courses can count toward a minor; for example, OR&IE 6300(630) can count towards a minor in Mathematical Programming.
    • The role of each minor subject is to enhance the student's exposure to the subject, either in breadth or in depth, beyond the courses that would generally be included as part of the student's major program of study.
      • At least one minor should be entirely satisfied by courses different from those used to satisfy the course requirements for the Ph.D. program.
      • No course may be used to count simultaneously toward both minors.

      Admission to Candidacy Exam (The A Exam)

      • This exam is a formal requirement of the Graduate School.
        • Because the Special Committee often views passing your QE as demonstrative of your competence in the fundamentals of the Field, the A exam focuses instead on assessing your mastery of your areas of research.
      • It will typically be taken during your third year, and will be administered by your Special Committee (see Topic III above).
        • At the time of your exam, you must submit to the DGS a summary of the courses used to satisfy all program requirements.
        • In the rare event that not all coursework has been completed at this time, you will need to specify your intended courses for satisfying these requirements.
      • The format of the A exam is largely up to the discretion of your Special committee – in some cases, it is primarily a presentation of proposed research for a thesis, for others, it may follow the format of an oral examination.
        • Your Special Committee will be available for consultation on what you should expect in your A Exam.
      • A degree cannot be awarded until at least two units of residence have been earned after passing the exam.
      • There will be at least three examining members of the Graduate School present at your exam.
        • The DGS will ensure this many will be present if one or more members of your Special Committee are unavailable.
        • Any member of the Field may attend your exam.

      Final Exam (The B Exam)

      • This exam is your presentation and defense of your Ph.D. thesis.
      • It will also be announced as an ORIE colloquium.

      V. Student Progress Review

      Beginning in your second year and for the duration thereafter, Ph.D. students are required to meet annually with their Special Committee and complete a Student Progress Review (SPR) through the Graduate School’s online system.

      These forms help track progress towards your degree, but also serve as a useful record for you to refer to throughout your program and in preparation for your post-graduate career planning.

      Procedure

      • Schedule an SPR meeting with your Special Committee’s Chair.
      • Complete and submit your portion of the SPR form at least ten days prior to your scheduled meeting.
        • It may be saved as a draft, but a final deadline will be communicated to you (typically in late November).
        • Upon submission, it will be sent to your Committee Chair.
        • Information and links can be found on the Graduate School website under “Academic Progress” > “Requirements” > “Student Progress Review”.
      • Discuss your progress/planning with your Committee Chair.
      • They will submit their portion of the online form within the next two weeks. A final deadline will also be communicated to them.

      VI. Financial Support

      Financial support for Ph.D. students is provided through a combination of Fellowships, Teaching Assistantships (TA), and Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA). Every option will provide a stipend that covers housing and living expenses in Ithaca, a tuition waiver, and medical insurance. Many students also receive financial support during the summer semesters.

      Full funding for Ph.D. students is guaranteed through the fourth year. If it appears that you will need a fifth year (or beyond), funding is available through the University, but can not be guaranteed. External fellowships are an excellent option in this situation.

      Fellowships

      • A Fellowship provides financial support with no requirement that the student teach or conduct research in a specific group.
      • There are internal fellowships available for candidates nominated by the Field, including from Cornell University as a whole, the College of Engineering, and ORIE itself.
      • Students are heavily encouraged to apply for external fellowships, and the Field will support those applications every way that they can.
        • It is the student’s responsibility to understand and maintain their eligibility for the external fellowship.

      Teaching Assistantships

      • An appointment in support of teaching a particular course, supervised by the instructor of the course.
      • There is not a teaching requirement for the program, but students are encouraged to have at least one semester of TAing—being able to teach a subject is a demonstration of mastery.
      • The Graduate School mandates that a student must average 15 hours of work per week, with no one week going over 20.
        • You may have an additional part-time job with your TAship, but it can not be more than five hours a week. It is a federal law that a full-time student not work more than twenty hours in a given week, this is a nonnegotiable limit.

