Type of Student: International (India), Male

Undergrad Institution: Indian Institute of Technology

Major(s): Electrical Engineering

GPA: 9.56/10

Research interests: Optimization, compressed sensing, random matrix theory, stochastic programming

Though I have a degree in EE, my true love has always been in mathematics. My deepest interests at the moment are at the intersection of optimization and statistics, bent towards the theoretical side. I have identified potential advisers who are distributed across statistics, math, and some in EE. My real question is on which program to apply, given that I have the freedom to work with advisers in other departments.

-- EE - I totally hated my undergrad education, other than signal processing. I have made up my mind to have nothing to do with the area, since the questions that interest me really don't have any connection to EE, other than an indirect link through optimization and random matrix theory. So I figured I might as well get the hell out.

-- Statistics - I like the programs, but the catch is, they are usually outside the school of engineering. So I am not sure about my admission chances. Also, I don't think I have a wide enough exposure to statistics, and I might have to complete a hell lot of prerequisites, making for a miserable first year.

-- Applied Math - I had initially planned for this and was filling out the applications. But some of my letter writers warned me about a few things which I found troubling. I heard that a lot of applied math programs view math and computation strictly as a means to study natural sciences (physical, chemical, or biological phenomena). Hence the emphasis is primarily on differential equations and dynamical systems, from which there is no escaping. Given my interests, would I be a misfit?

My advisers asked me to consider Operations Research programs. What is the general consensus about them? I heard from a few friends and students currently in a few such programs that OR is looked down upon by most. Essentially, depending on the problem domain, OR plays the kid brother role to either CS, EE, Stats, or Math; and given an opportunity most would choose one from the latter set as opposed to OR. How true are these comments?

Thank you so much for the help