Operations, Information & Technology Requirements

I. Preparation

Students admitted to the Operations, Information, and Technology (OIT) program typically have had substantial preparation in various aspects of mathematics. The faculty assumes that students are familiar with calculus (to the level of an undergraduate course in “advanced calculus”), linear algebra, real analysis, and probability.

Admitted students may not have encountered linear programming, constrained optimization, microeconomics, or statistics. Students without background in any of these areas will find it useful to do some reading prior to entering the program. Textbooks that are prescribed for junior/senior-level undergraduate courses in these areas are appropriate reading material.

II. Course Requirements and First Year Field Exam

All required courses must be taken for a grade (not pass/fail or credit/no credit). Exceptions are made if the required course is offered pass/fail or credit/no credit only. Each course must be passed with a grade of P (GSB courses) or B- (University courses) or better. OIT students are expected to fulfill the course requirements with a preponderance of H and A grades. Substitutions of required courses require approval from the faculty liaison. Waiving a course requirement based on similar doctoral level course completed elsewhere requires the approval of the course instructor, faculty liaison, and the PhD Program Office.

Students are expected to complete required courses in years 1 and 2.

Topic Courses
First Year Field Exam (4 courses)

The first year field exam, administered in the summer of a student’s first year, covers mathematical models and methods from two foundational areas: applied probability and stochastic processes and mathematical optimization.

Students are required to take four courses in the first year that will prepare him or her for the field exam. Depending on the student’s academic background, the student may need to take up to six courses to prepare for the field exam. Stanford and GSB course offerings may vary from year to year. Students should consult their faculty liaison about course selections every quarter in preparation for the field exam.

Applied Probability and Stochastic Processes
  • STATS 310A Theory of Probability I
  • MS&E 321 Stochastic Systems
Mathematical Optimization
  • MS&E 310 Linear Programming
  • EE 364A Convex Optimization I OR MS&E 311 Optimization
Recommended Courses
  • STATS 217 Introduction to Stochastic Processes I
  • MATH 171 Fundamental Concepts of Analysis*

*This course is recommended for students with less preparation in real analysis and cannot be used as a substitute for the stochastic requirements.

Operations, Information, and Technology Courses (5 courses + ROIT)
  • OIT 652 OIT Modeling
  • OIT 644 Research in Operations, Information, and Technology (every quarter in years 1-4)
OIT Foundations

Students take two OIT foundations courses during years 1-3. The topic will alternate yearly among the following: asymptotics in operations, supply chain management, and revenue management. If none of the courses are offered in a certain year, students should consult with the faculty liaison.

  • OIT 664 Foundations in OIT: Asymptotics in Operations Management
  • OIT 655 Foundations in OIT: Foundations of Supply Chain Management
  • OIT 668 Foundations in OIT: Networks and Markets
OIT Electives

Students take two OIT elective courses from the list below. If none of the courses listed below are offered in a certain year, students should consult with the faculty liaison. 

  • OIT 604 Data, Learning, and Decision Making
  • OIT 606 Advanced Topics in Optimization
  • OIT 648 Empirics of Online Markets
  • OIT 666 Engineering Online Markets
  • OIT 674 Decision Making and Learning under Model Uncertainty
Dynamic Optimization (1 courses)
  • MS&E 351 Dynamic Programming and Stochastic Control

Possible substitutes (with faculty liaison approval):

  • CS 234 Reinforcement Learning
  • CS 238 Decision Making Under Uncertainty
  • MS&E 322 Stochastic Calculus and Control
  • MS&E 338 Reinforcement Learning
Game Theory and Microeconomics
(2 courses)
  • ECON 202 Microeconomic I*
  • ECON 203 Microeconomics II

*GSBGEN 675 Microeconomic Theory or MGTECON 600 are possible substitutes for this course.

Statistics and Econometrics
(1 course)

Choose one course from the following*:

  • MGTECON 604 / ECON 271 Econometric Methods II
  • STAT 305A Applied Statistics I

Possible substitutes:

  • MGTECON 605 Econometric Methods III
  • MGTECON 607 / ECON 272 Intermediate Econometrics III

*Students with no background in statistics are encouraged to take MGTECON 603 / ECON 270 Econometric Methods I in addition to the requirement above.

Behavioral Decision Making
(1 course)
  • ECON 278 Behavioral and Experimental Economics I

III. Practicum

Students are required to sign up for either research or teaching practicum each quarter of enrollment. Below is a description of the practicum requirements for OIT students.