      Graduate Research Assistantship

      • An appointment with the primary responsibility of conducting research related to the student’s thesis.
      • Supervised by the student’s research advisor, though the supervisor may be different if the thesis is a collaboration between multiple faculty.
      • The duties of a GRA vary depending on the research areas and project, but goals and expectations should be clearly laid out at the start of the semester.
        • While there is no specific hours-based requirement for GRAs, they are still not permitted to take on outside employment that schedules more than 8 hours per week.

      VII. International Teaching Assistant Program

      Any student accepted into the Ph.D. program has already demonstrated a very high degree of proficiency with the English language. But if you had to submit TOEFL/IELTS scores with your application, you will be asked to complete an additional assessment and possibly complete a supplementary class before you can assume full TA duties.

      Oral Proficiency Interview

      • If your TOEFL Oral/Speaking score is 28 or over, or your IELTS is 8.5 or up, the OPI is not required and you will be assumed able to take on full TA responsibilities.
      • The interview itself takes between 15-30 minutes, with the shorter times typically seen in highly-proficient Graduates.
      • The OPI doesn’t just rehash what you did in your Oral/Speaking proficiency examination, it is geared towards assessing your proficiency specifically for teaching.
        • The ability to think on your feet and put complex interrelated concepts into words – while answering a question – is not something that is assessed in the TOEFL or IELTS, but those skills are very important in education.
        • If you are assessed at a lower proficiency than you expect, it is not a reflection of your general proficiency with the English language – it is a reflection of your readiness to teach in your second (or third, or perhaps even fourth) language. Teaching is difficult even in a first language; we want you to be as prepared as you can be.
      • There are different levels of proficiency given after an OPI:
        • Advanced Low (& Up) (74%): No additional training needed, you’re ready to assume the full duties of a TA including holding office hours and providing instruction.
        • Intermediate High (12%): You are able to TA, but will need to take ALS 5780 while you do it. The majority of these students will take ALS 5780 once before passing, after which they will be able to TA with no additional supplementation.
        • Intermediate Mid (14%): You will need to complete ALS 5780 before you can assume TA duties. If you were assigned a TAship in your first semester, you will still be able to perform tasks like grading and your funding will be secure, but you will not be able to become a full TA unless and until you pass ALS 5780.

      ALS 5780

      • A two-credit Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory class that is deliberately experiential and focused on improving oral English proficiency. It is highly interactive, and designed to give you many opportunities to practice English speaking skills.
      • The specific course strategies include small group seminars, bimonthly conferences with instructors, audio journals, and teaching practica.
      • The instructors and the team behind the program are well aware that their students are already taking on a heavy and complicated courseload—while the class is additional work, it is not meant to be burdensome. Taking the class, even concurrently with TAing, helps build skills that make your other classes easier.
      • While the class is not mandatory, it is very, incredibly, heavily recommended. Electing not to take it if you are assessed as needing it will not reflect well on you and will impact your ability to take on the duties of a TA in the future.

      VIII. Recent Ph.D.-Level Course Offerings

      In addition to the courses listed below, all Cornell students have the ability to take coursework outside of their area of study. You are encouraged to seek coursework within other departments, such as Computer Science, Statistics, or Computer and Electrical Engineering, among many others.

      Our students also enroll in coursework outside of OR and their minor fields, and in any given semester, our PhD students may be taking anything from Introduction to Wines to Fencing.

 

CourseNameCredits
ORIE 6125Computational Methods in Operations Research3
ORIE 6140Mathematical Modeling of Operational Systems2
ORIE 6154Revenue Management3
ORIE 6180The Design of Online Marketplaces3
ORIE 6300Mathematical Programming I4
ORIE 6320Nonlinear Programming3
ORIE 6326Convex Optimization3
ORIE 6328Convex Analysis3
ORIE 6330Graph Theory and Network Flows3
ORIE 6334Combinatorial Optimization3
ORIE 6335Scheduling Theory3
ORIE 6336Integer Programming3
ORIE 6340Mathematics of Data Science3
ORIE 6350Foundations of Game Theory and Mechanism Design3
ORIE 6500Applied Stochastic Processes4
ORIE 6510Probability4
ORIE 6520A Random Walk Through Applied Probability3
ORIE 6540Advanced Stochastic Processes3
ORIE 6555Stochastic Processing Networks3
ORIE 6560Multi-arm Bandit Models3
ORIE 6570Stochastic Dynamic Programming3
ORIE 6580Simulation3
ORIE 6590Approximate Dynamic Programming and Reinforcement Learning3
ORIE 6620Mathematics of Financial Systems3
ORIE 6630Risk Measures2
ORIE 6700Statistical Principles4
ORIE 6741Bayesian Machine Learning3
ORIE 6745Causality and Learning for Intelligent Decision Making4
ORIE 6746Theory of Causal Inference and Decision-Making1-3
ORIE 6750Optimal Learning3
ORIE 6751Data-Driven Optimization Under Uncertainty: Theory, Methods, and Current Trends3
ORIE 6780Bayesian Statistics and Data Analysis3
ORIE 7170Theory of Linear Models3

IX. University Resources

Cornell students are encouraged to make the most of their time with the University, and many resources are made available for students.

Career and Professional Development

ResourceURL
Careers Beyond Academiahttps://gradcareers.cornell.edu/
Pathway to Successhttps://gradschool.cornell.edu/pathways-success
Graduate Student Career Serviceshttp://www.career.cornell.edu/students/grad/index.cfm
Taxes FAQhttps://www.dfa.cornell.edu/tax/students/studenttaxfaq
International Students and Scholars Officehttps://globallearning.cornell.edu/
Student Health Planhttps://studenthealthbenefits.cornell.edu/plans/health/SHP/index.cfm
Students with Families Supporthttp://studentswithfamilies.cornell.edu/

Funding Opportunities

ResourceURL
Fellowships Offered by Cornell (Left Sidebar)http://www.gradschool.cornell.edu/costs-and-funding/fellowships
Graduate Fellowship Databasehttps://gradschool.cornell.edu/pathways-success
Graduate Conference Travel Grantshttp://gradschool.cornell.edu/forms
Child Care Grant Programhttp://studentswithfamilies.cornell.edu/students-with-children/student-child-care-grant/
Office of Sponsored Programs Opportunity Listhttps://www.osp.cornell.edu/Funding/funding_opps.html
NSF Graduate Research Fellowshipshttps://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2016/nsf16588/nsf16588.htm
NDSEG Fellowship Programhttps://www.ndsegfellowships.org/

Cornell Specific Resources

ResourceURL
Cornell Graduate School General Informationhttp://gradschool.cornell.edu/
Graduate School Resourceshttp://gradschool.cornell.edu/resources
Graduate School Policy and Regulationshttps://gradschool.cornell.edu/pathways-success
Cornell Code of Academic Integrityhttp://cuinfo.cornell.edu/aic.cfm
Health and Wellnesshttps://health.cornell.edu/services/counseling-psychiatry
Cornell Let's Talk (Drop-in Counseling)https://health.cornell.edu/services/mental-health-care/lets-talk

Rules, Guidelines, and Policies

ResourceURL
Grievance Procedureshttps://gradschool.cornell.edu/grievances- and-complaints
Title IX and Sexual Harassment Reportinghttps://titleix.cornell.edu/
Cornell Policy 6.3 (Consensual Relationships)https://titleix.cornell.edu/policy-6-3/
Cornell Policy 6.4 (Prohibited Bias, Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual and Related Misconduct)https://titleix.cornell.edu/policy-6-4/procedures/
Change in Special Committeehttps://gradschool.cornell.edu/academic-progress/requirements-milestones/special- committees/changing-your-committee/
Student-Advisor Mentoring Guidelineshttps://gradschool.cornell.edu/academic-progress/advising-guide-for-research-students-2020/
Responsible Conduct of Researchershttps://www.oria.cornell.edu/rcr/trainingRequirements.htm
Cornell Graduate School Formshttp://gradschool.cornell.edu/forms