Year 1: In each quarter of the first year, students are required to attend the OIT seminar and during Winter and Spring quarters, students work (2 hours/week) with a faculty member (different faculty in each quarter) on a research project. Assignment of students to faculty is performed by the PhD Liaisons at the end of the fall quarter (using knowledge of student and faculty interest). After the completion of the first year field exam, students are expected to work with a faculty member of their choice on a research project, which typically continues onto year 2.  

Year 2: In each quarter of the second year, students are required to attend the OIT seminars, and work with a faculty member of their choice on a research project. Students may sign up for a teaching practicum with an OIT faculty in order to fulfill part of the teaching requirement (see below).

Years 3-5: In each quarter of the third, fourth, and fifth years, in addition to attending OIT seminars, students will work with a faculty member of their choice on a research project. Fifth year students are expected to attend OIT regularly, and present their work in the seminar during the 5th year. During years 3-5, students are expected to enroll in teaching practicums or serve as a course assistant in OIT courses to fulfill the teaching requirement (see below). Students should participate in the teaching of at least two different OIT courses, rather than have a 3-time-repeat-engagement in the same course.

IV. Second Year Field Exam

During the second year if not sooner, each OIT PhD student is expected to sign up with a faculty advisor that will engage with the student on a research project of interest to the OIT area. The second-year field exam is designed to evaluate a student’s progress on that research project. The second-year field exam consists of two parts — a research paper and an oral examination. In the paper and oral exam, the student should demonstrate mastery of a problem area, relevant literature and applicable methods, and should demonstrate some progress towards solving the problem.

  1. The oral exam will typically be held at the end of the summer quarter in the students’ second year, and the research paper must be submitted before the oral exam. The exam committee together with the student will determine the exact date for the oral exam. The exam committee consists of at least three members, one of which is typically the second year advisor.
  2. The paper should be succinct and clear. The target length is 15 pages with 1.5 spacing. A student that would like to submit a paper significantly shorter or longer than 15 pages should consult with the faculty member organizing the exam.
  3. The oral part of the exam will consist of two parts. The first part will be an open presentation as in the OIT seminar of about 30 minutes. The second part (about 45 minutes) will be a closed oral exam limited to the exam committee.
  4. The student will present a research problem that he or she has studied with his or her faculty advisor in an open forum. The questions from the audience will be limited to those of a clarifying nature during the open presentation.
  5. The exam committee will conduct an oral exam on the research problem covered in the presentation. The goal of the oral exam is to evaluate the student’s ability to initiate research.
  6. After the oral exam and reading the papers, each member of the exam committee will independently assign Pass (P), or Fail (F) grades to each student along with comments. Based on the combined grades, the exam committee will make a recommendation on the overall outcome for each student to the entire OIT faculty. The OIT faculty will vote to determine the overall outcome of each student as Pass or Fail.

To advance to candidacy, a student must pass both the first and second-year field exams, and an appropriate set of advanced field courses. The outcome of the exam and the consequences will be communicated to the student by the PhD liaison.

V. Teaching Requirement

Four quarters of course assistantship or teaching practicum for OIT courses. Students should participate in the teaching of at least two different OIT courses, rather than have a three/four-time-repeat-engagement in the same course. The requirement must be completed prior to graduation.

VI. Candidacy

Admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree is a judgment by the OIT faculty of the student’s potential to successfully complete the requirements of the degree program. The procedure for making this assessment centers on a presentation the student is required to make to his or her primary advisor and two other faculty members who are likely to become PhD thesis committee members. Students are expected to convene this presentation in the Spring or Summer of the third year. Students are required to advance to candidacy by September 1 before the start of their fourth year in the program.

VII. University Oral Exams

The oral examination is a defense of the dissertation work in progress. The student orally presents and defends the thesis work in progress at a stage when it is one-half to two-thirds complete. The oral examination committee tests the student on the theory and methodology underlying the research, the areas of application and portions of the major field to which the research is relevant, and the significance of the dissertation research. Students are required to successfully complete the oral exams by September 1 before the start of their fifth year in the program.

VIII. Doctoral Dissertation

The doctoral dissertation is expected to be an original contribution to scholarship or scientific knowledge, to exemplify the highest standards of the discipline, and to be of lasting value to the intellectual community. The OIT faculty defer to the student’s Dissertation Reading Committee to provide general guidelines (e.g. number of chapters, length of dissertation) on the dissertation.

Typical Timeline

Year Three

Year Four